280km north of Durban in Kwazulu-Natal is the oldest (1895) proclaimed park in Africa: 960 square kilometers of big-five animals, the largest population of White Rhino in the world, and many other animals and wildlife besides. Originally three separate reserves, these were combined in 1989.
This area between the two Umfolozi rivers includes Stone age settlements, and was once a Zulu royal hunting ground. The tsetse fly carrying nagana disease protected the area from being a colonial hunting area. Sadly 100,000 animals were blamed and culled before 1945 brought in the spraying of DDT to rid the area of the pest.
Home to the big 5 of wildlife, I was lucky enough to see all: the elephant (who charged the car!), the rhino, the cape buffalo, the lion and leopard. We only saw the big cats in distant trees, but even that was luckier than the rest of our group who didn't see them at all!
It is also the home of 86 special species of animals and 340 species of birds. I wish I'd seen these: Nile crocodile, hippo, cheetah, spotted hyena, but we were lucky enough to see the wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, impala, warthog, baboons and monkeys. Other animals that lurked included: kudu, duiker, suni, reedbuck, bushpig, mongoose, tortoises, terrapins, snakes, lizards, longclaw, and many other birds.
|Big 5 #1 - Rhino|
Big 5 #2 - Leopard
One of the greatest things about the park is that you can drive through it yourself. We got caught in an unlucky flood briefly, but all cars were okay! There are over 300km of road in the park.
Big 5 #3 Elephant
We stayed inside the camp in special protected camps -- the monkeys were inside but all other animals kept out. This meant that there was a car curfew by sundown -- all inside the camps! The first Hilltop camp was built in 1934.
Big 5 #4 Lions
Big 5 #5 Buffalo
This great video show's the New York Times' Seth Kugel going on a similar self-drive trip through Kruger National Park.