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Trekker’s Hostel Highlights: Isinkwe Backpackers

Anyone up for a safari? A lot of travelers come to South Africa for one reason only: to see the BIG FIVE! Many head straight for Kruger National Park, the biggest and most famous of the parks in South Africa. But there is a smaller park in KwaZulu Natal province that offers all that Kruger has if not more: Umfolozi / Hluhluwe. Maybe it’s not so well-known because the name doesn’t roll off the tongue, or because the park is hidden among the hills of rural KwaZulu; regardless, if you get a chance to visit you should.

The best place to stay near Umfolozi / Hluhluwe is Isinkwe Backpackers, a 15minute drive from the park’s main gates. Set-up in the style of a genuine bushcamp with bungalows, bush kitchen and nature trails, it also comes with all the luxuries of a hotel including a swimming pool, resturant and bar.

The accomodation is VERY comfortable, the bathrooms clean and spacious enough to pitch a tent. The comfortable swing chairs hanging amongst the trees are perfect location to sit and relax the afternoon away.

The staff are friendly and help you out as much as possible. The food, served outside, is delicious – nothing like fresh air to stimulate the apetite. Whether you are hanging around the backpackers or going on a tour there is lots on offer: watch the nightly feedings of the bushbabies (the small tree-dwelling primates that are the hostel’s namesake), go on a free nighttime trail walk or visit the crocodile farm and Zulu cultural experience next door. The hostel also offers full day and half day trips to both Umfolozi / Hluhluwe and the St. Lucia Wetlands Park on SA’s Elephant Coast. It also organises trips to the craft market just down the road, and to the small town of Hluhluwe.

My only criticism of this fabulous place is that everything is set in stone and costs can pile up. Some of us needed to go to town to get airtime and a few groceries, but the owners would only take us if we purchased an entire town tour, including the craft market (we had been there twice already!). Also, I had been given the opportunity to spend a few days at the research camp in the park. The only way the hostel would help me get there was for me to pay for a full day tour of the park (which was admittedly fantastic, even if I only enjoyed 8 of the 12 hours’ worth of tour) and then they dropped me off at the park’s main camp. I had to find my own way back to the hostel. But if nothing else it added a new experience to my store!

So even though, in the end, you might have to pay quite a bit for the pleasuer, a stay at Isinkwe is fabulous – and if you come prepared with food and supplies (unlike me) you might not leave with a hole in your pocket.

So my tip of the week, is to go on safari via Isinkwe, but be sure to come prepared!

Till next time, keep trekkin’…