Known as the Kingdom of the Zulu, KwaZulu Natal is a melting pot of Africa, European and Indian cultures. The Province boasts of two World Heritage Sites – the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and the majestic UKhahlamba- Drakenberg Park There are 8 distinct regions and numerous ‘must see’ attractions in KwaZulu Natal.
Attractions, Places of Interest and Popular Destinations
The province of KwaZulu Natal is home of a multitude of attractions, with something to suit every taste, budget and relaxation requirement’ It also has a subtropical climate, making it ideal to visit at almost any time of the year.
KwaZulu Natal is a world in one province: to the North of Durban you will find the best African game reserves and pristine beaches, numerous sugar cane plantations and relics of great battles in South African history. To the West lie the majestic Drakensberg Mountains and temperate Midlands while to the South there await superb golf courses, fishing spots and miles of subtropical coastline.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the only park under the formal conservation in KwaZulu Natal where the Big Five are found. 280 Kilometers north of Durban and established in 1895, this is the oldest park in South Africa along with the nearby St. Lucia Reserve.
From having only 25 Rhinos at its inception, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve now has the highest population of both White and Black Rhinos in South Africa. Due to the increasing intensity of poaching in the Park, field rangers have been stepping up their monitoring and patrolling efforts in the area.
Set in the heart of Zululand, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu Kings such a Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put in place the first conservation laws.
Today, Africa’s ’Big Five’ (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhinoceros) stalk the flourishing savannah. Game viewing is the principal attraction in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Viewing hides overlook pans and water holes enabling one to observe the wildlife at close range.
As the home of Operation Rhino, in the 1950s and 60s, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park became world renowned for its White Rhino conservation. Other areas of focus for which Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is famous for include wilderness trails which originated in Umfolozi in the 1950s and its renowned Game capture unit upgraded into the Centenary Capture Centre, a bench mark for animal capture and sustainable utilization throughout Africa.
The Park covers 96,000 hectares of land and contains an immerse diversity of fauna and flora. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Reserve is characterized by hilly topography and the northern section of the game reserve is noted for its wide variety of both birdlife and wildlife. Apart from Game viewing drives, there are self – guided auto trails which provide information on both the management and natural history of the Hluhluwe Umfolozi game reserve. Guided walks, more especially can be rewarding in the early mornings and afternoons.
There is a 40 seater boat on Hluhluwe dam which takes visitors on guided trips twice a day. The trips are conducted by an experienced community guide and visitors can see an excellent range of birds and animals within the park while the Zulu Culture is covered the community areas outside
About UKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, Battlefields Region – KwaZulu Natal
Not only the place of some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country, the sweeping hills and knotty rock formations that pepper the rolling plains and the valley of northern and central KwaZulu Natal are also the site of a concentration of historical battles that took place over numerous years ago and shaped the history of both South Africa and British history.
Today what appears to be little more than wind swept plains littered with the remains of stone forts, graveyards and little else to indicate strife, bore witness to innumerable fierce battles. First between the Voortrekkers on their way to the hinterland in a bid to escape the British rule of the Cape colony, and fierce Zulu Kings, who believed that this beautiful land that lay between the Drakensberg Mountain and the Indian Ocean was their own “Heaven on Earth’.
The same area of land the witnessed further clashes between the British Empire, battling to gain control over land across the Tugela River, and the Zulu Nation in the Angola – Zulu War of 1879, encompassing the famous battles at Isandlawana and Rorkes Drift.
Isandlawana nad Rorkes’ Drift are two of the most famous battlefields in the country, and also perhaps in British Histoty, because it was here that, in a furious two hour battle, Zulu forces armed primarily with traditional spears and shields thrashed the mighty British Colonial Empire forces, one of the few times they were ever routed by an indigenous army. Eleven Victoria Crosses were rewarded to those who defended Rorke’s Drift.
Just two years later, the British were at war again in South Africa in what became known as the First Anglo-Boer War, putting the Boers and British against one another, with numerous battles ensuing across this same area of land. Today this beautiful and somewhat fragile region forms the heart of a Battlefield Route that one can do as part of a tour or as a self -drive experience. Maps and Brochures tow to trace the battles that involved Mahatma Gandhi, Churchill, Shaka, and General Louis Botha – all of whom played strategic roles in these intense clashes that have left the landscape imbued with the echoes of battles.
