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Kwazulu-Natal, land of Rhinos and Hippos

pedro maia

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After considering a few other options for our (very short) trip to South Africa the decisionswas taken, we would go KwaZulu-Natal to visit Hluhluw-Imfolozi Park and St Lucia and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, staying to nights at each of those places.


We flew to Durban and spent the first night at Ballito, from where it would take us about 3 hours to the entrance of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi by the Nyalazi Gate.


I must say that my expectations were on the low side but it turned out to be a real surprise, the park is very beautiful, not crowded at all and although it´s not as prolific as Kruger in predator sightings we had lots of great sightings, especially of rhino, the park is rhino heaven, in 2 days we saw about 40 different ones, although we didn´t get to see any black rhino it was really a treat.


The park is split in two, the western part is Imfolozi and eastern is Hluhluwe, where we would stay at the Rhino Ridge Lodge.


After entering the park we headed to the Imfolozi sector by the main road up to the Sontuli loop and back again to Hluhluwe sector and to the lodge, it was a 4 hour drive and it was a really good one, with plenty of game, much more than we expected at the middle of the day.


The first animal we saw was this warthog




And it didn´t take us much time to see the first rhino, although a very sleepy one




And the second one, also resting in the shade




Then a few buffalos




And a nyala, there are plenty of nyala in the park, more than impala I would say.




Warning sign at the picnic spot (unfenced) in the Sontuli loop




And our Toyota Fortuner, great car to self-drive in the park





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Rhino sightings got better










And the first elephants of the trip, we also had great elephant sightings








More rhino






More ellies







We stayed for a while watching this youngster scratching himself against a tree branch














And one of the best sightings of the whole trip








How cute is that?






Another heard of ellies before entering the gravel road that would lead us to the lodge.





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Lovely start! The baby rhino is absolutely adorable - and great to see such relaxed rhinos - I am glad they feel safe :)

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@@pedro maia - Cute White Rhino calf! Wonderful to see it using the scratching stone.

Edited by offshorebirder
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Althoug there are 2 restcamps at the park (and a few bush camps as well) we chose to stay at the Rhino Ridge Lodge which opened about one year ago and I must say it was a great choice, it´s a beautiful lodge, very confortable, great service, good food and reasonable priced drinks.

The price (also reasonable) of the stay includes all meals and 2 daily game drives but those occur at the public roads inside the park since off-road driving is forbidden.

The lodge isn´t totally fenced, there´s just one elevated electrified wire to keep elephants out of the premises, at night guests need to be escorted to the villas mainly because of leopards.

A couple of pictures of the lodge as it´s seen from the road that leads to it






We stayed in two villas (number 4 and 5) with a very nice setting, these two aren´t far from the main building but you just don´t hear anything, very peaceful and quiet.






View from inside one of the villas




And a breakfast with a view



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One of the game drives from the lodge




Again rhinos are the stars here










It´s great that they all seem very calm because that horn can make quite a big damage








Time for a coffee break




A beautiful duck posing for us




Another young rhino




And another herd of ellies, it´s always a big pleasure to see them








Somebody got late here




A (lousy) video of the ellies


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Wow, rhino heaven! Great start. I think KwaZulu-Natal doesn't get the credit it deserves. We loved it.

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Wow, rhino heaven! Great start. I think KwaZulu-Natal doesn't get the credit it deserves. We loved it.


As I said our expectations were exceeded, KwaZulu-Natal has some great places to visit.

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In the morning of our only full day at the lodge me and my son we went for a bush walk (not included in the price) and it was definitely another of the highlights of the trip.


The guide for the bush walks is Nunu, quite a character and really a good guide all I can say is that going with him makes the walk an even better experience.


And truth is it´s really an experience, completely different to the game drives, suddenly you realise that you are really walking in big 5 territory without the protection of a vehicule, your guide has a riffle but you have to trust him and your live depends on his knowledge and on his decisions, then it´s on you not to mess things up because the cost can be the highest.


He only takes 4 guests in each walk and another (unarmed) member of the lodge staff goes behind, the walk lasts about 3 hours and you don´t have to be fitted (I´m not) but it was quite hot.


