|The Very Best of KwaZulu-Natal||
It's been describes as the most African of South African provinces. Vibrant and stunningly picturesque, KwaZulu-Natal packs all the very best of the continent - beaches, adventure, history, culture, dramatic landscapes and outstanding game viewing - into one hospitable and accessible region. It's a favourite tourist destination for South Africans, and it's beginning to catch the imagination of the other nationalities too.
Iain Wallace recently spent several weeks in the province, sampling some of its greatest attractions for this special feature. He says he would return tomorrow. With such a wealth of things to do, you can be shopping, hiking or golfing one day, and learning about colonial military history, rare vultures or traditional Zulu courtship rituals the next.
Here, we single out 50 of the very best reasons to visit. We’ve probably missed one or two along the way, but that’s the joy of KwaZulu-Natal – you can always be sure there’ll be a new surprise around the corner.
1. Drive the Sani Pass
The road from Himeville to Sani Pass in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is the only route into Lesotho on its eastern border with South Africa, and the views from the summit (2874m) are spectacular. A number of operators from the Underberg will take you by 4x4 up the terrifyingly steep and winding road, and trips usually include a visit to a Basotho village. You might want to calm your nerves with a stiff drink at the Sani Top Chalet – the highest pub in Africa. Despite the remoteness, there are full border formalities, so remember to take your passport.
2. Explore ethnic history
... in Fort Nottingham, a quaint historical village established as a fort in the 1860s to combat livestock raids by Bushmen from the high mountains and Lesotho. Its new museum outlines interactions between the Zulu, Bushmen and Colonials, and it is developing a cinema to present documentaries on the period, and an encampment to show how the Bushmen lived their lives.
3. Surf the swells
You can find uncrowded, rideable waves all along KZN’s warm water coast; the best time is from May to August, when cold fronts that sweep up from the Cape bringing solid six to eight-foot swells.
4. Take to the skies
To appreciate the true magnificence of the Drakensberg Mountains, take a trip in a hot air balloon. Airborne Adventures can be found near Mooi River and will take a minimum of four passengers for a one-hour flight followed by champagne breakfast. It’s an early start and the whole experience usually takes between 4-5 hours. Crew members follow in vehicles and return passengers back to their cars. Due to high winds, most balloon operators are closed between June and October.
5. Getting into the swing of things
The golfing gods were good to me last season. The suicidal slice was cured, the yips disappeared and at long last I could boast about a single figure handicap. But then I packed the clubs and headed for Durban. With sights, smells and sounds which simply assault your senses, the golfing visitor quickly loses concentration and instead gets immersed in Mother Nature.
For South Africans, this province is the golfing winter hotspot. The choice of courses is huge, from the world-class Durban Country Club (rated South Africa’s no.4) to the growing number of little gems in the green hills and valleys of the Midlands. Green fees are as low as $20, four-hour rounds are the norm, the food is first-class and the locals are charming. No wonder the Spanish and Portuguese are worried.
An hour north of Durban, Prince’s Grant is an undulating, coastal par 72 course with a number of links-like holes. With wind whipping off the ocean, you’d be forgiven for thinking St. Andrews Old Course, winter, gales… another ball please... Prince’s Grant isn’t particularly long, but the fairways roll and tumble and the small greens are usually surrounded by some sort of mischief.
I found the 494-metre par 5 seventh a real peach. A successful drive over a ravine will find the fairway, which narrows to a trickle. You then have to hit through a narrow chute, hills to the left, brush to the right, in order to approach the green.
Beachwood in Durban is one of the province’s most sought-after golfing venues. It’s famed for its narrow fairways, but a recent redesign has created clever bunkering, water features and superb greens. The charm of this par 72 seaside beauty is the lush sub-tropical foliage, interspersed with banana and palm trees. Dense foliage means there’s not much of a sea view, but you’re sheltered. That didn’t stop me from spending most of the time in the sand though; Gary Player has kindly introduced 41 bunkers around the greens and a further 33 fairway traps for wayward shots.
For jaw-dropping vistas, the Drakensberg backdrop makes Champagne Golf Resort one of the most scenic in South Africa. For the avid golfer, simply walking the perfectly manicured kikuyu fairways of this wonderful par 72 course is almost a spiritual experience.
