A Weekend Getaway to Hluhluwe
by Lee Folkard
Everyone agrees that a break-away from the normality of your everyday routine is needed. It boosts your health, brightens your soul, calms your mind, and allows you to do more with your life. Hluhluwe is a place that will do all that and more. It was the ideal place for me to get away for a weekend of relaxation – an escape to a relatively undeveloped area where nature is at the forefront of life.
A small town in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, it’s geographic location makes it the perfect break away for those in Durban (Travel time: Approximately: 3 hours) or those in Johannesburg (Approximately: 6 and half hours).
PLANNING YOUR TRIP:
Things to pack:
- Mosquito repellent
- Cash (Tipping the guides)
- An interesting book or two
- Board games (Especially if this is a family trip)
I left home at 9:45am on a Friday morning as I left my packing till the last minute. My GPS said my time to destination would be 2 hours 35 minutes.
From Umhlanga, all you need to do is to get onto the N2 and head north… for about 243km. Easy enough. Along this route there are 3 main fuel service stations with access to toilets, ATM’s and fast food outlets. Having said this, if you haven’t eaten at home prior to leaving – I’d suggest stopping by Tree Natural in Umhlanga for a wholesome breakfast. They have a really good breakfast offering and open from 8am, 7 days a week. Tree Natural: www.treenatural.co.za
I arrived at Protea Hotel Hluhluwe & Safaris at 12:55pm. The drive was really relaxed and calming. Even though we are experiencing a drought the surroundings are seemingly lush along the route I took. I stopped to take some pictures of the tall trees which can be found for kilometres at a time. I’d highly suggest making this a “selfie-stop” for some memorable holiday shots.
As I mentioned before the area is pretty undeveloped. There are roadside traders along the route selling tribal mementos. I chose to stay in a hotel because even though I want to experience the Zulu kingdom, I still wish to stay in comfort. I do believe some people opt to camp but I seek great solace in being able to grab a cocktail and relax at the pools or get a decent cappuccino whenever the need arises.
Having stayed over for two nights, I had allocated one full day for Hluhluwe and a full day for St Lucia. This proved more than adequate to take in both areas.
St Lucia is an hour’s drive from Hluhluwe and forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is tiny and largely seems to be geared for tourists. There is a main road that takes you through most of the town with franchise restaurants, bottle and convenience stores aplenty.
WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO DO IT:
The Huhluwe Game reserve is the second oldest game reserve in the world. It also offers access to the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard). You can either do a guided game drive or self-drive. Guided tours are possible either through private companies or through most of the good hotels. I would recommend rather getting a guided tour as the experienced guides are pretty knowledgeable and would increase your chances of sightings. You can do half day or full day drives depending on your budget. The park is massive and you can easily spend your day driving around, taking tons of pictures and meeting tourists from all over the world. Worth a mention – try to go on the later game drives – most animals are more active when the sun goes down.
My second favourite attraction is the boat cruise on the estuary.
I’d plan this one as part of your day in St Lucia. Bookings can be made through private companies or through your hotel. A two hour boat cruise affords you viewings of hippos and crocodiles as well as learning about the delicate mangrove and the estuarine ecosystem. I also got amazing images from the top of the boat.
There are numerous places that offer horse riding in St Lucia, when speaking to the locals they highly recommended Bhangazi horse safaris. You can do a beach horse ride or game ride.
The iGwalagwala Trail is an easy 1,5km trail recommended for the whole family. Situated close to the banks of the estuary in St Lucia, offering a variety of bird spotting opportunities. No bookings are necessary and it is free to the public.
Another noteworthy attraction that I heard great things about is Zulu Croc
15km North of Hluhluwe; they offer daily shows, guided tours, Zulu dancing as well as offering an a-la-carte style restaurant. Bookings are essential.
YOU’RE ON HOLIDAY! SAVE YOUR CALORIES FOR:
n St Lucia, I found an awesome restaurant; The Ocean Sizzler Restaurant.
I would highly recommend the seafood options as the seafood platter I ordered was delicious. I was told they are known for their cocktails, so after little persuasion, I now can also report that this is another good reason to try the Ocean Sizzler. While at the restaurant, a tour bus stopped by – which shows they are also a well-known spot in the area. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Meals are very reasonably priced. www.oceansizzler.co.za
CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT COFFEE? GET YOUR ULTIMATE CAFFEINE FIX HERE:
In St Lucia I found; Thyme Square Coffee Shop. Pretty hidden and I would guess easy to miss. It is situated in the John Dory Building. Quaint with lots of character, they do beautifully plated desserts and lunches. The staffs are ultra-friendly and helpful (the lady who helped me mentioned places I should check out while in St Lucia). A really romantic spot that is very fitting for couples.
HAVE AN INSTAGRAM MOMENT HERE:
My perfect “Instagram moment” would definitely be the long trees situated on the way to Hluhluwe and also between Hluhluwe and St Lucia.
I’d also recommend a doing the St Lucia boat cruise at sunset. I think you could get some pretty awesome imagery at that time. Unfortunately my schedule didn’t permit me doing the afternoon cruise. But, as you can see even early morning – It still looks pretty amazing.
BOTTOM LINE, THE BUDGET:
I’m going to breakdown costing that I incurred myself.
Accommodation for a 2 night weekend getaway: From R820 per person sharing per night at Protea Hotel Hluhluwe & Safaris
My lunch meals, coffees and cocktails amounted to R500 over the two day period.
The game drive can cost you anywhere between; R450 per adult to R1,850 per adult. There are possibly even packages for more than this. It ultimately depends on what you want from your experience. If on a tight budget, one could even do a self-drive game drive of Hluhluwe – all you need to do is pay a minimal entrance fee per vehicle.
The boat cruise costings start at R255 per adult. All the activities and attractions I have mentioned have special rates for kids.
Coming from Durban expect to allow for a trip of 270km and tolls amounting to R57 – and that’s one way.