Amazing and Diverse KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal is a province in South Africa absolutely teeming with exciting and diverse attractions. Located in the south east of the country, it borders three other countries – Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Its capital is Pietermaritzburg, and the largest city is Durban. KwaZulu-Natal has a long, beautiful shoreline of outstanding beaches on the Indian Ocean, as well as game reserves, historic battlefields, dramatic mountain ranges, and ecologically important wetlands.

The following is a list of great places to see in KwaZulu-Natal while on your South Africa vacation.

Durban

Durban is South Africa’s third-largest city and a semi-tropical urban metropolis. Durban’s downtown area is a mix of grandiose colonial buildings and Art Deco architecture. It is a very important tourist centre because of its warm, subtropical climate and excellent sandy beaches. It is home to the largest concentration of people of Indian descent outside of India, which gives Durban an unmistakable Asian feeling.

Durban’s Golden Mile
Durban’s Golden Mile

Pietermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, is situated about 80 kilometres/50 miles from the coast and is at its loveliest in spring when masses of azaleas burst into bloom. It is a city with many landmark colonial buildings, including the red-brick City Hall and the old Supreme Court building now turned into an art gallery. The beautiful old Pietermaritzburg Railway Station is where, in 1893, Mahatma Gandhi was told to leave the train when he was travelling in a “whites only” compartment.

One of the prettiest parts of the area is the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which starts just north of Pietermaritzburg. Featuring green, well-watered farmlands, lovely streams, rivers, and waterfalls, this natural beauty is ideal for horse riding, hiking, swimming, biking, and fishing.

Blooming tree in Wylie Park, Pietermaritzburg
Blooming tree in Wylie Park, Pietermaritzburg

The Drakensberg Mountains

The Drakensbergs are an 1120 kilometre/700 mile range of mountains, with scenery that is some of the most spectacular in South Africa. It features rugged peaks, pinnacles, forest, waterfalls, and rivers. The name comes from the Afrikaans for Dragon Mountains.

The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in KwaZulu-Natal. Particularly renowned sights include Cathedral Peak, Giant’s Castle, Monk’s Cowl, and the Amphitheatre. The spectacular Tugela Falls rush down from its domed summit at Mont-aux-Sources. With its crisp clean air, the park is perfect for hiking, rock climbing, and fly fishing.

One fascinating feature of the Drakensbergs is the San (Bushmen) rock art. Though the inhabitants have largely disappeared from the area, they have left their mark in the form of some 30,000 paintings in 600 caves – the largest collection of such work in the world. The paintings are difficult to date, but there is evidence that the San people existed in the Drakensberg at least 40,000 years ago.

Drakensberg Mountains
Drakensberg Mountains

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the other UNESCO World Heritage Site in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, awarded in recognition of its exceptional natural beauty and unique global ecological values. It is also known as the St. Lucia Wetlands. The park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuary system, over 500 bird species, and coastal dunes which are among the highest in the world.

With its rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems, and natural beauty in a relatively small area, there is a huge diversity in fauna and flora ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals to be viewed include elephant, African leopard, black and southern white rhino, and buffalo. Ocean marine life includes whales, dolphins, and turtles, including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle. The park is also home to 1200 Nile crocodiles and 800 hippopotami. In 2013, African lions were reintroduced.

Aerial view of St Lucia Wetlands
Aerial view of St Lucia Wetlands | Photo credit: John Hone

Zululand

KwaZulu-Natal is home to Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. Although he doesn’t hold any direct political power, the Zulu king is given a stipend by the government and holds considerable influence among the more traditionalist Zulu people in the province.


Despite being constantly under threat from modernization, 
Zululand remains intact, and there are sites of great cultural significance to be experienced. One way to have this experience is to visit one of the many cultural villages to catch a glimpse the special lifestyle and traditions. You can stay over in a traditional Zulu homestead, sample traditional Zulu food, and visit a traditional healer. Some of the best places to visit are Shakaland, Dumazulu, or Simunye.

Suggested Day Tour:
Shakaland Tour

Zulu dancers in Zululand
Zulu dancers in Zululand

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is the oldest nature reserve in Africa. It is situated 280 kilometres/170 miles north of Durban and is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts. The reserve is the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal where all the “Big Five” game animals can be found. In fact, it has the largest population of white rhino in the world. It is home to 86 special species including the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, cheetah, spotted hyena, blue wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, a variety of tortoises, terrapins, snakes, lizards, and so much more, including 340 bird species. Throughout the park there is evidence of Stone Age settlements, as the region was originally a royal hunting ground.

Game viewing in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park
Game viewing in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park

The Battlefields

KwaZulu-Natal has been the site of many historic battles, which have shaped both South African and British history. The wind-swept plains are littered with the remains of stone forts and graveyards that bore witness to innumerable fierce battles. These include the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the First Anglo-Boer War, which pitted the Boers and the British against one another with numerous battles ensuing across this same area of land.

The battle of Spionkop included men who would go on to play an important role in world affairs. Winston Churchill was a war correspondent, Mahatma Gandhi was a stretcher bearer, and Louis Botha went on to become the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.

Every year, numerous re-enactments of some of the famous battles take place. These are colourful affairs with many local people dressed up in either bright red colonial British soldier or traditional Zulu warrior attire.

Battlefield reinactment of Battle of Talana Hill, which took place during Second Boer War
Battlefield reinactment of Battle of Talana Hill, which took place during Second Boer War

For more information on KwaZulu-Natal or other travel ideas in South Africa, please visit www.goway.com.

Suggested Itineraries:

8-Day Durban Delights Incl. Airfare
9-Day Rovos Rail Golf Safari – Pretoria to Pretoria
10-Day Zululand Coast and Safari – Self Drive
10-Day Wildlife, Wetlands and Waves incl. Airfare
3-Day Phinda Mountain Lodge

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