Burchell's Zebras are common in the game reserve.
Their distinctive black and white markings form a type of camouflage called "disruptive colouration" which effectively breaks up the outline of the body. So while during the day zebras are quite visible, after dark their outlines appear indistinct confusing their predators by distorting their true distance.
As with the giraffe, a zebra's hide is unique - no two zebras share the same pattern of stripes.
Zebras often wander through the camps at nightfall...it is not uncommon for a herd of them to pass by your hut as you are sipping your sundowner. Usually they appear in the early morning too - a wonderful sight to wake up to!
The Latin name for Giraffe is "camelopardalis" meaning "camel marked like a leopard". It is this mottled hide that helps them camouflage themselves against the light and shade patterns created by the sunlight shining through the trees.
A giraffe's coat darkens as it ages, so the older a giraffe, the darker the patterns on their hide, and like the zebra, a giraffe's coat pattern is unique - just like our fingerprints!
Giraffe have incredibly long legs and their loping gait is quite distinctive. It is interesting to watch, as both legs on the same side move simultaneously, rather than the front and back legs moving independently of one another.
Despite their long necks, giraffe only have seven vertebra - the same number as humans and most other mammals!
They have superb eyesight - as you would expect from such an elevated position - and a great sense of smell. As a result, you will often find them in a similar vicinity to both the zebra and the wildebeest who take advantage of the giraffe's early warning system!
Giraffe can be easy to spot as their heads tend to loom way above the trees...we've often seen them in pairs or groups of three or four. They are facinating creatures...especially when they attempt to lower themselves down to lap at water...I also love watching them graze - their tongues are blue-black in colour and wrap effortlessly around thorny branches whipping off acacia leaves without spearing themselves in the process.
The elephant is one of Africa's big five. Literally the world's largest land mammal they are an impressive sight walking through the African savannah.
If you have a pair of binoculars with you, when you spot some elephants (and you are close enough) take a look at their eyes - they have the most wonderful set of eyelashes! So unexpected!
While we have spotted elephants on river banks and wandering along the open plains, they are also to be found in quite dense foliage.
Keep your eyes open for freshly broken branches and stripped trees are often distinctive signs that elephants have moved through an area of bush.
You will often hear the term the BIG FIVE while on safari...the term refers to five particular animals in Africa: the Lion, Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant and Leopard. You may wonder why these five animals fall into the BIG FIVE catagory, and not perhaps the giraffe, cheetah or hippo! The term doesn't actually refer to their size, or their scarcity, the term was originally used by big game hunters when describing the five animals most difficult to hunt because of their ferocity when cornered and shot.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi can boast having all the big five in their park. While we have seen many times over the lions, buffalos, rhinos (both black and white) and the elephant, we have not yet managed to spot the leopard - the elusive leopard! My dad and I dream about seeing one in a tree...well, maybe one day! It keeps us going back for more!
I read a great quote the other day, but forget who said it...basically it goes something like this: If you come to the end of your stay in the park, and have not yet seen a lion, be rest assured at least you can leaving knowing he has seen you! I guess the same applies to our leopard spotting...I am sure we have crossed his path more than once over the years!
They always say the best game to be seen is first thing in the morning, or late afternoon as the sun goes down...Well, getting up at a sparrow's hasn't always been the most productive time of game spotting for me! Never the less, we decided on our last trip to get up fairly early, give breakfast a skip, pack up and head out so we could have breakfast en route - preferably at a picnic site!
We stopped off at a picnic site overlooking the river - on the far bank are tall cliff faces (ideal for baboons) - and there were loads of trees about, so birdlife was plentiful!
An ideal way to pass the early morning hours...wrap up warm though - it can be a bit chilly (even in Africa!) before the sun warms the day up. We saw loads of birds, a few crocs, loads of buck and some vultures soaring up above - lots of tracks on the sand by the water's edge - and two elephants crossing the river! Bonus!
Pack a thermos of coffee, get the bacon, onions and sausages going on the skottle and you are A for away!
Velvet Monkeys are also found in groups in many parts of the park. Remember if you are in the camp or anywhere else in the park outside your vehicle do not feed them – they become a pest and need to be shot thereafter!
The Blacksmith Plover is a tiny black and white bird – and even though it is so tiny it makes a massive noise, just like if you would be in a blacksmith’s workshop! If you discover the bird you will realize why and how it got its name…!
Leopard or other cat sightings are rare in Hluhluwe – and during my 200 or so visits to the game reserve I probably only have seen leopard three times there. Yet there are plenty of them around – but well hidden in the dense vegetation of the park!
This cute animal is day active and can be found almost everywhere in the park. If it runs off have a look at its tail, since it raises like an arial to indicated to the off spring where the parents are chasing to.
Found in water during the day time and very seldom outside, since their skin is very sensitive against sun. However during the night time they roam around grazing. If you are around on foot where hippos are found be careful since they are responsible for most of the casualties of any game in Africa.
This it the most common antelope in Hluhluwe and one will see hundreds of them. Due to the fact that most of them are used to vehicles they appear tame since the smell of cars do not pose a threat to them, on foot they will re-act differently though.
Tuesday, September 27, 1994
Part of the Kwazulu - Natal Park System, HLUHLUWE UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE is situated in north Zululand, 280 km north of Durban. The reserve (pronounced Shu - Shlu - wee) was established on April 27, 1897 and is one of the oldest game reserves in Africa. This Reserve of approximately 96000 hectares in extent is home of the "BIG 5" - Lion -- Leopard -- Rhino -- Buffalo & Elephant.
Hluhluwe is characterized by hilly topography and is thus a particularly scenic reserve. The area is noted for its wide variety of both bird and animal life.
South Africa has got the largest Rhino population in Africa and Hluhluwe is the game reserve that has most of them.
Two sorts of Rhino's are at home here the Black and White Rhino, the Black Rhino normally being at home in densce bushes since it generally eats branches and leaves, where as the White Rhino stays mostly in open plains since it is a grazer.
This is probably the most impressive animal one can encounter in the African Bush. In the park you will see herds or single animals, single animals normally being bulls that have been chased out of the herd.
If you come close to them make sure that you have an escape route. I have seen many times that visitors come far too close and when an animal charges there is no way out.
The park is particularly known for its large populations of white rhino. They can be found just about everywhere, but always seem to swing by the water holes late in the day and hang out for a long time. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi was one of the last bastions for white rhino and now many other parks get their rhinos stocked from here.