THROWBACK – DECEMBER 2011
IT’S GAME TIME!
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!
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).
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.
Our next sighting was that of a beautiful Wildebeest. These creatures can weigh between 230-275kg (510-505 pounds) and reach a height of up to 152cm (60 inches).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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!
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)!
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 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!