KwaZulu Natal, South Africa / Zululand / Zulu / Durban

South Africa

Tip For Trip - KwaZulu-Natal

Also known as the ‘Zulu Kingdom’, KwaZulu-Natal is a many-splendoured interaction of natural wonders, ultra-modern facilities, fascinating cultural imprints and reminders of a dynamic history in a breathtakingly beautiful and varied setting.

Durban and surroundings

Tourist Junction, in Durban’s historical station building, provides access to tourist information and accommodation bookings for Ezemvelo KwaZulu- Natal Wildlife and South African National Parks. The Golden Mile skirts the main beaches of the Indian Ocean. Attractions include an amusement centre, paddling pools, paved walkways and fountains. The uShaka Island marine theme park, oceanarium, dolphinarium and oceanographic research institute on Durban’s Point opened in May 2004. This is home to a wide variety of sea life, including sharks, dolphins and seals. There is a snorkelling trail and a tubing river around the park. Durban’s most popular fishing spot is situated at Blue Lagoon Beach at the wide Umgeni River mouth. Beyond the river, the La Lucia and Beachwood Mangroves nature reserves offer long, tranquil walks along empty sands. The Durban area has more than 50 reserves, developed parks and specialised gardens, the most renowned being the Municipal Botanical Garden. The Fitzsimons Snake Park offers lectures and venom-milking demonstrations. MiniTown is a model city depicting Durban’s best-known buildings. Museums include the Natural History Museum, the Natural Science Museum, the Old House Museum and the Old Fort. The Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple (The Second River Temple) in Cato Manor was the first Hindu temple in Africa. It is a national monument. The Juma Musjid Mosque is the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere. Daily tours are available. Annual events in and around the city include the popular Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, an international surfing competition, the Duzi canoe marathon, the Midmar Mile swimming event, the July Handicap horserace and the Amashovashova cycle tour. Umhlanga Rocks, just north of Durban, is notable for its ski-boating facilities. The annual Ski-Boat Festival takes place in April. The Natal Sharks Board offers shark dissections and interesting displays. Guided tours of the Hawaan Forest are also on offer. Hawaan is the last relic of coastal forest in the region and contains rare indigenous trees. The Umgeni River Bird Park overlooks the Umgeni River and ranks among the world’s best bird sanctuaries. Many varieties of birds, indigenous and exotic, inhabit walk-in aviaries. The Millennium Town at the end of the Bluff houses the maritime offices, which control the entry of ships into and out of the busiest port in Africa.

East Griqualand

East Griqualand is an area of great beauty featuring colourful, living history. Kokstad lies in the Umzimhlava River basin between Mount Currie and the Ngele mountains. The original town hall – built in 1910 – is a national monument, now serving as the local library. The former library – built in 1907 – is also a national monument, and houses the Kokstad Museum. The Weza State Forest runs through indigenous forests and commercial plantations. The forest is home to several antelope species and a huge variety of birds. East Griqualand is home to the southernmost portion of the Drakensberg World Heritage Site, plus the impressive Swartberg, Bokkiesberg, Cedarberg and Ngele mountain ranges. The Mountain Lake Nature Reserve is a national heritage site comprising rolling grasslands and pristine wetlands. When full, the lake offers 30 ha of deep, trout-filled waters. It also boasts 80 bird species and panoramic views of the Drakensberg mountain range. Between Kokstad and Matatiele, the hamlet of Cedarville provides tranquil canoe-borne excursions on its surrounding, water-filled hollows. Also nearby, the carp-abundant Umzimvubu River is an ever-popular recreation ground for locals and visitors alike. Steam-train journeys can be undertaken between Swartberg and Creighton.

North Coast

The coastline between the Umdloti and the Tugela rivers is aptly called the ‘Dolphin Coast’, as Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins can be seen here all year round. The larger humpback dolphins are also found here, but are rarely seen. Many of the first Indian immigrants settled here, and the area’s markets, mosques and temples bring an authentic eastern flavour to the region. Tongaat is an area where sugar was first planted in 1854. The town’s Indian ambience is accentuated by two prominent Hindu temples – the Juggernath Puri and Vishwaroop temples. Other towns along the Dolphin Coast include Shaka’s Rock, Salt Rock, Ballito, Verulam, Stanger, Darnall and Umdloti.