My favourite hole? Teeing off on the signature par 5 first will certainly get the pulse racing. It’s a monster at 605 metres from the back tees and you have to hit a cracker to carry the Strekspruit Ravine and rough to get positioned on the fairway far below.
6. See baby crocs hatching
... between December and March, at Crocodile Creek. This park has some enormous adult reptiles too.
Crocodile Creek, off the R102 between Umhlanga and Ballito, tel (+27) 32 944 3845. Open daily except out-of-season Saturdays, 9.30am–5pm. Feeding time 11am–3pm.
7. Go whale watching
Humpback and southern right whales can frequently be seen off the KwaZulu-Natal coast from July to November. For land-based viewing there are watching towers in three KZN Wildlife Reserves: Cape Vidal, Amatikulu and Mpenjati. To get up close, you go by boat, bearing in mind that, unless it’s licensed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Management, the closest you’re allowed to get to a whale is 300 metres.
Further information from Advantage Charters tel (+27) 35 590 1259 or Adventures Extreme Ocean Safaris tel (+27) 39 695 2714.
8. Discover Shoe heaven
The Born in Africa store is great for art and craft enthusiasts, but it’s best known for its fine selection of locally-produced leather boots and shoes. Born in Africa, between Howick and Nottingham Road, Midlands
tel (+27) 33 234 4796,
9. Hike around Kosi Bay
This supremely popular and beautiful wilderness reserve is not really a bay, but a system of four lakes connected with reed channels which eventually empty into the sea at Kosi Mouth. It’s famous for the fish kraals, or traps, which have been built by the local Tonga people for over 700 years and are passed from father to son. The trappers are very friendly and we chatted at length with Joseph, whose photograph appears to have been in every KZN guidebook. Bookings for the wonderful 4-day, 34km hiking trail should be made at least six months in advance; the best time to visit is August and September.
Further information from KZN Wildlife tel (+27) 33 845 1999, www.kznwildlife.com.
10. Indulge in a gourmet lunch
... at Audacia Manor on the slopes of Durban’s Berea. Dawn Anderson, the owner, has taken meticulous care to restore this grand old dame to its former glory; it took over six months just to strip 10 layers of paint off the original 1920s Rhodesian hardwood. Lunch here is truly historic. Whether visiting for a day or a week, guests are encouraged to treat the manor as their own and make use of the gardens, library or swimming pool.
Audacia Manor tel (+27) 031 303 9520, www.audaciamanor.com.
11. Saddle up
A horseback safari makes a welcome change from sitting in a 4WD, and Pakamisa Private Game Reserve near Pongola offers a unique and unforgettable adventure for both experienced and novice riders. You get closer to nature on the back of a pure-bred Arabian horse; at one point we were within a few metres of the giraffes. For a change of scenery, you could explore the St Lucia Wetland Park with Bhangazi Horse Safaris, who run short outings along the beach or into the reserve, and a mobile tented horse safaris lasting several days. Horse lovers will cherish a stay at Hartford House, the world’s only five-star hotel at a world-class stud farm, with a stable of 600 horses, 10 of which are stallions owned by the Maktoums, the First Family of Dubai. Riding on the picturesque estate’s bridle paths and racetracks is a real privilege.
Pakamisa Private Game Reserve, www.pakamamisa.co.za;
Bhangazi Horse Safaris, www.horsesafari.co.za;
Hartford House www.hartford.co.za.
12. Go birdwatching
... in Dhlinza Forest, near Eshowe, an 250-hectare nature reserve that’s home to over 65 species in a dense collection of trees, ferns and creepers. Giving you a monkey’s eye view of this world is a superb wheelchair-accessible timber boardwalk – the first of its kind in South Africa – which takes you to a platform overlooking the forest canopy.
Further information from Eshowe Tourism Association tel (+27) 35 474 1141. Open daily, Sep-Apr 6am–6pm, May-Aug 8am–5pm.
13. Theatre of war
They say KwaZulu-Natal is so fertile because it has been washed with the blood of a hundred battles. For military history buffs, a battlefield tour is a must.
Many moons ago, as I sat in a rain-swept Scottish church, I spotted a small plaque that was to arouse a lifelong interest in the Boer War. It read: “In Memory of Pvt J Frazer, 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles, Killed In Action at Spionkop, South Africa, 23 January 1900”.
I was curious. Why was this soldier in South Africa? What was Spionkop?
How did Private Frazer meet his end?
