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Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park

Rhino sightings at Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Park

Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park

Stunning Scenery in the Umfolozi Game Reserve

Buffalo: Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game

The Big 5 at Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Leopard: Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game

The Big 5 at Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

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Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park Highlights:

  • One of the largest populations of White Rhino in the world (over 2000)
  • Ancient Hunting Grounds of the mighty Zulu people
  • Incredible walking safaris (trails) in untouched natural surroundings
  • Contains all of the true Big Five
  • See both the black and white rhinos in their natural environments


This historic area of South Africa, is also one of Africa's oldest conservation areas. Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park was formed way back in 1895, mainly to protect the White Rhino, which was under serious threat of complete extinction. Now covering an area of 96 000 ha or 965 sq kilometers (388 sq miles) about 270km (388miles) from Durban.

Hluhluwe Imfolozi or Hluhluwe Umfolozi?
The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is often also called the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park. The National Park takes it's name from the two rivers that run throughout the two reserves, the Hluhluwe river and the Mfolozi river (formed by the confluence of the Black (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 Hluhluwe uMfolosi Park and Hluhluwe iMfolosi Park, I suppose that this is bound to happen in a country that has 11 official languages, and plenty more unofficial as well!

The Mighty Zulu's
What now coves much of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park was once the traditional hunting grounds of Mthethwa king Dingiswayo and the more famous Shaka, king of the Zulus. You can still see evidence of their habitations, with grinding stones, and huge bowls dug out of the land that were used by Shaka, to drive wildlife into and killed to celebrate battle victories.

Birthplace of a King
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, Zulu elders indignantly dismissed her claims, suggesting 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.

It was the combination of the Zulu royal hunts and the arrival of European settlers that almost spelt the complete annihilation of all wildlife from this area. Elephant, that were once prolific in this area were last sighted in 1890, White Rhino were down to less than 20 individuals and the last lion was killed in 1915.

Creation of Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park

It was the public anger in 1894 after six White Rhino were shot that lead to two protected wildlife sanctuaries being created in 1895, the Hluhluwe Valley and the Imfolozi Junction. They were separated by a corridor of land in an effort to prevent the spread of diseases between wildlife and domestic farm animals belonging to local tribes.

Between 1962 and 1989 land has been added to the reserve, mainly to the south and west of Imfolozi and later the corridor of land between the two parks was also given reserve status, forming what we now know as the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park.

A Conservation Success Story
From a situation of almost complete wildlife annihilation, the Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park is now one of the best places in the Africa to view many species of wildlife and must be regarded as a conservation success story and an excellent place to go on safari in Africa.


Animals in Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park

You can see the 'True' Big five at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park as well as many other species of Carnivores and plant eaters, a few highlights include:

Big 5

Other Carnivores

  • Black-backed Jackal
  • Cheetah
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Wild Dog

Other Animals

  • Nyala Antelope
  • Samango Monkey
  • White Rhino
  • Hippopotamus
  • Crocodile
  • Giraffe
  • Plains Zebra
  • Kudu
  • Waterbuck
  • Wildebeest

Birds at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park

The varied topography and range of habitats in this large area has produced a bird list in excess of 425 recorded species of birds within the National Park, making a safari to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, an excellent birding location. A few of the highlights include African Finfoot, Southern Bald Ibis, Bronze-winged Courser, Brown-headed Parrot, Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, Narina Trogon, Woodland Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Crowned Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Wire-tailed Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.


  • African Goshawk
  • Bateleur
  • Crowned Eagle
  • Gymnogene
  • Little Sparrowhawk
  • Martial Eagle Vultures
  • Lappet-faced Vulture
  • White-backed Vulture

Ground Birds

  • Ground Hornbill
  • Helmeted Guineafowl

Fruit Eating Birds

  • Crowned Hornbill
  • Cinnamon Dove
  • Golden-rumped Tinker Barbet
  • Purple-crested Lourie (Turaco)
  • Red-fronted Tinker Barbet
  • Tambourine Dove
  • Trumpeter Hornbill

The place of the Rhino

If it is Rhino, especially White Rhino that you are after, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park has to be one of the best places in the world to see them. At over 2000 individuals (in 2007) The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park has the largest population of Southern African White Rhino in the world and has been one of the most successful wildlife protection programs in the world, considering the fact that when the National Park was first formed, back in 1895, there were only about 50 White Rhinos, surviving, not only in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, but in the whole world!

