KwaZulu Natal – 4 reasons to visit this secret gem.

With its great beaches, majestic mountains, superb safari opportunities and fascinating historic sites, KwaZulu Natal is one of South Africa’s most enthralling provinces. Bordered by the towering peaks of the Drakensberg and a glorious 600km coastline it is home to a beguiling array of experiences. Here are my top four reasons to visit:

Safari in KwaZulu Natal
Options include national parks and private reserves with a range of topography providing varied experiences. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa and famous for black and white rhino, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, lion and leopard. In all there are 86 different mammal species resident in the park. There are wonderful birding opportunities, and an excellent road network makes self-driving here a real pleasure.

Safari from AndBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge, KwaZulu Natal.

Wildlife viewing at AndBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge.

The seven distinct habitats of Phinda Private Game Reserve include a rare dry sand forest, three different types of savanna, marshland, mountain foothills and riverine sections. The wildlife viewing is superb. On one special afternoon here I saw, from a stationary vehicle, two male lion, a black rhino, two white rhino, a female cheetah with four sub-adult cubs, and a rather bemused wildebeest in the middle of it all.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of KwaZulu Natal’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Within its coral reefs, sandy beaches, subtropical dune forests, savanna and wetlands, safari visitors can see lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo, whales, dolphin and turtles which come onto the beaches to nest each year.

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Game drive from Makakatana Bay Lodge.

KwaZulu Natal Battlefields
The Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars of the late 19th century produced some of history’s most extraordinary stories of courage and resilience. Taking a tour of the key battle sites of Rorke’s Drift, Isandlwana and Blood River (all World Heritage Sites) is an experience like no other. A skilled guide recalling the battles and bravery while you are in-situ is a spine-tingling afternoon and one I’d highly recommend, whether you are a lover of military history or not.

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Battlefield tour of Isandlwana from Fugitives Drift Lodge.

Coastal adventures
KwaZulu Natal’s Indian Ocean coastline provides plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun and relax after exploring the rest of the region. For those who want activity, there is much to see and do. Sodwana Bay in particular is renowned for diving and snorkelling, with a variety of marine life seen throughout the year as well as whales and turtles seasonally. Both leatherback and greenback turtles come onto the beaches to nest each year.

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Relaxation at Thonga Beach Lodge.

The sardine run, one of the animal kingdom’s lesser-known annual migrations, is a thrilling spectacle in these coastal waters. It relies on water temperatures dropping to a certain level, usually between May and July, when millions of sardines make their way north from the cool waters of their spawning ground of the Agulhas Bank. The sheer number of fish creates a feeding frenzy with dolphins the primary hunters, working together to round the fish up into bait balls. Once the ‘ball’ has been formed other species such as sharks, whales, and gannets, join in on the act.

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Turtle hatchlings making their way to the sea.

Dramatic Mountains
Much of KwaZulu Natal’s landscape is characterised by the extraordinary peaks and dramatic backdrops of the Drakensberg Mountains. There is wonderful walking here, numerous ancient rock art sites, rare birds and plant species, and plenty of characterful places to stay.

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Walking in the Drakensberg Mountains.

To sum up, KwaZulu Natal has something from everyone. With a good road network, it’s an ideal place to enjoy a self-drive holiday. For more information about KwaZulu Natal, holidays to South Africa or if you would like to discuss other destinations and options, please give us a call or email Lucinda. We would be delighted to help you put together a fabulous holiday.