iMfolozi Game Reserve
iMfolozi Game Reserve
4.5
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Duration: More than 3 hours
Meets animal welfare guidelines
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SafariKZN-Mark
Northampton, UK3,596 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2018 • Friends
The word wilderness has many definitions and means many things to many people. I first ventured into the Imfolozi wilderness eleven years ago. That short trail over a decade ago had a profound effect on me. It left me more than anything, wanting more. Wanting a deeper, longer, experience where I could get closer to nature and test myself. After that weekend I made a promise to myself that I would return.
Approaching my 50th birthday I booked myself onto a five-day primitive trail. I would turn 50 just before the trail so this was my gift to me. I chose this trail because of its duration and its primitive nature. It becomes tough at this point. How much do I tell the reader? Trail guides, traillist’s and journalists have all written of their time spent in the wilderness. There are also the facts, the what is provided, the what to bring, all available for everyone to read.
I joined my trails group at the Mpila Camp reception office, in the southern section of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Once all there we formed a small convoy and drove the tar road to Mdindin base camp on the edge of the wilderness area. After introductions we were given our backpacks, water bottles, sleeping bags and groundsheets. Food, utensils and cooking equipment was divided up and we were all allocated a pile. We were also given choices: How many packets of muesli, ketchup or chutney? And the big question: To carry, or not, sheets to protect us from the rain? The sheets were bulky and heavy, and no rain was forecast. The team decision, leave the sheets behind. There were also wise words from our guides. ‘Travel lightly, clothes will not keep you alive, food will though”
Over lunch in camp we went through all the safety aspects and filled out our indemnity forms. Ayanda, our lead guide, spoke at length and introduced us properly to his second in command for our trail, Mbilo. We were all also asked to stand in turn and tell the group our name and a little about ourselves. Looking back, I could have said more, “Mark, England, shoe lace salesman” However we were now a family and unwittingly we were already working together and making crucial decisions. Now it was time to lock away our phones and watches and get our walking boots on. The wilderness awaited us.
My back pack was on the heavy side. The last time I carried a pack like this was a scout hike, probably thirty five years ago? Scout hikes did not take in true wilderness where animals, big and small roamed freely. I had also been allocated the kettle to carry. Every thorny bush and tree I passed seemed to play a tune on it. I knew this was an unwelcome noise.
On that first afternoon we stopped for water breaks, the winter temperature here I guessed was mid to high twenties, and for Ayanda to show us some of the smaller things: A trap door spider who was reluctant to show himself. Our first big game encounter did not go perfectly. We did not keep quiet and we did not move quickly enough. The ‘animals’ gave us space and we did not take it. A pair of buffalo skulls and a large pool of dry blood were reminders of the environment we had entered.
We walked everyday for five days, some days we carried all our belongings and others we shared a back pack, carrying only essentials. The wilderness has no man-made pathways, just animal tracks formed over many thousands of years. It’s also rarely flat and we regularly made our way over rolling hills and down into valleys. The bush was sometimes thick. I opted for walking in shorts and it was not long before thorns were drawing my blood. There were open areas of savannah grassland along with forests. For river crossing it was boots and socks off, always keeping an eye out for crocodiles.
Our camps were never far from the river, the source of our drinking water, where we bathed and where we washed our dishes. We collected firewood everyday as we approached that night’s camp. Ayanda and Mbilo cooked all our meals on the open fire. We ate like kings with fresh meat three nights out of four. Chores were shared, and we were all expected to our bit for the family. Water bottles needed filling and cooking pots needed washing.
Darkness falls quickly here with very little twilight. The last family task before bedtime was to allocate our watch times. With nearly twelve hours of darkness and nine trailist’s the time needed dividing up evenly. Over the four nights I covered several different time slots. It was vital to follow Ayanda’s instructions. Peoples lives were at risk through the night. In the darkness the whoop of hyena could be heard close to camp. A lion’s roar carries several miles, but at times we knew they were not far from us. An unfamiliar noise woke me one night and I had no idea what it was. I now know what a leopard call sound like. The night watch is a time of solitude. A time to test yourself against the darkness. That first watch there is no denying I was on edge. I nearly jumped out of my skin as the fire created a shadow next to me. It turned out to be my own shadow. Apparently, there was a recognisable noise most nights emanating from the darkness. I can only say that my now fifty-year-old found sleeping on rock and sand a trigger for snoring.
On our third night we were privileged to lay on our backs and watch a total lunar eclipse. The whole family watched at least part of the event. The moon turned orange and I lost count of how many shooting stars I witnessed that night.
On our daily lunch breaks we ate like kings where kings had once sat. We sat in King Shakas’ open air court, on a rocky outcrop high above the river below. Even elephants looked like ants from our perch. Those found guilty here were sentenced to death. There was a choice of death. Jump from the ledge or simply be speared. It was here that the family stood and held hands before sitting in absolute silence. The wilderness and its primitive nature can be many things, including spiritual. We spent one whole day of walking in total silence. Only Ayanda made Zulu style clicks that day as he guided us.
The wilderness is for everyone but not everyone is for the wilderness. I hope I have not given too much away. I want people to get the most from their own experience. If you want to know anything, please ask me. Here are a few tips. Take a towel, as I did not. Walk in your boots, no matter how comfy they are, before your trail. Put some plasters in your pocket. Even comfy boots give blisters. Test your trousers to make sure they do not make a noise when walking in them. I followed a fellow trailist with the noisiest of trousers. Lastly when a guide carries the tea pot it does not make a sound.
I want to thank my fellow trailist’s for their good company. And a special thank you goes to Ayanda and Mbilo. You educated us, guided us and kept us safe.
To finish I want to quote Ayanda who kindly gave me his consent to write these quotes down.
“What can man be without a beast. If all beasts were gone. A man can die of great loneliness of spirit”
“Wild animals are the flowers that decorate our souls”
Written November 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

