KwaZulu Natal Travel and Vacations

KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa's most diverse province, offering grand mountains, fine tropical beaches, and exceptional wildlife encounters. Whether the focus of your travels is; a relaxing beach vacation, an exciting Big 5 Safari, or a private cultural tour of the province or its battlefields - Kwa-Zulu Natal offers a vacation option to enchant each traveler.

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KwaZulu-Natal

Top Travel Destinations in KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is a traveler's delight with sandy beaches, 'Big Five' safari areas, and some of the highest mountain peaks in South Africa. An advantage is that highlights can be enjoyed without a significant amount of traveling between destinations.

The top safari area in KwaZulu-Natal has the distinction of being the oldest national park in South Africa. This park played a leading role in restoring the black and white rhino numbers from the brink of extinction.

Luxury 'Big Five' safaris are available at the Phinda Private Game Reserve. The reserve is home to the 'Big Five' and has the distinction of being home to no less than seven different ecosystems where open 4X4 game drives are conducted.

Keen hikers and rock art enthusiasts will find a travel experience to the Drakensberg an enriching adventure. Spectacular scenery, crisp mountain air, and many outdoor country pursuits make this area an ideal getaway.

KwaZulu-Natal Travel Overview

KwaZulu-Natal is a wonderful destination, as it offers so many unique attractions and natural regions close 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 many historical sites and battlefields spanning several conflicts, not least the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars. From Blood River to Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, history buffs will surely find a visit to KwaZulu-Natal an enriching experience.

Capital
Pietermaritzburg
Largest City
Durban
Population
10.7 Million
Area
94 361 km²
Main Languages Spoken
English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa
Famous for
mountains, Beaches, Wildlife & Battlefields

Reasons to Visit KwaZulu-Natal

1

Mountains

The most significant 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 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 essential role 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 can pick a holiday that suits your specific budget.

4

Wildlife

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

KwaZulu-Natal Vacation Options and Travel Tips

We offer a wide range of vacations in KwaZulu-Natal, from family-friendly beach vacations to historic battlefield tours.

Transport

Suppose you are traveling on a private overland tour in KwaZulu-Natal. In that case, 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.

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

Experiences to be Savored when traveling to KwaZulu-Natal

The experiences you can savor in KwaZulu natal are as diverse as the landscape - one of these adventures is sure to appeal to you.

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. It is also possible to swim with these regal creatures in some places.

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.

Best Private Tours & Safari Packages

15 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp National Park Camps Code: S29

This private overland safari visits Kruger, Ithala, Hluhluwe, Addo Elephant, and Pilanesberg National Park.

10 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp 4-Star & National Park Camps Code: T16

This private tour focuses on various South African cultures and Kruger National Park wilderness areas, and the National Parks of Kwa-Zulu natal.

5 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury 5-Star Code: T44

Battles fought in the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars come under the spotlight with Isandlwana and Rorke's drift, the most famous Battlefields visited.

Foods to try when visiting KwaZulu-Natal

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 spoiled for choice.

Curries

Durban has a large Indian population that has brought 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 unique.

Bunny Chow

Bunny chow is a local invention. Half a loaf of bread is hollowed out and traditionally filled with vegetarian bean curry. The bread is then used 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 to get the desired consistency. It is normally served with meat or milk.

FAQ

Are there any good diving Spots in KwaZulu-Natal?
Sodwana Bay is generally considered the best diving location in South Africa. It is in the northern part of the province.
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 King Shaka Airport.
Which golf courses would you recommend?
We recommend the golf courses - Durban Country Club, Zimbali, Prince's Grant, 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, you should consider Phinda and Mkuze Falls.
What are family activities available in the Drakensberg?
These are almost too numerous to list! The most popular are horse riding, hiking, fly fishing, quad biking, paintball, and leisure sports like tennis and badminton.
Is Durban worth a visit?
Suppose you have limited time in the province. In that case, it is probably better to spend your vacation time on the North Coast, in the wilderness, in the mountains, or pursue the region's history in the battlefields of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Is Malaria a concern?
If you are 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, except for the far northern parts of the province like Thembe Elephant Park.
Who should consider a battlefield tour?
Anyone interested in history and how 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.

