A leisurely meander through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands featuring a rich mosaic of valleys and mountain passes, together with rolling sugarcane fields and rugged coastlines, can be a holiday experience in itself. The scenery is consistently beautiful, and whether traversing a spectacular winding mountain pass by tractor drawn trailer, or cruising gently down a tranquil river, the varied attractions and pastimes that this corner of South Africa has to offer are your constant companions. Unspoilt beaches, incorporating the massive sand dunes at St Lucia Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, which boasts the best whale watching in South Africa. Whether admiring the constantly changing scenery, absorbing our rich cultural heritage, or merely soaking away stress of everyday living in the therapeutic water of natural hot springs, the emphasis is on relaxation.
The impressive rock formations of the Drakensberg Mountains, home for many centuries to the Khoisan people, together with the haunting nature of the Battlefields provide a backdrop to a uniquely different part of South Africa. Observing ancient Bushman rock paintings, amidst the unique richness of bio-diversity, provides an insight into the habitation of South Africa, When venturing into the scenic heart of the area to witness unchanged lifestyle of isolated communities seriously challenges the “benefits” of modern day living. Meandering around merely reinforces the feeling the pressure and stress don’t enter into the scheme of things in this part of the world, particularly after lingering over a typically local meal at one of the many open air beach restaurants.
Completing the mosaic is the enchanting Route 66, with indigenous forests, wilderness lakes, wildlife parks and golden beaches. Route 66 passes through territory that has given rise to events which have captured the world’s imagination. The rise of Shaka and the battles of the Anglo-Zulu War have inspired novels, television epics and movies and today the scale and uniqueness of the annual Royal Reed Dance draws considerable international attention.
Combine this sense of well being with the natural environment of the many ecologically sensitive nature and marine reserves, bird sanctuaries, and national parks and you have the ideal setting for a peaceful, away from it all, break. The KwaZulu-Natal natural assets are complimented by a wide variety of accommodation establishments, dining experiences, and entertainment facilities, to suit all possible preference and budgets.
What to See & Do in KwaZulu-Natal
More to see and do in a shorter time, than anywhere else in Africa
For almost the whole of the nineteenth century, some of the most bloodiest battles were fought between Zulu, Briton and Boer for the possession of land and sovereignty. Most of these where concentrated in an immense battleground that stretches from the Drakensberg Mountains, north to Volksrust and east to Zululand, covering plains of great natural beauty that offer much more than just famous battle sites to the visitor.
With 82 battlefields, museums, old fortifications and places of remembrance, the KZN Battlefields Route boasts the largest concentration of significant Battles and war related sites than anywhere in South Africa.
See more about the KZN Battlefields here.
The Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa is a 200 kilometre long mountainous wonderland and world heritage site. The mountains, with their awe-inspiring basalt cliffs, snowcapped in winter, tower over riverine bush, lush yellowwood forests and cascading waterfalls, from a massive barrier separating KwaZulu-Natal from the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Combining sheer natural beauty with a wealth of biological diversity, this 243 000 hectare mountainous region known as uKhahlamba-Drankenberg Park has been preserved and venerated for eons since the San people or bushman roamed these slopes. Tens of thousands of paintings depicting their daily life can be found on the rock faces, and is December 2000, the park received international recognition and was declared KwaZulu-Natal’s second World Heritage Site.
See more about the Drakensberg here.
Nature & Game Reserves
Some of Africa’s most famous nature and game reserves can be found in KwaZulu-Natal and is one of the few places where excellent game viewing can be enjoyed in close proximity to the pleasures of scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. Habitats from coastal dune forests to open bushveld support a wide diversity of wildlife. National Parks in the KwaZulu-Natal include the St Lucia iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Hulhulwe-iMfolozi National Park.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is so biodiverse, it supports more species of animal than Kruger despite being only the third largest park in the country. Previously known as the St Lucia Wetland Park, iSimangaliso lies on the north eastern edge of KwaZulu-Natal in the sublimely beautiful region known as the Elephant Coast.
Africa’s oldest national park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is home to the largest population of white rhino in the world. The bonus is that it is a mere 2 and a half hours from outside Durban, making it easily accessible and the top game park in KwaZulu-Natal. It’s founding purpose was to save a population of southern white rhinos from extinction.
Nambiti Private Game Reserve is set in on 22 000 magnificent acres in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, near the town of Ladysmith. Conveniently close to Johannesburg/Pretoria (3 and a half to 4 hours) and Durban (2 and a half hours). Nambiti is also close to the renowned KZN battlefields, a major attraction of this region. One of its major drawcards is that Nambiti is situated in a malaria-free area, meaning that guests don’t have to take medication before visiting.
This reserve boasts the attractions of the Big 5, the only one in the area to do so, and Nambiti’s biodiversity (it encompasses grasslands, riverine bush, savannah and thornveld) ensures a thrilling and unprecedented diversity of game (there are 40 other game species besides the big 5) and birding sightings.
See more about the Nambiti Private Game Reserve here.