wwtravelww
Paris, France2 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Friends
The Primitive Trail is a very special experience and it is important for people to have enough information to decide before signing in.

Before starting this review, I would like to emphasize that I'm a very "outdoors-y" person who loves to hike and camp in Nature and that I have quite a lot of experience when it comes to trekking in different parts of the world. In fact, before the Primitive Trail I spent 7 days hiking across the Drakensberg range from Sentinel peak to Sani Pass (175km), solo, unassisted.

That being said, the first thing to know about South Africa, is that it's quite easy to see animals up-close from the comfort of your own car. If you wake up early and drive through a park, you will probably be able to see quite a few animals, sometimes only a few meters from you, just next to the road. These animals are often "tame" meaning they have learned not to be afraid of people in cars.

On the Primitive Trail, your group goes on foot, looking for animals in the bush. That changes a few things compared to being in a car.

The first factor is that, on foot, you'll be able to cover less ground than with a car. Especially since walking in the bush can be quite slow because of the heat, the weight of your backpack and all the thorny vegetation around.

The second factor is that the animals you'll be looking for are NOT "tame". They are afraid of human beings and will actively try to run away from you.

So this will lead to the strange conclusion that you'll see FEWER animals on the Primitive Trail than if you decide to spend all that time driving in the park. But the animals you'll encounter on the Primitive Trail will be more "real". Their behavior will be closer to the what might happen in the wilderness. So if your sole purpose is to see animals up-close then don't do the Primitive Trail. Instead of that, spend the same amount of time driving around the park, enjoying life from the comfort of your car and sleep in real beds. It will not cost you necessarily much more.

The other factor you'll have to be aware of is that, among the "Big Five", it is fairly easy to see Rhinos, Elephants and Buffaloes but almost impossible to see Lions or Leopards. So don't have too many expectations about that. Basically, on the Primitive Trail you will not see different animals than the ones you will see driving around.

On the Primitive Trail, you'll spend four nights in the bush but you'll spend them at two camp sites only. Both of these camp sites are located right next to the river so they are both extremely humid places to sleep. Expect your sleeping bag to be very wet in the mornings. During days 2 and 4, you'll walk in the bush with a very light load (lunch, camera, water). In fact one member of the group will carry everybody's lunches and the rest of the group will only carry water, sunscreen and a camera.

The distances between camp sites are around 8km. But, during a single day you can end up walking over 20km depending on the fitness of your group.

The sun can be very hot so bring lots of sun screen and (even better) a large hat. Because of the prickly vegetation, shorts or t-shirts are not the best choices for walking in the bush.

The equipment provided (backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat) is of very POOR quality and quite used. Bring your own stuff if you can.

The food provided is ok but too heavy to carry. Things like bricks of liquid milk, tomatoes, fresh fruits ... will make those backpacks even more uncomfortable than they already are.

I don't think the "night watch" is really useful for "security". Without it, I really don't think the big animals will come to your camp. Maybe a curious monkey. Anyway, it is quite an experience to sit next to the fire in the middle of the night and listen to all the sounds of the bush but after the first couple of nights it isn't that much exciting anymore to have your sleep cycle brutally interrupted.

The most "dangerous" animals you will encounter are ... ticks. They are everywhere ! You will literally see them by the dozens waiting on low branches, ready to pounce on anything living. The rangers will laugh them off as just a minor nuisance but they can be very dangerous indeed. I had a few bites and one of them was a vicious one. The tick had a specific bacteria and it really attacked my immune system making me very weak for several days and I had to take antibiotics to get rid of the infection. So don't take ticks lightly. Cover your arms and legs and check yourself on a regular basis. If you need to remove a tick, don't do it with your fingers but use a specific tool. Keep an eye on the bite spots and if any one of them gets red and painful then immediately consult a doctor to get antibiotics before you catch something really bad like Lyme disease. Don't be fooled by "official statistics" concerning Lyme disease in South Africa. Take it seriously.

The head ranger is very knowledgeable and patient and can explain millions of things to you. However, there are times when, standing in the blazing sun, with a heavy pack on, listening to how this plant can be used to cure ear infections, can become a little ... boring. You'll definitely have to get used to the South African accent and it will take some time to understand your ranger.

