KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa's most diverse province, offering grand mountains, fine tropical beaches and exceptional Big Five wilderness areas.

Introduction

KwaZulu-Natal is a marvelous destination, as it offers so many unique attractions and natural regions within relative close proximity to one another. It is an ideal family vacation destination, offers some of the best golf courses in South Africa, game viewing in some of the oldest reserves in the country and a long stretch of sub-tropical coastline washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

The province is also home to a great number of historical sites and battlefields spanning several conflicts, not least being the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars. From Blood River to Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, history buffs are sure to find a visit to KwaZulu-Natal an enriching experience.

Capital Pietermaritzburg
Largest City Durban
Population 10.7 Million
Area 94 361 sq kilometers (36 433 sq miles)
Main Languages Spoken English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa
Famous for Mountains, Beaches, Wildlife & Battlefields

Vacation Options

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Safaris & Tours

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Ocean, Mountains & Wildlife
Private guided tours & safaris that explore the KwaZulu-Natal province.

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Tailor-Made Vacations

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KZN your way
We are experts in proposing custom vacations to KwaZulu-Natal.

Reasons to Visit

1

Mountains

The largest part of the Drakensberg, South Africa's only great mountain range, lies in KwaZulu-Natal. The area offers many outdoor pursuits, including golf, horse riding, fly fishing and a host of other activities. It is an ideal destination to visit with family, as activities abound for both old and young. The high elevation ensures a malaria-free environment.

2

Battlefields

The main battlefields are located around the towns of Dundee and Vryheid in the northwestern part of the province. These historical skirmishes played an important part in shaping the history of South Africa and colonial England. At Isandlwana, the mighty British army suffered its greatest defeat at the hands of indigenous peoples.

3

Beaches

Lovers of sun, sand and sea will find KwaZulu-Natal's seemingly endless stretch of coastline a very inviting beach vacation destination. The many hotels and guest houses of varying levels and price ranges will ensure that you are able to pick a holiday that suits your specific budget.

4

Wildlife

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, Mkuze, Ithala, St Lucia and Thembe Elephant Park are national parks located in the province, with great game viewing and comfortable accommodation. Those seeking a more luxurious safari can opt for the Phinda or t Mkuze Falls private game reserves.

Useful Info

Getting There
Plane

By Air

Durban Airport provides easy access to the north and south coasts, as well as to midlands area. The battlefields and Drakensberg are a drive of about four to five hours from Durban. Richards Bay Airport should be considered by those wishing to visit the game parks of northern KwaZulu Natal. There are several daily flights from Johannesburg to both of these airports.

Car

By Road

Traveling overland from Johannesburg to Durban is a drive of about seven to eight hours with one or two stops. It is recommended that those choosing this option should consider overnighting in the northern Drakensberg, which lies roughly halfway between Johannesburg and Durban.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

The game areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal are best visited during the cool winter months from May to August. At this time, game viewing is at its finest. The summer months are excruciatingly hot in this region. The beaches of the province are popular during the spring, summer and autumn months from September to the end of April.

The Drakensberg region as well as the primary battlefields can be visited throughout the year. These areas have temperate summers and some very unique activities during the winter months when snow is a relatively frequent occurrence.

Medical Considerations

Malaria is endemic to northern KwaZulu Natal, and it is advisable to consult your physician about anti-malaria prophylactics that will be suitable for you.

Health & Safety

It is prudent to consult local experts about areas in Durban that should and should not be visited. Like any major city, crime can be a problem.

Experiences to be Savored

Grave sites on the battlefield of Isandlwana.

Dolphin Watching

The north coast of KwaZulu-Natal is also known as the Dolphin Coast. Watching a pod of these graceful marine mammals dancing about in the surf is simply delightful. In some places, it is also possible to swim with these regal creatures.

Nesting Turtles

From November to early February, the beaches in the far northern part of KwaZulu-Natal provide nesting grounds for both loggerhead and leatherback turtles. They can be seen at St Lucia, Sodwana, Kosi Bay and Lake Sibaya.

Haunting Isandlwana

The rolling green hills surrounding the Isandlwana battlefield can be quite haunting on a windy day, with piles of rocks marking the spots where many British soldiers and Zulu warriors perished in one of the great battles of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Transportation

A Phinda Private Game Reserve vehicle parked along the beach in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

If you are traveling on a private overland tour in KwaZulu-Natal, it will be in an air-conditioned vehicle that may vary depending on the size of your traveling party. All our vehicles are comfortable and adhere to strict safety standards.

If, on the other hand, you are staying at one of the private game reserves in the province, like Phinda or Mkuze, game drives are conducted on open-air 4x4 vehicles, that have been specifically modified for these purposes.