About Midlands Meander
Situated in KwaZulu Natal, the Midlands Meander is just north of Pietermaritzburg and extends from Rietvlei and Currys post in the east, to Dargle Valley and Nottingham road in the west. This stunning stretch is about 80 Kms long and brimming with amazing sights, sounds and activities. This midlands Meander is to provide an enriching experience for the visitor by offering a varied array of Hospitality, Arts and Crafts and outdoor activities in this beautiful and unique country setting. Midlands Meander Association is a collective of creative and hospitable people, making a living at a gentler pace.
No wonder thousands of people traverse the Midlands Meander each year. In 1985 local artists, potters and weavers decided to join forces to create an arts and craft route. Soon enough, six studios were opened and the Midlands Meander was born. It is also known as the ‘Arts and Crafts Route’. From humble beginning, the Midlands Meander has grown to more than 160 places to eat, drink, sleep, shop, play as well as a diverse and fascinating mix of Arts and Crafts.
There are weavers, potters, woodcrafters, leather workers, artists, metalworkers, box makers, herb growers, cheese makers, beer brewers and so much more. There is very little time to be bored with the array of activities and things to see. These villagers are also set in picturesque landscapes offering magnificent views. There is so much to explore in the Midlands Meander. From the vastness of shimmering waters of the Midmar Dam to the looming but breath taking Drakensberg Mountains, from the quiet Village to an array of craft shops, there is just so much to see and do.
Water sport lovers congregate at the popular Midmar Dam where enthusiast enjoy windsurfing, sailing, boating, canoeing and much more. Anther famed aspect of the Midlands Meander Route is the Battlefields Route. It is hard to imagine that this tranquil and beautiful area was once the centre of Military clashes of the Anglo-Boer War.
The region boasts the largest concentration of battlefields in South Africa and attracts thousands of history lovers each year. Every town, history buildings, Battle and memorial sites has a fascinating tale to tell. So do not miss out on the opportunity to go on the Battlefield Tours.
There are also many historical buildings many of which date back to the 18180s. A number have been declared National Monuments including some well-preserved settlers Churches. These monuments include the National Railway Museum, the Goodman Household monument and the commemoration war of pillars where President Nelson Mandela was arrested prior to his 27 year imprisonment. Whether you are a fan of history or not, these sights and monuments provide a fascinating glimpse into the South Africa of Old.
The offering of accommodation in Midlands Meander is varied enough to suit any preference. While it is still possible to stay in one of the original old hotels, also can have the opportunity to spend the night in the tree house surrounded by wildlife in a nature reserve, cuddle by the warm fire in a cave in the mountains, camp in a lush forest or stay in an upmarket Bed and Breakfast or Guest House – whichever you choose, it promises to be a memorable stay.
There a number of fantastic restaurant with a diverse of mouth – watering munchies to choose from. Time goes so much slower in this part of the country. Interestingly, the word, ‘meander’ means ‘to wander at random’. So take your time, relax and enjoy aimlessly wondering along the winding paths of the beautiful Midlands Meander Route in South Africa. It promises to be truly unforgettable time.
Ushaka Marine World
Ushaka Marine world in Durban is a world class entertainment and tourism destination. At the end of Durban’s Golden Mile is the beginning of Ushaka Marine World-spanning over 15 hectares of prime beach front. Ushaka Marine World is Africa’s largest Marine Theme Park.
A theme park to note, the Oceanarium alone is worth the fee and if you’re with kids, the amusement park, shopping and beach fun, fills a day easily. There is even a shipwreck thrown in for fun. Water rides, Frolicking dolphins, Seal stadiums and Penguins rookeries, make this a bird’s eye view of the Western Indian Ocean. Despite Ushaka Marine World being a touristy thing to do, you would be hard pressed to beat it.
Ushaka Marine World incorporates fresh and sea water, lush vegetation, natural material and the re-creation of a wreck of a 1940’s cargo ship. With the 5th largest Aquarium in the world by volume on water, the park is tastefully themed with a focus on family entertainment. No matter what the occasion, you will find something to do at Ushaka Marine World.
Enjoy fun at Sea World, have a memorable meal at any of the many restaurants (including the amazing shark restaurant, situated in the themed shipwreck with a window into a shark tank), go shopping in over 11, 250 m2 of retail space featuring clothing boutiques, outdoor gear, arts and crafts as well as indigenous and tourist focused goods, information and services.
Activities at Marine World
Located in the centre of Ushaka Marine World, you can experience the salt water aquarium with indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits, a 1200 seater dolphin stadium where you will be entertained by the world famous Dolphins, the seal stadium and penguin rockery. In addition, Sea World offers edutainment tours behind the scenes and special interactive activities such as snorkeling through reefs and grottos and scuba dives.
