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Imfolozi | uMfolozi Game Reserve South Africa
- Imfolozi or Umfolozi?
- Imfolozi Wilderness Trails
- When to Visit
- Getting Around
- Contact Details
Birthplace of a King
Imfolozi Game Reserve sits in an historic area of South Africa as it is where Shaka was born in 1787. His father was Senzangakhona kaJama, chief of the Zulu people, who lived in the Mkhumbane valley, south of the White Mfolozi river. Shaka's mother, Nandi, was betrothed to his father at the time she fell pregnant, but not yet married. When she first reported this fact, the Zulu elders indignantly dismissed her claims and suggested instead that she was suffering from an intestinal parasite, a stomach beetle called 'ishaka'. When her son was born, she ruefully named him Shaka in recollection of this insult.
The 66 000 hectare Umfolozi Game Reserve forms the southern part of the Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The Hluhluwe Game Reserve forms the northern section. Both reserves were created in 1895, which makes them one of the oldest wildlife conservation areas in Africa. Initially the Hluhluwe and Imfolozi game reserves were separated by a corridor of land designed to stop the spread of diseases between the wildlife and the domestic farm animals owned by the local tribes. The land between the two reserves has now also been given reserve status and is sometimes referred to as the Corridor Reserve. This whole area covers a huge 96 000 ha and is known as the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park.
I guess in a country that has 11 official languages and plenty more unofficial ones, you are bound to get slight differences in pronunciations and therefore spellings of words. The Imfolozi game reserve is often also written as the uMfolozi game reserve. The name of the park comes from the river that flows through it, the Mfolozi river (formed by the confluence of the Black imfolozi (Imfolozi emnyama) and White Umfolozi (Imfolozi emhlope) Rivers).
I think that because IMfolozi is pronounced as if it starts with an "uM", it often gets written as uMfolozi. I have also noticed other incorrect spellings that include the iMfolosi game reserve and even the Hluhluwe uMfolosi game reserve!
Imfolozi, it's all in the name
imFolozi is a Zulu term that means river of fibres, describing the zigzag course followed by both tributaries.
Imfolozi Wilderness Trails
For me, one of the highlights of the Imfolozi Game Reserve are the guided walking safaris, conducted in completely wild and untamed bush. These wilderness trails that can range in length from a few hours, to a four night expedition!
There are currently 5 types of wilderness trails within Imfolozi: The Primitive Trail, The Base Camp Trail, The Short Wilderness Trail, The Extended Short Wilderness Trail and The Bushveld Trail.
Ethos of a Wilderness Area
Within the Imfolozi park, the wilderness area covers around 30 000 hectares and is where the earth and it’s inhabitants are not disturbed by man, and where man himself is but a visitor who does not remain. In this area access is only permitted on foot, canoe or horseback. There are no roads and the only tracks are those made by animals. Managed so that its pristine character is not altered in any way, it is an area in which the sights and sounds of nature dominate.
The Primitive Trail
This widerness trail, is especially for those looking to get back to nature, combining a wilderness experience with sleeping out under the stars and takes 4 nights and 3 full days, with 2 half days where you carry all your own equipment in a backpack.
The trail leaves from Mpila Camp after lunch were you will be joind by a Imfolozi Trails Officer and a Field Ranger who are there to pass on their experience as well as to ensure your safety. The trail is fully catered with all equipment, bedding and food provided and small camps are set up at night chosen by the Trails Officer and follows a strict "minimum impact, leaving without a trace" ethic. Primitive trails are conducted from the 1st of March to 15th of November.
Some of the other trails are less extreme and all your equipment and food transported into the wilderness trails camps on donkeys. You will only have to carry a daypack containing their personal affects, water and lunch. These 'luxury' trails include the Short Wilderness Trail (2 nights and 3 days) and the Extended Short Wilderness Trail (3 nights and 4 days) and you spend most of the nights in tents. Both trails are run from 14th February to 20th November.
Life is made much more comfortable on the the Base Camp Trail, is based at the Mndindini Trails camp, where you spend the nights in tents and there is a shower, toilet and fridge for cold drinks! After breakfast you go on a walking safari led by a field guide and return for lunch covering a distance of around seven to fourteen kilometers. Base camp trails are run from the 20th March to the 15th of November.
All trails have limited numbers, most kept down to a maximum of eight people.
Why go into the wilderness?
It has often been reported that people have life changing experiences in the wilderness, once you get away from the modern world with all it's hangups you are often able to realise your full potential. Many people who go on a wilderness trail in Imfolozi get to experience the adrenalin of an encounter with wildlife on foot in a pristine wild area, it is almost primeval and is bound to have a huge impact on your life.
