Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, true highlight of KwaZulu Natal
We would like to thank Nic for submitting this article
Guest Article: Nic
It had been years since our last vacation to Africa. With the addition of 2 newbies to the family time just seemed to pass us by. Our bed time stories always seemed to include our visit to Africa, the animals and the cultures. It truly had such a tremendous impact on our lives that we where always referring to it.
Finally after an absence of 8 years the decision was made to travel on safari once again. The story telling had paid off and then kids where now enthusiastic of seeing what all the tales where about.
The decision was made that we would travel to South Africa on this journey, incorporating Kruger, KwaZulu Natal and then finish in Cape Town. Kruger being high on the list it was decided to try and stay as long as possible "Lets Rough It" camping. Immediately one thinks of camp fires, animal calls in the distance hopefully not to close to the camp site. Early morning sunrise and yes exhausted children in the evening. We would then travel as far and wide while in the Kruger park. From Kruger travel South through Swaziland onto Zululand and overnight in St Lucia, where one is guaranteed sightings of Hippos. From St Lucia we would travel to Durban and catch a flight to Cape Town where we could then enjoy some incredible coastline, day outings for the children and maybe even the winelands.
Budget's done Oh dear, flights confirmed, car rentals, accommodation, insurance, GPS and ofcourse as much research as possible done.
Finally after weeks the day had finally arrived, our adventure of years ago was about to include our children. Cramped flights, no leg room and of course no sleep was the order of the day. We had arrived, car rental (camper van), just enough space for the kids to enjoy a good nap and we where off heading towards Kruger. Kruger was incredible, just exactly what we had explained to the children. Elephants, Lions, Buffalo and huge amounts of antelope. Unfortunately no Leopard yet we knew the odds but we carried on searching for that elusive animal. Camp fires, barbecue, splendid star gazing was the order of the night. Early morning Tea and a quick snack. Car packed with some treats for the kids and we where off once again. Repeat, repeat and complete. Our time in Kruger had truly giving our kids the opportunity to enjoy our enthusiasm of the bush. Time to pack up and travel South.
Swaziland to Zululand is a short cut, amazing culture, people and some incredible curios packed in we continued towards the land of Hippos. Arriving in St Lucia our very first sighting was of course Hippos in the estuary on the bridge as one enters the town. Kids and parents excited we settled in after a somewhat long drive. Don't be fooled South Africa is huge, roads are good but leave early to get to your final destination.
The days following where spent on the beach, travelling into iSimangaliso Wetland Park South Africa's first world heritage site game viewing and some more beach time in Cape Vidal. Their is a nice bay ideal for the children to play in. Samango monkeys patrol the area and seem to be hungry all day long. Keep your food sealed, hidden and then pack some rocks on top they truly are ingenious when it comes to recovering someones food.
I can honestly confirm that yes Hippos do roam the streets at night in St Lucia. Our first encounter was one of amazement with a high sense of caution. They walk through the streets with stealth it is only the resident dogs that give them away. They seem unperturbed by us humans and only seem interested in the grass that they can consume. We where told by our guesthouse to keep our distance and not to confront them and more importantly not to block them in any way what so ever. We could not understand how this animal known for the most deaths in Africa could be so relaxed in a environment that was not natural. Other clients at the guesthouse had told us that they too had almost bumped into to them while walking back from town in the evening. "They seemed calm and realy didn't seem to be interested in us". Pictures as proof we where impressed to say the least.
It was then that we where told about the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the couple had enjoyed a safari the previous day and they honestly persuaded us to do the same. With a bit of hesitation we booked a half day safari into the park. Yes another early morning for the kids by know getting ratty and irritated.
Departing early from St Lucia (5:00 am) we where picked up and transferred to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. One can truly never tier of those African Sunrises. On arrival at the park our ranger offered a incredible briefing, history of the park and also discussed what animals may be found in the park. I truly didn't know that this park had the largest Rhino population on earth, nor did I not know that this park too saved the Rhinos from near extinction when less than 100 Rhino's roamed the planet. Back into the game drive vehicle and now with high expectations we set off. Camera's, lenses, ready. Don't forget our journeys through Kruger had been self drive's, we know had a ranger doing all of the hard work spotting, driving, explaining, cooking and ensuring that we all had a good days safari. What a office we where told, asking us briefly what we all did. No sooner could we answer when a Giraffe decided to interrupt us chewing away as the sun cast behind her.
On wards meandering roads, lookouts, hides and breakfast with some marvelous views. On wards deeper into the bush we trekked, wildlife sightings included Elephant, Lion Cubs, 2 Cheetah's, Buffalo herds with the grumpy dagga Boys not to far away. Antelope galore Impala, Kudu, Water Buck, Nyala and more. However the sighting of the day had to have been the Wild Dogs as we had not encountered them in Kruger. Our ranger gave us the most incredible information about these animals, their hunting patterns and techniques are but truly remarkable.
The safari had come to an end and may I say that we should rather have opted for a full days safari.
Bags packed, curios now seeming to have doubled we traveled to Durban for our last leg in Cape Town.
Cape Town is exactly what they say it is, cosmopolitan. An astounding array of outings, sights to be enjoyed and destinations to witness. The kids by know where happy to have uninterrupted wifi. Our only recommendation while in Cape Town is to ensure that should you be visiting the tourist sights get their early, ques grow fast.
We can truly say that our highlight was Zululand, South Africa. Kruger was magnificent however being exposed to so much in such a small area in Zululand was great. The variety of species of wildlife, the amount of parks that one may enjoy is incredible especially when traveling with children.
Our only hope know is that our children too will convey their experiences to their children one day.
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