Most of my friends are reluctant to the idea of a safari. They would rather book at a luxury resort than be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wild animals. Safaris, for me, connects me with nature, allows me to take a glimpse at the lives of wild animals and a place to find peace.
I do not mind the 5 am wake up call, the chilling air that makes your face and fingers numb and getting up close to an elephant nibbling on an early morning snack. It is all in the experience, and every day in the wild is a unique adventure. Sometimes you may spot dozens of animals, and other days you may spot nothing.
The Zulu Kingdom, as it is known, is filled with magnificent game reserves all across the province. It is one of those bucket list destinations that everyone should experience once in their lives. At these game reserves, you would find the Big 5: the lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.
Common animals like zebra, impala, giraffe, kudu and other types of antelope also stroll about in the sweltering sun. I recently travelled to Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve in Hluhluwe, north of KwaZulu-Natal.
Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, the location for some of our drives, is steeped in rich history. It is known as the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, and the third largest in the world. Our guides for the trip were Artist and Vuyani from the Mthembu and Biyela Lodges, two of the newly launched five star lodges in the Mantis group.
The development is named after the 5 descendants of King Shaka’s Chiefs, who offered their tribal land to increase the capacity of Hluhluwe Imfolozi.
According to the developers, Barry and Sonya Theunissen, Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve got its name from the chiefs named Mthembu, Biyela, Zulu, Mthembu and Mthethwa. Zulu luxury tented camps will launch next year.
Both of our guides drove us to some of the most picturesque views of rolling hills and valleys. These spots are significant as it showcases the true history of the Zulu Kingdom, from places where King Shaka battled to the final resting place of his mother, Queen Nandi.
Amid those wild sightings, our guides also shared information on the bird life and plants in the area.