Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park: Game or Self-Drive?

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Hluhuwe-Umfolozi Game Park in KwaZulu Natal is accessible both by a game drive or a self-drive.  So which is better?  Assuming you are there to see animals, there’s no doubt that a game drive is better.  It’s more expensive than driving yourself but worth every penny!

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park is huge at 96,000 hectares.

After driving around for an entire day our guide Trevor from Heritage Tours and Safaris estimated that we had seen less than 10% of the park.  You really need to know where to go to increase your chance of wildlife sightings.  As a first-time or casual visitor to the park, that’s not possible.
Hluhluwe Game Park - elephants

Get the Best Wildlife Sightings

For the best wildlife sightings, you need to know where the animals are. The guides from Heritage Tours and Safaris are in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park on a regular basis.  They know where certain animals hang out and when they’re likely to be there.

Related Reading: 10 Romantic Getaways in South Africa Not To Be Missed

look for wildebest

The guides are also in radio contact with other guides and they share information – cool things like a lion guarding a kill, or elephants at the watering hole.  Trust me, these are things you want to be in the know about.

you can see impala in Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park
Impala is sometimes referred to as the “McDonalds of the Savannah”.


You will also see more from the 4X4 Open Game Drive Safari Vehicle than you will from a regular car.

You’re seated higher and it can go places that regular cars can’t – like muddy trails.

Related Reading: Blyde River Canyon: All The Reasons You Need to Vacation Here

member of the wild pig family, you can see warthogs in Hluhlue Umfolozi Park

The Perks of Having a Guide in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park

Our guide Trevor was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate.  He knew some of the animal’s stories to heart, like how the injured warthog had survived for so long despite a severely infected leg.  I could have listened to his stories for hours.  It was through him that the animal’s personalities were revealed, and it was these stories and knowledge (like why the elephants (first photo)insisted on wrestling in front of us – two young bulls showing off) that really brought the park to life for me.

Related Reading: Observing Endangered Samango Monkeys in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

It was also through Trevor that I learned more about rhino conservation:
baby rhino and mother

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park is a leader in rhino conservation, but despite their best efforts poaching continues.

I had no idea that poaching was as prevalent as it was.  Not only was Trevor knowledgeable but he is also an Anti-Poaching Volunteer, so he shared his first-hand experiences with us.  I was left speechless, my stomach wrenched in knots.  
giraffes are fairly easy to spot when on safari

Some people think they can self-drive and just follow the game drives.  But the guides have caught on to this long ago and will often stop to provide more info or tell a story even when there is no animal to observe.  Sitting in the game vehicle it was fun to watch the perplexed faces of the people in the car trying to figure out what we were looking at.

Related Reading: Tembe Elephant Park: A Top Travel Adventure Not To Be Missed

The game drives were my favourite experiences in South Africa and MUCH better than the one self-drive we attempted in another park.

you can spot zebras in Hluhuwe-Umfolzi

On the one self-drive that four of us did, we saw less than half of the wildlife that we saw when we did the game drives.  There was nobody to interpret animal behaviour and share the stories that bring the game park to life.  In essence, it fell flat and we all left disappointed.

One of my main objectives on My Wild South African and Swaziland Adventures was to see wildlife.  You see so much more when you do a game drive.

Know Before You Go to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park:

  • Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park is located ~75km km from St. Lucia and 250 km from Duban.
  • Heritage Tours and Safaris does game drives to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park, which can also be offered as part of a 2, 3 or 7 day Safari Experience.
  • You will be in an open vehicle so dress in warm layers since the mornings can be chilly (but also the best time for wildlife sightings).
  • I highly recommend staying in Umlilo Lodge in nearby St. Lucia.  It’s a 4 star guest house with a tropical feeling and friendly owners.
  • See Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park on a Google map.

Thank you to Heritage Tours and Safaris and to Umlilo Lodge for making my visit possible.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.

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