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Hluhluwe–imfolozi Park.2
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Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park covers 960 km2 area in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The park, established in 1989, is an amalgamation of the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and Umfolozi Game Reserve. It explains the park’s unique terrain, the hilly topography of the Hluhluwe section, combined with the grasslands, woodland, and forests in the Umfolozi section.

Hluhluwe is known for a lot of things prime amongst them are it’s thriving conservation efforts, rich wildlife, and a gruesome history that speaks of senseless animal slaughter. 

In 2008, the park was thriving with 1600 white rhinos, hundreds of which were relocated, nourishing the dwindling population in other regions. But in 2020, the park lost 28 rhino to these opportunist poachers, and on 6th March 2020,  two poachers were killed in a shootout.  

The park authorities have implemented high-tech security protocols using drones to detect and provide rapid response, to prevent any further occurrences of poaching activities.

History of the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

  • 1824-1895: With the increasing demand for animal skin and ivory, hunting-trading became a more profitable activity, more so than farming.
  • 1824: British traders equipped with firearms arrived in Zululand at the colony of Natal.  Hippo, elephants, and buffaloes were primarily hunted for their skin and ivory.
  • 1845-1855: Ostriches stripped of their feathers, buffaloes, and bucks of their hides and horn, some of them which are still on display in museums. 
  • 1860: The last elephant shot and killed in Zululand is on display in the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg. 
  • 1870: Lions, hippos, and rhinos hunted to extinction in the area, with only rare sightings of the remaining species such as ostriches. 
  • The 1890s: The early hunters, horrified by the pointless animal killings, helped set the hunting regulations.  Hluhluwe, Imfolozi, Lake St. Lucia, and Pongola Park were established to preserve the remaining animals in the region.  However, over this decade, the Tsetse fly population had increased, expediting the spread of Nagana disease.
  • 1895:  Hluhluwe proclaimed as a ‘Game Reserve’ to provide sanctuary for white rhinos.
  • 1897: Umfolozi Game Reserve was also established to provide the endangered white rhino’s a permanent sanctuary.
  • 1921: A research station was established in Umfolozi to eradicate the Tsetse fly population. The anti-tsetse campaign led to the slaughter of 100,000 animals, with the belief that when there was no nourishment left for the tsetse fly, the disease would stop.  White rhinos were one of the few species that didn’t bear the brunt of this lunacy. 
  • 1945: DDT spraying proved effective in the termination of the flies. 
  • The 1960s: Operation Rhino was introduced, which brought the dwindling white rhino back from the brink of extinction. 
  • 1985-1991: 160 elephants from Kruger national park were moved to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Since their introduction to the area, the elephant population in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park has flourished. Today, the park has around 600 elephants. 
  • 1989: The merger of Hlulume and Umfolozi Game Reserve was brought on with a wildlife corridor. 
  • 1999: Due to the low lion population, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi lions faced inbreeding. The Lion Project introduced new blood to the existing bloodlines. 

Wildlife In Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

The last known Rhinos count for Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park was 400 black rhinos and 1600 white rhinos. The park has flourished under conservation efforts such as ‘Operation Rhino’, ‘Lion Project’, elephant relocation, and introduction of wild dogs. Today, it is amongst the select few national parks that have a sizable Big Five population. 

It is home to over 85 mammals, which include the Nile crocodile, blue wildebeest, jackal, kudu, suni, waterbuck, spotted hyena, and cheetah.  It is also a fascinating birding destination with over 350 bird species, including black-bellied korhaan, Klaas’s cuckoo, night heron, and Wahlberg’s eagle.

Interestingly, the park is the only location in South Africa, where three of the longclaw species (rosy-throated, yellow-throated, and cape longclaw) are seen together.  

Camps In Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

Most of the accommodations near and in the park are self-catering accommodation.  Nselweni Bush Camp, Masinda Lodge, Mtwazi Lodge, Munyawaneni Bush Lodge, Hlatikulu Bush Lodge, and Gqoyeni Bush Lodge, are some of the well-known camps in the area. We have listed below two of the largest camps in the park.

  • Hilltop Camp: The largest camp in the park is the only camp in the region to offer non-catering services.  Strategically built over the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve’s hilltop, it offers panoramic views, dinner, and guided open vehicle game drives.
  • Mpila Camp: Mpila, located in the park’s southern section, is the second-largest camp in the park. Like Hilltop, Mpila is also set on top of a hill and presents stunning views of the bushveld. Ideal for people intending to visit Umfolozi river or the Sontuli Loop. 

When To Visit Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

For game viewing, May to September is the best time to visit the Hluhluwe-imFolozi Game Reserve. It is the dry season, which thins out the vegetation, presenting tourists ample opportunities to view animals gathered around the water sources. For viewing the fantastic bird-life of the park, November to April is an ideal time to visit the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park. 

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