 

Foods to try when visiting KwaZulu Natal

A close-up photograph of a bunny chow dish.

Local Seafood

Fresh fare from the Indian Ocean is available throughout the province. Cob, galjoen and yellow-fin tuna are some of the delicious line fish species on offer. Those who like shellfish will be spoilt for choice.

Curries

Durban has a large Indian population that have brought with them traditional curry recipes from all the regions of India. Over the years, local flavors have been introduced to these old favorites, making the variety of curry dishes very unique.

BUNNY CHOW

Bunny chow is a local invention. Half a loaf of bread is hollowed out and filled with (traditionally) an vegetarian bean curry. The bread is then used to to scoop and eat the delicious curry. Varieties that contain lamb curry are also popular.

PHUTU

Phutu is a staple of the Zulu people of KwaZulu-Natal. It is a coarse, dry porridge made from maize meal, salt and water. The recipe involves slow cooking with a limited quantity of water in order to get the desired consistency. It is normally served with meat or milk.

Resources

Recommended Reading

  • Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (Great Game Parks of Africa) - Charlton-Perkins
  • Discovering the Battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu War - Ken Gillings
  • A Guide to the Drakensberg - August Sycholt

Web Resources

FAQ

Are there any good diving Spots  in KwaZulu-Natal?
Sodwana Bay in the northern part of the province is generally considered to be the finest diving location in South Africa.
What are the best destinations for a beach Vacation?
Umhlanga and Ballito just north of Durban offer good beaches, a variety of hotels and guest houses. Both of these destinations are easily accessible from the King Shaka Airport.
Which golf courses would you recommend?
Golf courses that can be recommended include Durban Country Club, Zimbali, and Prince's Grant, as well as Champagne Sports Resort and San Lameer.
Which game parks offer the finest safari in KZN?
If you wish to stay in a national park camp, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi's Hilltop Camp is the best choice. For a fine private game reserve experience, Phinda and Mkuze Falls should be considered.
What family activities are available in the Drakensberg?
These are almost too numerous to list! The most popular are horse riding, hiking, fly fishing, quad biking, paint ball and leisure sports like tennis and badminton.
Is Durban worth a visit?
If you have limited time in the province, it is probably better to spend your vacation time on the North Coast, in the wilderness, in the mountains or pursuing the history of the region in the battlefields of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Is Malaria a concern?
If you will be traveling north of the Tugela River, it would be prudent to take anti-malaria precautions.
Will there be WiFi and mobile phone coverage?
For the most part, the answer would be yes, the exception being the far northern parts of the province like Thembe Elephant Park.
Who should consider a battlefields tour?
Anyone with a keen interest in history and the way in which military outcomes have shaped this history will find a tour of the battlefields most rewarding and insightful.
Should I opt for a Self-Drive or Guided Holiday when visiting KZN?
Self-drive holidays may be more reasonably priced, but will not provide as comprehensive and rewarding an experience.

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KWAZULU-NATAL

The province of KwaZulu-Natal is one that has seen a number of historic events and settlements, making it not only rich in natural biodiversity but also in history. Most of the western input started when British colonialists came here centuries ago to establish sugar cane plantations, worked by cheap labor imported from India. The area was proclaimed as a British colony in the year 1843.

Historic oxwagons on a battlefield in KwaZulu-Natal.

Many battles and wars have been fought in the region, with power and influence changing hands several times. The area was first ruled by the Zulu tribe, made legendary by the famous King Shaka. It was subsequently shaped by the British into a part of the newly westernized world. Followed by a handover to the Boer Republic in 1910, the province was ruled by South Africa’s apartheid government between 1948 and 1994 and it eventually became part of the democratic South Africa we know today.

The province’s current name comes from a large homeland that existed here during the apartheid days, 'KwaZulu', and the province as it was then, 'Natal'. The cultural diversity that can be found here is greatly thanks to all the different groups of people that have established themselves here, whether as slaves, indentured laborers, natives or colonialists.

The varied geographical areas to which KwaZulu-Natal is home are protected in a number of national parks and private game reserves. The most notable of these are:

A river trundles through the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve

This national wildlife park, situated in the north of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was first established in 1895 as three different reserves before joining together in 1989. It is the oldest of its kind in Africa, and has been instrumental in bringing the rhino back from the brink of extinction.

This reserve is currently home to the Big Five as well as a large diversity of other mammal species. It is notable that Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is home to the world's largest population of white rhino. Birdlife in the area is abundant. The park is a favorite destination for ornithologists the world over. In addition to its wildlife, the area is also rich in historic sites and artifacts. Some are on display at Hilltop Camp and provide a glimpse into the area's past as a royal hunting ground for Zulu kings.

