Big 5 Hluhluwe Umfolozi Safari Tour Archives - Tim Brown Tours

Hluhluwe Big 5 game reserve

Our Hluhluwe “Big 5” game reserve safari from Durban began in the city where I collected my clients. It was to be a Hluhluwe game reserve safari to remember! Our day began at 06:30 and we made our way to the world famous Hluhluwe game reserve and the Umfolozi game reserve in the south. After covering the major history of Durban, KwaZulu Natal and South Africa we arrived at Hluhluwe game reserve and it was only 09:30. As it was a cool day I was really hoping we would find cats but as nature has it, you have to be at the right place at the right time.

Hluhluwe game reserve safari

After having a few days off from being on the road I began another Hluhluwe game reserve safari for a couple from America who were out in South Africa for a holiday. An African safari is always the best way to see the best that Africa has to offer and Hluhluwe game reserve which is a Big 5 reserve is the best place to visit if you are in the Durban, KwaZulu Natal area. Hluhluwe game reserve is the oldest protected reserve in Africa and home to the Big 5, the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. The Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino. We are very fortunate to have the Hluhluwe game reserve on the door step of Durban.

Durban Safari Tour

I was blessed with a repeat client who brought a friend out from Australia to experience a Durban 3 day safari tour. We departed from Umhlanga and we were able to cover the history and new things that I hadn’t said the last time. It wasn’t long before we stopped and got some coffee and the continued on to the Cat rehabilitation center which was a real experience. My clients loved it and after interacting with the Cheetah hands on the day was set up to be legendary!

Durban day safaris

Our Durban day safari began in Durban city where I met my clients and we headed off to Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve. It was going to be a hot day and not only with the weather but with the game viewing as well. It was a bit of a Ferrari safari as I had some racing to do to get around Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve to maximize our safari time. On route I covered some of the history of the area and the country of South Africa before we arrived at the gate just before 10 am.

Durban safari

We began our Durban safari in the city of Durban where I collected my four clients for what was to be a very successful 2 days of safari in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve. On route we chatted about the interesting history of the area as well as the crops and population groups. Before you knew it we were at the Cat rehabilitation centre for the 10:30 tour for interaction with Cheetah. We would also see Caracal, Serval and African wild cat. The Cheetah was great fun and the one male was stalking Wildebeest up the fence line. Sadly for the Cheetah the Wildebeest was safe on the other side of the fence.

Durban day tour

We began our Durban day tour to Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve in Durban city where I collected my clients. It would be a day to remember with great sightings. I covered the usual history of Durban and KwaZulu Natal on route to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi big 5 game reserve and answered any questions my clients had. We arrived before 10 am and had immediate luck as we spotted Zebra and Giraffe together!