Concerning the cost, don't forget to add to the initial 3300 ZAR of the Primitive Trail, the park fees for 5 days (1100 ZAR !) as well as a well deserved tip to your ranger and it all comes closer to 4700 ZAR. For a program which, in fact, lasts exactly 4 days and 4 nights (Not 5), that seems very expensive to me.

Knowing that you'll probably be in a group of 8 and that the rangers' salary is quite small, the organization is really making a lot of money off the "Primitive Trail". But they don't provide you with good equipment or food. So it doesn't seem like a fair deal to me.

All in all, the Primitive Trail is an "experience" which is sometimes fun but also often uncomfortable, frustrating and difficult. It is definitely not for everyone and people should only sign up with realistic expectations...

w.
Written May 23, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dr Ricky S
Vanderbijlpark, South Africa94 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
We visited the IMfolozie and Hluhluwe game reserves. What an experience. If there is one game reserve that MUST BE on your "To do" list when visiting South Africa - this is it. It starts with the friendly staff greeting you at the entrance gate, with well maintained and clean ablution facilities all along the routes and loops you can take in the reserve.
This is a massive reserve, so best be advised to book out the whole day out to experience this wonderful place - you will most likely want to go back. Gates are usually open by 7am, and believe me, we barely made it out after 6:30pm and wished we could stay longer. We chose to do IMfolozi first, and spent most of the day there, so rushed a bit through the Hluhluwe reserve side - but it was well worth it as this seems to be the "lesser travelled" and pristine part.
There is accommodation available in the game reserve, so if you love wildlife it would be a good option. There are restaurant facilities and a shop at Mpila site, but there are also quite a few "picnic spots" and viewing facilities where you can enjoy your home-packed picnic.
Written March 28, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TSL-300
Banbury, UK41 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Family
We stayed in Mpila Camp. The site is fenced against elephant but not other wildlife. Electricity goes off overnight so you need to bring a torch. Make sure you also bring food for the time you are there. There a few basic supplies in the shop. Petrol but not diesel for sale. Towels are provided in the chalets. Spotted hyena visit the braais (BBQs) at night - don't feed. We really enjoyed our stay.

The highlight of our visit was a walk led by Nikhona she was a brilliant guide informative, knowledgeable and funny. We saw rhino and giraffe on the walk.
Written July 1, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

henrypozyn
Durban, South Africa8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2018 • Couples
Games Reserve is a must when you visit Hluhluwe. We saw so many beautiful animals. You have to follow the map route or you will miss out on seeing all the animals.
Written May 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ellieQ7612UI
Dublin, Ireland32 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2017 • Family
Had the most amazing time. There was so much to do but so little time. Will defo be back in 2018. They offer night safari and early start safari. both were enjoyed. My heart ward
Written September 7, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Tom P
Durban, South Africa98 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2019 • Family
We love iMfolozi because of its natural beauty and the prospects of seeing something different every time.
Sadly parts of the park were closed due to the roads being damaged by recent heavy rains.
Of special note on this trip was witnessing baby elephant chasing impala, squealing with delight as the impala scattered in fright. We also saw about 50 vultures sunning themselves on a river sandbank - quite a spectacle.
Wonderful to see all the animals in such good shape with the Bush and grasslands having fully recovered after the drought. Also wonderful to see both the wit and swart Mfolozi rivers flowing.
Written December 31, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

lukas
Germany4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2019
good place to self-drive animal spotting, especially Rhinos that are very rare elsewhere. Not as busy as some other parks
Written November 12, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Heather P
Durban, South Africa24 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2019 • Couples
Mpila camp.
I am sad to say that although we have been going to Mpila camp for many, many years and have always enjoyed our time there, the camp is looking the worse for wear. Really. The monkeys are mischievous and it is very important that the sleeping part of the unit is secure. Tent number 25 had a rip in the Velcro at the entrance, so despite every effort to make the tent secure, a monkey got into the tent and although there was no food there, it opened a pill container and took blood pressure tablets and vitamin B tablets. Apart from the possible human medical emergency, it could mean one or more dead monkeys.
I went to reception and complained. We were probably going to have to go to Hluhluwe to a chemist to get some tablets before a medical disaster happened. Earlier, we were told that the maintenance team were going around the camp fixing the tent entrances but when I told them about the blood pressure tablets, someone was there immediately to fix it. So why was it not fixed before?
The gum poles are falling to bits and some are missing. The gate latch is hanging off. The tented areas just look unkempt. We were amazed that there was so much rubbish in the grass around the tents. Shouldn’t this be picked up? We picked up all that we could see, but then the bush pig lifted the whole refuse bucket during the night and tipped it over to get inside it. Some other means of securing the bucket needs to be applied.

Written August 4, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ronel Victor
1,737 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2018 • Couples
Just little maintenance required. It's the first time we visited this Park, and WOW were we amazed. We stayed in Mpila Safari Tent Camp, with the most beautiful view. (Although our tent's zip didn't close completely) Had a view visits with the camps Hyena in the early hours of the morning, cleaning the braai, as well huge Bushpig and Cape Genet. Staff are very friendly at reception, and the tent's nice inside.
Written April 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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