Operation Rhino
By the 1960's there were over 700 White Rhino at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park alone, this number was too large to be sustained in the Park at that time and so Operation Rhino was born. Thousands of White Rhino were trans-located to wildlife reserves across Southern and Eastern Africa, as well as other wildlife sanctuaries across the world. Rhinos are still being captured and relocated to this day, which if you are interested in understanding more, you can view at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park's Centenary Game Capture Centre located in the eastern section of the Park near the Mambeni Gate. Where you can often see not only White Rhinos, but also Carnivores in holding pens as they are being readied for transit as well as a Rhino Museum.

Walking Safaris

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park Wilderness Trails

One of the highlights of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, is that a huge area of land (250 sq kilometers) within the reserve, mostly in the Imfolozi section that has been set aside so that it is kept as pristine wilderness with no permanent man made objects being constructed, vehicle access is highly restricted and only people on foot or horseback may enter this area. This has given rise to guided wilderness trails of various lengths where you sleep overnight in impermanent structures or tents in what is a truly wild area. On most of the trails, you will be accompanied by experienced qualified safari guides (field guides) who are not only there for protection and so that you don't get lost, but will pass on much useful information on all aspects of the bush and it's wildlife. There are also three self-guided foot trails that you can take.

The wilderness trails range in length from a four night guided walking safari which begin at the Mndindini Base camp on the banks of the White Imfolozi River in the south of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park and where you will spend two nights deep in the bush sleeping in tented camps, complete with hot bucket showers and a spade and tissue as a toilet! To one night weekend walking safaris where the Saturday night is also spent out in the bush in tented camps.

For more information and how to book see my section on the Imfolozi Wilderness Trails.

Vehicle Safaris
Of course for those that prefer four wheels and a little more comfort, there are plenty of traditional safaris on 4x4 vehicles with both guided as well as self drive options available.

Walking vs Vehicle Safaris
Walking safaris will generally give you time to look at the much finer aspects of the bush, the insects, spoor, dung and markings left by animals, as well as flowers, birds, trees and even grasses. Whilst a safari on a vehicle tend to focus on spotting the game. This is not to say that on a walking safari, you won't see Elephant, Zebra or Lions, or in a vehicle you won't stop and talk about a particular interesting flower or tracks left by a Leopard.

To undertake a walking safari you will need to be physically fit and have the correct clothing for safaris. If you have the time and stamina, it is well worth doing both just to get a better understanding and fuller picture of the bush around you.

Accommodation at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park

There are many self catering and catered lodges in the park, that will suit most budgets and tastes. Below are a few that we have been able to research:

Hluhluwe Section
The Hluhluwe Section comprises the northern part of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park.
Click here for Accommodation in Hluhluwe Game Reserve

Imfolozi Section
The Imfolozi section comprises the southern part of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park
Click here for Accommodation in Imfolozi Game Reserve

Best Time to visit the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park

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 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.

The busiest times tend to be December, January, April and July as this coincides with South African school holidays.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park Gate Opening Times:

  • 05:00 to 19:00 in Summer
  • 06:00 to 18:00 in Winter

Getting around

While self-drive safaris are the main way of discovering the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, 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 Reserve.

There are also guided bush walks daily, which can be booked through the camp office. (see contact details below) Two and three day guided wilderness walks are also available. Boat tours on the Hluhluwe Dam offer families a different view of wildlife as well as insight to Zulu culture.

Hluhluwe Sign PostDirections

The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is located about 270 km (175 miles) north of Durban.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve
For Memorial Gate, the northern entrance and recommended access point for the Hluhluwe area, take the Hluhluwe Village exit from the N2. Follow the tarred road to the entrance, roughly 15 km (9 miles).

Imfolozi Game Park
For the Nyalazi Gate and access to the Imfolozi area, exit the N2 at Nongoma Road, just north of Mtubatuba, and follow the signs for 27 km (17 miles) to Umfolozi

Map of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi & the Surrounding Area

Below is a map showing the location of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park and other points of interest in the area.

Contact Details

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park

Main Camp: Hluhluwe Section
Tel: +27(0)35-5620848

Main Camp: Imfolozi Section
Tel: +27(0)35-5508476/7

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