Washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) with its subtropical coastline, sweeping savannah in the east and magnificent Drakensberg mountain range in the west, generously caters for just about every taste imaginable. Known as the Kingdom of the Zulu, KwaZulu-Natal is a melting pot of African, European and Indian cultures. This province boasts two World Heritage Sites – the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. KZN offers fantastic beaches, sunny weather, game parks, rolling green hills, numerous sugar cane plantations and relics of the great battles in South African history.
Traditionally, a popular holiday destination for holiday-makers from other provinces flocking to its sandy shores and wonderful surf, KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s busiest local holiday destination. Bottlenose DolphinsKwaZulu-Natal forms South Africa’s east coast, stretching from Port Edward in the south, to the Mozambique boundary, in the north.From its early days, the province has been the scene of many fierce battles – being the bone of contention between the Zulus and the Voortrekkers; the British Empire and Boer settlers (Anglo-Boer War); the Zulus and the British Empire. KwaZulu-Natal has the largest population in the country with some nine million people living on 92 100 km2 of land. Seventy-five per cent of its inhabitants are black, mainly Zulu-speakers. Some 15 per cent of the population are Indian, while white people make up the remainder.
The KwaZulu coast has one of the greatest harbours on the African continent, Durban, which geographically divides the North and South Coasts. Visitors to KwaZulu-Natal can either disembark at Durban International Airport or the Durban harbour, or make use of the extensive national road network. AmphitheatreKwaZulu-Natal is known to be a province that experiences eternal summer, although temperatures do differ from region to region. This province has a tropical climate and rainfall is generous during the summer months. During the Christmas holiday season, it can get extremely hot and humid along the coastline, although temperatures are milder as one moves inland. Durban enjoys an average temperature of around 27 degrees C (81 degrees F) during the month of January, and a daily maximum of roughly 22 degrees C during July. Bustling Durban is the hub of the province’s business and industry and pulses with all the energy of a major port city. Luxury hotels abound on Durban’s beachfront, and this city is often referred to as South Africa’s Miami Beach.Durban is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the world. Its port is the busiest in South Africa and also one of the 10 largest in the world.Pietermaritzburg has a strong colonial heritage, however, this vibrant town has a great mix of Indian, Zulu and English-speaking people.
The city is often referred to as the best-preserved Victorian City in the country. Some of South Africa’s best beaches can be found along the Natal coastline, Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito, Shaka’s Rock, Shelley Beach (on the North Coast), Uvongo and Margate (on the South coast) – to mention just a few. These beaches offer safe swimming and fantastic surfing possibilities. Durban also boasts spectacular beaches including Addington Beach, South and North beaches and Dairy beach. Grey Street is home to Durban’s Indian district and is the best place to enjoy spicy local food. Here, you will find the Juma Musjid Mosque and its gilt-domed minarets (1927) – the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere. Wander around the area and the bazaars and buy some of the incredible spices and textiles in the province from local Indian vendors. An eco-tourism wonderland of beautiful lakes, swamps, forests and marshlands surrounding the estuary of Lake St Lucia. This area was declared as one of South Africa’s first World Heritage Sites – and is no doubt one of the most beautiful wetlands areas in the world. Some of South Africa’s best-protected indigenous coastal forests are found here at Dukuduku and Kosi Bay. Countless species of animals including hippo, crocodiles and elephant, as well as abundant plant and sea-life are found in this sub-tropical eco-system.
The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. This mountain wilderness, bordering Lesotho, is a vast national park boasting the highest mountain range in South Africa. Known to the Zulus as the `Barrier of Spears’, the Drakensberg or `Dragon Mountains’ mountain range is truly spectacular. Often referred to as Little Switzerland, this part of the world offers spectacular waterfalls, mountain peaks and rock faces adorned with San rock art. It is a favourite spot for hiking and fly-fishing. KwaZulu-Natal is referred to as the Kingdom of the Zulus. To the west of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game reserves (150km north of Ulundi), one can explore cultural museums that concentrate on local history. Near Ondini, one can find the reconstructed royal enclosure of Cetshwayo, the Zulu King.
The fascinating Vukani Collection Museum is found at Eshowe and boasts one of the best collections of Zulu art and culture in the world. Shakaland and Gingindlovu are also worth a visit.Famous for its rhino conservation programme and big five sightings, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park is the largest of KZN’s reserves and boasts a fantastic cross section of wildlife. Mkuzi and Ndomo game reserves are also popular, and walking safaris in these reserves are spectacular. Some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in South Africa are on offer in Sodwana – a veritable mecca for those who love underwater adventure. The area is also famous for big-game fishing. A number of Battlefield tours are on offer in KZN where some of South Africa’s most turbulent wars took place. The interior, north of the Tugela River, marks the spot of gruesome battles between Boers and Zulus, British and Zulus and, of course, the Boers and the British. Visit the place where Mahatma Gandhi developed his philosophy of passive resistance. Visit Ohlange, the school founded by the president of the ANC – John Dube – or visit the Inanda Seminary, home to the largest Shembe church in the province (two million members). The Midlands Meander is picture postcard country. The rolling green hills of the midlands are home to English-style country inns, guesthouses and quaint bed and breakfast establishments. The area is known for its polo clubs, delightful restaurants and a marvellous arts-and-crafts route. One of the most picturesque drives in the world is just 45km from Durban, known as the Valley of a Thousand Hills. It is in these hills that Zulu people still live in their traditional huts, the views are breathtaking – to be savoured slowly.
KwaZulu-Natal boasts a wide range of markets, craft shops and galleries where one can purchase the finest Zulu crafts. Traditional baskets, woven beer strainers, Zulu drums, shields and assegais, beadwork, pottery and regalia – all can be purchased at reasonable prices. The South Coast sees the incredible annual migration of sardines, once a year. Shoals of sardines can be seen in their feeding frenzy as they move from the Natal South Coast to Mozambique. The sardine run is always followed by dolphins, sharks and game fish. The Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is a wonderfully scenic area offering excellent hiking opportunities. The area boasts cliffs and forests and spectacular hiking trails and picnic sites. Wildlife in the Oribi Gorge consists of many antelope, although the oribi (after which the gorge is named) is rarely seen.
The coastline from Port Shepstone to Port Edward has been called the Hibiscus Coast because of its lush gardens, luxury suburban homes, beach-side cottages and friendly caravan parks. The area is known for fantastic beaches as well as golfing opportunities. This is real bucket-and-spade country – with the towns of Margate and Uvongo being firm favourites. The glorious Dolphin Coast stretches from Umhlanga Rocks, north of Durban, to the mouth of the Tugela River. The area boasts wide beaches and the warm ocean is the perfect playground for dolphins. The main holiday resorts consist of Ballito, Salt Rock and Umhlanga Rocks – all three offer five star hotels, however, self-catering accommodation is a firm favourite amongst local holidaymakers.