Tag Archives: Hilltop Camp

Our 2017 in pictures

Looking back at the places we stayed at during another year of enjoying South Africa’s beautiful wild places.


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Photo Safari through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (Part 3)

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is famous as the place where the White Rhinoceros was saved from extinction in the middle of the previous century. These animals, and their more cantankerous cousins the Black Rhinoceros, still occur in healthy populations at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but how sad that they again face a terrible onslaught from greedy humans for their horns, even here in their ancestral home.

The Park is also home to the other members of the “Big 5“, although the leopards didn’t show themselves to us during this visit. We had several sightings of different lion prides lazing on sandbanks in the Black Umfolozi River, and we encountered elephants and buffaloes throughout the reserve on a daily basis. Spotted Hyenas were a regular sight around Mpila, and we were thrilled by an encounter with a small pack of African Wild Dogs hunting impalas near Bhekapanzi Pan. That same morning we also had a fleeting sighting of a cheetah on Sontuli Loop. Furthermore, baboons, vervet and samango monkeys, duikerbushbuck, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeesthippo, zebra, giraffe and warthog all put in appearances as we explored Hluhluwe-Imfolozi this winter.

As we wrap up this report from our winter holidays in the bush, we really hoped you enjoyed travelling through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park with us, and perhaps feel inspired to visit for yourself!

Being one of our favourite destinations, we’ve featured Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park many times on our blog – have a look through all our posts about this special wilderness if you’d like to learn more about it.

Photo Safari through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (Part 2)

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park supports over 400 species of birds, many of which have become exceedingly rare, even threatened, outside formal conservation areas like this.

Bird-watching along the reserve’s road network is very rewarding, and there’s always something of interest at the three hides located at waterholes around the Park, or at the picnic sites set in beautiful locations along the Hluhluwe and Black Umfolozi Rivers. It is in the camps however, among the accommodation units, that the birds are most accustomed to a human presence and easiest to photograph as they go about their feathery business.

Enjoy this gallery showing some of the 73 species of bird we managed to identify during our recent winter visit to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.


Being one of our favourite destinations, we’ve featured Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park many times on our blog – have a look through all our posts about this special wilderness if you’d like to learn more about it.

Photo Safari through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (Part 1)

Moving along to the latter half of our winter holidays in the bush brings us to another of Africa’s oldest conservation areas (and another of our favourite wild places) – the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

This conservation area covers an enormous 960km² of beautifully unspoilt wilderness, and incorporates the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game Reserves that were officially proclaimed in 1895.

We spent four nights in the Park – 3 in cottage #17 at wonderfully wild Mpila and the last in chalet #42 at the Park’s flagship tourist facility; Hilltop.

Of course no visit to a Game Reserve would be complete without plentiful encounters with wild creatures, so let’s get started with a few small critters we came across (more to follow in the next two days).

Being one of our favourite destinations, we’ve featured Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park many times on our blog – have a look through all our posts about this special wilderness if you’d like to learn more about it.

Back from the Bush

We’ve just arrived back home after a wonderful ten days in the bush, visiting the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal Province.

While we get busy responding to the comments you left on the scheduled posts that published in our absence, here’s a small gallery of what you can expect when we report back on our trip in the coming days…

Monkey Cuteness

This tiny vervet monkey, playing with his toes and being amazed by the things he sees around him in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park’s Hilltop Camp, must be one of the cutest things I’ve seen in a long time!

This baboon youngster on the other hand reminds me of that evil doll Chucky


Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, December 2013

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After leaving Ithala Game Reserve (read here for more about Ithala and Ntshondwe Resort) our next December holiday destination was the wilds of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and our much loved Mpila Camp.

We love Hluhluwe-Imfolozi because of its wilderness atmosphere (the Park covers almost a thousand square kilometres), its fascinating history and the enormous contribution it has made to the conservation successes of our country. We love Mpila most because of its unspoiled character. The camp is  not fenced (except for a single strand of electrical wiring supposed to keep the elephants out – they come into camp and destroy the water pipes looking for a drink) and a wide variety of animals, including predators from time to time, move freely among the accommodation units. Surrounding the camp, the Imfolozi-section of the Park offers some of the best game viewing available in South Africa, and there’s few game-viewing roads as rewarding as the Sontuli Loop, just half-an-hour’s leisurely drive from camp.

December is one of the wetter months in this part of the country and by the time we arrived in the Park the vegetation was lush and green and the waterholes, streams and rivers filled to capacity. What a contrast to the huge swathes of veld burnt to ashes just prior to our visit last year and yet again we were amazed at nature’s resilience.

Of course, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is known as a Big-5 reserve and within 24 hours of our arrival we were rewarded with excellent sightings of all these sought-after animals: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is world renowned as the place where the Southern White Rhinoceros was rescued from the brink of extinction in the middle of the previous century. Today the reserve is home to a substantial number of white and black rhinos – let’s hope that the current tide of poaching can be halted before we find ourselves that close to losing these enigmatic animals again…

Elephants were shot out of the area by hunters before the Park’s proclamation in 1895, and were reintroduced to the Park in the 1980’s. Today, the park boasts a healthy population of 550 of these majestic animals. We had wonderful encounters with several mature bulls, but our most memorable sighting was of a very large herd of cows and calves of all ages crossing the Imfolozi River.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi protects the second biggest population of Cape Buffalo in South Africa – almost 5,000 – and we regularly encountered these apparently placid but actually extremely dangerous animals on our drives through the reserve.

The lion is another species that was hunted to local extinction before the reserve came into being, but unlike the elephant they made their own way back to the reserve in the 1960’s (well, just one male, probably from Mozambique, which was later joined by a pride of females translocated by the reserve management) and today there’s about 200 lions in the Park.

The Park is estimated to be home to only about 80 leopards and, given their secretive nature, any encounter should be considered extremely fortunate. We were very happy to spot a female at the bridge over the Imfolozi River early one morning – only our second ever sighting of leopard in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

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The Park is also home to three other big African predators. On this visit we missed out on seeing the African Wild Dogs and Cheetahs, but we did get to see Spotted Hyenas a couple of times

As magnificent as the “Big Five” and large predators are, there’s so much more to enjoy when visiting Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. The Park harbours thousands upon thousands of primates, antelope, zebra, warthog and giraffe, and a multitude of birds and reptiles.

You’ll easily imagine how sad we were when our four nights at Mpila and in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park came to an end – seemed it was over in the blink of an eye. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is one of South Africa’s genuine wildlife treasures and we’re already planning our next visit there.

From Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park we headed back home to Pretoria to enjoy Christmas with the extended family before heading to Golden Gate Highlands National Park (yes, again! And we’ll be posting photographs from that trip soon 😉 )

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, August 2012

“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