HluHluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

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Forward to St Lucia Wetland Park

After our visit to the Natal South Coast and the craft markets in Durban it was time to head north. So w left early on a Monday morning and followed the N2 Highway to Mtubatuba and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi game reserve.

The area where the game reserve is today once was the hunting ground of the Zulu kings. It was first proclaimed as two separate reserves in 1897 which makes them the oldest game parks in South Africa. They teemed with game right from the start but the wildlife was slaughtered in their thousands during the 1920ís in an effort of the Government to eradicate the Tsetse fly. In the end the hunting was replaced by chemical control and the wild life populations stabilized. Today the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park sustains large populations of elephant, Cape buffalo, giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, spotted hyena, and many antelope but most notably a large population of white and black rhino.

The park was beautiful and the bush very dense and that made spotting the animals very difficult. We were not fortunate to see any predators but we did see a lot of antelope, amongst others kudu, njala and a few smaller antelope as well as zebra, giraffes and blue wildebeest, warthogs at close range. The buffaloes evaded us and I was beginning to fear that we won't see any when we eventual spotted them late in the afternoon after following a game drive vehicle and going up a very steep hill. We saw a lot of giraffe at a watering hole right next to the road and just before we left the park in the late afternoon we were delighted to see two white rhino grazing undisturbed right next to the road as well.

The Umfolozi- Hluhluwe game park has the largest population of white and black rhino in South Africa. Throughout Africa these animals have been hunted mercilessly for their horns, highly valued in the Far East for their supposed medicinal properties and in the Middle East for ornamentation. However the population in the Natal parks were closely guarded and flourished to the point where some could be relocated to other game parks in South Africa and elsewhere. Small breeding herds of the animals in other regions ensured the survival of the white rhino.

Incidentally, the white rhino is not really white but rather dark grey and is distinguished from the black rhino by the shape of its wide mouth. The black rhino has a pointed mouth, is slightly smaller than the white rhino and much more aggressive. Unfortunately the black rhino is still the prime target of poachers. Of the 65 000 that was roaming South Africa only three decades ago less than 3 000 are left in the wild today.

The Umfolozi game park is much less commercialized than Kruger Park which is actually very nice and gives a better feeling of really being "out in the wild". We stopped for a picnic lunch  at the Mpila Camp  which is situated high on a hilltop. When approaching a table I noticed a small green snake and first thought it was one of the very poisonous green mambas or a Boomslang (tree snake). This provided some fun and much interest from the other tourists as well. Eventually a game warden assured us that it was just a harmless little snake looking for some leftovers to eat and apparently one that is quite at home near the picnic tables.

Giraffe reflection...

Above and below..

Giraffes and antelope near a watering hole

Three giraffes

Zebra and giraffes were everywhere

Right: Njala

Njala in the shade

This one came close to the car

Left: Zebra

Right; Lone elephant bull

Yet another elephant having a tree for lunch

Main building Mpila Camp Hluhluwe Game Park

Mpila Camp and our picnic spot

Below: White rhino bathing and grazing

Rose and Donna at our picnic table - Mpila Camp

Rhinos taking a late afternoon mud bath

The last two rhinos we saw really provided a good show

Below: The harmless little green snake

That harmless little snake

Back to KwaZulu - Natal South Coast

Forward to St Lucia Wetland Park