A 48 Hour Guide to Hluhluwe’s Best Sights Jarastyle travel

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Imagine a place where the whispers of history echo through untamed landscapes. Welcome to Hluhluwe (pronounced shloo-SHLOO-way), a modest yet captivating town nestled in the heart of northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Resting on the banks of the Hluhluwe River, this town is a vibrant blend of natural diversity and cultural richness, forming the cornerstone of the famed Elephant Coast.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve

Source: Facebook / @Hluhluwe Game Reserve

While Hluhluwe’s charm lies in its understated presence, its significance as a hub of tourism in KwaZulu-Natal is undeniable. From being the backdrop to international films to hosting an array of luxurious game lodges, Hluhluwe is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Named after the thorny rope climber, Dalbergia armata, or umHluhluwe in Zulu, it embodies the resilience and beauty of its surrounding forests in Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park.

Hluhluwe is not just a gateway but a destination in its own right, offering an array of attractions that cater to every explorer’s dream. From the ‘Big Five’ in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve to the tranquil shores of the Indian Ocean accessed through St Lucia or Sodwana Bay, each experience is a chapter in its own epic tale. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a site of natural wonder and beauty, adds to the allure, drawing in those seeking a connection with nature.

0–24 hours: Wildlife and Whispers of the Wild

A 48 Hour Guide to Hluhluwe's Best Sights Jarastyle travel

Rhino Ridge Lodge is partly owned by the local community, and is built on community land which has now been incorporated into the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, significantly expanding the size of the park.

Embark on a journey into the heart of Africa’s oldest nature reserve, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, just a brief 20-minute drive from Hluhluwe. This 960 km² expanse, 280 kilometers north of Durban, is a testament to conservation success, particularly known for one of the world’s largest populations of white rhinoceros.

Operated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi stands out as the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal where the iconic ‘big five’ roam freely. Despite ongoing challenges like rhino poaching, the park remains a stronghold for these magnificent creatures, thanks to relentless conservation efforts.

A Tale of Two Regions: Hluhluwe and Umfolozi

The park’s geography varies dramatically between its northern Hluhluwe area and southern Umfolozi section. In the north, the Hluhluwe area boasts hilly landscapes, ranging from 80 to 540 meters above sea level, adorned with coastal scarp forests and lush valley bushveld. This rugged, mountainous terrain is rich with forests and grasslands, offering a diverse habitat for wildlife.

Also read: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi: two sides of the fence

Conversely, the Umfolozi area lies to the south, nestled between the Black and White Umfolozi rivers. Here, the topography shifts to the lowlands of the river beds and steep hilly country, extending into acacia savannahs and woodlands. The climate in Umfolozi is typically hot in summer and mild to cool in winter, with occasional cold spells.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi vs. Kruger National Park

While Kruger National Park’s vastness is overwhelming, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi’s relatively smaller size (almost nine times smaller than Kruger) offers a different charm. The park’s unique topography and varied carrying capacities for wildlife provide a distinct experience compared to the sprawling plains of Kruger. The dense vegetation and rugged terrain of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi make wildlife encounters more intimate and thrilling. (hluhluwegamereserve.com)

Refueling at Ngweni Brewery and Café

After a day of exploration and wildlife spotting, unwind at Ngweni Brewery and Café (081 400 0947). This local favorite isn’t just about the craft beer and pizza; it’s an experience enriched by the vibrant atmosphere, where locals and visitors mingle. Duke, the friendly dog, adds to the welcoming vibe, and the diverse menu, ranging from fish and chips to hearty burgers, is sure to satisfy any appetite.

A 48 Hour Guide to Hluhluwe's Best Sights Jarastyle travel

Highly commended – Zebra drinking – While watching a small herd of Zebra approaching the waterhole in the Umfolozi/Hluhluwe Game reserve, I got my camera ready. I was hoping to get some nice still photographs of them drinking from the pool. Two zebra stayed behind a few meters from the water, while the rest nervously approached the water.
I started shooting as soon as they started to drink. They would raise their heads alternately, while I was waiting for them to be perfectly aligned and all drinking.
-By Johann Engelbrecht, Mpumalanga
Canon EOS550D ,Sigma 120-400mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/800 sec

24–48 hours: Coastal Charms and Crafty Creations

A 48 Hour Guide to Hluhluwe's Best Sights Jarastyle travel

Less than an hour from Hluhluwe, the town of St. Lucia is definitely worth visiting. Check out St Lucia Coffee Shop (035 590 1616). This charming town, just 2.5 hours north of Durban, serves as a perfect base to explore both the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the nearby Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Embark on an adventure along the 2.4-km St. Lucia Estuary Boardwalk. This moderately challenging trail, weaving through stunning scenery, is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for the vibrant Purple-crested Turaco (iGwala in Zulu), along with other exotic species like the White-eared Barbet and Red-capped Robin-chat. The trail also offers encounters with zebras, impalas, and hippos, making insect repellent a must-have accessory.