Durban is famous for its beaches and that is exactly what you will find at Ushaka Marine World. Bell’s Beach, adjacent to the Ushaka Marine World, has been set aside for adventure seekers and offers perfect all year nonstop fun. Activities include; Windsurfing, Paddle boat rides, Beach volleyball, and Beach volleyball, Jet skiing, Kite surfing, dolphin viewing charters and hosts National and International sports events. The there’s a Wet ‘n Wild World. A fresh water entertainment wonderland, Wet ‘n Wild World offers exhilarating fun and safe entertainment for the whole family. It features separate swimming pools for kids and adults, relaxing river rides and high speed chutes for the adrenaline junkies. This the pace where the wild at heart are set free to experience adrenaline pumping action while the rest of us can merely sunbathe on the sandy beaches, grass or decks.
There is a mini-super tube (for “Kids’ of all ages), the play area with water cannons and water mushrooms will keep kids busy for hours and ensure your visit to Wet ‘n Wild World is fun filled. And a “must-experience” is the tunnel ride – a roller – coaster enclosed ride not for the claustrophobic, speeding round the curve at a gut – wrenching four meters per second in the dark, makes for a thrilling experience and you will definitely come back for more. Sea World also incorporates the research facilities of the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) which manages and protects scientific and environmental credibility of Sea World and SAAMBR as a whole. These research facilities also offer classrooms for lectures to schools and other groups on marine and other coastal matters as well as a research and reference library.
Other Highlight Activities at the Ushaka Marine World
Rocky Touch Pool
Have you ever touched a starfish? Have you ever felt the skin of a sea cucumber? If not, then this is the place to do it- gently of course – with the help of a specially trained guide.
The Open Ocean
Gazing through an enormous window 8 meters long by 3 meters high, you will feel as though you are actually standing underwater with the many fish associated with the open Ocean such as; Tuna, Pompano, Dorado and Rays.
Danger of Deep
Get ready to meet some of the most feared creatures of the deep. Sharks, Sea Snakes, Devil fire fish and Stone fish occupy this area where from the surface you might even be able to touch a shark as it swims past a purpose- built balcony at feeding time.
Bright Yellow and red, orange and blues – nature manages to put so much beauty into a coral reef, and of the richest and most diverse ecosystem on earth that has been re-created for you within Sea World.
The deep zone is a window into the lives of some of the weirdest and most spectacular animals inhabiting a world hundreds of meters below the surface of the ocean, often in total darkness.
The African Penguins are an endangered species. However, our breeding colony will provide you with a special opportunity to see rare birds as they ‘fly’ through the water and waddle on land.
Getting To Ushaka Marine World
To reach Ushaka Marine World from Central Durban, join Point road from West Street or Victoria Embankment and travel south. Continue on Point Road, turn left into Southampton and again into Albert Terrace.
The Valley of a 1000 Hills Region, Durban
The valley of a 1000 Hills forms around the majestic valley created by the Umgeni River and its tributaries. A magnificent gorge between Durban and Peirtermaritzburg, the valley of a 1000 hills is about more than its spectacular greenery but also the clear blue African Sky. It’s even more than the breath –taking photo opportunity and idyllic backdrop to your holiday memories.
The valley of a 1000 hills is a place where the blue and untainted beauty of Africa is celebrated in its scenery, animals, culture, history and the vibe that infuse the part of KwaZulu Natal.
The valley of a 1000 hills is situated between the massive urban metropolis of Durban and capital city of the province. Pietermaritzburg. The valley is the meeting point of the Umgeni and Msunduzi Rivers, making it a place of unrivalled natural beauty. The Umgeni flows all the way from the mammoth Drakensberg to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
This region is also famous for its deep and complex culture and history. The province was once the homeland of the powerful Zulu tribes and villages. When the Boers and the British were vying for territory, though, there were many bloody battles. Today, the battlefields serve as reminders of the exorbitant prince once paid for, for such a magnificent territory. It is called such because of the repeatedly folded hills that extend as far as the eyes can see from the top of Botha’s hill. Up on this ridge the views of the hills, valley and gorges is a feast but for sore eyes. Drive a choice of routes from there that pass villages, art galleries, country pubs, nature reserves, farms and places to stay.
