Hluhluwe – Imfolozi National Park – December 2015

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the oldest game reserve in Africa and consists of 960 km² of hilly landscape in central KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.  The park was officially established in 1895 primarily to protect the white rhinos, prior to this the area was the royal hunting grounds of the Zulu.  In fact the current park encompasses three original reserves that were incorporated and managed as one since 1989.

At the time of our visit the area of KwaZulu-Natal and much of South Africa have been suffering from drought that has devastated the area for years.  Everything was incredibly dry.  Trees snapped.  Whole trees uprooted.  Water was being shipped into parts of the park for the animal’s waterholes.

During our visit we did see giraffe, both types of rhinos as well as zebras, warthogs and various types of deer, but no big cats or elephants. This was our first game drive with our kids and it was a bit of a let down.  The South African scrub land is much harder to spot animals than the open plain  I’m not sure if it is a result of the drought, but there just wasn’t a huge quantity of animals that we had seen in East Africa.

Tourist Information for Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

Gate Opening/Closing Times

  • January to May: 5 am – 6 pm
  • June to October: 6 am – 5 pm
  • November to December: 5 pm – 6 pm 

Entrance Fees for Self Drive through Game Park

  • South African Residents: Adults – R120/Children (aged 4 – 12) – R60
  • International Visitors: Adults – R240/Children (aged 4 to 12) – R120

**I.D. or Drivers Licence Required at Gate

Safaris

  • 1/2 day (3 hour safari) – R950 per person
  • Full Day Safari – R1100 per person

Further information on the Game Reserve can be found by clicking on the link or at the following website: https://hluhluwegamereserve.com/

Information on prices and entrance fees was updated in April 2019.

Cheetah Rehabilitation Center (Edmoneni Lodge, Cheetah Project and Spa) – December 2015

History of the Cheetah Project

The Emdoneni Cheetah project was established in 1994 after the property owner, Ida Nel received three cheetahs from Eshowe; Nandi, Jjabu and Tau, who have since died of old age. Not long after receiving the cheetahs, Ida received an injured Serval and established the project.  People would bring injured, orphaned or unwanted pet cat species to the property to be cared for. The project in conjunction with the KZN Parks Board Wildlife Services have helped to release Cheetah, Serval, Caracal and African Wildcat back into the wild at places like Cape Province, Charters Creek, Phinda Game Reserve, Mkuze Falls Game Reserve and in the Bushlands area.  The lodge keeps a breeding pair of cats as well as any cats that are unable to be released back into the wild.

Our Trip

We drove out to the rehabilitation center so the kids would have a unique opportunity to interact with and see up-close the different African cat species.  We arrived early enough to visit the coffee shops for ice-creams and for Max and Ava to burn off some energy in the kids playground before the tour began.

Our informative guide told us and the small tour group that joined us all about the center and specific stories about different animals.  We all had the opportunity to pet the cheetah brothers and watch the feeding of the Caracal and African Wildcats.

Part the way through the afternoon the tour group left and it was just us left with the serval.  Max loved throwing the ball to the Serval who would chase after it, not so good at bringing it back though.

Our kids loved this unique experience, one I think both you and old would enjoy.

Tourist Information on the Cheetah Rehabilitation Center:

You need to arrive at least 15 minutes before the tour to get your tickets from reception.

Tour Cost:

  • South African Visitor with ID: Adult R200 per adult/Child under 14 R100
  • International Visitors: Adult R260 per adult/ Child under 14 R130

Tour Times

  • Morning – daily at 10.30 am
  • Afternoon – includes feeding of smaller cats: Winter (May to August) – 4 pm/Summer 4.30 pm

If you wish to do a Private tour than you can contact the lodge at this email: info@emdonenilodge.com

For further information either click on the link and see the following website: http://www.emdonenilodge.com/cat-rehabilitation/visitors-info/

Tour information was updated in April 2019

St Lucia – December 2015

St Lucia in South Africa is home to one of the largest Estuaries in Africa, stretching 85 km south to north and 22 km at its widest point. The estuary itself is located within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site, South Africa’s first world heritage site in 1999 and covers 332 000 hectares including 230 km of coastline. 

The St Lucia Estuary is home to over 800 hippos, an estimated 1 200 Nile crocodiles and an abundance of migratory birdlife, including flamingos. The St Lucia Estuary is undergoing restoration work to clear the silt, sand and vegetation which has stopped the Unfolozi River from flowing out to the Indian Ocean.  It is hopeful that when the area recovers from drought and receives good rain that the river will again flow into the ocean and raise estuary levels. 

We decided to use St Lucia as a base for our three day stay in the area as it is ideally located to visit game parks, do river cruises and visit the rehabilitation and has a large selection of restaurants and supermarkets if you want to cook meals yourself.

We began our visit by doing one of the hippo and croc cruises.  We chose not to pre-book and went to the Siyabonga Jetty where there are plenty of cruise boats and they leave fairly frequently.

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Ava patiently waiting for a cruise boat to leave

We spotted lots of hippos, crocodiles and flamingos on our cruise, but the thing the kids liked the best was getting to hold a hippo’s tooth. 

Probably the coolest thing about St Lucia is the opportunity to see hippos walking in the streets or grazing in a park in the early mornings or evenings.  Josh spotted a hippo casually grazing in a park, oblivious to the cars and people going past.  On our way back from a restaurant one night there was a hippo strolling along the pavement on the opposite side of the road and pedestrians and cars just quickly got out of its way. 

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