Dive into the wonders of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a sprawling protected area known for its biodiversity. The park’s crown jewel, Lake St. Lucia, teems with hippos, crocodiles, and a myriad of bird species. Venture further to discover elephants, giraffes, and even leopards in the grasslands and forests. To the north, the vibrant coral reefs of Sodwana Bay await exploration. (isimangaliso.com)

Cape Vidal: Where Ocean Meets Safari

A 48 Hour Guide to Hluhluwe's Best Sights Jarastyle travel

Kayaking on the St Lucia estuary, on the lookout for crocs. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

In Cape Vidal, guests have the option to stay in either beach log cabins or the lakeside bush lodge, ensuring a comfortable experience close to nature. Here, a variety of activities await: you can swim in the ocean’s embrace, snorkel to discover a hidden underwater world, cast your line in sport fishing, or take a self-driven journey through the reserve. The highlights of Cape Vidal include thrilling beach and ocean activities, the chance to observe turtles during their nesting season, and wildlife viewing that brings you face-to-face with nature’s marvels.

At low tide, the area transforms into a snorkeler’s paradise, unveiling a diverse marine ecosystem, including the mysterious remains of the Dorothea shipwreck, lost in 1898. In winter, the coast becomes a stage for the migration of Humpback Whales, a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. During the summer months, the shores serve as a nesting ground for Leatherback and Loggerhead sea turtles, offering a rare glimpse into their lives.

For visitors to Cape Vidal, it’s important to keep in mind several considerations for a safe and enjoyable stay. Malaria precautions are recommended due to the region’s climate. Visitors should plan to bring their own food supplies, as the nearest store is 35 km away, though a small shop in Cape Vidal does stock basic necessities. The resort provides essential facilities such as petrol, diesel, firewood, and bait. As a protected area, Cape Vidal has specific regulations, particularly regarding fishing practices and beach driving, to ensure the conservation of this pristine natural environment.

Where to Stay

Weltevreden Cottage

Weltevreden Cottage, a charming abode listed on Airbnb, offers more than just a place to stay; it’s an immersion into the tranquil life of a private game farm on the outskirts of Hluhluwe. The cottage, conveniently located within walking distance to the Ngweni Railway brewery and restaurant, serves as a perfect base for exploring the local flavors.

Guests at the cottage can enjoy leisurely walks on the game-fenced farm, where encounters with small game such as Impala, Nyala, Common Reedbuck, and Duiker are frequent and delightful. Birdwatchers will be enchanted by the variety of bird species, and the occasional sighting of smaller creatures like porcupines adds to the charm. The property’s dam is an ideal spot for an idyllic afternoon picnic or a relaxing sundowner, enveloped by the serene ambiance of the African bush.

Moreover, the farm is known for hosting the Hluhluwe park run, a non-profit 5km run/walk event that attracts guests from all over the world, adding a community feel to your stay.

Airbnb linkWeltevreden Cottage @ Ngweni Private Game Farm

ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe

WIN: Two-night stay at ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe & Safaris

ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe, on the other hand, elevates your stay with a range of accommodation options, from affordable holiday stays to a 5-star self-catering safari lodge for an authentic bush experience. The hotel is designed to cater to a diverse clientele, including corporate and government guests, offering intimate conferencing venues in the heart of Zululand.

Also read: When in the wild: An ANEW Hotel and Resorts Hluhluwe trip

Strategically positioned between the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, a world heritage site, ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe is the epitome of an African centerpiece. Guests have the unique opportunity to embark on daily game drives that depart directly from the hotel, promising an up-close encounter with the Big Five. Booking a stay at ANEW Hotel is not just about comfort; it’s about experiencing the heart and soul of Hluhluwe ANEW.

Address: 104 Main Rd, Hluhluwe, 3960
Phone: 035 562 4000


By Jordyn Johnson

This article originally appeared in the August 2023 print issue of Getaway


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Courtesy : https://www.getaway.co.za/things-to-do/dorps/48-hours-in-hluhluwe/