GAME DRIVE – Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (KwaZulu-Natal, SA)



In our latest posts, we have visited Sodwana Bay in December 2020 for a week of scuba diving and relaxing on the beach (you can read about it here and here).

Due to the uncertainty of Covid-19 restrictions in December, we’ve decided to head straight back home after our week in Sodwana. But when we’ve last visited Sodwana in December 2011, we had the chance to visit the impressive Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park … a Big 5 Game Park.

So, let’s go on a virtual safari … and find out whether we’ve seen all 5 of the Big 5 animals of Africa!

On a hill, overlooking just a small part of the open Savannah grasslands of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

More about Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park:

This park is only 110km from Sodwana Bay (or 230km from Durban in South Africa) and is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa. It covers a massive area of 96000 hectares.

The area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu kingdom and in the early 1800’s the arrival of “great white hunters” led to the mass slaughtering and destruction of wildlife in this area. It was then, in 1895, that this area was established as a park (primarily to protect the white rhinoceros).

The Hluhluwe River feeds into three tributaries, that eventually become the St Lucia River at Lake St Lucia

We’ve booked a half day safari and parked our rented car at the reception, from where we’ve hopped into one of the park’s open game drive vehicles in search of the Big 5 …

Just a reminder of which animals are referred to as the Big 5:

Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and African Buffalo

Close to the herd of zebras, we’ve seen the African gazelle (Rooibok), part of the antelope family. There were quite a few under a tree, but one of them were standing close to the road and did not even bothered in looking up when we’ve stopped to take some pictures.

A Rooibok grazing in the short grass close to the road

Our next sighting was that of a beautiful Wildebeest. These creatures can weigh between 230-275kg (510-605 pounds) and reach a height of up to 152cm (60 inches).

Such a beautiful animal – the Wildebeest

And then, as we were driving towards higher ground to have breakfast and coffee, we’ve seen our first giraffe … on the photo, the trees appear to be very small, but in fact, the giraffe is quite tall!

The giraffe is the tallest mammal on Earth

We’ve stopped at a lookout point close to the Hluhluwe River where we’ve had a delicious breakfast, after which hot coffee were served. It was such a peaceful moment to sit here in nature, surrounded by wild animals.

Breakfast time with a view over the Hluhluwe River

It was such an entertaining 2 hours of driving in the park, that we did not even realised we have not yet seen any of the Big 5 animals … we were hoping to see at least one or two …

Shortly after breakfast, we came to a family of warthogs that were crossing the road. There were four baby warthogs (piglets) and they took their time to get out of the way – enough time for us to take a few more photo’s.

A family of warthogs crossing the road

At last, we got our first sight of one of the Big 5 … the beautiful Rhinoceros. They were “camping out” under a tree together with a few Wildebeest.

The black rhino is critically endangered with only around 5,000 remaining in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenia. But thanks to concerted rhino conservation efforts (of which Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is putting much effort in), their numbers are now started to rise again.

The endangered Rhino, standing with some Wildebeest

After seeing the rhinos, we were quite happy to leave the park – we were in fact now busy going back towards the main gate. But wait, we were in for a few more surprises …

Of course, what would a safari be without seeing any lions! We came to a secluded water hole and there they were … the mighty lion (our 2nd animal of the Big 5 we came face to face)!

Lions drinking water – such a breathtaking moment to witness these wild animals in their natural habitat

It was such an unreal moment! To see these animals in real life (in the wild), is nothing but a privilege.

We’ve passed another giraffe on our way to the gate and once again realised just how tall they really are!

A giraffe high above the trees

Suddenly, our guide stopped and showed that we must keep quiet … he was pointing towards a tree … and although it was quite far away, there was no question that we were looking at the magnificent leopard (we’ve just spotted our 3rd animal of the Big 5)!

A leopard hiding behind a tree and high grass

To say that I was in total awe, is putting it mildly! We drove back to the main gate and, although we did not see the African Buffalo or Elephant (which is part of the Big 5), we were just so happy to have seen all these wild animals!

