Hluhluwe Game Reserve is one of the oldest protected wildlife reserves in Africa; stretching across 96,000 hectares in central KwaZulu Natal. Hluhluwe Game Reserve (in the north) and Umfolozi Reserve (in the south) combine to form the greater Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. The two reserves are logistically managed separately, but make up one ecosystem. Journey into Africa’s oldest proclaimed Game Reserve on a day trip to Hluhluwe Game Reserve from Nibela Lake Lodge.
History of Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Set in the heart of Zululand, Hluhluwe Game Reserve is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. It is said that Zulu kings once hunted here and eventually the first conservation laws of the land were set in place. The park is a shining example of conservation in South Africa, returning a once over-exploited wilderness back to a game-rich park. The reserves now boasts the largest population of white rhino in the world.
Prior to the establishment of the park in 1895, the Hluhluwe area had been subjected to severe hunting by native peoples and then the ‘Great White Hunters’ who arrived to plunder the area’s resources. Thousands of animals were killed in the 100-year period and in less than 50 years, the healthy elephant populations had been wiped out.
By the late 1890s, fewer than 100 white rhino remained in the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi area. By 1895, the park was placed under formal protection as the Imfolozi Junction Reserve together with the Hluhluwe Valley Reserve. In 1989, the narrow corridor which remained between Umfolozi and Hluhluwe was incorporated, and eventually contributed to creating an entirely functional eco-system spanning across the two areas.
Hluhluwe Reserve is the birthplace of rhino preservation. It is also the home of ‘Operation Rhino’ which helped to bring the white rhino species back from extinction in the 1950s and 60s.The operation was driven by legendary park warden, Ian Player, who pioneered many of the methods and drugs used to immobilize and translocate large mammals.
Operation Rhino was an ambitious project with the aim of removing rhino from the game reserve to other protected areas across the country. Although risky, the theory was not to keep all the ‘eggs’ in one basket, and by moving rhino to other safe places, increase their chances of survival and breeding.
In the first few years of the operation, 600 rhino were trans-located throughout South Africa, gaining the project worldwide recognition. Thankfully the operation was a success and today there are more than 1600 white and 400 black in the park.
Game viewing at Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Today, all of the Big 5 roam freely at Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Healthy populations of cheetah and wild dog are also present. The park is the only state-run park in Kwa-Zulu Natal where all of the Big 5 can be found. Thanks to conservation efforts, the park now also boasts the largest population of white rhino in the world.
Hluhluwe Game Reserve can be explored either by private vehicle or by booking a day safari at Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. Excursions can include a three day, half day or full day safari. The reserve is just over an hour drive from Nibela Lake Lodge and we can help you make all of your arrangements. Get in touch with us online.
Image Credits: Hluhluwe Game Reserve Website