Useful Travel Info

Getting There

By Air

Durban Airport provides easy access to the north and south coasts and Midlands. The battlefields and the Drakensberg drive about four to five hours from Durban. Those wishing to visit the game parks of northern KwaZulu Natal should consider Richards Bay Airport. There are several daily flights from Johannesburg to both of these airports.

By Road

Traveling overland from Johannesburg to Durban is a drive of about seven to eight hours with one or two stops. We recommend that those choosing this option 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 province's beaches are popular during the spring, summer, and autumn months, from September to the end of April.

You can visit the Drakensberg region and the primary battlefields throughout the year. These areas have temperate summers and some unique activities during the winter months when snow is relatively frequent.

Medical Considerations

Malaria is endemic to northern KwaZulu Natal, and you should consult your physician about anti-malaria prophylactics that will suit 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.

National Parks and Private Game Reserves in Kwa-Zulu Natal

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

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve

This national wildlife park, situated in the north of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was 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 and a large diversity of other mammal species. Notably, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is home to the world's largest population of white rhinos. 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 historical sites and artifacts. Some are displayed at Hilltop Camp and glimpse 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 1970s with the acquisition of farms by conservation authorities. 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 eagles, vultures, and other large bird species like secretary birds. Mammals found here are mostly larger herbivores like giraffes 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many animals are found here, even though the conditions are unlike most of South Africa, considering that only a handful of other places in Sub-Saharan Africa experience snow anytime. Klipspringer and reedbuck are some of the inhabitants adding to the area's natural splendor.

uMkhuze Game Reserve

uMkhuze Game Reserve, with its rich biodiversity, is a wonderful mix of various 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 proximity to the coast endows the area with high rainfall, providing abundant water sources to sustain a higher density of animals than the Kruger National Park.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Isimangaliso incorporates the stunning Lake St. Lucia, which, in its prime, attracts birds from all around in an epic concentration of life. The protection of the park also encapsulates many other water sources. 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 the biodiversity here was recognized and fully understood for the first time. Historically, this area is occupied by the Tsonga tribe, which owned most of the land from here to Maputo bay along the coast.

Famous Battlefields in KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is home to many historical battlefields, most notably those of the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars. The most famous are listed below:

Isandlwana

The battle at Isandlwana was one of the very first battles between the British Empire and the Zulu kingdom during the Anglo-Zulu War, in which the British invaded Zululand. This particular battle occurred on the 22nd of January 1879, when some 20 000 Zulu warriors got the order to attack a portion of the British. The Zulus overcame the British despite being armed mostly with traditional weapons, which were supposed to be no match for the firepower of the British army. 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 that would see them win the war and destroy the Zulu Kingdom.

Rorke’s Drift

This battle immediately succeeded the battle at Isandlwana. The fight again involved a Zulu attack upon the British, this time 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 won, as they successfully defended the station against 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 Transvaal 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 retreat to the town to alert the rest of the forces of the approaching danger. The battle ended with a significant number of Boers firing upon the British, resulting in 1 300 casualties for the latter.

Blood River

One of the most notable and iconic battles in South Africa's history was 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 Boer Voortrekkers outfought the Zulus, who had over 3000 casualties, while only suffering from light wounds. The Boers had achieved this in a straightforward but effective way.

History

The province of KwaZulu-Natal has seen many historical events and settlements, making it rich in natural biodiversity and 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 a British colony in the year 1843.

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. The British subsequently shaped it 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. 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 great thanks to all the different groups of people that have established themselves in the area, whether as enslaved people, indentured laborers, natives, or colonialists.

Countries

View of the Drakensberg in South Africa. South Africa
Elephants in the sunset in Botswana. Botswana
A desert landscape in Namibia. Namibia
People swimming in the clear waters of Mozambique. Mozambique
View of the Victoria Falls in Zambia. Zambia
Antelope standing on a river bank in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe