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DETAILS: South Africa

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

GETTING THERE: South African Airways flies direct from Dulles to Johannesburg, which takes 15 1/2 hours westbound and 18 hours eastbound (the plane refuels in Senegal on the return trip); round-trip fare to Durban, through Johannesburg, is about $1,680. If you can catch a sale to Johannesburg (fares sometimes go as low as $1,000 round trip), low-cost carriers including Mango and 1time fly to Durban starting at about $100 round trip. From Durban, it's a two-hour drive to Hluhluwe.

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GETTING AROUND: Hluhluwe is accessible only by car, though some safari companies will arrange transport. Roads in South Africa are well maintained and well marked, though trucks and minibus taxis make the roads dangerous at night. Rental cars have manual transmission, and South Africans drive on the left side of the road.

Though we took a private car to Hluhluwe, we rented a car from Europcar for another leg of the trip, for about $40 a day. Avis, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty also have branches in South Africa.

WHERE TO STAY: At Hluhluwe and iMfolozi parks, visitors pay a daily "conservation fee" of about $11.

In Hluhluwe's Hilltop Camp, the least-expensive lodging is a two-bed "rest hut" with communal bathrooms, starting at about $33 per person. We stayed in a two-bed chalet for about $67 per person, the same price as two- and four-bed kitchen-equipped chalets. The dining room serves a buffet-style dinner (about $16 per person), a breakfast buffet ($10) and a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. In iMfolozi, Mpila Camp has similar accommodations, as well as walks and drives that can be arranged at the front desk. Four-bed rest huts at Mpila start at $28; tented "safari camp" units are $35 per person.

You can book accommodations through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (see below) or with the tour operator Go2africa.com ( http://www.go2africa.com), which also arranges accommodations and trips to other countries. For a short trip to Hluhluwe without having to drive, Springbok Atlas ( http://www.springbokatlas.co.za) has regularly scheduled day trips from Durban (from $157), as well as multi-day tours (from $596).

WHAT TO DO: Hluhluwe and iMfolozi offer daily game drives and game walks from about $24, as well as two- to four-night wilderness treks, starting at about $250. Visitors can drive themselves around the parks, and iMfolozi has three self-guided walking trails, too.

Nearby, iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes the St. Lucia Estuary and Lake; uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park features wonderful hiking trails amid spectacular mountains. Exciting Durban , with its mix of British colonial, art deco and Indian-influenced buildings, has diverse neighborhoods with a variety of food, including Durban's specialty, bunny chow, an Indian-style curry (made with mutton or beans, not rabbit) served in a bread bowl.

INFORMATION: Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, 011-27-033-845-1000, http://www.kznwildlife.com. -- C.T.


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