But then … literally a few meters from the gate … we were in for a treat, because the 4th animal of the Big 5 just appeared from behind the trees and bushes – a huge Elephant was moving slowly to the other side of the road … what a sight!!

The majestic Elephant – such a unique-looking animal

The park has kept its most beautiful animals for last! We’ve stopped in front of the reception area, feeling quite overwhelmed after seeing all these animals.

Thank you to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park for doing such a wonderful job in saving and protecting our wild animals … and we hope to come back one day to see that evasive African Buffalo!


42 thoughts on “GAME DRIVE – Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (KwaZulu-Natal, SA)

  1. Ooh I have never been there, I enjoyed learning a little about the history too… And the photos. It’s amazing to be so close to the animals! I have a special fondness for zebra and worthog. You were so blessed to have seen such a variety of animals.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It seems it was such a wonderful experience! You saw so many animals in the wild, just going on with their live… and it looks you’re so close to them as well! I’m also really grateful parks like these exist to help preserve such wonderful species, such as the rhinos… it gives me some peace to know humans are making some efforts to reestablish what we (as in our civilisation) seem so intent to destroy. It is a BIG dream of mine to go on at least one safari in Africa. Your photos are great, and I felt I could definitely enjoy a little virtual one for the time being 🙂

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    1. Thanks for popping in and reading about this great trip. Yes, we are fortunate to have so many national parks in our country to observe these amazing animals. I really hope you will get an opportunity one day to visit a park ☺️.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm. But please do remember that the poachers kill to order. The real criminals are the people who pay for the body parts…the Chinese billionaires, the US billionaires who want the skins and head, UK aristocracy who love to adorn their walls with dead animals, and many many other overly wealthy people who think these animals are there for their pleasures. The poachers are invariably impoverished in their countries and get paid ….their methods are appalling and require severe punishment, yet they are not the real criminals

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  3. What a wonderful experience ☺☺☺ there’s something quite extraordinary about seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
    Its infuriating that ‘big game hunters’ and greedy people have almost decimated so many of them

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was indeed a magical day … moving between them and see how they just getting on with “life” in their own world. Yes, my heart aches for those animals that are killed so easily and that the perpetrators (most of the time) gets away with these heartless and shameless actions.


      1. Many years ago we stayed at a small reservation in Natal. No electricity, no running water, the loo was ‘miles’ away from camp (in all the 4 days we were there I never needed the loo even once at night 😂😂😂🥴🥴), and nothing between us and the wild animals except the tent 😱😱😱 Thankfully no lions etc in the reserve, but we did go on a foot trek through the veld and stood/crouched about 50 feet away (down wind) from a mother rhino and her calf. It was thrilling. We went out one day in a skadonk truck with railings on the sides. We stopped near a waterhole and because there were no animals around, the guides said everyone could get out and walk around. I didn’t and I didn’t let my daughter off the truck either. After about 10 minutes, when everyone was relaxed, someone shouted “rhino” – I’ve never seen so many people ‘fly’ at the same time. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I’m laughing just thinking about it. It was hilarious. Not everyone thought so….😁😁😁

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      2. Oh dear Cindy, I had such a good laugh now 😂😂😂 … what a great story to tell!! Thanks for sharing it – it was really great reading this 💌.
        Even when we’re “wild camping”, I try not to use the loo at night – but it’s getting more and more difficult, the older I get!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. 😁😁😁 glad you enjoyed it. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. Even during the day we had to have a guide lead us through the grasses to both the loo and shower. Mind you the views from both were fantastic. Its one of the best trips I’ve ever had….if you can ignore the scorpions in your shoes and bed, and the rasp of a big animal’s skin against the tent in the middle of the night…never mind all the heavy breathing 😤😤😤
        I fear that if I ever did this kind of ‘holiday’ again now, I’d need one of my Grandma’s ‘potties’ under the bed 🤭🤭🤭

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