Over the years I’ve read and re-read all the accounts of the battles that shaped the destiny of southern Africa, but nothing beats a first-hand visit. Battlefield tourism is now big business, with descendants, historians and even present-day soldiers keen to join in the personalised tours and colourful enactments of events from the nineteenth century wars between the British, the Boers, the Voortrekkers and the Zulus.
Isandlwana Lodge, which overlooks the scene of the calamitous Battle of Isandlwana, must be one of the finest stopping-off points in the whole of South Africa. It was here that I met Rob Gerrard, the lodge’s resident historian and lecturer. Rob is a natural storyteller and before you even visit the battle site he sets the scene with a bird’s eye view from a nearby escarpment.
We later headed for the mission station and hospital of Rorke’s Drift where 139 men of the 1/24th Regiment warded off a 4000-strong Zulu onslaught. No fewer than 11 Victoria Cross medals were awarded.
Rob is simply brilliant at bringing the action to life. We saw where injured soldiers fought and withdrew room by room; we stood in the final mealie bag redoubt where guns glowed red-hot and constant recoils dislocated shoulders.
Equally dramatic was the shambles of Spionkop, a battle which should never have been fought. To learn more, I visited Spionkop Lodge, campaign home to General Buller and a war correspondent by the name of Winston Churchill. Owner Raymond Heron paints a vivid picture of the bloodiest and most futile battle. Almost 400 British soldiers were killed in hellish conditions, trapped in shallow dugouts in searing heat, eight men to a square metre, with shellfire bursting over their heads. Some men were hit three or four times before the end came.
You can also get a feel for the action by following a self-guided trail, stopping where medical orderly Mahatma Gandhi would have recovered the dead and wounded, where the Boer sharpshooters hid behind boulders and shot at targets barely a few yards off, and where the British were buried in mass graves.
And finally, atop Spionkop Hill, I came across a monument and a name I had seen so many years before: Pvt J Frazer. He died thousands of miles from home on a parched hillside, a young lion led by donkeys.
14. Cruise around Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site protects a marine zone of coral reefs, sandy beaches, papyrus and reed wetlands, and dry savannah and thornveld. Lake Saint Lucia, 360 square kilometres in size, is home to hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, fish eagles and rare waterbirds. There’s a charming collection of B&Bs in the village of St Lucia, where you can book lake cruises, night drives, guided walks, cultural tours, deep sea fishing and (from June to October) humpback whale-watching sea trips.
Further information from KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife tel (+27) 35 590 9002 or (+27) 35 590 1340.
15. Experience Zulu culture
... at Simunye Zulu Lodge, tucked into the beautiful Mfule River Valley. On arrival at the old trading store, guests proceed either by foot, horse, ox-wagon, or donkey cart on a one-hour trail to the lodge. Guides tell the story of the Zulu nation and there are demonstrations of traditional dances, sparring and spear throwing. It’s also possible to visit nearby Zulu homesteads, and stay in a traditional Zulu kraal.
Simunye Zulu Lodge, 6km from Melmoth tel (+27) 35 450 3111,
16. Head for the mountains
The highly popular Drakensberg hiking trails in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park vary from extreme 2-4 day hikes to relaxed walks of a few hours. Montusi Mountain Lodge provides an excellent hiking guide with star ratings to indicate degree of difficulty. One of the best is the Tugela Gorge (14km round trip), which takes you to the base of the 850m Tugela Falls. The terrain is manageable for most people and opportunities abound to swim in pristine mountain pools. Overnight hikers in the Berg must be prepared for extreme weather changes and must fill out the mountain register before setting out.
Montusi Mountain Lodge tel (+27) 36 438 6243, www.montusi.za.net.
17. Shop for spices
... at Victoria Street market in Durban’s Indian district, where you’ll also find African curios, fabrics, leather goods and copper, plus stalls offering mouth-watering bunny chow, samosas and curries at bargain prices.
Open Mon–Fri 6am–6pm.
18. Coastal paradise
Few stretches of South African coast are as unspoiled as the beaches of Rocktail Bay, a dreamscape of tropical vegetation, tepid water and some of the soft sands stretching as far as the eye can see. The whole area has been declared a World Heritage Site. Come here to snorkel among tropical fish in the Indian Ocean, or to enjoy the best surf and fly fishing on the east coast. In season, you can take a nocturnal walk along the beach in search of egg-laying turtles.
