KwaZulu-Natal – or better known as the Zulu Kingdom, is arguably one of South Africa’s most diverse travel destinations. It is one of the countries most popular destinations for local travelers but often overlooked by international visitors.
If you are an international traveler planning a vacation to South Africa and have glanced over KwaZulu-Natal without giving it much thought, then you should look again. With its spectacular weather, distinct yet varied destinations and warm hospitality it truly is a destination worth considering.
With this in mind, here are seven excellent reasons why you should consider KwaZulu-Natal for your South Africa vacation. And for all our local followers, if you haven’t visited KZN recently, these seven reasons should get you up and planning.
1. YEAR ROUND DESTINATION
KwaZulu-Natal enjoys blissful sub-tropical weather almost all year round, making it the perfect all season destination.
The coastal areas enjoy hot summers and mild winters, averaging over 300 days of sunshine a year. The Indian Ocean adds to the appeal with water temperatures averaging a delightful 21 degrees throughout the year. Ideal for swimming, surfing, diving, snorkeling, sailing or any other ocean based activity.
The interior (KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and the Drakensberg Mountains) of the province also enjoys beautiful warm summer days but does have cold winter temperatures with regular snow fall in the Drakensberg Mountain range. For many, the cold winters mornings with mist covered mountains and crisp clean air is what makes the KZN Midlands and Drakensberg Mountains so special.
2. FROM MAJESTIC MOUNTAINS TO CRYSTAL CLEAR OCEANS
Deep in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal lies the exhilarating Drakensberg Mountain Range. This is KwaZulu-Natal’s second world heritage site, the first being iSimangaliso (St. Lucia) Wetlands Park found on the North Coast.
With its dramatic mountainous landscapes and deep valleys, the Drakensberg is a photographers paradise. For the more active traveler there is plenty on offer with numerous hiking trails (from overnight hikes which summit the many peaks to easier day walks on the lower slopes), horse back trails, excellent fishing, scenic helicopter flips, adventurous 4×4 trails (Sani Pass), and much much more.
Descending from the Drakensberg lowlands and heading south east you travel through the Natal Midlands towards the Indian Ocean. Besides the areas natural beauty, the Midlands Meander has been made famous by the many art galleries, fascinating craft stores and world class restaurants, all perfectly placed in a landscape of charming working farms and pristine nature reserves.
From the Midlands, its a short drive down the escapement to the coastal city of Durban, the provinces larges city. Durban is a soulful, cosmopolitan city that moves to a rhythm of its own. With its impressive swell, long beaches and warm oceans its a surfers paradise. But if you looking for something a little more secluded, leave the city and travel north or south along the coast for a variety of pristine beaches waiting to be explored.
Up the North Coast and close to the Mozambique border you’ll find some of the most remote beaches in the country. The swimming conditions are sublime with beautifully warm, crystal clear water – paradise for any true beach holiday maker.
The South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal offers several impressive dive sights including Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks. However, the South Coast is probably best know for the sardine run – where massive shoals of sardines migrate north, attracting large schools of dolphins, sea birds and other ocean predators.
3. BIG FIVE SAFARI
The biggest draw card for anyone interested in an African vacation is the safari experience.
The KwaZulu-Natal Elephant Coast, situated in the north of the province is home to several world class, big 5 safari destinations including Phinda Private Game Reserve, the Zululand Rhino Reserve, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Amakhosi Game Reserve to name a few. Further inland you’ll also find the Nambiti Big Five Private Game Reserve as well as several smaller private nature reserves all offering something unique for the nature lover.
With such a wide variety of game reserves to chose from the accommodation options are almost endless. From basic camping facilities and self catering lodges to elegant five star luxury, you wont struggle to find a safari to suit your budget and accommodation preferences.
4. EXPERIENCE AFRICAN CULTURE
KwaZulu-Natal is known as the Zulu Kingdom and for good reason. The province is home to one of Africa’s most powerful tribes – the Zulu Nation. With enchanting tales of great warriors like King Shaka, the history of the Zulu Kingdom is captivating. A visit to a traditional Zulu village gives insight into this fascinating culture.
If you wish to go further back in time, a visit to one of the ancient rock art sites in the Drakensberg Mountains is a must. These sites, some as old as 40,000 years, offer a glimpse into the life of the African Bushman or San people. Interestingly, the Drakensberg Mountains has the highest number of recorded African rock are sites in South Africa.
5. RELIVE THE ANGLO-BOER AND ANGLO-ZULU WARS
The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 are two highly significant wars that shaped the course of South African history.
The most famous battles of the Anglo-Zulu war were the battles of Isandlawana and Rorke’s Drift which both took place on the same day (22 January 1879). At Isandlawana 20, 000 Zulu warriors annihilated a British force of 1,700 soldiers. In complete contrast, at Rorke’s Drift a small group of British soldiers known as the ‘heroic hundred’ successfully defended the Swedish mission station for 12 hours against a force of 4,000 Zulu soldiers.
Several years later the Anglo-Boer war erupted. The British entered the war confident they would conquer the Boers in no time, but they were horribly mistaken. The Anglo-Boer war turned out to be the longest, most expensive and bloodiest war Britain had fought since the Napoleonic wars.
6. GET ACTIVE
KwaZulu-Natal has a range of attractions for the thrill seeker. Here is a list of just some of the activities available throughout the province:
- Walking: Enjoy lazy walks on the beach, ascend the impressive Drakensberg Mountains, explore the many indigenous forests and walk amongst the big 5
- Mountain Biking: There are several areas throughout the province that simply beg to be explored by Mountain Bike. The Midlands Meander boasts several mountain bike routes (Karkloof Trails) as well as areas along the North and South Coasts.
- Surfing, Kite Boarding and Sailing: With the warm oceans and strong seasonal winds, KwaZulu-Natal is the ideal surfing, Kite Boarding and sailing destination.
- Snorkeling and Diving: Both the North and South Coasts of KwaZulu-Natal have superb dive sites waiting to be explored.
- Golfing: Golf courses are plentiful throughout the province. If you enjoy a few rounds of golf while on holiday, you could easily incorporate this into a normal KwaZulu-Natal itinerary. Although you may want to add in a couple days to give yourself enough time to enjoy the many attractions in the area as well as the golf.
7. ALL IN ONE DESTINATION
With a brand new international airport (King Shaka International Airport) offering daily flights from multiple destinations, accessing KwaZulu-Natal has never been easier.
The province is well suited to the self drive market with a solid road network throughout the province, making it easy to connect several destinations in one vacation. For those who prefer not to drive guided tours and road transfers with private touring companies are also available.