Zululand and the Elephant Coast

Cultural tourism is inextricably linked to economic upliftment in Zululand, and historically disadvantaged communities are applying their traditional skills to meet visitors’ interests. Zululand’s north-east quadrant – between Mozambique, Swaziland and the warm Indian Ocean – has its own unique tale to tell. This is the Elephant Coast or Maputaland, named after the mid-17th century king who established dominion here some 200 years before Shaka consolidated his Zulu empire to the south. The Tembe Elephant Park in the far north is home to herds of the massive African elephant. The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park is one of the largest game parks in South Africa and hosts the Big Five as well as the elusive cheetah and wild dog. The eMakhosini Valley, birthplace of King Shaka, is the venue for a new tourism- and economicdevelopment project. Known as ‘eMakhosini, The Valley of Zulu Kings’, the joint public-private sector project aims to preserve the culture and history of the Zulu people. The eMakhosini Memorial Site, where seven Zulu kings are buried, was unveiled in May 2003. Ulundi lies at the hub of the old Zulu Kingdom. The KwaZulu Cultural Museum houses interesting displays relating to Zulu history and archaeology. The beehive huts and the layout of the original Zulu village have been reproduced. Umgungundlovu was once the royal capital of King Dingaan and is now being reconstructed. A tour provides the opportunity to observe Zulu building techniques and to experience the social life of the Zulu people. Authentic Zulu villages such as Shakaland, Kwabhekithunga Kraal, Damazulu and Stewart’s Farm offer accommodation and the opportunity to experience traditional Zulu culture. The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site, has some of the highest forested dunes in the world. St Lucia and its surroundings comprise a wetland of global importance and boast five separate ecosystems. It is a fishing and birdwatching paradise, and boat trips on the lake offer opportunities for crocodile and hippo sightings. In August 2006, Minister van Schalkwyk opened the R9-million Ophansi entrance bridge in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. The new entrance bridge enables visitors to enjoy a unique beach and bush experience, with only an hour’s drive separating uMkhuze’s unique wildlife experience from Sodwana Bay’s world-class beaches and diving. The Kosi Bay Nature Reserve is part of the Coastal Forest Reserve between Mozambique and Sodwana Bay. The adjacent Indian Ocean provides exciting snorkelling and fishing opportunities. On offer is a four-day guided walking trail around the estuarine system. UMkhuze is a small trade and transport centre. The Mkuze River cuts through the Ubombo mountains before serving as a boundary for Zululand’s popular Mkuzi Game Reserve. Lake Sibaya is South Africa’s largest natural freshwater lake, covering some 77 km2. Birdwatching and walks through the coastal forest are popular pastimes. Sibaya Lake Lodge, the first South African ecotourism development jointly owned by private enterprise and the local community, was officially launched in September 1999. The coral reef in the Sodwana Bay National Park attracts hundreds of scuba-divers throughout the year, and in summer, power-boaters arrive for some of the best marlin-fishing in the world.

South Coast

The Banana Express is a narrow-gauge steam train running between Port Shepstone and Paddock and back (39 km) twice a week. A shorter route is also offered. Amanzimtoti is popular for its safe swimming beaches and various other activities and attractions. The Hibiscus Coast stretches between Umkomaas and the Wild Coast. Margate is the largest resort town along this coast, and is very popular during the holidays. The Hibiscus Festival is held in July. The Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve encompasses forest, rivers, rapids and ravines. Prolific bird life, including five kingfisher species and seven eagle species, inhabits the reserve, along with a variety of mammals. There is also a 140-m abseil and gorge swing for adrenalin junkies. Port Edward is known for its safe swimming and good fishing opportunities. Nearby, the Umthamvuna Nature Reserve is noted for its beautiful scenery, bird life and many rare plant species. The Shell Museum at Shelly Beach is well worth a visit. Other popular coastal towns include Port Shepstone, Ramsgate, St Michael’s-on-Sea, Uvongo and Scottburgh. Sardine fever strikes the South Coast around the end of June every year, when people flock to the beaches and anglers wait for the game fish to arrive.

Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands

Pietermaritzburg boasts various museums,¨including the Voortrekker Museum, the Natal Museum and the Natal Steam Railway Museum, which offers steam-train rides on the second Sunday of every month. The Tatham Art Gallery is also extremely popular. The Albert Falls Public Resort Nature Reserve and the Albert Falls Dam provide opportunities for sailing, canoeing and fishing. Birdwatching, horse-riding and hiking are also popular activities. The Howick falls are situated in the Nature Valley Reserve, where the river tumbles down 100 m in a single fall. Several climbing routes are on offer. The Midlands Meander is a scenic drive between Hilton and Mooi River with about 70 ports of call en route, ranging from art studios, potters and painters, to herb gardens and cheese-makers. Midmar Dam is zoned for yachting and powerboating. The 1 000-ha Midmar Game Park is inhabitated by rhino, zebra, a wide variety of antelope species, and waterfowl. The popular Midmar Mile event attracts thousands of swimmers every year.


The Drakensberg mountain range forms the northwestern border of KwaZulu-Natal. The entire area is a bird sanctuary, featuring among other species, the endangered lammergeier (or bearded vulture). The highest concentration of walks and trails in South Africa is found here. The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park was declared a world heritage site in 2001 and consists of almost the entire range of the Drakensberg mountain range from Bushman’s Neck in the south to the Royal Natal National Park in the north. Peaks soar to over 3 000 m and are often snow-covered in winter. The park is administered by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. Their trout hatcheries are located in the Kamberg Reserve area. The Lotheni Nature Reserve is notable for its trout-fishing facilities (angling permits are required). Relics of the area’s history have been preserved in the Settler Museum. The Himeville Nature Reserve has two lakes stocked with trout. The Swamp Nature Reserve close by attracts a variety of waterfowl, including the rare wattled crane. The Ndema Gorge is located in the Mdedelelo Wilderness Area near Cathedral Peak and contains examples of Khoi and San art. Sani Pass is the only road across the high escarpment between KwaZulu-Natal and the Kingdom of Lesotho. The Giant’s Cup hiking trail, starting at the foot of the pass, is described as one of South Africa’s finest. Giant’s Castle Game Reserve is especially known for its more than 5 000 San paintings. The Bushman Site Museum is well worth a visit. The Royal Natal National Park offers many scenic highlights, including the Amphitheatre, Mont-aux-Sources and the Tugela falls.


The KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields Route has the highest concentration of battlefields and related military sites in South Africa. The Battlefields Route starts at Estcourt, winding north through Colenso and Ladysmith to Newcastle and Volksrust, and eastwards to Utrecht, Glencoe, Dundee, Nqutu, Paulpietersburg, Vryheid, Babanango and Ulundi. All the towns along the route have their unique charm and range of attractions: arts and crafts, scenic hiking trails, farm resorts, Zulu culture and roadside stalls. Game viewing, natural hot springs, horse trails and watersport can also be enjoyed. The Chelmsford Nature Reserve near Newcastle is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Power-boating and carp-fishing are added attractions. Game includes springbok, zebra, rhino and blesbok. Other interesting places to visit are Majuba Hill and O’Neill’s Cottage. The Ladysmith Siege Museum provides insight into the battles of Colenso, Spioenkop, Vaalkrans and Tugela Heights. Guided tours to nearby battlefields such as Wagon Hill are arranged by museum staff. Other attractions in Ladysmith include the statue of Gandhi, the All Saints Church, the Soofi Mosque and the Spioenkop Dam and Nature Reserve. Near Dundee, tourists can visit various battlefields, including Ncome-Blood River, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift and Talana. The Talana Museum depicts various facets of the coal industry, as well as local Zulu, Boer and British history. Rorke’s Drift was the setting for one of the most famous battles of the war. The main attraction is the Rorke’s Drift Battle Museum.

Kwazulu Natal North Coast Map Zululand Map Battlefields Map Salt Rock Ballito La Mercy Umdloti Beach Empangeni KwaZulu Natal La Lucia Kwadukuza-stanger Empangeni Mtunzini Zimbali Umhlanga Rocks Eshowe Valley of 1000 Hills Richards Bay

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