Attractions / KwaZulu Natal / Ten (10) to Inspire / Trending / Wildlife Encounters

Everything You Need to Know to See the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve Properly

Updated Monday, 29 April 2024

See the Big 5 closer to Durban than you think …

The Hluhluwe iMfolozi (shla-shloo-wee-om-fa-low-zee – it’s a mouthful but you’ll get used to it) combines two reserves of unmistakably different character. As if to reinforce this idea, there’s a public road dividing the two.


Three rivers flow permanently through the park. Two – the Black and White Imfolozi s – etch their way through a series of valleys in the southern section leaving rich riverine vegetation to accompany drier woodland, grassy plains and open savannah for spotting wildlife.

Dissecting the Hluhluwe section is the Hluhluwe River and its tributary, the Nzimane, which depart the jaw-dropping viewpoints of the mountains in the north before finally subsiding in Lake St Lucia east of the park.

Hluhluwe iMfolozi

World-renowned as the home of the southern white rhino, Hluhluwe iMfolozi’s 1950s Operation Rhino brought the white rhino back from almost certain extinction.

There are those who consider Hluhluwe-iMfolozi better than Kruger National Park.

Not for its size because it’s a 20th of the size of Kruger, but for the sheer feeling of ‘wild’ and the access to wildlife – lions, leopards, rhinos (black and white), buffaloes, blue wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, elephants and African wild dogs.

Visit Hluhluwe iMfolozi

Visit Hluhluwe-iMfolozi for the sights and sounds of ‘real’ Africa!

Did we mention that it’s also South Africa’s oldest game reserve?

Declared in 1890 when the encounter of several rarely seen white rhino (all but extinct due to hunting) spurred authorities to formalise their protection. By 1960 every wild white rhino in the world lived in Imfolozi and Hluhluwe.

Today the threat of poaching syndicates places the rhino again under threat, in the mistaken belief that the horn is a cure for a myriad complaints and illnesses.

The reserve fights an ongoing battle to protect its rhino, even introducing state of the art technology in a bid to track poachers fast enough to prevent devastation.

Visit Hluhluwe iMfolozi

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi – useful information

What distinguishes Hluhluwe-iMfolozi from other reserves is its hills. Not only is it unusual to find an undulating game-rich landscape but these same hills and mountains provide great vantage points from which to spot wildlife in the variety of forests, bushveld and open savannah below.

There are large populations of white and black rhino, and nyala – three seldom seen animals. Don’t go expecting to see the park’s hippos, however. The rivers flow rather fast through Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. If you want hippos, head to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi lies 20km northwest of Mtubatuba where the coastal plain meets the foothills of the interior. From Durban travel north along the N2 until you reach the village of Hluhluwe, surrounded by game farms. The reserve provides an online map with directions from Durban and Johannesburg.

GPS coordinates for Hluhluwe-iMfolozi: 28 00 26 S . 31 41 09 E

Note: gate times vary depending on whether you’re travelling in summer (January to May) or winter (June to October).

Visit Hluhluwe iMfolozi

Tip 1:

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi offers some of the best trails in the country. But the Wilderness trails, in particular, are worth doing.

There are three options – a one-day Big 5 Wilderness Walking Safari, a two-night Imfolozi Wilderness Trail, and a three-night Primitive Trail. You leave your cell phones, wrist watches and gadgets behind.

Note: no children under 16, and the fees don’t include conservation levies. Expect to emerge transformed.

Tip 2:
There are over 400 bird species in Hluhluwe iMfolozi, a diversity attributable to the variety of habitats. If you’re a twitcher, then this is your space! Hluhluwe-iMfolozi contains half of the bird species in the entire southern hemisphere, 16% of which are Red Data species.

Particularly secretive river species like the white-backed night heron and African finfoot, and rare birds like the white-backed vulture, lappet-faced vulture and martial eagle. Listen out for the chanting goshawk and trumpeter hornbills.


Tip 3:
This is a low-risk malaria area, but consult your doctor before you go.

Tip 4:
Cheetahs were reintroduced into the park in 2017, four of them arriving from Shamwari Game Reserve and Mountain Zebra National Park, and 13 in total anticipated by 2018. With an estimated 7100 cheetahs left in the wild, this is good news!

Tip 5:
Whilst the internal roads at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi are in good repair, the signage needs renewal. Make sure you have a map of the reserve with you if you’re self-driving. Self drives are very doable, you don’t need to take a guided tour.

Tip 6:
You’ll need more than a day to do the reserve justice. One day will probably suffice for either Hluhluwe or iMfolozi, but not both. And trust us, once you’re there, you’re going to want to spend at least two nights.

Tip 7:
Spotted hyena – these curious creatures with an awkward gait are also part of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. Watch this video of hyena cubs in the reserve.

  • Guided walks
  • Guided night drives
  • Self-guided 4×4 trails
  • Self-drive game viewing
  • Self-guided hiking trails
  • Boating and boat tours

During winter, between March and November. The evenings may get a little chilly but the thinner vegetation makes it easy to see game, particularly as they tend to gather at water holes.

Summer brings rain and lush vegetation, but it’s really sticky and hot and it’s difficult to spot game in all that greenery.


Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

Rhino Ridge is a wow! This luxury game lodge is located inside the actual reserve. The game lodge’s contemporary design with its focus on organic form and natural finishes is nothing short of beautiful. With only 18 rooms, it’s set high on a ridge with views out over the reserve.

Expect an excellent experience. We have been proudly recommending Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge for the past 15 years and have never had a dissapointed guest.
Price range: $$$$$

Rhino River Lodge

Rhino River Lodge is an intimate and exclusive lodge on an privately-owned game reserve with some of the best game viewing Zululand has to offer.

Superb accommodation and exemplary service compliment the home-cooked cuisine featuring traditional South African flavours. Sleeps 16 guests in 6 rooms.
Price range: $$$$

Bushwillow Collection

You’re right on the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve’s doorstep when you stay at at Bushwillow. Day trips to other important game parks in the area are also possible.

Choose from three accommodation styles – the lodge, boutique self-catering chalets with private pool, or retreat to a self-catering cottage. Spoil yourself.
Price range: $$$$

Hluhluwe Bush Camp Glamping

Not all stays need be expensive. Hluhluwe Bush Camp offers a choice of three well equipped tents, two equipped adventure tents as well as two open bush camp sites.

The Tipi Tents share a bathroom fitted with a shower, toilet and basin. The Adventure tents have a private open-aired bathroom consisting of a shower. The camp sites make use of an ablution block with two showers, toilets and basins.
Price range: $

Makhasa Private Game Lodge

Luxuriate in the bush at Makhasa in one of six private suites crowning the central lodge area. Shaded wooden walkways link the suites together. They are well situated near a prime waterhole location for game viewing opportunities.

The air conditioned suites are furnished with a King-size bed and have a bathroom. The rooms lead onto a shared veranda that overlooks well-maintained gardens. Enjoy three meals daily prepared daily by a local chef, all included in the rates.
Price range: $$$$

If none of these options are interesting for you, too expensive or just not your style, we have a very large selection of options for accommodation in Huluhluwe, from top of the range to basic overnight lodgings. And let us know how your trip was! We LOVE reading your reviews.

Explore More