Rocktail Bay Lodge, Wilderness Safaris, www.wilderness-safaris.com.
19. Crafts galore
Ilala Weavers helps over 2000 Zulu people to attain self sufficiency by working from home. Their produce is sold from a centre just outside Hluhluwe where you will find baskets, beads, lampshades, woven carpets and wood carvings, plus a cultural museum, art gallery, and a-la-carte restaurant.
Ilala Weavers, near Hluhluwe tel (+27) 35 562 0630, www.ilala.co.za. Open daily from 9am.
20. Valley of a Thousand Hills
This is a nature lover’s paradise of peaceful sanctuaries, reserves, gorges, hiking trails, game drives, and waterfalls. Arts and crafts abound, with opportunities to pick up bargains in paintings, woodcraft, weaving pottery and candles. The area is graced with an array of hotels, game style lodges, rustic bush camps and camping sites. Daily tours are available, and on the last Sunday of the month you can take a vintage train ride with Umgeni Steam Railways.
Valley of a Thousand Hills, 35km west of Durban tel (+27) 31 777 1874, www.1000hills.kzn.org.za; Ungeni Steam Railways tel (+27) 82 353 6003.
21. Watch lammergeiers in the Drakensberg
Bird watchers from all over the world visit the Giant’s Castle Hide for a glimpse of these rarest of vultures, which live on a diet of dried bones from carcasses picked clean by predators.
Giant’s Castle hide information tel (+27) 36 353 3718.
22. Turtle-watching season
Visit the beaches of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park between November and March, and you’ll have a great chance of witnessing giant turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. After mating offshore, the female loggerhead and leatherback turtles, who can weigh up to 900kg, each lays around 100 eggs and covers them with sand. Sixty days later the tiny turtles hatch, dig their way out and head back to the sea – where most of them are promptly eaten by predators. About one in five hundred will survive. Evening trips along the beach are strictly controlled by KZN Wildlife.
Shaka Barker Tours tel (+27) 35 590 1162.
23. Learn about sharks
... with a visit to the Natal Sharks Board. Our tour began with a video about the sea’s top predator, followed, thankfully on an empty stomach, by a shark dissection. Among the replica sharks on show in the display hall is an 892kg monster. The Sharks Board looks after more than 400 shark nets, protecting 50 beaches; you can arrange to go out with staff as they service the nets off Durban’s Golden Mile. Just keep an eye open for those black fins…
Natal Sharks Board, Umhlanga Rocks, tel (+27) 31 566 0400, www.shark.co.za.
Video and dissection held Tue–Thu 9am & 2pm, Sun 2pm. Display Hall open Mon–Fri 8am–4pm.
24. Hop along
... to Amakhosi Safari Lodge, on the banks of the Mkuze River. It offers
a gem of an experience between November and March, when the rains provide a perfect environment for frogs. Pull on your wellies and venture out on a night-time frogging safari, following the calls of these fascinating animals – 32 species are found here. Averaging only 35mm in size, the frogs can be tricky to locate, but it’s fun when you do.
Amakhosi Safari Lodge, near Pongola tel (+27) 034 414 1157, www.amakhosi.com.
25. Gorgeous gorge
One of KZN’s most compelling attractions is the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve – not so much for the wildlife but for the famous Gorge Swing, the highest in the world. We went to the Lehrs Falls just to look, and even that left us breathless as we watched the mad adrenaline-junkies leap off the waterfall to swing into the depths of the gorge in a 100-metre arc. It really is unbelievable. This is a highly scenic area with cliffs rising from vast chasms and jungly forest, renowned for its abundant birdlife, shy samango monkeys, endless walking trails and stupendous waterfalls. African python populate the lower slopes and there may even be some leopard. Apart from the Swing, the gorge is also an ideal location for white-water rafting, black water tubing and, allegedly, the world’s highest commercial abseil at 110 metres. Accommodation is available at KZN Wildlife huts or in the old-fashioned Oribi Gorge Hotel.
Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve tel (+27) 39 679 1644, www.kznwildlife.com.
26. Umthamvuna Nature Reserve
Covering a 19km stretch of the Umthamvuna River, this little-known reserve has a fine display of wild flowers in spring and is home to colony of Cape vultures. Hike to the thick rainforest at the bottom of the gorge and you stand a good chance of spotting bushbuck, blue and common duiker and chacma baboons.
Open daily, 7am–5pm (Apr–Aug), 6am–6pm (Sep-Mar).
27. Take off
If you want a bit of excitement on your visit to the beach, why not hire a one-man hovercraft for a 30, 60 or 90-minute flip? Operating from Wilson’s Wharf in Durban or the Umkomaas rivermouth, this extraordinary activity allows you to achieve speeds of at least 65kph across the waves, and is thus dependent on tide and weather conditions. Not for the faint-hearted!
Further information from Experience This, www.experiencethis.co.za.
28. Underwater adventures
The 50km Sodwana Bay reef complex has one of the world’s highest recorded numbers of tropical fish, and excellent visibility and warm winter waters make this a year-round swimming, scuba diving and snorkelling hotspot.
Further information from Coral Divers tel (+27) 33 345 6531, www.coraldivers.co.za.
29. Eat bunny chow
... one of Durban’s most popular takeaway meals. Back in the old apartheid days, golf caddies (“bunnies”) were not allowed to use the crockery or cutlery at the exclusive golf clubs. Innovative chefs solved the problem by taking a half loaf of bread, scooping out the middle and filling it with curry. The scooped-out section is used to soak up the sauce. Mmmm.
30. Shop till you drop
... at the trendy, family-friendly resort of Umhlanga Rocks: its shopping mall, the Gateway, is supposedly the largest in the southern hemisphere. There’s also an 18-screen cinema, climbing wall, skateboard park, and even a surf wave centre.
Further information from Umhlanga Tourism tel (+27) 31 561 4257.
31. Tour a mighty sugar terminal
Most of South Africa’s sugar cane ends up in the vast Durban Sugar Terminals at Maydon Wharf, on the west side of Durban bay. They are among the biggest in the world and are capable of storing over half a million tons of sugar and handling and moving up to 800 tons per hour.
Eight tours a day from 8.30am–3.15pm. South African Sugar Association, www.sasa.org.za.
32. Experience the mysticism of the east
... in the heart of Durban, on an Oriental Walking Tour with a registered guide. You’ll visit the fascinating Musjid mosque, the historical Grey Street business precinct, the Muthi Trade Market and the Ajmeri and Madressa arcades with their unusual shops filled with bric-a-brac, spices, and exotic fabrics.
Book a day in advance at the Tourist Junction, tel (+27) 31 304 4934.
33. Meander around the Midlands
Back in the 197os, a group of creative locals came up with the concept of the Midlands Meander – a rolling exhibition designed to encourage visitors to wander from studio to studio. Today it’s South Africa’s leading arts and crafts route. There’s everything from herbal centres, honey farms and cheese shops to glass studios, potteries, and leather factories. You’ll even find a micro brewery and someone who restores grand pianos. For the more energetic, there’s golf, horse riding, forest canopy tours, mountain biking and paragliding.
There’s also the region’s multi-cultural history to explore. Game Pass Shelter at the Kamberg Rock Art Centre is considered one of the best exhibits of rock painting in the world, and another must-see is the spectacular Howick Falls.
You can visit fascinating trading stores along the R103, where descendants of original Indian settler families still make local deliveries, and pop in to museums which have interesting displays depicting the influences of the Anglo-Boer war. Life moves slowly in these parts, so chill out and enjoy some aimless ambling through luscious hills and valleys.
En route, you could stay at a historic hotel, a tree house surrounded by zebra, a stylish luxury B&B or a campsite in an indigenous forest.
Midlands Meander tel (+27) 82 231 042, reservations tel (+27) 33 330 7260, www.midlandsmeander.co.za
34. Soak up the scenery
... of Royal Natal National Park, a spectacular 8000-hectare reserve offering fantastic hiking.
Royal Natal National Park tel (+27) 36 438 6303.
