Eastern South Africa: Hluluwe Imfolozi or Northern Kruger?

I am planning a trip to Eastern SA in september 2015.

My 3 week Itinerary is as follows: Kruger  (7 nights, now considering skukuza, satara, punda maria, olifants, lower sabie), Wakkerstroom (1 night) Mkhuze (2 night) , St Lucia and Cape Vidal (4 night), Marrick (3 night).

We opted to skip Pilanesberg for the urban feel and logistic reasons (Brown Hyena has to wait for another trip). The thing is that many mammal-oriented reports on the south eastern parks (Hluluwe / Mkhuze etc.) date from 2004-2009). What would be your views on the following questions:

1. Visiting Hluhluwe Imfolozi <> Northern Kruger: Hluhluwe – Imf NP does not seem to produce a lot of sightings of mammals we won’t reasonably see somewhere else (nocturnal mammals and rarities like Cheetah, Serval, Caracal, Wild Dog, Black Rhino, Honey Badger, rarer antelopes). My idea is to visit Northern Kruger instead and focus in Kwazulunatal on Mkhuze and St Lucia. Northern Kruger just to experience the vastness of the park but also hoping to do some unexpected sightings (Cheetah, Sable, Roan, Serval, Wild Dog, Side-striped Jackal etc). I know wildlife is more sparse up there but will it increase our chances to see some of these less common species ?

2.  Did you came across any other  information on considering mammals not easily seen in our itinerary and in the vicinity of the route (small private game farms excluded) : Black Wildebeast, Grey Rhebok, Mountain Reedbuck, Oribi, Southern Tree Hyrax, Caracal, Black Rhino, Tsessebe etc.)

Thank you a lot for any suggestions.

Maurice Tijm



  • vnsankar123

    I really only know a reasonable bit about Northern Kruger, so I’ll give you some info on that.

    Northern Kruger, especially the Punda Maria area, will give you a very good chance at quality sightings of Nyala and you also have a decent chance to see Sharpe’s Grysbok or even Suni in some areas. Cheetah and Wild Dog I think are more likely further south in the park, but they really could turn up anywhere. Sable and Roan are very rare and difficult altogether in Kruger as far as I know, so you may want to consider a different location for them. As for Serval and Side-striped Jackal, those should be reasonable possibilities on night drives in places like Mopane and probably also Punda Maria. Altogether Northern Kruger is much quieter than the rest of the park and a very different area vegetation-wise, so it would make for a good contrast.

    I personally think Northern Kruger is a good choice…

  • vdinets

    I did some of my croc research in N Kruger and Sta Lucia in 2008 (sorry about the date). Saw some uncommonly seen stuff in Kruger (43 spp in half a month, incl. a few cool rodents and one sengi), but only because I had a nighttime driving/walking permit and used it maniacally. Never saw wild dogs there despite some effort. The same for sables and roans. Got tsessebe (in the far SW part, I think) and cheetahs (up north and somewhere in the middle). Check lone trees in camps for roosting bats day and night (look for droppings underneath, too).

    In Sta Lucia I got less than 10 spp. in ten days (but I had to spend most time in a boat there). Met an outstandingly cooperative leopard during a night drive, but that’s extremely unusual. In my view, it’s not a particularly good mammal-watching place, unless you are desperate for a thick-tailed greater galago.

    Hluhluwe was wonderful, but I was there when the rains started and there were baby animals and impressive wildflowers everywhere. Easily got wild dogs and both rhinos in just two days. Natal duiker and nyala were also easy.

    I tried for suni in coastal forests N from Sta Lucia, but never got one there or anywhere else in ZAR.

    Oribi can be seen in Eland Lake Game Reserve further S, but it’s fenced and a long drive away. S tree hyrax also doesn’t occur N of Durban, if I remember correctly.

    If you drive through Swaziland, stop at Hlane NP – it has black wildebeest and cheetah. I was there for only a couple hours and saw the former but not the latter. It’s also good for birds, particularly raptors, and is very non-touristy.