There are many cultural villages that still occupy parts of KwaZulu Natal and the Valley of 1000 hills. Visiting these villages means getting a sneak-peak into the traditional lives of the local African people. See their huts, visit the medicine men and women, taste their traditional food and enjoy song and dance performances, and meet with the people that call this place home for a real glimpse of the South African Experience. Of course, an area this spectacular is just begging to be explored. So take advantage of the many walking, hiking, running and cycling trails through the valley. The mountains are excellent for the rock climbing, abseiling and heading out on 4 x 4 adventure.
The valley of a 1000 hills is well equipped with hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, and other accommodation facilities. It has an excellent infrastructure so visitors from all over the world are assured of quality and convenience amidst the beauty. The King Shaka International Airport is within a short drive from many of the attractions in the area.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Previously known as the ST Lucia Wetland Park, Isimangaliso Wetland Park lies on the north eastern edge of KwaZulu in the sublimely beautiful region known as the Elephant Coast. The Isimangaliso Wetland Park is so bio diverse. It supports more species of animal that the Kruger National Park, despite being only the third largest park in the country.
The incredibly beautiful series of beaches, Coral reefs. Lakes, Swamps, Wetlands, Woodlands, Coastal forests and Grasslands that stretch all the way from Kosi Bay, virtually on the Mozambican border, to Cape St Lucia in the south, collectively form the first of eight South African UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There is a wealth of diversity of birds and animals life that ranges from Whales, Dolphins, Sea Turtles and incredible Waterfowl – such as Storks, Pelicans, Terns and Herons; well over 500 South African Bird Species. Including the Madagascar Fish eagle, the Nile crocodile, South African’s largest Hippo population, Elephant, Black and White Rhino, Giraffe, Buffalo and a range of Antelope that includes Waterbuck, Impala and Kudu.
Isimangaliso Wetland Park includes Lake St Lucia, the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserves, the Kosi Bay Natural Reserve and Mkuze Game Reserve – no fewer than 328, 00 hectares of pristine natural ecosystem, and the country’s third largest protected land mass.
A considerable part of the park centers on the huge estuary, Lake St Lucia – part of the estuarine system in Africa – that runs parallel to the coast line with the world’s highest forested sand dunes sandwiched between the estuary and the sea. The park is one of South Africa’s most popular destinations, and, aside from the numerous hiking trails, offers fishing, rock and surf fishing, estuary fishing and deep sea fishing, as well as diving, horse riding game viewing and whale and bird watching.
KwaZulu Natal has its own rocky reef, roughly 5 Kilometers out to sea off the coast of the town of Umkomaas, and half an hour’s drive from Durban. July to November is when you can expect to see great number of ragged- tooth sharks. But throughout the year, there’s always something special to see at Aliwal Shoal including Monta Rays and Dolphins.
Not only is Aliwal Shoal rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world, but regular divers say it is second onlt to the rocky ride over breakers to get there(‘rocky’ describes the turbulence of the sea rather than any protuberances between the coast and the reef).
The marine life of the Shoal is said to be spectacular. Raggies or ragged tooth sharks (also known as grey nurse sharks) are regular spotted between August and November as they use the area to mate. They are, despite looking like hunters of the deep, rather docile. In fact in history of diving the Shoal, there has been no recorded attack from the sharks. You are more likely to spot the close to a famous area known as the ‘Raggy Caves’. But it is not only the prospect of seeing 15 to 20 sharks at any one time that attracts divers here. You can also see mantas, moray eels, huge stingrays, sweetlips, potato groupers (also known as potato bass or ood) and turtles.
Whilst, with any luck and only at certain times of the year, you can also hope to see dolphins, humpbacks, Whale sharks and hammerheads. This excludes the schools of pelagic and coral fish that frequent the 5 Kilometers long reef or shoal. During summer temperatures in the water average a warm 24 degrees, whilst in winter it does not get much colder than 19 degrees because the shoal lies on the inner edge of the Mozambique current. Popular diving sites on Aliwal Shoal includes the Cathedral – an amazing hole in the reef – the pinnacles, the north sands and the raggie cave and shark alley.
Route 66 Zululand Heritage Route
Whilst the name of the route brings the battlefield of Ladysmith, Colenso, Dundee and Volksrust to mind, Route 66 is of slightly different nature. Rather than heading up and around the N3, Route 66 takes one along a parallel route, slightly further north east, that links the towns of Gingindlovu, Eshowe, Melmoth, Ulundi, Nongoma and Pongola tracing the oldest transport riders, missionaries, soldiers, settlers and farmers.
