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Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is the oldest Game Reserve in South Africa, proclaimed over 100 years ago in 1895, in order to principally protect the last few remaining white rhino found in this area, thank goodness for the authority’s far sightedness. It was the Zulu King Dingiswayo, that first protected this area, as his personal hunting preserve.
It was here that the Natal Parks Board initiated “Operation Rhino” under the stewardship of Conservationists such as Ian Player and Nick Steel. By the early 1960’s, the number of white rhino had improved to the point, that translocation to other protected areas was deemed to be a sensible endeavour, in order to restock other areas within their former range and to protect them from some epidemic or catastrophe.
What a success this has been, with the numbers increasing and white rhino being returned to so much of their previous habitat.
The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park now covers some 96 000 ha, this after the ‘Corridor’ was proclaimed a protected area in 1989, and included in the Park, effectively joining the two, the Hluhluwe and the uMfolozi Game Reserves.
It is in the southern uMfolozi Game Reserve that Mpila Camp was built on a hill, with expansive views over the Black and White uMfolozi Rivers and the Wilderness below, then out over the “Rolling Hills of Zululand “ into the distance. The Natal Parks Board which, with the merger with the KwaZulu Department of Nature Conservation, has now become known as Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, or KZN Wildlife when abbreviated.
The new administration has embraced the conservation ethic as best possible. With reduced funding the Park authorities have a difficult task keeping the infrastructure up to standard. Presently the roads and some of the fencing in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park require urgent maintenance and repair. Care should be exercised when traversing some of the poorer sections of road.
The Hluhluwe, northern portion of the Park, is generally higher above sea level, possibly cooler and receiving slightly more precipitation, with the uMfolozi, southern sector, generally flatter in topography, hotter and drier too. Other than the territorial animals such as the white and black rhino, many of the animals will traverse the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in its entirety, in search of better grazing, browse, water, or prey species. Thus the elephant herds for example, could be anywhere, even in the 30,000 ha Wilderness area, where there is no road infrastructure, out of the general public view when they are there. One is generally able to find elephant in this game reserve, even if it is just the odd bull in a small bachelor herd or on his own. I must say the breeding herds here can number close to 100 and are normally very relaxed and calm. One should always keep ones distance from these though, as there have been some isolated close calls.
The full spectrum of animal species can be seen pretty much anywhere in this Game Reserve, it all depends on where the best food is at a particular time of year. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is a Big Five Game Reserve with cheetah and wild dog too. These high profile species,lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard, along with a variety of antelope, giraffe, zebra, baboon, monkey and so many of the lesser animals are all regularly sighted, well maybe not the leopard, cheetah and wild dog – quite special for ohne to get to see these. The birdlife too is outstanding, with the summer months bringing in the varied migrant species complementing the diversity of birdlife, being breeding season, the males would be sporting their finest livery.
Mpila Camp is the reception office for all the satellite venues in the uMfolozi Game Reserve. Masinda Lodge, the Nselweni Bush Camp, Hlatikulu Bush Lodge and the Gqoyeni Bush Lodge as well as for the Wilderness Trails. The latter three Bush Camp / Lodges are situated on the banks of the Black uMfolozi River with the Trails camp on the White uMfolozi River. Check in and payment of the Conservation levy and subsequent collection of the necessary exit permit is all administered from the Mpila Camp office.
None of the venues in this uMfolozi sector of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park are properly fenced. Mpila Camp as well as the Nselweni Bush Camp have an elephant level electrified wire around the camp. This to stop elephant coming into camp. All other, and even dangerous animals are able to enter, with animals such as hyena being quite a problem, scavenging in the evenings and quite brazen at taking food, even from a hot fire or out of a fridge. The Vervet monkeys at Mpila Camp will even enter your motor vehicle when unpacking to see what food they are able to filch, be wary!
During the drier periods of the year I strongly recommend that you spend some time at one of the hides. The Bhejane Hide in the uMfolozi Game Reserve has offered some particularly good game viewing this past winter.
Take care, do not get too close to the animals and consider fellow visitors. Enjoy Mpila Camp and the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park!
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