He first calls the anti poaching unit by walkie-talkie to let them know that we are the good guys and off we go without knowing exactly what to expect.




We start by seeing a few zebras who don't lose sight of us until they feel safe.




We also saw nyala and warthog but I don´t have pictures of those.


Nunu is always looking for tracks, he sees buffalo dung, than rhino´s, he explains us the difference between white and black rhino dung and footprints, suddenly he gets more focused and we realise we are on the tracks of a rhino, although at that time we didn´t think we were going to see one.


But yes, we are going to see one, Nunu tells us to walk very quietly and in silence, now it´s the real deal, and we have a glimpse of a white rhino.




Nunu tells us that we are in a bad position, a weak wind is blowing but in the wrong direction, we must go around to avoid the rhino to smell us and that´s what we do, after that we see him again and we find out that we are close not to one but to three monstrous white rhino, and they seem to be looking at us (I could only picture two of them), I must say that we could feel the adrenaline although we never felt unsafe.






It didn´t take long before the rhinos showed that they weren´t very pleased with our presence and they just went away, I think that was a good idea...






After the rhino close encounter we followed other buffalo tracks but didn´t get to see them and finally we settled with a group of giraffes, a very pleasant sighting before heading back to the lodge.










I know many people here has done a few walking safaris with close encounters to predators so this may not seem much of a deal but for us it was really something, a whole different perspective to safaris.


There´s not much more to say, it was totally worth it and definitely one of the best memories from the trip.

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@@pedro maia Lovely beginning - thank-you? What time of year was this (I'm guessing recently and winter looking at the warm clothing in some shots) - it looks much greener than my trip to the Timbavati in May.

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@@pedro maia Lovely beginning - thank-you? What time of year was this (I'm guessing recently and winter looking at the warm clothing in some shots) - it looks much greener than my trip to the Timbavati in May.


It was last month, 18-20 July, we didn´t see much water but many parts of the park were quite green.

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Thanks for the Great Start to your report@@pedro maia.

Up close and personal on Foot with Rhinos Must of been very Special.

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Thanks for the Great Start to your report@@pedro maia.

Up close and personal on Foot with Rhinos Must of been very Special.


Thanks for the comments.

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Did I mention that Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is a beautiful park?






















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All sightings are appreciated but a safari isn´t complete if you don´t get to see predators, and our guide, Sinde, made quite an effort to find us predators.

On our second afternoon drive, on the gravel road back to the lodge when it was already dark we saw three hyena, one of them running in front of our car, but they vanished inside the bush before we could take any pictures.

We also saw a lion but he was so distant that only with binoculars you could see (more or less) that it was a lion, I don´t know how did someone find that lion there (it was pointed to us by someone in another car).

Can you see anything here?




Ok, maybe here but you´ll have to trust me when I say that´s a lion






We went a couple of times to a place where Sinde was quite sure that there were lions because from time to time we could here chewing noises but we saw nothing, and in our last morning there were wild dogs in that same place, one researcher was there tracking them, he saw them briefly but they were sleeping and didn´t came out both times we went there, which was really a pity since wild dogs were number one in my wish list.

Finally, Sinde received a message on the radio saying some lions were spotted and so we went to the spot, and there they were, four very sleepy males.








This one showed his head, groomed himself a little bit, but soon got back to his laziness
















Without any action we went for our morning coffee-break and returned afterwards, we could still see two of them , some buffalo arrived and the other two went away, we hoped for interaction between lion and buffalo but it didn´t happen, none of them seem to be interest in a confrontation and eventually we had to leave.




Lion on the left, buffalo on the right







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Great TR and by the way- there is no such thing as a lousy ellie video :)

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Great TR and by the way- there is no such thing as a lousy ellie video :)


Thanks for your comment.

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Our visit to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi wais coming to an end, although after checking out from the lodge we still had a few hours to drive in the park, we looked for the wild dogs without any success, the lions had left the place where we saw them during the morning, but still we had some good sightings on our way back to the Nyalazi gate on our way to St Lucia.
































As I said previously the park delivered more than I expected and I must say that I could have stay for another day, if I only knew...

Who knows if we will return, all I can say is that it was a great destination for a family vacation.


St Lucia was waiting for us...

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