Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) is the biggest game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. It’s only 2 hours north of Durban, and less than an hour away from St Lucia Estuary. It is a Big 5 park, and definitely the most prominent one in South Africa outside of Kruger. This is the place to go when you want the real and classic safari experience on the South African east coast. Almost no matter what you come for, you can find it here.
Here’s a little bit of history. It was created in 1895 and became the first wildlife reserve on the entire continent of Africa. The southern white rhino was believed to be extinct back then, until someone found a small population of 20 hidden away in the iMfolozi wilderness. The reserve was established to protect these rhinos, and to great success. From those 20, we now have a worldwide population of 20,000 white rhinos, with 1,600 of them calling Hluhluwe-iMfolozi home. All southern white rhinos you see in other game parks today are descendants of the original 20 found here. Sadly, the current poaching crisis is again putting a lot of pressure on the species and if the trend continues, they might be gone again within decades.
The park itself was originally three different parks before they joined together in 1989 and became the park we have today. It is 960 km², and the two sections, Hluluwe and iMfolozi, are quite distinct topographically. Hluhluwe is the smaller of the two, with very hilly terrain, which gives some spectacular views from the multiple hilltops. Have a stop for lunch at Hilltop Camp, and have an amazing view at the same time. One can also stay here for a few nights. iMfolozi is more classic Africa, with open plains, scrubs and acacia woodlands, and many would argue that most of the wildlife is easiest to spot here.
The park is, as said, a Big 5 park, meaning you have elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards, in addition to the aforementioned rhinos (both black and white). The park also has a healthy population of cheetah which is commonly seen, and multiple packs of African wild dogs.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park should be one of the main events if you ever go to Zululand, and it is where you are most likely to see many of Africa’s famous animals. Spend a couple of nights here at Mpila Camp, situated in the iMfolozi section of the park, and you are in for a treat. Bring your own food and have a braai (barbecue) both nights, and after you have eaten just sit back safely on the deck and wait for the hyenas to come and look for scraps. It is a perfect park for self-drives, and be sure to grab a map and join the park’s WhatsApp group for the latest sightings once you are there.