After an early pickup at 6:30am, we left the Maharani Hotel in Durban, the three of us and our tour guide Sheldon settled in for the 2,5 hour drive along the north coast to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. Along the way we heard about the history of South Africa and in particular Durban, as well as touched on such subjects as the Anglo Zulu war, the Boers and of course the Zulu King, Shaka; this helped the time fly by on our Hluhluwe Imfolozi Full Day Safari Tour.
The day seemed to be pretty promising since before we even entered the park gate, we spotted a bull Elephant relaxing under the shade of an acacia tree, an archetypical African picture which brought tears to my eyes.
From here on the sightings got better and better. We spotted Zebra and Giraffe, as well as Wildebeest (South African for Gnu) and Impala. We were even fortunate to watch a Tawny Eagle enjoying a snack at the top of a tree (looked like perhaps a lizard that was being snacked on). There were also many other bird sightings, from a beautiful Bataleur Eagle soaring above, to an African Pied Wagtail that posed patiently as we snapped away, Glossy Starlings, African Hoopoe’s and more.
We broke for a picnic lunch (brought from the hotel, recommended!) at Sontuli Loop and as we finished up got a real treat. Across the river, maybe 100 meters away a Black Rhino popped out of the bush and was slowly making her way along the sandy bank of the river, and moments later, a calf appeared! Isn't that exciting - with the latest estimates sadly saying less than 5,000 Black Rhinos left in Africa?
After lunch we continued on. 5 Minutes later we stopped for a grand Nyala male who was snacking contently while a troop of Baboons foraged nearby! Sights like these are always fantastic, and definitely not something you get inside the many sheep farm- turned game reserve- enclosures which you can find all over South Africa.
Maybe 15 minutes later we had a wonderful experience as we stumbled into a herd of Elephants just by the roadside, with some very young calves in tow. Like youngsters of every species, they were played, snacked and finally napped, it was just wonderful to watch and be a part of this moment. Unrushed, unworried elephants so close by! Sheldon just switched the engine off and let the Elephants pass by. Magic!
We had hoped that we would discover some cats, but it seemed luck wasn’t on our side. We saw Buffalo, Wildebeest, White and more Black Rhino, Giraffe, Warthog and of course Impala, but no Lion. Finally it was time to go.
As we started out the park, a park employee waved us to a stop and with wide eyes pointed into the nearby bush and exclaimed “Lion“. A second later a Lioness appeared out the bush and started traveling along the road apparently in an attempt to stalk some Gnus. She actually crossed the road right in front of us! It was an exciting moment, especially as we were headed out the park and less than 2 kilometers from the gate.
We had a stellar day in the park. Of course we could have driven ourselves, but without the expertise of our guide Sheldon we would not have seen half of the animals. Friendly, attentive, knowledgable and with hawk's eyes for animals in the bushland he made the day a fantastic experience for us. (And we did neither have to concentrate on the many potholes on the park roads nor the traffic on the long drive from and to Durban.) So thank you Sheldon, thank you very much. I will certainly come back and take further tours with your company!
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