Big 5 safari Durban

Big 5 safari from Durban for 2 days   I met my clients in Durban for their Big 5 safari just outside Durban to Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve which is world famous for its Rhino breeding success through the 1950’s. We are truly blessed to have such an amazing Big 5 game reserve near Durban which in my opinion is just as good if not better than Kruger national park.   Kruger National park may be bigger but it is not as scenic as Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve one of the main features all my clients point out!   As usual I covered the History of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa on route to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi national park as well as anything we saw through Zululand.   As we got further into Zululand we stopped at a Cat rehabilitation center to enjoy some interaction with 4 species of endangered cats, the most exciting being Cheetah! My client of course loved it being big cat fans.             Big 5 safari Durban; Serval Big 5 safari Durban; Serval                                 The Servals are very relaxed and also great to interact with so the above picture if of one of the Serval we interacted with. All this cats are here for either breeding or interaction due to some issue which prevents them from being released into the wild. The idea is to try and get as many of them back to the wild where they belong if not they are used as an educational tool to highlight there situation.     We then left and arrived in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 game reserve not 3 hours from Durban and began our 2 day safari tour. Our first sighting was of Nyala and Warthogs.             Big 5 safari Durban; Warthog Big 5 safari Durban; Warthog                                 I was a little concerned as it had been a bit quiet in the national park in the past few days but that would not stop us having good sightings! We spotted Giraffe and Zebra in the distance so I made our way closer and we had the most amazing sighting where we had a troop of Baboons, Zebra, Giraffe and Rhino cross the road in front of us! It was amazing so at this point we had see the first of the Big 5 animals the Rhino but it seemed like we had seem so much more which we had!             Big 5 safari Durban; Rhino Big 5 safari Durban; Rhino                                   Video: Rhino crossing road on our African safari       I made a good video of the Rhino crossing and then later got a great photo of a male Giraffe near to the road. It had been a great start and it was time to head to Hilltop camp for some lunch, check in and head back out for more animals.             Big 5 safari Durban; Giraffe Big 5 safari Durban; Giraffe                                   We enjoyed the Giraffe for a while and moved on to Hilltop camp for some lunch. We were as quick as we could be as my clients also wanted to do the open vehicle safari at 5pm-8pm with the lodge which meant for me I needed to find as many animals as possible in the afternoon.   Our first sighting in the afternoon as some Nyala and then some Baboons all over the road grooming themselves.             Big 5 safari Durban; Baboon Big 5 safari Durban; Baboon                                   We tried to check all the view points over the Hluhluwe river to see if we could add to our Big 5 list with Elephant but we had no luck. We did find a few Red Duiker and one new born which was very cute, sadly I missed the photo so got the adult instead.           Big 5 safari Durban; Red Duiker Big 5 safari Durban; Red Duiker                                   It was time to begin our way back to Hilltop camp but before we could get there we managed to add lots more Rhino and a herd of Buffalo to our Big 5 safari list.             Big 5 safari Durban; Buffalo Big 5 safari Durban; Buffalo                                   We had now seen 2 of the Big 5 on our safari from Durban and the clients got on to the evening game drive before we met again at 8pm for dinner. I was surprised as when they returned they had not been too luck so had not added any more of the Big 5 to the list which meant I had huge stress to find Cats and Elephants the other 2 major ones of the Big 5 were were missing. The Leopard which would be the 5th of the Big 5 we try and think of it as a bonus as we see it so rarely.   After a great dinner it was time for bed and we were all exhausted after a long day.           Day 2: Big 5 safari from Durban     We met before 7am and got all luggage in the vehicle before having a quick breakfast and making our way as far down south in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve as the 3.5-4 hours we had would allow us.   This would be a pure crazy day as we just had such luck! As we had our way down south we ignored Rhino, Buffalo in the distance and most other things it the quest to find Elephant and Cats. We did have to stop for this sighting of Giraffe and Zebra though!             Big 5 safari Durban; Zebra and Giraffe Big 5 safari Durban; Zebra and Giraffe                               We didn’t have to continue much further before we spotted our Elephants but they were far away and it did not make for the best picture. Minutes after we spotted another 2 Elephant and then another 2! Again pretty far away but we now had 3 of the Big 5 on our Durban safari.           Big 5 safari Durban; Elephants Big 5 safari Durban; Elephants                                 As we continued on we headed over the Umfolozi river and saw nothing but on the other side I bumped into a friend of mine Marumo who is involved in research. She said that 10 minutes before there was Lions in the river bed. I though we may as well turn back and check from a view point and there they all were all 14 of these amazing Lions! We were all so excited.           Big 5 safari Durban; Lion mom and cubs Big 5 safari Durban; Lion mom and cubs                                   Video: Lions in Imfolozi game reserve       We now had 4 of the Big 5 on our Durban safari and were very happy with that. I had to put up another picture with a couple of big males in it to share with you all.             Big 5 safari Durban; Lions Big 5 safari Durban; Lions                                 We must have spent 15-20 minuted watching them and knew we still needed to try find Elephants closer but I think in our hearts we were all content having seen 4 of the Big 5 during our Safari from Durban.     We battled and only found everything else except the Elephants close. We got one good sighting of Zebra though!             Big 5 safari Durban; Zebra Big 5 safari Durban; Zebra                                 We made our way to the gate to head to St Lucia estuary for our 2 hour boat cruise to see Hippos and Crocodiles as well as some Bird Life. It was an hour drive and we said farewell to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 game reserve and hello to Isimangaliso Wetland park.   We stopped for some lunch in St Lucia town which was lovely before the boat cruise on the St Lucia estuary.   Our cruise went very well we saw Hippos galore, Crocodiles, Birds and even a baby Hippo new born and its mother out the water.             Big 5 safari Durban; Hippo mom and baby Big 5 safari Durban; Hippo mom and baby                                   I was really fortunate to have filmed this and it was amazing watching the young Hippo head into the water with its mother and have her display by opening her mouth.             Video: Hippo mother and baby on the shore run to the water               We had a great look at couple of Crocodiles which was great and after seeing 4 of the Big 5 on our Durban safari to see Hippos and Crocodiles is always a treat!             Big 5 safari Durban; Crocodile Big 5 safari Durban; Crocodile                                 One of my favorite pictures from the St Lucia boat cruise was the this one below where I managed to have the good fortune of lining up 2 or 4 Hippos heads in a row.   We had a great 2 hours at St Lucia on the boat and it was not time to head back to Durban and say goodbye after sharing some great memories.   If you wish to do the same tour as described above please click on this link below:     Durban 2 day Big 5 safari tour    

Durban big 5 Safari

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 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.         Video: Tree climbing Lions on safari near Durban 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 Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Lion cub in tree                                   Video – Lion comes down from tree in Hluhluwe imfolozi game reserve 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 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 up stream 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.           Video: Hyena carries carcass in mouth 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 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 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 minuted 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 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 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   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 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 Hluhluwe Big 5 Safari; Claire with Cheetah at Cat rehab                                 I managed to get a great photo of Claire my cousins wife with the Cheetah cub with my camera but all the other photos I took with there camera for them with the other species of cat.   I also got some great videos…           Video – Caracal jumps for its food! Video – Serval catches food in tree We had had an amazing day and really though we could not have done any better at this point! We made our way back to Hluhluwe Imfolozi big 5 game reserve to get back to camp for some dinner. It was not 17:30 and we had 30 minuted 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!           Video: African wild dog in Hluhluwe runs down road   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 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.         Video – White Rhinos fighting in the wild, video 1         Big 5 safari from Durban, Rhino fighting 1 Big 5 safari from Durban, Rhino fighting 1                                   Video: White Rhinos fighting in the wild, video 2       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 Big 5 safari from Durban, Rhino fighting 2                                         Video: White Rhinos fighting in the wild, video 3       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!)             Big 5 safari from Durban, New specie of Zebra… Big 5 safari from Durban, New specie of Zebra…                                   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, Giraffe                                     Big 5 safari from Durban, Elephant 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.           Video – Baby Hippos leave the water at St Lucia estuary                 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 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.     Drakensberg, Sani pass day tour.   Hluhluwe Imfolozi big 5, 3 day safari tour.

Durban day safari

Our Durban day safari began in Durban where I collected some of my clients for this African safari near Durban. We continued to Umhlanga to collect Nick and then headed up to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 game reserve. I was a little concerned as I had been up a few days in the week already and it had been a little quiet on the Cat front so decided to play it safe and enter a gate I knew we would have more chance at finding animals.