- Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
- Sustainable Tourism
- Off the beaten track
I went to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Reserve (not pronounced like it is written, unless you are Zulu of course, but more like "schloo schloo wee") with one of the numerous companies that offer one day tours for observing the animals. To begin with, as I had my own rental car and was staying at St. Lucia, I hesitated about spending the extra money because it is possible to drive round the park in your own car.
You have to get there very early, as soon as the park opens (at 5a.m.) if you want to see the activity of the animals at the start of the day. But with an organised tour you only have to get up, have a shower, pick up your camera and shoes and you're away. You can huddle under the blanket during the cool of the morning, enjoy the shade of the car's roof during the day, eat breakfast on a dry river bed watching the gnus crossing and munch on a typically South African "braai" (barbeque)! All with the services of a guide who will know where to find the animals.
You can admire lions, elephants, zebras, gnus, antelopes, and lots of others while your guide tells you about the savanna and watches out for potholes on the road. How good is that?
I'll always remember my first few minutes in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi reserve. I came across a pack of wild dogs furiously tearing apart some antelopes. These are animals which are very rarely sighted. So I'd really hit the jackpot!
The reserve is also home to the largest population of Southern white rhinos in the world. I managed to see a few dozen of them in the two days I was there – bear in mind that they're quite rare in other South-African reserves.
During my safari at Hluhluwe, I was able to spot all of the "Big Five" except leopards, and to photograph dozens of species of multicoloured birds. The animals aren't the only attraction the reserve holds. I was fascinated by the verdant hills, which seemed to stretch to infinity. The savannah seemed to have been kept perfectly pure from any human intrusion.