35. Sangomas and stick fights in Shakaland
It’s not easy gaining access to the authentic Zulu traditions and culture; the best bet is to visit a Zulu cultural village. One of the most popular is Shakaland which was built in 1984 as the film set for the movie and TV serial Shaka Zulu, and has since been taken over by the Protea hotel chain. It may lack some realism, but the visitor gets an opportunity to witness the disciplined and dignified social structure of the Zulu homestead (umuzi). For a small fee, visitors can join a guided tour of the village, learn about tribal life, warrior dances, courtship and witchcraft, and even taste Zulu beer. You will probably meet the community’s spirit healer (sangoma) who plays a respected and meaningful role, using roots, herbs, bark, snake skins and dried animal parts to cure ailments and predict the future. You can also find out about the language of beadwork – every colour has a different meaning and a Zulu woman can weave a message of love, grief, jealousy or uncertainty into her patterned creation. There’s an excellent restaurant and bar on site, and first-class accommodation in traditional beehive huts. For a broader insight to Zulu culture, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal have introduced a excellent Cultural and Heritage Trail which takes in several important landmarks such as the King Shaka memorial in Stanger and, in Groutville, the gravesite of Chief Albert Luthuli, Nobel Peace prizewinner and founder of the African National Congress.
Shakaland tel (+27) 35 460 0912, www.shakaland.com; Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, www.zululand.kzn.org.za.
36. Giant’s Castle Game Reserve
This is not a traditional game reserve – the way to see its four dozen animal species and around 160 bird species is on foot. There are numerous inter-connected hikes across the reserve, which was established in 1903 to protect the dwindling numbers of eland. Attractions here include the bulky ramparts of Giant’s Castle (3314m), one of the highest peaks in South Africa, the Lammergeier Hide (May-Sept) which attracts bird enthusiasts from all over the world, and the 500 rock art paintings at Main Caves, a half-hour’s easy walk up Bushman’s River Valley. Best bet for accommodation is the recently revamped Giant’s Castle Lodge, which offers superb views and cosy open fires.
Giant’s Castle Game Reserve, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg tel (+27) 36 353 3718, www.kznwildlife.com.
37. Voices of angels
The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir have performed all over the world, breaking from tradition by tackling everything from Bach to Freddie Mercury via African jazz. The choir school is set in beautiful surroundings; during term-time there’s a concert in the impressive auditorium every Wednesday at 3.30pm. Bookings are essential.
Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School, on the R500 to Monk’s Cowl, tel (+27) 36 468 1012, www.dbchoir.info.
38. Get wet and wild
... by going whitewater rafting. The most exciting time is the summer rainy season (November to February) when all the major rivers such as the upper Thukela and the Buffalo are full; you can take a two-day trip down grade 2, 3 and 4 rapids with experienced guides. The Buffalo has whitewater kayaking sections for both beginners and adrenalin junkies.
Further information from Tourism KwaZulu-Natal tel (+27) 31 304 7144 or from www.180.co.za, www.bushmans.co.za, www.umkorafting.co.za.
39. The sardine run
Around June or July each year, massive shoals of sardines leave their feeding ground off the southern Cape and move up the coast towards Mozambique. What follows is truly spectacular. The millions of sardines are followed by over 20,000 dolphins, 100,000 Cape gannets and thousands of sharks and game fish – which in turn attract fishermen from all over the South Coast. Quite often the shoals are cornered and driven ashore, whereupon hundreds of people rush into the water to net them, or literally scoop them up with their hands.
40. Listen up
Joseph Shabalala’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo is now one of the best known of all South African musical groups, playing to universal acclaim throughout the world. Locally, they have outsold even The Beatles and Michael Jackson.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo www.mambazo.com
41. Track and dart rhinos
For a safari experience with a difference, what about rhino-darting? At the luxurious, privately-owned Phinda Game Reserve, white rhino are darted for ear-notching and microchip-implant purposes. Guests can try their hand at target practice, tracking and darting rhinos from vehicles on a special three-day trip which includes accommodation at Phinda Mountain Lodge.
Phinda Game Reserve tel (+27) 11 809 4300, www.phinda.com.
42. Stay on a working farm
The well-equipped self-catering farmhouses at Elvesida Farm are great for a value-for-money holiday break. Set in the foothills of the Drakensberg, amidst rolling hills, lush forests and tranquil lakes and dams, you can enjoy bass fishing, canoeing, pony rides, tubing, swimming and good country fare.
Elvesida Farm tel (+27) 33 997 1808.
43. Discover some demons of the deep
... at Africa’s largest aquarium – Seaworld at uShaka Marine World – which houses a 1200-seater dolphin stadium, penguin rockery, and seal pool. For a bird’s eye view of Durban, uShaka also offers helicopter flips.
uShaka Marine World, Durban tel (+27) 31 328 8000, www.ushakamarineworld.co.za. Open daily, 9am–5pm.
