Durban big 5 Safari – 21st-23rd July 2015
We began our Durban big 5 safari from my home as I was taking my cousins on a 3 day safari tour to Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve, St Lucia and Cat rehabilitation center.
I was to be a great 3 day on safari from Durban!
We began at 06:30 and by 09:30 we were in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve and made our way down south in the hope of finding cats. It was a bonus to have a Giraffe at the gate as we entered and some Zebras on the hill.
We were very lucky as the first time I drove past this pan there was no Lions and I turned back just to check one more time all all of a sudden there was 2 Lions in a tree. This was my favorite pride of Lions the Tree climbing Lions of Hluhluwe! In the tree was an adult female and a sub adult cub under a year old.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Lioness in tree
We got some amazing footage and as the game reserve was doing road maintenance trucks where racing by and didn’t see these Lions so we mostly had them to ourselves for an hour.
There was a young male cub which was resting in the branches on the tree and then he decided to come down. I also had to video this as Lions are not built for climbing down trees as they do not have locking wrists like Leopards.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Lion cub in tree
We continued our Big 5 safari from Durban and found some Zebra that was great as they were crossing the road but it was hard to feel as excited after seeing Lions in the tree and spending an hour watching them before they walked over the hill.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Zebra
We made our way down to the bone dry Umfolozi river and patiently waited to see if we could spot anything. We watched an Impala drinking and then something caught my eye far upstream and it was a Hyena. It kept popping out onto the dry river bed and then hiding again. We were super lucky and the 3 more appeared and amazingly one ran across the riverbed with a big chunk of what looked like skin in its mouth and the others followed.
This was now just amazing and I could not have wished for a better start having seen 2 predators before the end of the first day!
We turned and made our way to the Centenary center and there was 2 bull Elephants drinking from a drain behind the center where we had our lunch! Another amazing sighting!
After enjoying lunch and a look around the shop we went back to the car park and the 2 bull Elephants were now among the cars so I had to be cautious in getting to the vehicle safely.
Unbelievable stuff, we were so lucky to have now seen 4 of the Big 5 as we had seen Buffalo in the distance as well.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Elephant
I also forgot to mention that after the Hyenas we spotted a lovely herd of Wildebeest in Umfolozi!
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Wildebeest
We raced back to Hilltop camp for check-in and to get settled in the rooms but we only had 30 minutes before we needed to leave again to go to the cat rehabilitation center outside of Hluhluwe.
Before we could get to Hilltop camp though we spotted a Crocodile resting near some water in the forest.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Crocodile
We were not done yet and a bit further up the road we managed to find Giraffe which was great as they were so close, then the one male walked down the road behind us. Man, what a great day, 4 of the Big 5 on this Hluhluwe Imfolozi safari tour!
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Giraffe
We finally arrived and quickly left Hilltop camp for the Cat rehabilitation center.
On route we spotted some Rhino.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Rhino
We thought that this would be all our sighting for the day but we added another of the Big 5 animals to our list as we spotted Elephants again and this time with little babies as they walked across and then down a road. We had been super blessed!
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Herd of Elephants
We finally got the the Cat rehabilitation center near Hluhluwe and were so excited because of the amazing day we had experienced so far that we knew this experience would also be an amazing one. At the Cat rehabilitation center we interact with Cheetah and Serval in the afternoon as it is the feeding tour so they others are being fed so we cannot obviously gone in with them.
Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Claire with Cheetah at Cat rehab
I managed to get a great photo of Claire my cousin’s wife with the Cheetah cub with my camera but all the other photos I took with their camera for them with the other species of cat.
We had had an amazing day and really thought we could not have done any better at this point! We made our way back to Hluhluwe Imfolozi’s big 5 game reserve to get back to camp for some dinner. It was not 17:30 and we had 30 minutes to get back to camp.
On route, the unimaginable happened as we had a great sighting of an African wild dog running down the road towards us! I was absolutely amazed that we could of had such an amazing day of sightings and it would be hard to beat the next day but non of us cared at this point we were on a high from the excitement of the day and would probably battle to sleep the night!
We arrived back at camp and had a 30 minute rest before dinner. It was nice for me as it was my family so I could share a bottle of wine with them and talk about the amazing day we had experienced. It was for sure one of the best days of game viewing I have ever experience and it always makes it so much better if you have people to share it with. We had seen Lions in a tree, Hyenas with a carcass in there mouth, Buffalo on the road, Rhino not far from the road, Elephant 2 meters from our car, Wild dog running towards our car, Zebras crossing the road, Giraffe walking on the road and a whole host of other things!
We went off to bed and after doing some work I fell right off to sleep with a smile on my face!
Day 2: Durban big 5 Safari – 22nd July 2015
We began day two at 6am and left Hilltop camp in the dark to maximize our time in Hluhluwe Imfolozi big 5 game reserve in the hope we would see lots of amazing animals and interactions.
We made our way north first into the Hluhluwe section and were hoping to find the African wild dogs. That fell by the way side and we spotted two huge herds of Buffalo one was on the road!
Big 5 safari from Durban, Buffalo
We continued to a view point and enjoyed the views before checking the Hluhluwe river area for signs of animals. We had the most amazing sighting of Rhinos which I will put up there with one of my best!
There was 4 sub adult males and 2 of them were fighting.