Self Guided Trails
The Imfolozi section of the park also has three self-guided foot trails, at Emoyeni Mpila, Enkulu and Masinda Ncane. Guide books are available from the main office to help visitors interpret the many points of interest along these trails.
More information & Booking
For more information and how to book, take a look at the contact details at the bottom of the page.
For information on the birds and animals at Imfolozi, take a look at the wildlife section on the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park page.
The iMfolozi section comprises the southern part of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park and there are some excellent self catering and catered accommodation options available.
Gqoyeni Bush Lodge
Located near the Gqoyeni and Black iMfolozi river where it is common to see elephant on the sand banks below, these raised thatch and reed walled chalets sit amongst the beautiful marula and tamboti trees. The lodge only caters for a single party, enabling you exclusive access to the lodge. The lodge is self-catered, but a cook can be provided should you wish.
Hlathikhulu Bush Lodge
Similar to the Gqoyeni Bush Lodge in that the Hlathikhulu Bush Lodge is elevated and consists of thatched 2 bedroom reed wall cottages that lead via a wooden walkway to a central lounge. The booking of the Hlathikhulu lodge is also for single parties only on a self-catering basis. A cook can be supplied if needed. Located near the center of the iMfolozi section of the Park near the Black iMfolozi River, you will often find White Rhino around the lodge as well as Hippo and Crocodiles river nearby.
The Masinda Lodge is located in the North Western area of the iMfolozi section of the park, not far from the Mambeni Gate and the Centenary Game Capture Centre and is a good base from which to find Shaka's Hunting Pits from. The Safari Lodge comprises of a main lodge area and separate cottage that can accommodate up to 9 people. there is a lounge, dining room and kitchen.
The Mpila Camp is located pretty much in the center of the iMfolozi sector of the reserve, and consist of self-catering chalets for up to 5 people, fully equipped cottages for up to 7 people as well as single roomed rest huts that have a communal kitchen and toilet facilities. You can ask to have a cook as well as a field guide to take you around the park. The Mpila camp has a curio shop as well as petrol available for your vehicle.
Sontuli & Nselweni Bush Camps
Overlooking the Black iMfolozi River, these raised A-frame two bedroom chalets are connected by a central lounge and dining area and come with a fully equipped kitchen, but have communal shower and toilet facilities.
More information and Reservations
Contact the Imfolozi main office (see contact details below) to a stay at any of these lodges.
The Hluhluwe section consists of the northern part of the Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park
Click here for Accommodation in Hluhluwe Game Reserve
For me, winters (June to October) are the best time to visit this wonderful National Park, true, it can get cold at night and in the early mornings, but there is less chance of rain, the grass is shorter, making it easier to spot wildlife and in this part of South Africa, afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer and the days tend to be very hot and humid.
The busiest times tend to be December, January, April and July as this coincides with South African school holidays.
Best time for the Wilderness Trails
The different walking safaris and trails operate at different times of the year:
- The Bushveld trails are run from 1st December to 30th January
- Primitive trails are conducted from the 1st of March to 15th of November
- Short & Extended Wilderness trails are run from 14th February to 20th November
- Base camp trails are run from 20 March to 15 November
The bird watching is in the reserves is excellent year-round, but for a special treat, sunbirds attracted to the flowering Weeping Boer Bean trees make for a special sighting in spring and summer, November to February.
Imfolozi Gate Opening Times:
- 05:00 to 19:00 in Summer
- 06:00 to 18:00 in Winter
While self-drive safaris are the main way of discovering Imfolozi, there are also guided night and day game drives. I would highly recommend a guided safari game drive rather than a self drive option, to see why check out this report on an Elephant and Swiss couple at Hluhluwe Game Reserv.
There are also guided bush walks daily, which can be booked through the camp office. (see contact details below) Two, three and four day guided wilderness walks are also available.
The Imfolozi Game Reserve is located about 270 km (175 miles) north of Durban.
Imfolozi Game Reserve
For the Nyalazi Gate and the best access to the Imfolozi area of the HluHluwe-Imfolozi National Park, exit the N2 at Nongoma Road, just north of Mtubatuba, and follow the signs for 27 km (17 miles) to Umfolozi.
Below is a map showing the location of the Umfolozi National Park and other points of interest in the area.
Main Camp: Imfolozi Section
Wilderness Trails Enquiries
The Officer-in-Charge, iMfolozi Wilderness Trails
iMfolozi Game Reserve
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (make heading: 'Trails Enquiry')
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park
Central Reservations Office
P.O. Box 13069
Tel: (033) 845 1067 or 845 1000.
Email : email@example.com
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