44. Tembe Elephant Park
When Willie Louw from Kosi Forest Lodge gave us a personal tour of this 30,000-hectare sand forest reserve, we were the only people in the park. Yet the wildlife here is abundant with excellent trails and viewing points. The park protects the lives and property of local people, and was fenced in the 1980s to halt large-scale poaching of elephants in neighbouring Mozambique. Tembe is also home to white rhino, leopard and South Africa’s largest population of the shy suni antelope. There is a small tented camp near the entrance and two hides overlook areas where the elephants come to drink. Access to Tembe is strictly controlled and, because of the terrain, open to 4x4 vehicles only.
Tembe Elephant Park tel (+27) 33 845 1999, www.kznwildlife.com. Open daily, 6am–6pm (Apr–Sep), 5am–7pm (Oct–Mar).
45. Hit the beach
Nearly three quarters of visitors to KwaZulu-Natal head for the beach, and who could blame them? There’s amazing variety in the province’s long, warm and inviting Indian Ocean coastline. Beaches skirted by golf courses, beaches flanked by nature reserves, untamed beaches for surfers, beaches to meet people on and beaches to get away. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best:
Margate, South Coast The fun capital of the Hibiscus Coast draws thousands of young people during the summer holidays.
South Beach, Durban Part of the world-famous Golden Mile, South Beach is ideal for swimming and surfing. At the end of the Golden Mile lies uShaka Marine World, Africa’s biggest marine theme park.
Umhlanga Rocks North of Durban, the beaches here come alive during the South African school holidays; families can swim, surf, boogie board and explore rock pools and warm tidal pools in relaxed surroundings.
Cape Vidal, Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park One of the finest in South Africa, with long stretches of snow-white sand. A great spot to absorb the silence; you can explore rock pools along the beach, and in October you’ve a good chance of spotting humpback whales.
46. Learn about San rock art
... in the Didima Valley, where Ezemvelo-KAN Wildlife has established a San Rock Art Centre which boasts a superb audiovisual display on the meaning of rock art. The San hunter-gatherers lived in the Drakensberg area around 8000 years ago to the mid-1800s, and they left behind a fabulous wealth of rock art in the caves and overhangs. These paintings provide a rare and fascinating glimpse of the San lifestyle and beliefs. There are about 6000 recognised San rock art sites within the Drakensberg. One of the best and most accessible displays is in the Main Caves in Giant’s Castle, less than 2km from the camp. Battle Cave in Injasuti has 750 paintings and other fine samples can be found at Shelter Cave near Kamberg.
47. Abseil from Kwanogqaza, The Place of The Tall One
The 95m high Howick Falls, a national monument and sacred site, are known to the Zulus as kwaNogqaza. Locals bathe in the pools at the top. Abseiling is the latest craze, but there are footpaths too.
Howick Tourism open daily, 9.30am–4pm, tel (+27) 33 330 5305.
48. Tour the Karkloof Forest Canopy
For this three-hour eco-experience, you’re kitted up with a full body harness, pulleys and climbing equipment, ready to traverse along a steel cable suspended some 30 metres above the forest floor. A new world unfolds as you glide and zig-zag through the magnificent trees and down the pristine valley; the bird life is incredible.
Karkloof, north of Howick, Midlands tel (+27) 33 330 3415, www.karkloofcanopytours.valueweb.co.za.
49. Take the Ale Trail
KZN’s beer route starts at the Nottingham Road Brewery, which brews its ales according to traditional German techniques; it also takes in national and independent breweries around Eshowe, Dundee and Durban. Cheers!
Nottingham Road Brewery, Rawdons Hotel, Natal Midlands tel (+27) 33 263 6048.
50. Unbeatable for rhinos
... is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, a 964-square-kilometre wilderness of rolling hills, subtropical forest, acacia woodland and palm-fringed rivers, with a world-renowned rhino conservation programme. Created in 1895, the park is now the fourth largest in South Africa and is home to an astonishing diversity of wildlife. Nyalazi Gate is reached from the N2 at Mtubatuba and it’s a perfect starting point for exploring the park’s road network. Hilltop Camp (450m) offers panoramic views over the surrounding countryside and can accommodate up to 210 guests in chalets.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park tel (+27) 33 845 1999, www.kznwildlife.com.
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