(work in progress)
Vistors are not allowed to drive off road is allowed in any of South Africa's national or provincial game reserves. In private reserves, game rangers may take vehicles off road - for example, to view animal kills - but this is the exception rather than the rule and is only allowed with the permission of the reserve management (a privelege that is very unlikely to be extended to visitors).
The logic behind this is twofold and eminently sensible. Firstly driving off road leads to soil compaction and/or erosion, which not only scars the landscape - often permanently, especially in arid environments, which are particularly sensitive. In addition, off road traffic destroys grazing and habitat, and smaller animals seeking refuge in long grass may also be run over.
Secondly it is a safety consideration. Roads in reserves - even if they are dirt roads - are regularly maintained to provide driving conditions which allow visitors to remove themselves from situations of potential danger in a swift and safe manner. Off road conditions are very different, and getting stuck in the mud or soft sand when a bull elephant in musht is charging you is not a situation you want to find youself in!
If you need yet more persuasion to abide by this very sensible rule, bear in mind that driving off road in reserves where this is prohibited is a sure fire way to invalidate the expensive holiday and car insurance you bought for your dream safari ... assuming that the bull elephant has left you in a condition to lodge a claim in the first place!
When you enter Hluhluwe-Umfulozi, you will see big warning signs near the gate. Read them and obey them - it may save your life. The park is full of wild animals. Some are carnivorous (lions, leopards, cheetahs), and some are just big enough to do a lot of damage (elephants, rhinos) if you get them angry. The warnings are full of common sense:
Stay in your car, except at designated picnic and toilet areas (unless you want to be lunch).
Don't lean out the windows (see above).
No motorcycles (see above).
Don't feed the animals (they may eat your hand along with the food).
No driving after dark (animals on the roads).
Stay a safe distance from elephants (they're bigger than your car).
No pets (snack food for lions).
On our last visit we stayed at Mpila Camp in one of the rondavels. As mum and I took a wander through the campsite, we saw some vervet monkeys run up to the open boot of someone's car, leap inside and begin rifling through their belongings! We ran up and shoo-ed them off but not before one of them darted away with something in his hands!
As if that wasn't enough, the group of them then ran up to one of the rondavels, and climbed in through the window! The door was locked so they had a bit of a field day inside, looting the fridge (so keep the latch closed on it!) and eating fruit from the bowl on the table. We asked around but none of the people nearby knew who was staying in the monkey-filled rondavel...they were in for a shock when they came back from their day in the bush!
As for the boot looting...one of the gents near by fessed up to leaving his boot open and went along to find his bottle of whisky missing!
So you are warned: Keep your doors and windows closed when you are out for the day - monkeys are scavengers!
Baboons have been known to climb on cars and put their hands through the windows. The male baboons can be quite vicious if provoked so be careful when trying to sidle up to a troop with their young. The males are dominant and have no problem in coming up to the car to investigate! We always wind our windows up when approaching troops of baboons - especially if we slow down or stop to watch them.
Mostly, they will ignore you, but they are curious creatures and I have seen many over the years on the top of car bonnets enjoying the view through the windscreen!
Baboons are my favorite creatures, I love to sit and watch them interact with one another for hours. You will notice the younger males act as "look out scouts" and you will usually spot them first, and then see the rest of the troop nearby. The young hang from their mum's chests, hands clinging tightly to her fur, or they rest on top of her back, arms and legs dangling on either side. They are very cute when they are little and I love their big pink ears!
I have had it twice and it is not fun...! If you are traveling in this region take precautions towards Malaria. If you do not take medication in prevention and you have the following symptoms after your return go straight to your doctor and tell him you were in a Malaria region: Flue like symptoms, combined with headache, backache and fever. Remember malaria kills almost a Million people each year and the longer you wait the more the parasite will multiply in your blood – the result is fatal!
Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park is in a LOW RISK malaria area and visitors need to consult their doctors before visiting the area.
Hilltop Camp, although fenced is not a guarantee that wild animals can't get in and visitors must take particular care when walking around at night.
NEVER exit your car in the reserve, except at designated picnic and view sites.