Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve is the home of ‘Operation Rhino’ which played a major role in bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction (only 20 worldwide in 1900 to over 10,000 today). It is no surprise that this reserve is renowned for its excellent rhino sightings and is also one of the best reserves in which to enjoy self-drive game viewing from well-marked roads, although guided safari drives and walks with a trained naturalist are also available. The park is bisected by a public road, with the southern iMfolozi (Umfolozi) section characterised by broad, deep valleys carved by the Black- and White Umfolozi rivers. Fibrous mfulawozi bushes grow alongside the riverbeds (note the Zulu spelling of the name of this area). Beyond the riverbeds the landscape composes of subtropical forest, acacia savannah and grasslands.
The Hluhluwe River, rising in the mountains north of the park, names the northern section of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve. Sandbanks, rock, steep cliffs, elongated pools and dangling vegetation from the riverside forest marks its path through the reserve. Although this was the oldest natural park in Africa, proclaimed in 1895, the wildlife was nearly exterminated in the 1930s and 1940s by farmers intent on eliminating the spread of nagana (Tsetse Fly) disease from wild to domestic stock. However, in 1952 the park was handed over to the KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife organisation which by careful husbandry has resulted in the great success story seen today. It is the only reserve in the region which has the ‘Big Five’, both black and white Rhino and all the major plains game. Bird life is outstanding. The eventual plan is to link the several well known private reserves including Mkuze Falls, Thanda, Leopard Mountain, Phinda, St Lucia Wetland Park on the coast so that animals may roam freely through Zululand unimpeded by fences.