It is an area dotted with game reserves offering wildlife experiences, hiking, nature trails and traditional Zulu experiences. The Zulu people are very hospitable and you may well be invited to share a meal or even end up as an honoured guest at weddings or ‘coming of age’ ceremony. A great way to experience a taste of what this region has to offer is to follow Route 66, one of the oldest trade routes through Zululand between Gingindlovu and Phongolo. Settlers in Port Natal (now Durban) would set off in ox-wagons on well-worn tracks into the heart of the Zulu Kingdom to hunt and trade, stopping first for permission to do so from the Zulu king. Today’s visitors can include a visit to the Amatigulu Nature Reserve, which offers great ‘beach and bush’ activities, or the Umlalazi Nature Reserve in the little town of Mtunzini, where the Mlalazi River makes its way lazily into the Indian Ocean through a zigzagging lagoon with mangrove swamps and coastal forest. Along the route is the historic town of Eshowe, home to the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village and the Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk, which, at 125-metres long and at an elevation of 10 metres, allows visitors to walk right under the canopy and where the calls of Trumpeter Hornbills and Purple-crested Turacos ring out over the indigenous scarp forest. Just off the main route is the KwaBulawayo Cultural Centre. It was here that King Shaka established his military headquarters and here that he was betrayed by Mzilikaze kaMashabane. Further along the route is the Emakhosini Cultural Heritage Park, in the Valley of the Kings where seven Zulu kings are buried and Nongoma, the royal city of Zululand and home of King Goodwill Zwelethini and his royal palaces – beyond this is the Phongola Game Reserve. The Phongola River runs through this game reserve as it makes its way into the Phongolapoort Dam (also known as Lake Jozini), which is home to the ferocious tiger fish. Game viewing opportunities abound as visitors have the opportunity of watching game from a boat or game viewing vehicle – the adventurous can even experience rhino tracking on foot, or have the opportunity of watching elephants frolicking along the edges of the dam.
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did you know?
In Zulu, vultures are called Inqe, which means ‘the one that purifies the land’. They do nature’s dirty work by cleaning up the remains of dead animals thereby preventing the spread of disease. As their presence often reveals the location of a dead animal, poachers actively target them by poisoning a carcass – in addition to this vulture heads are used in traditional medicine as they are erroneously believed to be effective in providing clairvoyant powers. This has resulted in vultures becoming endangered.