Vast stretches of unspoilt coastline, dramatic mountains, superb wildlife, historic battlefields and fascinating Zulu culture - KwaZulu-Natal has an embarrassment of riches.
Starting in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, the highlights were the pack of wild-dogs seen at sunrise, and being surrounded by 4 white rhinos - that heart in the mouth moment when a rhino looks straight at you whilst deciding whether to run ... or charge! Priceless! Plus we visited Fugitives Drift in the Battlefields area to hear about the Zulu wars. History can be a very 'dry' subject and wondered what we were in for. We should not have worried as the guides for Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift were excellent.
If you are seeking natural beauty on a grand scale, the excitement of a safari, an insight into tribal life and touching tales of war and valour, KwaZulu-Natal is for you. From a vast amphitheatre cliff face to huge coastal wetlands and reserves teeming with game, nothing is on a small scale. This is the homeland of the Zulu people and site of some of the fiercest battles of the Anglo-Zulu and Boer wars, so there’s plenty to ponder, and when you want a break, just head to the state’s lovely unspoilt beaches.
- KwaZulu Natal Coast: The Elephant Coast in the north contains the huge iSimangaliso Wetlands Park with its marsh, mangrove, seasonal lakes, estuaries, dunes and sand forest. Waterbirds, hippos, crocodiles, turtles, elephant and giraffe can be seen on land and water-based safaris. There are beaches, too, along the 220km coast including Kosi and Sodwana bays, for swimming, diving and whale watching. Further south the Dolphin Coast is well-named as there are frequent sightings, and the sandy beaches make it a popular holiday centre for South Africans as well as overseas visitors.
- KwaZulu Natal game reserves: At Hluhluwe Imfolozi you can expect to see the big five as well as wild dog and cheetah as you traverse the varied terrain of hills, valleys and savannahs. Tembe is another excellent wildlife destination and is best known for its large elephant herds. The game reserves of Ndumo and Mkuze Falls have abundant birdlife while Ithala provides excellent chances of viewing both black and white rhino.
- Drakensberg Mountains: The Drakensberg Mountains are the highest in the country. There are spectacular natural rock formations such as the Amphitheatre and Cathedral Peak and mountains with evocative names such as Champagne Castle and Giants Castle. Hikers can enjoy this wild, rugged and beautiful scenery on trails of varying durations. In Giants Castle reserve you have the additional bonus of eland, bushbuck and reedbuck as well as several species of birds pf prey.
- Zulu Culture: KwaZulu-Natal is the home of the Zulu tribe and Zululand contains some of their most important towns and sites. A village visit allows you to meet individuals, learn about their culture. Get an insight into a different culture on a tour of San Bushman rock art in the Drakensberg, some of which date back 800 years. You’ll be transported much further back in Ithala with its evidence of human habitation 250,000 years ago.
- The Battlefields: If you’ve spent time among the Zulu people, a visit to the Battlefields will be especially poignant. Names like Isandlwana, Spioenkop, Rorke’s Drift and Blood River are synonymous with the heroism and bloodshed that typified the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Guided tours offer moving details and insight, and the forts, monuments and war cemeteries are a tribute to all who fought here.