Hluhluwe is a small town on the Elephant Coast in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is situated between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, on the banks of the Hluhluwe River. The Elephant Coast is known for its national parks, natural diversity and cultural heritage. Although relatively undeveloped the area is of growing interest to international tourists and travelers. The area hosted several local and international movie productions including I dreamed of Africa and Ghost Son as well as several documentaries that were filmed in the surrounding national parks.
Hluhluwe is considered the hub of tourism in KwaZulu-Natal. The Hluhluwe area has an abundance of accommodation facilities, from budget accommodation to five-star game lodges.
Hluhluwe town is a service centre to the surrounding area. The town is named after the thorny rope climber Dalbergia armata (umHluhluwe in Zulu), which is found among the forest vegetation types in Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park.
Timber, sugar and pineapples are intensively grown in the area, which produces over 90% of South Africa's queen pineapples. Other agricultural crops are sugar-cane, sisal, cotton, tomatoes and chillies. Due to traditional settlement patterns and customs, activity is still low in some areas.
Hluhluwe is easily accessible from the N2 national highway, which is the main artery. Hluhluwe has a small airport suitable for light aircraft. The airport is at an elevation of 249 feet (76 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway designated 03/21 with a grass surface measuring 1,208 by 30 metres (3,963 × 98 ft). Alternatively commercial flights from and to Johannesburg are available 80 kilometres from Hluhluwe at Richards Bay Airport (airport code RCB).
Main traffic routes (R22) consists of tarred road, local roads consist of gravel which can be traveled with a normal passenger vehicle. The R22 road provides accessibility to the northern region of KwaZulu-Natal including the Sodwana Bay diving sites and several Indian Ocean beaches. Border posts for both Swaziland and Mozambique are accessible through the R22. The development of the R22 road is part of the Lubombo spatial development initiative and is currently marketed by the Umhlosinga Development Agency as Route 22.
The main attractions of Hluhluwe are the big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard), Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park game reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as St Lucia Wetlands Park), its natural diversity, Indian Ocean beaches (accessible through St Lucia or Sodwana bay) and the cultural heritage of the Zulu people.
A wide variety of activities is available in and around Hluhluwe. Big 5 safaris, diving, horse riding trails, walking trails, crocodile and snake park, canoeing, boat cruises, mountain bike trails, cultural interactions, and cultural villages. Game drives (safaris) are either guided, or possible in most nature reserves with own vehicle. Entrance fees apply when entering most of the nature reserves with own vehicle.
Once a year Hluhluwe hosts the RIS Hluhluwe Rhino charge mountain bike race, part of the Big 5 mountain bike challenge, a returning event where hundreds of riders gather during race weekend to challenge one of the most diverse and in some parts technical terrain in the big 5 mountain bike series. In 2013, after a few years of absence, Hluhluwe was the stage of the Bell 400, the national off-road motorcycle and quad bike race, it is currently unknown if the Bell 400 will return to Hluhluwe.
There is a limited number of restaurants available in and around Hluhluwe. In Hluhluwe town a selection of 'fast food' outlets is available. Most of the hotels / lodges provide restaurant facilities but are mostly limited to people staying overnight in the accommodation itself.
Restaurants: The Fig Tree (breakfast & lunch only), Amorello (a la carte restaurant 30 km out of town), Wimpy (fast food), KFC (fast food), Steers (fast food), Indigenous Creations (lunch room & tourist information)
A wide variety of accommodation options are available in Hluhluwe, from budget campsites & backpackers to 5 star luxurious lodges.
Campsites are not available within the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve. A limited number of campsites can be found around Hluhluwe Town.
B&B / guesthouses: Within Hluhluwe town there are several B&B / guesthouses, Hlulala Guesthouse, Amazulu guesthouse, the newest addition is B&B Orange situated in a suburb of Hluhluwe.
Backpackers: Within 10 km radius of Hluhluwe a selection of popular accommodation; Isinkwe Bushcamp, Hluhluwe backpackers
3 star lodges: Within 10 km radius of Hluhluwe a selection of popular accommodation; Wildebees ecolodge, Dumazulu lodge, Emdoneni lodge.
4 star lodges: Within a 10 km radius of Hluhluwe a selection of popular 4 star accommodation; Hluhluwe River Lodge, Falaza game park.
5 star lodges: Within a 30 km radius of Hluhluwe a selection of popular 5 star accommodation; Thanda private game reserve, Phinda game reserve.
A local tourist information office can provide information on accommodation, activities and surrounding area, and is situated (coming from the N2) at the end of the main road in a local lunch room.