Today we took our long-awaited safari ride through Hluhluwe-iMolozi Park
If you don’t want the locals to give you a funny face, this is pronounced Schlew Schlewi.
Although you can self drive the game park we chose Heritage Tours which was well worth the reasonable price (when compared to other options).
We stayed in the amazing St. Lucia at a reasonably priced self catering cottage called Stokkiesdraai. There may be more impressive places to stay in St. Lucia, but when you look at the cost, location and size of the units, it was really hard to beat.
The Hluhluwe-iMolozi Game Park Safari with Heritage Tours
The morning started early and we got our times mixed up but we were headed off to the park by 6AM. Usually the safari starts out at 5 AM, it is a 1 hour ride to the park and this allows for the best viewing of the large cats: Tigers and Leopards.
We were the only ones on the safari drive which was wonderful because the kids could have full range of the tall truck and their attention span was able to be catered to as well as their stomachs and bathroom rights.
We were lucky because our guide John said they are busy year round going out everyday. It just so happens the first two weeks of September is the low time for St Lucia.
We didn’t see any cats, not sure if this is because we lost that 1st hour in the morning or as John said sometimes as a cold front moves in the cats tend to not show up; just something he has noticed.
We did see their paw prints though as well as plenty of giraffe, white rhinos, wart hogs, impalas, Kudu, Zebras, hawks, bumble bee eating bird, Eland (type of antelope; not related to deer), one elderly buffalo lying on the bank of the river and our last great encounter was three large male Elephants.
We and another truck had the pleasure of watching them pass through us as they walked down to the river bed. Each on looked directly at us and flared their giant ears to show us who was boss.
The elephants at this park as to opposed to Addo Elephant Park are known to be much more aggressive so we kept our distance. WildCrats (a popular American animal show for kids) came in handy again and the kids were able to tell us all about the symbiotic relationship with the birds ( that sat on the backs of all the animals.
The White Rhino
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is most famous for their conservation efforts to bring back the black and white rhinos.
Every year thousands are poached for their large horn which can be worth well over $900,000 US. John said if nothing was done about the demand for the horns themselves that they could go extinct in less than 20 years.
We had the honor of seeing these animals up close and they are so ancient looking and really defenseless against poachers. They have very poor eyesight and this makes it easy for poachers to sneak up on them when the wind is just right. The rangers are almost helpless in stopping this from happening. They are unable to cover such a vast area of the parks and even if they do come upon them they are unable to fire unless fired upon. John says they are becoming even more brazen and will come in during the day.
Choosing a Safari that is Good For Kids
We opted for the half day safari option which cost $278 for 2 adults and 2 children.
The half day safari was plenty. The seating consisted of padded bench seats in the back of a pick-up designed to have upper viewing and the hood of the truck was cut out so our driver could communicate with us easily. He was so knowledgeable and the roads are so laden with pot holes, and dirt roads, not to mention poor signage in the park.
Well worth the money to not go through the park in your own vehicle.
Enjoying the sun roof
Kids are happy
Elephants of Hluhluwe-iMolozi
A different tour company
Enjoying the ride
Giraffes in Hluhluwe-iMolozi
Hluhluwe-iMolozi after the controlled burn
If you’re debating between going to a private game reserve or visiting one of the smaller private game parks, you’ll have to weigh your options.
If you want a guaranteed chance of seeing all of the big five, a private game park such as Schotia Safari’s near The Addo Elephant Park will be your best bet.
If you want to see how the animals truly interact in a large ecosystem which is much less “touristy” then visit one of the larger game parks and take a multi-day walking safari. Keep in mind, this is not an option with small kids below the age of 12.
If you do choose to see the big five in a private game reserve, my feeling now is don’t feel like this is unnatural. All of South Africa’s big five are fenced in. There is no such thing as a true African wildlife safari that we may have dreamed of as little children. Humans have now overtaking their environment, yes, all of it.
The landscape was all control burned. They do this every year in the spring before the summer rains. This mimics the natural occurring fires. The fire takes down all the brown vegetation and allows the green new vegetation/grasses to sprout again. Only the green grasses provide enough protein for the animals.
Before the park was formed, naturally the animals would roam from one area to the next seeking out these green grasses. They are now in a 7 year drought and all the rivers are very low.