Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, located 280 km north of Durban, is the oldest proclaimed park in Africa. It consists of 960 km² (96,000 ha) of hilly topography in central Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts. The park is the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal where all the Big Five Game occur. Due to conservation efforts, the park now has the largest population of white rhino in the world.
Throughout the park there are many signs of Stone Age settlements. The area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu kingdom, but was established as a park in 1895. The Umfolozi and Hluhluwe reserves were established primarily to protect the white rhinoceros, then on the endangered species list. The area has always been a haven for animals as tsetse flies carrying the nagana disease are common, which protected the area from hunters in the colonial era. However, as the Zululand areas was settled by European farmers the game was blamed for the prevalence of the tsetse fly and the reserves became experimental areas in the efforts to eradicate the fly. Farmers called for the slaughter of game and about 100 000 animals were killed in the reserve before the introduction of DDT spraying in 1945 solved the problem. However, white rhinoceros were not targeted and today a population of about 1000 is maintained. On April 30, 1995, the then-President Nelson Mandela visited the then Hluhluwe Game Reserve to celebrate the park's centenary.
Hluhluwe Umfolozi was originally three separate reserves that joined under its current title in 1989.
The park is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast of South Africa. The park is closest to the town of Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe village. The geography of the area differs from the north, or Hluhluwe area, to the south, or Umfolozi area. Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is in a malaria area.
This area is situated between the two Umfolozi Rivers where they divide into the Mfolozi emnyama ('Black Umfolozi') to the north and the Mfolozi emhlophe ('White Umfolozi') to the south. This area is situated to the south of the park and is generally hot in summer, and mild to cool in winter, although cold spells do occur.
The topography in the Umfolozi section ranges from the lowlands of the Umfolozi River beds to steep hilly country, which includes some wide and deep valleys. Habitats in this area are primarily grasslands, which extend into acacia Savannah and woodlands. The Hluhluwe region has hilly topography where altitudes range from 80 to 540 m above sea level. The high ridges support coastal scarp forests in a well watered region with valley bushveld at lower levels. The north of the park is more rugged and mountainous with forests and grasslands and is known as the Hluhluwe area. While the Umfolozi area is found to the south near the black and white umfolozi rivers where there is open savannah.
The park is home to Africa's Big Five Game: Elephant, Rhinoceros (Black/Hook-lipped and White/Square-lipped), Cape Buffalo, Lion, Leopard. It is home to 86 special species, including: Nile crocodile, hippo, white and black rhino, leopard, lion, cheetah, hyena, elephant, buffalo, blue wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, warthog, bushpig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys, a variety of tortoises, terrapins, snakes and lizards. It is one of the world's top spots for viewing Nyala. The park is a prime birding destination and is home to 340 bird species. The Hluhluwe River Flood Plain is one of the only areas in the whole of South Africa where Yellow throated, Pink throated and Orange throated Long claw species can be seen together. Bird life include night heron, wood stork, Wahlberg's eagle, Shelley's francolin, black-bellied korhaan, Temminck's courser, Klaas's cuckoo, little bee-eater and crested barbet.