What, Where and When on The
Come to a place where the breath-taking hills and valleys are matched by heartfelt hospitality and Zulu traditions. Where history and culture come alive in the storytelling of local guides, where you can drink from the calabash at a traditional tribal village or savour the aroma of shisanyama at a township tavern. Refresh your soul as you wander the trails of a nature reserve, a pristine forest alive with birdsong or feel the adrenalin rush of tracking game on foot or from the back of a game viewing vehicle.
Start your Zululand experience by heading inland on 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. Thankfully, it’s much easier these days as the roads are good and there are B&Bs and guest houses aplenty. Brush up on the region’s history at Fort Nongqayi in Eshowe before taking a walk in the treetops at the Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk. This magical wooden walkway will take you high up under the canopy of the trees and lead you to a 20m high viewing tower offering dramatic views of the forest canopy. Beyond Eshowe is the Babanango Game Reserve, a conservation success story in the making – its rolling hills that are home to incredible biodiversity are being restocked with game that once roamed these hills.
Central to Zulu culture is Nongoma, the royal City of Zululand, where are among the attractions are tours of the royal palaces and experiencing Zulu dancing and the traditional way of life.
Be sure to pop in to the KwaZulu Cultural Museum at Ondini, which was opened in 1984. It houses one of the most representative collections of the rich cultural heritage of the region and is famous for is collection of beadworks. There are also several items which belonged to King Cetswayo who ruled the Zulu nation during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.
There is an extensive network of nature reserves and game parks ensuring an abundance of flora and fauna to delight the visitor – from several hundred bird species, many species of antelope, hippo, cheetah, giraffe to the Big Five…lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino.
The Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, under the management of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is said to be the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, is home to the Big Five and a variety of other game. Accommodation options vary from hotel-style units to self-catering chalets and exclusive use bush camps. Should you choose to be a little more pampered, then there are also several private reserves with the Big Five.
Another alternative is the Phongola Game Reserve, with four of the Big Five, as well as tiger fishing on the Phongolapoort Dam (also known as Lake Jozini). Add some game viewing to your boat fishing and keep a look out for elephants frolicking along the edges of the dam, crocodiles lazing on sandbanks and African spoonbills wander through the shallow waters.
Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of uMlalazi Nature Reserve in Mtunzini with its coastal forest walks, lagoon exploration and beautiful beaches. The forests are alive with birdsong – the knowledge of a local birding guide will make the experience more memorable, and little duiker skuttle into the safety of the undergrowth and a stroll along the boardwalk of the Raphia Palm Monument may have you seeing a palmnut vulture feeding on the fruit of these tall, majestic palms.
Did you know?
The isiZulu name for a male lion is ingonyama which means ‘the master of all flesh’. Male lions are the only cat to possess a mane, and theory has it that the darker the mane the more prowess, strength, and stamina the lion has. Lions can run at speeds of up to 81 kilometres per hour and an adult male’s roar can be heard up to 8km away.