6 reasons your next trip should be to Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa
Often called South Africa’s “most African” province, Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) is known for its Zulu heritage, stunning landscapes, and epic coastline. This is the province of the Four B’s: Bush, Beaches, Battlefields, and the ‘Berg (the Drakensberg mountain range). With such a diverse range of landscapes and ecosystems, plus some of the best game reserves in South Africa and 580km of coastline, there are plenty of reasons your next trip should be to KZN…
Bush – The Big Five and Quieter Safaris
When people think of safari in South Africa, they tend to think mostly of Kruger National Park. But, being so well known and popular, Kruger can be quite busy. In KZN you have the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, which is one of the largest in South Africa and considered one of the most scenic. It’s home to all of the big five, as well as an abundance of other wildlife, and it’s the oldest nature reserve in Africa. With accommodation options ranging from budget hostel camps to gorgeous luxury lodges, there’s something to suit everyone making this one of the most accessible game reserves in the country.
Berg – Mountain Adventures and Rock Art
The Drakensberg Mountain range range is the tallest in South Africa and the region is a hiker’s paradise. Hugging the border with Lesotho, the Drakensberg is a stunning region of breathtaking mountain ranges and gorgeous vistas. Lush green in summer or coated in ice and snow during winter, there’s never a bad time to visit. And tucked away among the rocky peaks are more than 600 San Rock Art sites featuring 3,000-year-old paintings created by the San people.
Beach – Seaside Resorts, Scuba, and Surfing
KZN’s coast is strewn with fantastic beaches, although many of the best can be found on the South Coast running directly south of Durban. Especially popular is the seaside resort of Umhlanga Rocks, known for its sandy beaches and luxury resorts like Oyster Box Hotel. On the North Coast, surfers will find dozens of exceptional surfing beaches to choose from – Sunrise and Thompson’s Bay are two of the more popular, while Richard’s Bay is less crowded.
The coastline along KZN is also well known for its incredible scuba diving sites. Head to Sodwana Bay in St Lucia for well-preserved reefs and great visibility, or to Aliwal Shoal for a more adventurous dive with ragged-tooth sharks and tiger sharks commonly sighted.
Battlefields – History and Legend Combined
Think of Zulus and chances are you’re thinking of the 1964 Michael Caine film Zulu. That movie focused on one of the most famous events in the history of KZN, the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. The battles took place in the stunning landscapes of central Zululand, at the heart of KZN, and there’s no better place to hear the almost legendary story. Key sites include the Isandlwana Battlefield, the Fugitive’s Trail, and Rorke’s Drift, where the “heroic hundred” repelled around 4,000 Zulu attackers.
Wetlands – Five Different Ecosystems
A 3280-sq km park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park encompasses five ecosystems: wetlands, coastal forests, woodlands, lakes, and offshore reefs. Zebra, antelope, elephants and rhino graze inland, while along the coast you can spot whales, dolphins, and loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Don’t miss a trip to Lake St Lucia, Africa’s largest estuary, where you’ll see hippos, crocodiles, pelicans and flamingos.
Zulu Culture – Spicy food and Sangomas
With a population of around 10-11 million, Zulus are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, and most of them still live in Kwa-Zulu Natal – aka Zululand. The fascinating Zulu culture is a distinctive aspect of KZN’s personality. From tasty Zulu cuisine, like spicy chakalaka (a vegetable relish eaten with grilled meat), to the spiritual traditions, there’s a lot to discover. Visit a sangoma, a traditional healer and fortune teller, for a glimpse into the spiritual side of Zulu life that’s still very much alive today.