    Vladimir Dinets

  • taihaku

    We got Black Wildebeast, Grey Rhebok, Mountain Reedbuck and Oribi (as well as blue crane) in and around Verloren Valei nr Dullstroom. Not sure that fits in particularly well for your itinerary but we did knock off all of them in about a 3 hours stop there on our way from Jo’burg to Kruger so if you are overlanding it that way worth considering

  • vmassard

    We easily saw both Rhinos and Mountain Reedbuck in Ithala Game Reserve in KZN in 2013. We greatly appreciated our time there (just one night) but most mammals have been reintroduced in the past 30 years and the lands, former grazing grounds, don’t feel like prime habitat. Still the scenery is great and the birding, if it counts, quite good.

  • mauricetijm

    Great stuff, thanks. What I’ve learned:
    1. Both Hluluwe Imf. & Northern kruger are fine reserves and worth visiting. I’v collected a number sightings of dogs and black rhino from Imfolozi now from different sources. Bugger because we can’t tuck it all in three weeks. Maybe will go only as far north as Mopani to be able to spent multiple nights in Satara/Lower Sabie/Skukuza and include a night at Hluluwe Imfolozi to the itinerary.
    2. Happy with your additional info on Ithala and st. Lucia too. I expect to see Greater Bushbaby in either Kruger, Mkhuze or St. Lucia village. In st. Lucia we intend to do a whale watching tour for humpback whale and humpback dolphin and enjoy some beach time.
    3. Verloren Vallei sounds like an excellent addition for these otherwise missed antelopes. The reserve has a good conservation purpose and appears to be surrounded by some natural habitat.

    Visiting Nylsvley and Polowkane reservers for Roan and Sable was hard to reject but this would imply spending less time in the larger national parks and we are in the east to experience the vast parks. Midsize cats and mustelids are as tricky as anywhere, but hope to see Honey Badger around Satara (loong shot), Serval on Kruger nightdrives (long shot) and Caracal in Kruger or Marrick (long shot). Time for Otters will be spent in Wakkerstroom (clawless) and Marievale Bird sanctuary (both).

  • vdinets

    Humpback dolphin is far from guaranteed in Sta Lucia. We went on a bunch of ww trips there and at other locations along the coast, and saw it only once, in Plettenberg Bay.

  • mauricetijm

    Thanks for that insight Vladimir. Regular sightings in st Lucia thus only include Humpback Whale and Common Dolphin. We never say no to a whale though!

  • Paul Leigh

    Hi, I visited South Africa last August/September and stayed at st Lucia wetland for 4 nights and took a night safari with Heratige tours on the western shore of Isimangaliso wetland park and saw 2 servals which we were excited about but the ranger told us that they are very common in the area and are seen regular.

    We then moved on to marrick game reserve and took another night drive in which we saw Ardvark, wildcat, bat-eared fox, Ardwolf and porcupine. Nearby to marrick is another park called Mokala National Park which is very good for Sable and Roan Antolope.

    We then moved onto Madikwe game reserve on the border of Botswana were were enjoyed 2 nights safari where we saw black Rhino, Wild Dog, Leopard, Lion, brown Hyena and all the usual stuff.

    Hope this helps and all the best with your trip.


  • mattinidaho

    If you are going to Marrick, it is definitely worth going to Mokala National Park. We saw roan, sable, tsessebee and black wildebeest easily. The viewing lookout en route to Lilydale is great for all 4 of these species. We also saw 5 white rhinos and lots of other wildlife.

    We did very well at Marrick: aardvark, aardwolf, black-footed cat, bat-eared fox, African wild cat, genet, Smith’s red rock rabbit, hedgehog and long-eared mouse.

    Have fun.

  • taihaku

    Mokala also has a population of Rau’s zebras – those bred to resemble the quagga; quite interesting.

    As regards Marrick we scored smith’s red rock rabbit, blackfooted cat, bateared fox and aadvaark. We got aardwolf nearby also and cameratrapped Caracal at our accommodation. Somewhat crushed that we missed porcupine which I figured would be the easiest of the night creatures we were after

  • maurice tijm

    Great info Matt and Paul! You clearly have been succesfull. nice to hear about the servals and your success at Marrick and Madikwe. I know about Mokale and will sure visit it but don’t feel comfortable ticking Tsessebe, Sable and Roan there since they are way out of their formal range. It indeed is building up to fantastic trip, I will let you know how we did!

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