captivating retreat

It's a mesmerizing experience to take a drive from Durban to Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park, heading to Hilltop Camp.

It's a mesmerizing experience to take a drive from Durban to Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park, heading to Hilltop Camp.

Approaching the gate, young boys aged between 10 and 12, wearing animal skins, chant and dance feverishly to welcome guests. This wasn't going to be anything less than a home away from home, I hoped.

After seeing warthogs near the gate moving about freely, the anticipation was not surreal any more. It was a scary experience, but at the same time exciting, to drive around seeing wild animals.

An arrogant elephant suddenly showed up and nearly ruined the ambiance. She forced me to stop my vehicle as she walked straight towards it, closing the entire road.

Comfortable, charmed and happy as I was, I tried to negotiate my way and continue the journey to Hilltop Camp. The elephant strolled for 30 minutes, blocking the road, but finally gave me the go-ahead as she moved swiftly away, ravaging the bushes along the road.

The 15km drive to King Shaka's playground - Hilltop Camp - connected me with nature. The beauty of nature consists of indigenous trees and bushes and the reverberating melodies of birds that linger to remind one of the importance of wildlife. Bird melodies are far better than engine noises and the hooting of minibuses in the big city.

Hilltop Camp, as its name suggests, is situated on top of a hill looking down on the rest of the game park, the nearby valleys and rivers.

On entering the reception area I was greeted by out-of-this-world traditional African decor which makes for an instant stress-free zone.

The word hospitality is given new meaning in the natural smile of receptionist Nqobile Nene.

At Hilltop Camp you can view nature and indulge in the most amazing sounds of birds competing in song.

My two-day stay in a chalet with two single beds made me loathe my bed at home. The chalets are charming, comfortable, and fully equipped with extraordinary bathrooms.

The camp consists of 4-bed units, 2-bed rondavels and 2-bed units. Monkeys woke me up while checking the coast with the intention of stealing leftover food.

Activities on offer at Hilltop Camp include game drives, a designated picnic area, a chilling place near the pool and of course the mesmerising sounds of the birds, the eternal entertainers.

Game-drive lovers need not worry about running out of fuel, Hilltop Camp has petrol and diesel pumps.

I fell in love with the buffalos, rhinos, zebras and impala, which were the only animals with the chutzpah to come and check on curious guests. My friendly nature found an outlet after I made friends with an overseas guest who wanted to know more about KwaZulu-Natal and the country in general.

As if I hadn't been drenched enough in the wonders of wildlife, I spotted a seemingly ravenous crocodile emerging from the unpolluted waters near the Hluhluwe bridge.

Hilltop Camp is an ideal place for honeymooners to whisper sweet nothings into one another's ears and contemplate a debt-free future together. The camp has a nice Mpunyane restaurant at the most affordable prices.

For a whole two days I was totally oblivious to the world's happenings and pace.

Hot as it was, I couldn't find a reason to complain about the four-hour drive back from my new-found sanctuary.