‘What do people do in Hluhluwe? I do not understand why they would drive so far just to come here?’ someone asked me when I told them that I was going to the KwaZulu-Natal town for a day.
The answer was simple, Hluhluwe, filled with the big 5 and some of the most breathtaking scenic views, was exactly where people wanted to go to escape their busy lives.
After a stunning three and a half hour drive, four if you count the pit stops along the way, my photographer and I reach Hluhluwe. This town in northern KwaZulu-Natal is situated between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park on the banks of the Hluhluwe River.
We are in Hluhluwe for the launch of the ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe and Safari, which opened in July.
In our short time, we hope to go in search for the big 5, have dinner in the bush and enjoy the scenic views on offer.
We arrived at the hotel promptly, check in and proceed to have a light lunch. The weather is unpredictable and as storm clouds gather, we all in doubt as to whether we will go on a game drive.
Fortunately, despite the chill in the air, we are fortunate enough to hop onto a game drive vehicle and head out for an adventure.
Because the hotel is not inside a game reserve, we have a 15 minute drive on the main road to Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park.
Along the way we see rural homesteads, children playing games outside their homes and families enjoying the last of the winter chill.
Despite the heavy winds, we anticipate a good afternoon, and that is what we get.
Minutes into our drive, we spot two buffalos wandering through the bushes, followed by rhino and giraffe. We are unfortunately out of luck to catch a glimpse of the leopard, who because of the dry conditions walked to a spot 5 hours away.
Fortunately, the ‘king of the jungle’ is not shy to be seen. Amid a group of tourists, who happily clicked their cameras, were two Kalahari male lions. Their beautiful manes and golden body frame is a sight to behold, and they are in the mood for hunting.
Although we see no hunting action, watching these creatures in their habitat was something that I will not forget.
After the manic of finding the lions, our drive ended with some sundowners as the sky turned pink.
Baboons spied on us from afar as we sipped on some wine. The ride back to the hotel was cold, so I suggest you carry some extra pieces of clothing. By night, as the moon took its place in the sky and the songs of the Zulu were being sung, we get ready for our boma dinner among the wild.
Tables adorned with bottles of wine and decor celebrating the bush set the tone for a night of festivities. Boma dinners have now become a trend in the wild and I can imagine how divine it must be in summer.
The spread was delicious, from salads, meat on the spit and freshly made desserts. In the background a jazz band played some music.
By the end of the night, everyone was dancing to the music of Zulu dancers and learning a few of their moves.
The next morning, I wake early, hearing the birds chirp a morning song. Outside my room lies an elephant mural so breathtaking I imagine it being the real deal.
Breakfast in my stomach, my photographer and I pack our bags for a road trip back to Durban.
In just a short space of time, I learned about Hluhluwe’s culture, people and history. As we drive away from this small town, I am already planning my next trip here. I have heard there is cheetah and elephant interactions, whale watching in St Lucia and diving in Sodwana Bay that I must try.