Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

This is one of Africa's oldest game reserves and one of the few parks in KwaZulu Natal where you can see the Big Five. What were traditionally two reserves have been joined into one national park. Hluhluwe is named after the umHluhluwe or 'thorny rope', a climber which is found in the forests of this area. The aerial roots hanging from the sycamore figs where the Black Umfolozi and the White Umfolozi rivers meet give the area its name. Imfolozi is named after 'uMfula walosi' or the 'river of fibres'. The park has a variety of landscapes - thick forests, dry bushveld and open savannah - that are home to a number of species of game, including healthy populations of rhino and the rare nyala. What is unusual about the park is the hilly terrain, which provides a great vantage point for game viewing.

Best time to visit Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

The best time to see the park is between March and November. The park's vegetation is lush during the summer months, when the weather is hot and humid, but this makes it more difficult to see the game. During the winter months the climate is cool and dry and you might even need a sweater in the evenings. Animals congregate at the waterholes and rivers at this time of year and the lack of vegetation makes it easier to see them.

History of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

The confluence of the Black and White Umfolozi rivers is where Zulu King Shaka dug his hunting pits. Once a year game was driven into the area and would fall into the pits, where it
was speared by young warriors eager to prove their courage. Consequently, Hluhluwe- Umfolozi was established as a protected area as long ago as 1895. Since then the park has suffered a number of setbacks, such as temporary de-proclamation and the massive slaughter of thousands of game animals in a campaign to eliminate tsetse fly. Aerial spraying
of the chemical DDT eventually eliminated the tsetse fly but at great cost to the environment. In 1947 the newly formed
Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board
took control of the park and reintroduced locally extinct species such as lion, elephant, rhino and giraffe.

Wildlife in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

This is one of the best reserves in KwaZulu Natal for seeing wildlife, and one of the finest in the world for seeing rhino. The varied landscapes of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi provide a wide range of habitats which support large numbers of big game. The Big Five are present and there are large populations of three rarely seen animals: the white rhino, the black rhino and the nyala. Despite the thriving hippo populations in nearby St Lucia, there are fewer than 20 hippo in this park because the rivers flow too fast. Over 300 species of bird, including the rare bateleur eagle, have been recorded in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi; bird lists are available from the camp offices.

Hluhluwe is the northern sector of the reserve and has a hilly and wooded landscape; elephant are often seen in the area around the Hluhluwe Dam, where the thick forests are inhabited by the rare samango monkey. There are some areas of savanna in this sector where white rhino and giraffe can be seen feeding.

Imfolozi, in the south, is characterized by thornveld and semi-desert; the grasslands here support large populations of impala, kudu, waterbuck, giraffe, blue wildebeest and zebra. Predators are rarely seen but cheetah, lion, leopard and wild dog are all present.

An extensive network of dirt roads crosses the reserve which can easily be negotiated in a saloon car. There are hides at Mphafa waterhole and Thiyeni waterhole but much of the best game viewing can be done from a car. Good areas for viewing game are the Sontuli Loop, the corridor linking Imfolozi to Hluhluwe and the areas around the Hluhluwe River.

Wilderness trails

One of the most exciting ways to see wildlife here is on foot. Although this experience is not always as spectacular as viewing from a car, it tends to be more intense; there is little that can compare with the excitement of tracking rhino through the wilderness.
Guided walks
must be booked well in advance at the camp offices, which run through the wilderness in the southern section of the park. The area used to be part of traditional royal Zulu hunting grounds and is now totally undisturbed by man - there are no roads and access is only allowed on foot; you must be accompanied by a game ranger. Three
wilderness trails
cross the wilderness area, with guided walks running from mid-March to December. They are limited to a maximum of eight people and are extremely popular, so should be booked well in advance. Food, drinks, water bottles, cutlery and cooking equipment, bedding, towels, day packs, backpacks and donkey bags are all provided by KZN Wildlife. The trails cover about 15 km per day and cost from R2015 to R3265 per person for up to three nights (accommodation is in tented camps in the wilderness area). There are also three self-guided walks in the Imfolozi sector. Reservations for all accommodation and wilderness trails within the park can be made up to six months in advance through
KZN Wildlife


Hluhluwe is a small village in an area surrounded by large luxury game farms. It is a good base to explore the region as it is within easy reach of many of the local game parks and is only 15 km from St Lucia's False Bay. An international game auction is held here annually by KZN Wildlife. There are a couple of craft villages in the area;
Dumazulu Traditional Village
, a short drive from Hluhluwe, is one of the better ones, with displays of Zulu dancing, spear making and basket weaving.

Hluhluwe Tourism Association
 acts as a booking agent for the area.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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