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Author: Alison Westwood: Multimedia Images.
Source: Southern Africa’s top 21 parks taken from the April 2010 Issue of Getaway Magazine.
As Africa’s oldest game reserve, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi was the springboard for the survival of the white rhinoceros. It’s still one of the best places to see them.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi has a long and chequered history. Once the exclusive hunting preserve of Zulu kings, the land was protected before any formal conservation existed. Then came the ‘great’ white hunters, who looted its wildlife for trophies. By the 1890s, many species were close to extinction, including the last remaining white rhinos on Earth. To protect them, a park was proclaimed in 1896 – the first game reserve in Africa.
Despite friction with local farmers, which resulted in game elimination, spraying with DDT and even deproclamation, the park managed to breed rhinos successfully. In the 1960s, it caught the world’s attention with ‘Operation Rhino’, a campaign to transfer its surplus rhinos to other parks and zoos, creating new populations to ensure the survival of the species. The park’s custodians became pioneers of game capture, not only of rhinos, but of plains game, hippos and crocodiles.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is in fact two adjacent game reserves. Hluhluwe, to the north, is hilly with a wide variety of vegetation, while Imfolozi, the southern component, is a gently undulating grass- and woodland trisected by the Black and White Imfolozi Rivers. Together, they cover 96 000 hectares, but not all of it is open to vehicles.
The southern half of Imfolozi is a wilderness area, accessible only on foot in the company of game guides. These guided wilderness trails were the first of their kind.
Perhaps most exciting is the Primitive Trail, where trailists spend five days walking through Big Five territory, sleeping under the stars.
Whether you’re in your car or on foot, you have an excellent chance of seeing the Big Five, including both black and white rhinos. There are also plenty of antelope, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, cheetahs, hyenas and more than 300 species of birds.
A good network of game-viewing roads, several picnic sites and three self-guided walks make this an excellent self-drive destination.
Where to stay
$$ to $$$$ Hilltop, in Hluhluwe, is the main accommodation centre. Rest huts with communal kitchen and ablutions are R300 a person and self-catering chalets or non-catering units are R600 a person. Several of the units are accessible to people with disabilities.
$$ to $$$$ Mpila, in Imfolozi, has rest huts with communal kitchens and ablutions from R240 a person; chalets and safari tents from R350 a person. Masinda and Mthwazi are luxury lodges and cost R650 a person, including a cook. Five exclusive-use bush lodges are scattered throughout the park and cost from R650 a person, including a cook and ranger.
The newest, Nselweni on the banks of the Black Imfolozi, is scheduled to open in April 2010 and is an investment by the 10 communities surrounding the park.
Need to know
• All the park’s roads can be driven in a normal sedan.
• Hluhluwe-lmfolozi is in a low-risk malaria area.
What it costs
The daily conservation levy is R120 an adult and R45 for children aged three to 12. South Africans and SADC nationals pay half price.
Students and South Africans over 60 receive a 20 per cent discount on park fees and accommodation, excluding weekends and holidays. Rhino Gold Card members have unlimited free day entrance to all KZN wildlife reserves for all occupants of the vehicle (maximum eight) and also receive accommodation discounts. Membership costs R495 a year. Wild Cards are valid for entry.
How to book
This article was taken from the back issue of Getaway. April 2010 Special Edition.
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