The Midlands Meander in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal, is a collection of arranged routes that offer visitors hospitality in truly beautiful surroundings, outstanding accommodation, conference and wedding facilities, fascinating local events, fabulous cuisine and restaurants, revitalising outdoor activities and over-the-top adventure sports, historic landmarks, wildlife conservation, and best of all “shop-till-you-drop” unique arts and crafts. An easy one-hour drive from Durban and four and a half hours on the N3 highway from Johannesburg, there is much to explore and do in the Midlands. For all that is on offer, life is lived at a gentler pace, we take time to chat to strangers in the trading store and we grow our own vegetables.
The Midlands Meander is a region in beautiful KwaZulu-Natal that stretches from just beyond Mooi River in the north, Hilton in the south, Karkloof in the east and the foothills of the Drakensberg in the west.
See more about the Midlands Meander here.
Top Activities in KwaZulu-Natal
KwaZulu-Natal has a spectacular 605 bird species and a wonderful range of destinations where they occur. It is a treasure trove of specials such as Green Barbet, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Pink-Throated Twinspot, Neergard’s Sunbird and Palmnut Vulture. The province is dived in two Birding Routes with sub-routes, the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route and the Zululand Birding Route.
The Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route takes you from the golden beaches and lush forests of South Africa’s south coastline through the beautiful Lowveld and up to the spectacular heights of the Drakensberg Mountains. The variety of habitat and a bird list in excess of 550 species including many rare and endemic species such as Blue Swallow, Cape Parrot, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Eurasian Bittern, all three southern African Crane species, Bearded Vulture and more make this Birding Route an unforgettable South African journey for any birding enthusiast.
With more than 600 species recorded, the Zululand Birding Route is southern Africa’s birding diversity hotspot! A network of 16 self-drive routes offers a range of great birding localities that will thrill the most seasoned birder. For convenience these are grouped into four regions – North East Zululand (Elephant Coast), North West Zululand , Southern Zululand and North Coast Route (Zulu Root).
See more about the Birdwatching here.
When it comes to angling, KwaZulu-Natal has so much to offer – from tranquil fly fishing in the Drakensberg to deep sea fishing at St Lucia and tiger fishing in Lake Jozini. KwaZulu-Natal boasts pristine stretches of beach filled with rock and surf fisherman on any day of the year – St Lucia, Sodwana Bay, Maphelane, Cape Vidal and Richards Bay.
KwaZulu-Natal is also home of the largest Florida strain largemouth Bass in South Africa. Most of the province is low lying, with a fairly hot climate providing a long growing period for Bass, the resident Florida strain and Northern strain hybrids can grow very large as a result. The current South African Largemouth record weighing in at 6.29 kg was caught by Julian Van Zuydam at Midmar Dam in 2004.
KwaZulu-Natal offers golfers a wide variety of pristine golf courses. Year-round sunshine and top quality golf courses make this a perfect golfing destination. The quality of golf courses have led to KZN courses hosting prestigious international events such as the Volvo Champions Tournament, the World Amateur Golfers Championships, the World Club Pro Am, and the South African Open. With 74 golf courses to choose from, KwaZulu-Natal is a top destination for any golf enthusiast.
See more about the Golfing here.
St Lucia Turtle Tours depart daily from St Lucia between November and March. The tours are part of a rural community development project and the community in this area are among the most pro active local communities regarding conservation. The St Lucia turtle tours operate in an area which is known to have the highest population of nesting turtles along the South African coastline, the Maputaland Turtle Sanctuary, which makes your chances of sightings more of a guarantee than a chance.
If you are going to be visiting South Africa and the St Lucia area and you want to do a turtle tour and see loggerhead turtles and Leatherback turtles, ensure that the turtle tour which you do is community run. Also ensure that you book your St Lucia turtle tour in areas where many turtles nest, or else you probably will not see any.
Whales can frequently be seen off the KwaZulu-Natal coast from mid-May to mid-December, mainly Humpbacked Whales, and occasionally Southern Right Whales. From mid-May to mid- September, the whales are moving north on their way to their breeding grounds off the Mozambique coast, and from September to December they return, heading for the nutrient-rich waters of Antarctica.
The Humpback Whale is approximately 15m in length and weighs in the order 30 tons. Usually black on top and white underneath. It also has long, narrow flippers. They perform spectacular ‘breaches’ – leaping out of the water. They eat tiny aquatic creatures which they trap in their sieve like baleen.
The Southern Right Whale is also usually approximately 15m, but is heavier at 50–60 tons. This whale does not have a dorsal fin and is often covered in wart like growths.
Every year more and more divers are coming to KwaZulu-Natal to experience the world beneath South Africa’s Indian Ocean. Where else can you dive world class dive sites with sharks, dolphins, turtles, whales, over 1200 species of fish, coral reefs, and wrecks and then go on safari with lion, leopard elephant, buffalo and rhino, all on the same day? – South Africa’s East Coast!
83% of all the world’s marine fish families are represented at Sodwana Bay and Protea Banks has been rated by many divers around the world as THE best shark dive. Aliwal Shoal was rated by Jacques Cousteau’ as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world and is famous for hard and soft corals, warm and cold water reef fish, sharks, turtles, whales, rays, manta’s, moray eels, sponges and as the dive site where divers can safely swim with the spotted ragged tooth shark. Dolphins are frequently seen at the shoal, and both dolphins and whales on the launches.