Ithala Game Reserve

Ithala Game Reserve is one of the younger reserves found in South Africa. Its formation started in the 1970’s when farms in the area were bought for this purpose. The landscape here is a rocky and mountainous one, with altitudes varying greatly between mountain tops and the valley of the Pongola River. Birdlife in the area is rich, with the most notable residents including a variety of different eagle, vulture and other large bird species like secretary birds. Mammals found here are mostly larger herbivores like giraffe and browsers that feed  on the typical Lowveld treetops that fill most of the beautiful slopes here.

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

The great Drakensberg mountain range, the largest of its kind in Southern Africa, is the centerpiece and cornerstone of this park. The mountains between this part of South Africa and Lesotho are also collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many animals can be found here, even though the conditions are unlike most of the rest of South Africa, considering that only a handful of other places in Sub-Saharan Africa experience snow at any time of year. Klipspringer and reedbuck are some of the inhabitants that add to the natural splendor in the area.

uMkhuze Game Reserve

uMkhuze Game Reserve, with its rich biodiversity, is essentially a wonderful mix of a variety of different habitats that all suit the needs of different game species found within KwaZulu-Natal, to the south and to the north in Swaziland and Mozambique. Its close proximity to the coast endows the area with a high rainfall, providing abundant water sources able to sustain a higher density of animals than the Kruger National Park.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

This park is built around the stunning Lake St. Lucia which, in its prime, attracts birds from all around in an epic concentration of life. Many other water sources are also encapsulated by the protection of the park management. These include untainted white-sand beaches and rich ocean waters on the park’s coastal side, perfect for fresh water and ocean fishing for most of the year. The park gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1999 after the rare oceanic life found off the coast and biodiversity here were first truly recognized and understood. Historically, this area was occupied by the Tsonga tribe, which owned most of the land from here to Maputo bay along the coast.

Many battles have been fought in KwaZulu-Natal, most notably those of the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars. The most famous are listed below:

Isandlwana

This was one of the very first battles fought between the British Empire and the Zulu kingdom during the Anglo-Zulu War, in which the British invaded Zululand. This particular battle took place on the 22nd of January 1879, when some 20 000 Zulu soldiers were given orders to attack a portion of the British, made up of some 1 800 soldiers and civilians. The Zulus overcame the British despite being armed mostly with traditional weapons, which were supposed to be no match for the firepower the British brought along with them. The Zulu army lost around 1 000 soldiers that day, and more loss was to come their way as the British decided upon a more aggressive approach which would see them win the war and destroy the Zulu Kingdom.

Rorke’s Drift

This battle immediately succeeded the battle that took place at Isandlwana, and was also part of the Anglo-Zulu War here in South Africa. The battle again involved a Zulu attack upon the British, this time, however on the mission station of Rorke’s Drift, named after the former owner of the old trading post - James Rorke. This battle was one the British kept bragging rights to, as they successfully defended the station from between 3 000 and 4 000 Zulu soldiers that most probably also fought in the battle of Isandlwana. A mere 150 armed British men fended off the Zulus, who eventually retreated as they had been journeying for nearly a week by this time and had not eaten for the past two days.

Spioenkop

This battle, between the ZAR and Orange Free State on one side and the British Empire on the other, took place between the 23rd and 24th of January 1900 along the Tugela River of modern day KwaZulu-Natal. It was one of the battles fought during the Second Boer War, and resulted in a Boer victory. The battle started when the British saw an opportunity to gain an advantage around Ladysmith, a British town taken over by Boer forces at the time. A group of only a few soldiers readied themselves and went for the hill during the evening, but were surprised to find a small group of Boers guarding or occupying the hilltop. As they got there, a battle broke out, and the Boers that could fled to the town to alert the rest of the danger. The battle was ended by the great number of Boers firing upon the British, which resulted in 1 300 casualties for the latter.

Blood River

This is one of the most notable and iconic battles in South Africa’s history, and took place between an Andries Pretorius-led group of some 470 Voortrekkers and some 15 000 to 21 000 Zulu Soldiers near the Ncome River on the 16th of December 1838. The surprise of this battle was that the Boer Voortrekkers had outfought the Zulus, who had over 3000 casualties, while only suffering from light wound themselves. The Boers had achieved this in a very simple but effective way. As the Zulus approached them that evening, their wagons were set in a circle with all the families inside this barrier around a fire, to create a type of wagon fort. As the battle began with attacking Zulus, the men could shoot at them from the safety of their wagons. After a while, the Zulus retreated and the Boers woke up the following morning with the full image of the battle of the previous night - a very decisive battle won by the Voortrekkers.