Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (HIP) is one of South Africa's premier Big Five game reserves made famous by Operation Rhino, which was launched in the early 1960's and was largely responsible for saving the White Rhino from extinction.
Both Hluhluwe and Imfolozi Game Reserve
were separate parks now combined into a 96 000 hectare game reserve and one of the oldest in Africa. Apart from the Big Five, HIP has some special animals such as the endangered Wild Dog, Cheetah and red Duiker, which you are unlikely to see in many other reserves in the province.
The Park has more than 1 250 species of plants and trees in a mosaic of biologically diverse habitats. In the north of HIP are deep valleys and ravines, rivers and forests and in early summer the hillsides are covered in the soft purple haze of flowering Cape Chestnut trees
. Elsewhere the habitats range from savanna and grassland to forest and woodland.
HIP offers fantastic wilderness trails that are great alternatives to self-drive or guided night or day game drives
. In the wilderness areas there are no roads and access is only on foot with disturbance by humans kept to a minimum.
There are 4 different types of wilderness
starting with the Traditional Wilderness Trail a 4 night circular trail, a Weekend Wilderness Trail and the Bushveld Trails, which are only run from December to March enabling hikers to enjoy the wilderness during the heat of the summer months.
Trails are lead by experienced staff. The Primitive Trail caters for enthusiasts who wish to combine backpacking with sleeping under the stars. Trailists carry their own kit and are accompanied by a trail guide
There are a variety of accommodation options
from lodges, camps, bush lodges and bush camps to suit all tastes and budgets, many offering the services of a cook. Hluhluwe's Hilltop Camp is a large camp with a shop and excellent restaurant with amazing views over the edge of a steep forested slope. This is a great alternative to self catering cottages.
Close to Hilltop is Mtwazi Lodge, and hidden in a wilderness setting overlooking Hluhluwe River is the totally private Muntulu Bush Lodge
. There are 3 other excellent lodges.
In the Umfolozi section of the Park is Mpila, the main camp perched on a hill overlooking the wilderness area
. Here is a thatched rest camp with communal ablution blocks as well as self-contained cottages.
Mpila also has a Safari Tented Camp. Another of Umfolzi's options is Masinda, a smaller rest camp and also the more luxurious Masinda Lodge. There are 3 bush camps
which although they are out 'in the wild', they are comfortable and have cooks in attendance. The malaria risk is low to medium.