The Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Experience


Proclaimed in 1895, the Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Game Reserve is the oldest game reserve in Africa. Originally two separate reserves (Hluhluwe, a name referring to the thorny Monkey Rope and Imfolosi, meaning river of fibres), it is now linked by an 8km wide corridor.

The reserve was originally the exclusive hunting preserve of the Zulu kings who protected the area by proclaiming conservation laws long before any official protection.

Conservation

Elephant

The Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Game Reserve boasts one of the best conservation teams in the world and has gained world-wide acclaim for its conservation efforts. Many species of animal eradicated from the park through the Nagana Campaign (the mass eradication of game in the 1920s, 30s and 40s incorrectly suspected of being responsible for the Tsetse fly infestation) have been successfully re-introduced, including Lion in the 1960s and Elephant in the 1980s. Hippo were also eradicated but a small group found their way into the park and the population is rising. The population of Wild Dogs are one of the park's major conservation priorities as they are Africa's second most endangered carnivore (after the Ethiopian Wolf).

Black Rhino

As the home of "Operation Rhino" in the 1950s and 1960s, the park became world-renowned for its White Rhino conservation programme. It is worth noting that by 1900 less than 20 White Rhino were left in the province and there are now in excess of 10 000 worldwide. The park has also focussed on the Black Rhino whose numbers had dwindled from 14 000 to 1 500. At least 20% of the world's population of Black and White Rhino are now found in the Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Game Reserve.

Other areas of focus for the park are its wilderness trails and its renowned Game Capture Unit, upgraded into the Centenary Capture Centre which is a benchmark for animal capture and sustainable utilisation in Africa.

The Centenary Centre is in the north-eastern section of Imfolosi and incorporates capture bomas and pens, an audio-visual hall, rhino museum and information centre, thus allowing visitors an opportunity to view animals in transit as well as gain an insight into the role the park plays in conservation.

Wildlife

The Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Game Reserve covers some 96 000 hectares (around 237 000 acres) and an immense diversity of flora and fauna occur within it.

Nyala

Besides the Black and White Rhino, the reserve is home to Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo and Elephant - the big 5. In addition to the Big 5, there are a number of other large mammals including Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, large numbers of Impala, Burchell's Zebra, Nyala, African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hippo and Blackbacked Jackal. It is believed that there are a minimum of 86 species of mammal within the reserve.

Guided game drives, in open game-viewing vehicles, into the reserve are available and highly recommended. Alternatively, you are able to self-drive (a 4x4 vehicle is not necessary) as all the routes are well marked and maintained and the main route is tarred. Malala is 20 minutes drive from the main gate (Memorial Gate). The gates open at 5am and close at 7pm in summer (October-March) and are open 6am-6pm in winter. There is an entrance fee payable at the gate.

Birdlife

In excess of 350 species of bird have been recorded in the park, and it is particularly renowned for its abundance of raptors. Other good birds in the park include a breeding colony of the endemic Southern Bald Ibis in the cliffs close to Hilltops, and African Finfoot on the Hluhluwe River. For further information on the specials, take a look at the writeup on the Zululand Birding Route.