“I don’t think we’re going to braai* tonight, that hyena just licked the grid clean”
The sun has just set over Mpila Rest Camp on the first night of our latest visit, and we are relaxing in our accommodation when we notice the movement outside – a spotted hyena sniffing around looking for an easy snack. That’s exactly the kind of reason why we return to South Africa’s oldest game reserve so often – it is true wilderness. Mpila is unfenced – there’s a single strand of electrical wire around the camp to keep the elephants out – and that scuffling sound you’ve heard behind you in the dark could have been anything from a sounder of bush pigs or a group of grumpy old buffalo bulls to a patrolling hyena or a lurking lioness. Maybe it was just your imagination, but better move a little closer to the door just in case…
Scenically, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi doesn’t have to stand back for any of Africa’s other great reserves, and its rolling hills and clear skies make for spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Of course the wildlife is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s main attraction, and, like with every visit before, were not disappointed with our sightings.
Unfortunately a runaway fire ravaged a huge area of the park just a day prior to our visit. By the time we departed five nights later, tree trunks were still smouldering and strong winds caused the flames to flare up frequently.
The Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game Reserves in northern Kwazulu-Natal were formally proclaimed in 1895, and long before then this area was the exclusive hunting preserve of the Zulu royals. The Park has two medium-sized rest camps: Hilltop, forested and modern, in the northern Hluhluwe section, and our favourite Mpila, in the southern Imfolozi section. There’s also a number of exclusive small bush lodges throughout the Park. Good game viewing roads, a number of photographic hides and picnic spots and scenic viewpoints make for an ideal self-guided safari experience, though guided drives, walks and wilderness trails are available as well.
It is always with heavy hearts that we drive away from Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park – it’s one of those places that you miss the moment you leave.
* A “braai” is the traditional South African equivalent of a barbeque