Big 5 safari from Durban, Rhino fighting 1
Every time we thought they would stop either of the two Rhinos would continue the fight. In some of the videos you can see that they younger ones eye almost gets taken out. In nature Rhino males do kill each other over the rights to territory and to mate with females. Having said this, this fight was more fun and game to prepare the males for when they become adults and have to challenge a big male for territory.
Big 5 safari from Durban, Rhino fighting 2
This was an unbelievable sighting an one I will never forget! We had been so luck to have clear visual of all of our Big 5 sightings and every other animal we saw as well.
As we drove down south now we spotted some Zebras walking down the road and the one at the front was a new specie I call it the Tailless black bummed Zebra!
No, it was just a Zebra that had been in some clay mud and it tails got stuck up on its ass….(excuse the pun!)
The day now began to merge for me a bit as the weather changed and things became hard as the rain came down. We had some respite but at time it was plain pouring with rain so much so the roads were almost flooding. This was odd as it was our winter and we usually only have rain like this in summer.
We still saw animals. It was just that even the Elephants we saw were running away from the rain! Where they will running to was another story but they were not enjoying the heavy rain.
Amidst the rain we still spotted Giraffe, Impala and Elephants.
Big 5 safari from Durban, Giraffe
Big 5 safari from Durban, Elephant
We stopped for some lunch at the centenary center once again and had to have something warm to make us feel content. It had been a long hard day but we still had seen animals and the Rhinos really were the highlight.
After lunch and a look around the “Operation Rhino museum” we began to head back to Hilltop camp for a couple hours rest before my cousins would got for another 3 hours on the open vehicle and I would do some work and meet them for dinner at 8pm.
Before arriving back we had spotted two Leopard tortoises who come out more when its wet in winter. I had to move one off the road so nobody hit it with their car. I was careful to check for any animals as I was breaking the rules but felt if it was to protect nature and considering I have been in the industry for 10 years and done walking trails before it would be fine and it was.
Big 5 safari from Durban, Moving a male Leopard tortoise off the road
By the time we got back to Hilltop camp had done 9 hours of big 5 safari in Hluhluwe Imfolozi and my cousins added the extra 3 hours to make it a 12 hour day of safari in Africa!
I was grateful to be able to attend to my emails and begin the blog posts I needed to do and it was great to meet my family later for dinner and wine.
We all had a great night sleep and would be ready for day 3!
Day 3: Durban big 5 Safari – 23rd July 2015
We got up a little later the next day and had breakfast at 7am before checking out and a final 3.5 hours of big 5 safari in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve.
Our first sighting was of Elephants crossing the road in front of us. They were males which we trying to keep up with the breeding herd which had already gone over the next hill.
Hluhluwe Big 5 safari from Durban, Elephant
We continued on and I had one thing in mind and that was to try and find the African wild dogs for my family in the day time!
Before we could get there we had a great sighting of kudu silhouetted against the African sun!
Hluhluwe Big 5 safari from Durban, Silouet of Kudu
We went to the usual are we look now near to where they have a den sight and we spotted fresh scat on the road so we waiting around and drove up and down and used our ears.
All of a sudden I heard the squeaks and it was a mad rush as they were 20 meters down the road crossing. We got there and more came across right in front of us. It happened so fast that vehicle that arrived 1 minute later missed everything. We were so lucky again. We had now seen 4 of the Big 5 and African wild dogs twice the most endangered carnivore in Africa!
Hluhluwe Big 5 safari from Durban, African Wild Dog crosses road
This was becoming some kind of story which you would tell your kids when they were old enough about your experience in Africa. I just could not believe how lucky we had been during the 3 day of Safari from Durban.
Finally some calm and we drove for a little while with out seeing much except Impala and then we spotted a Juvenile Martial Eagle which I managed to capture in flight!
Hluhluwe Big 5 safari from Durban, Juv Martial eagle takes off
We now began to make our way out of Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve and spotted some Warthogs and Baboons. The funniest part was this male Baboon was sitting on a flimsy dead branch surveying the area and it snapped under his weight! I managed to take a photo of this as he fell to the ground not so gracefully!
Hluhluwe Big 5 safari from Durban, Baboon falls
We exited Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve after any incredible 3 days and made our way to St Lucia estuary for lunch and our 2 hour boat cruise to view Hippos, Crocodiles as well as bird life.
After an hour drive we arrived and settled in for some lunch before what was another great cruise on St Lucia Estuary.
St Lucia wetlands safari from Durban, Hippos in estuary
We spotted Hippos galore and amazing bird life, these 2 Crocodiles where one of the amazing things we saw in the 2 hours of this relaxing St Lucia boat tour.
St Lucia wetlands safari from Durban, Crocodiles at St Lucia estuary
I made a lovely short video of one of the massive pods of Hippos where the babies left the water that we saw at St Lucia and you will be able to see it below.
We had been so lucky and began our cruise back to the jetty where we still spotted the Hippos and Crocodiles. We had a great sighting of an African fish eagle being mobbed by some Grey Headed Gulls.
St Lucia wetlands safari from Durban, Africa fish eagle gets mobbed
It was now time to drop my family off and make sure they got the car from the car rental place before leaving them at there lovely guesthouse in St Lucia. It is always hard to say goodbye and having spent 4 amazing days with my family starting in the Drakensberg mountains and the a 3 day safari from Durban really meant we would have memories that we share forever.
Thank you to Jean-Marc and Claire for the visit and my wife for arranging the stay at our home as well as the snak packs. It had been a very special time for us all.
If you wish to join one of this tours click the links below to the 2 tours we did.