Priceless heritage

The Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park conserves flora, fauna and culture for all

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The area in and around Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park (HiP) has been inhabited since the early Stone Age through to the late Iron Age including San and Nguni tribes from the Middle Ages. In more recent history the rise of the Zulu nation played out across the Zululand landscape. Evidence from this period still exists in the form of kraals, burial and smelting sites. During the Stone Age, the Khoisan exploited most environmental resources at their disposal. These early hunter-gatherers, living in the valleys and hills of HiP probably followed the seasonal movements of animals between the uplands and lowlands where they left behind stone tools, many of which have survived to be located and recorded by archaeologists.

Between 200 and 300 AD, archaeological evidence reveals that people with a very different lifestyle and technology began entering Zululand. They kept domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and dogs, practised agriculture and possessed knowledge of smelting, metalworking and ceramics. Seeking out the richer soils for their crops, these early farmers soon moved inland along the valleys of the larger rivers such as the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Rivers, where important archaeological sites now bear testimony to this early settlement.

The western part of iMfolozi and the higher-lying Corridor were populated up to the time of the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, although there is evidence of inter-tribal conflict, and periods when the area was not occupied. The lower-lying areas were unsuitable for occupation because of malaria and the presence of tsetse fly. Extensive use was made of the animal populations occurring in the area, and it is recorded that Shaka established a private hunting ground between the Black and White Umfolozi Rivers, where the remains of hunting pits are still visible near the confluence of these rivers.

Cultural heritage

Heritage refers to natural and man-made attractions and HiP has a lot to offer that has conservation, spiritual and cultural significance, such as Nqabaneni Cave. The park also has a variety of heritage resources such as Stone Age rock art, Iron-Age settlements and fossils. Although physical access to all of these resources is not possible, access in terms of informing visitors about their existence and locality could have an add-on appeal to other recreation activities. For example, guided walks can include visits to particular sites, and auto-trails can take advantage of them. Adequate protection measures are required for sites which are accessible to the public.

Cultural heritage and in particular local and traditional knowledge of the people who live in the peripheries of the park (sometimes described as ‘living heritage’), inherited from previous generations, presently resides in the oral history and traditional knowledge of local communities, and constitutes an extremely important asset. It encompasses an extensive and intimate knowledge of the physical environment, the plants and animals of Northern KwaZulu-Natal, and hunting, tracking and survival skills. It can be observed throughout the whole of HiP, particularly in the western section, that African clans at one time very densely populated the area.

Giving back to the community

HiP lies in a region which is marginalised with respect to its geographic location and rate of government expenditure. This region has a population of approximately 2 million people, growing at approximately 2,5% per annum and is the most impoverished region in KZN, with 75% of all individuals living in poverty.

HiP offers hundreds of direct job opportunities to local community members as well as numerous eco-tourism related opportunities. The direct job opportunities are mostly linked to the alient plant control project. These include small service centres (Machibini and Hlabisa), accommodation (B&B’s), curio markets, shops in the park that are leased out to local business operators and gardens providing vegetables to both the tourist and local market.

Where to stay

Hilltop Resort: offers comfortable, cool accommodation, a swimming pool and fully licensed restaurant and bar. The Umbhombe Forest Walk in the grounds of the Hilltop Resort allows visitors to indulge in bird-watching while stretching their legs after a day’s game viewing. There are two self- guided auto trails. Guided walks are available in the early morning and afternoon and are very rewarding. Guided night drives using spotlights, and guided day drives, are available. The Centenary Centre, an easy drive from Hilltop, provides guided access to the Game Capture Complex, as well as presenting the visitor with an interpretation centre on game capture, a community-run craft market and refreshment kiosk

Mpila Resort: is situated on a high ridge commanding magnicent views over the iMfolozi wilderness, an area steeped in history going back to the Iron Age and the great days of the Zulu Kingdom. Accommodation at Mpila is in a variety of fully serviced self-catering chalets, as well as comfortable safari-style tents each with its own bathroom and kitchen. The cottages have an on-site cook, and all units have barbeque facilities. Mpila provides night game drives, as well as guided walks. Morning drives are available on request. Other activities include picnicking, guided game walks, wilderness trails, game viewing, bird watching, self-guided auto trails, morning and afternoon game drives.

Activities

Wilderness Trails allow you to experience the magic of the bush. You can sense the presence of a grazing rhino, hear and feel the night air throb to the roar of lions intruding over the crackle of your camp­fire, and experience the bush at a very personal level. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife offers trails over weekends or longer, which are designed to meet your time constraints while still allowing you to bene­fit fully from the experience. Conducted by armed and experienced guides who will add to your experience and knowledge, the iMfolozi Wilderness Trails can be a life-changing experience.

The Primitive Trail is aimed at the outdoors enthusiast who would like to combine a wilderness experience with backpacking and sleeping out under the stars. All four nights are spent out in the bush. Camping follows a very strict ‘minimum impact – no trace’ ethic, in line with wilderness principles. The trail is fully catered. Water is collected from springs or rivers in the wilderness area, and bathing is done in the river wherever possible. A very important part of the trail is spending time alone on watch at the fire at night. Primitive trails are run from early February to late November and take a minimum of six at any time.

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