The route traces one of the oldest trade routes through Zululand, once ridden by horse and ox wagons by early settlers to the then Port Natal., in similar fashion to the American equivalent (although their route 66 has not only largely been abandoned in favor of more modern highways, but incorporates, ‘history’ in the form of wigwam shaped motels and original fast food outlets).
Zululand’s Route 66, by comparison, traces the path of the transport riders, missionaries, soldiers, settlers and farmers as they made their way inland It also explores the incredible clashes that took place here – the tribal wars of the early 1800s, the Voortrekkers- Zulu war of 1838, the Anglo- Zulu war of 1878 and the Bhambatha Rebellion of 1906.
Route 66 starts at Dokodweni toll plaza on the N2 just south of Durban. It follows the alternative route inland to Eshowe past sugar cane fields and rolling hills. En route learn about the history that carved these hills. Visit Fort Nongqayi a museum filled with Zululand’s past, particularly the basketry and pots. A bit of a diversion will take you to the Dlinza Forest to walk its aerial board walk, or Ntumeni Nature Reserve and the Nkandla Forest. Head on to Memoth and Mtonjaneni and visit the eMakhosini Monument that overlooks the Valley of the Kings.
Ulundi hosted the battle on Gqokli and was the site of the final battle of the Anglo-Zulu War. In Ondini you will find the recreated residence of King Cetshwayo. From here you can divert to the Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park or continue to Pongola and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
The Sardine Run is an annual migration of sardines along South Africa’s east coast, between May and July. These tiny fish migrate from the cold waters of the Cape to seek the warmer waters of KwaZulu Natal.
Sardine are cold water fish. They like to remain in cold, nutrient rich waters, which is why their usual home is along the Western Cape, where 2002, 00 tones are caught annually, creating work for thousands of fishermen, and meals in a can for thousands of people.
Why, then, does a group of them veer off and head east?
We know that their passage has a great deal to do with the cold current that stretch along the Cape and Eastern Cape, for these currents produce a great deal of plankton; Sardine – major food source.
The mate and spawn on the Agulhas banks off the Southern Cape coast and their eggs are left to float, fertilized, on the waters of the open sea, where they are carried north west. Once they are strong enough to swim against the current, they collect in huge shoals and make their way slowly back to their spawning grounds.
There is a small group that annually makes its way east up the Wild Coast. No one understands why. They seem to take advantage of a cool water current on the continental shelf of the east coast. This cool water is a seasoned occurrence and happens only as a thin strip between the coast and the warm Agulhas Current.
If the current doesn’t occur, the sardines don’t run. Consequently for the years 2013 and 2014 the sardines did not run up the coast to enter KwaZulu Natal waters.
To minimize their risk of being eaten the sardines converge and travel in huge shoals. They travel in groups of thousands at a time remaining close to the surface of the ocean and close to the shoreline for much of their passage.
As a result they become targets for a whole group of predators – birds, larger fish, sharks, whales and dolphins – all join in the feeding frenzy. Humans too join in the hunt for the sardine. The appearance of common dolphins along the KwaZulu Natal south coast is an indicator.
The annual sardine run give everyone the chance to stock up – from commercial fishermen to women who fill their skirts with tiny, slippery fish. The Shark board has to be on the ball as well as if they do not lift the nets before the shoals arrive, they are severely damaged by the sheer numbers of sharks and dolphins. But their bathing removal means ’discretionary bathing’ on the part of tourists, who are no longer protected by the nets. If the sardines run is on, you enter the waters at your own risk.
The Umhlanga Coast is characterized by long stretches of sandy beaches that promise stunning backdrops against which to swim, surf or sunbathe. The Indian Ocean has particularly warn waters, averaging 24 to 24 degrees during the summer.
Nice to know. The Umhlanga Rocks Lighthouse is fully automatic lighthouse. It has never had a light keeper because the Oyster Box hotel (originally the first beach cottage in the area) has always had the lighthouse controls in its office. This continues today, It is one of the most photographed lighthouses because of its proximity to the popular umhlanga beach.
The Umhlanga Coast is a magnificent stretch of the South African shoreline, it shows off the splendor and wonder of this country in a tranquil display that remains extremely powerful. This is part of KwaZulu Natal, and is very close to the city centre of Durban, which is the province’s main city and one of South Africa’s major metropolises. However, the Umhlanga coast whisks you away from the bustle of the city living and to the peaceful prettiness of the Indian Ocean as it lazily dances onto the sand. There are a number of beaches along the Umhlanga Coast, spread through the areas of Umhlanga itself, La Lucia, Mount Edgecombe and Undloti.