This week, I shared a game drive in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve with a couple from Oakland. It was their first visit to South Africa and first game drive. We were in awe of the animals and happy to be in a covered safari vehicle. It was a cool, windy day, and tourists we saw huddled in open trucks were shivering.
Hluhluwe reserve is about three hours north of Durban in KwaZulu Natal Zululand. The stunning landscape with its forests, thickets, woodlands, and rivers is a haven for birds and game. Timber, sugar-cane, and pineapples are the area’s major crops.
…every day rhino and elephant are under siege by relentless poachers…
In 1895, British colonists declared Hluhluwe (pronounced SLOO SLOO WE in Zulu) a protected wildlife sanctuary. The reserve covers 370 square miles and includes the big five – elephant, leopard, lion, rhinoceros, and buffalo. These “Big Five are considered the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot”. Hluhluwe once was the “exclusive hunting domain of Zulu kings, including legendary King Shaka“.
We saw small game, large antelope, zebra, buffalo, elephant, and an elusive rhinoceros, but no wild dog, leopard, hyena, hippo, cheetah, or lion. It was the first time I’ve seen Nyala – a gorgeous antelope native to South Africa! Seeing this spectacular animal up close was more than enough to make the safari worthwhile.
Game drives are always hit or miss, and I was happy to see smaller animals that were evasive during a two-month safari from Namibia to Uganda last year. Warthogs in Hluhluwe were abundant and some even came close to our vehicle. During game drives in East Africa, warthogs were elusive. As soon as they saw a safari vehicle, they ran away in a tizz with their little tails held high in the air.
During Hluhluwe’s early years, the world’s white rhino population increased from an endangered 20 in the world, to an astonishing 100. “By 1960, rhino numbers improved so drastically the Natal Parks Board relocated some of the animals to protected areas outside the reserve.”
“Today, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is home to the largest populations of rhino in Africa, about 1,600 white rhino and 450 black rhino. Many African reserves restock their rhino population from this gene pool.”
Shockingly, rhino and elephant are constantly under siege by relentless poachers. Poaching is a serious crime and a continuing problem in South Africa. Poachers are severely punished, and rangers patrol parks and reserves 24/7.
After 7 pm, only vehicles with special permits can drive inside the reserve. After that hour, rangers have the right to shoot (without question) humans in the park. During the day, visitors are allowed out of their vehicles at certain points only – this rule is strictly followed for the safety and well-being of humans and game.
I’m learning a new Canon digital camera and took only a few photos during the drive, still missing the broken Sony… It was a memorable, educational day at Hluhluwe – good company and time well spent. During my stay in Durban, I’m sure to return to Hluhluwe Imfolozi!