South Africa travel information accommodation guide
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 KwaZulu Natal Province
 
KwaZulu Natal Introduction
 
Kwazulu Natal Province, South Africa

Welcome to the kingdom that is KwaZulu Natal on South Africa's Eastern most coast, a place offering a rich diversity of nature, culture and history, set against a colourful backdrop of sun, sea, mountain and sky. Visit South Africa's busiest port, Durban, and enjoy the warm beachfront vibe, before visiting uShaka Marine World or the beautiful botanical gardens. Take a trip further afield to walk in the footsteps of prominent military figures, such as Shaka, Churchill and Gandhi, and explore the many famous battlefields that saw bloody conflict, sacrifice and victory, before facing your own adventure white-water rafting on the rapids of the mighty Tugela.

The unspoilt Elephant Coast is an eco-wonderland, offering the world's highest dunes, beautiful coral reefs, palms and bushveld. Visit a luxury game park or get closer to nature on one of the many wilderness trails, enjoying scuba diving or whale spotting along the way. A trip through the Pietermatrizburg Midlands area is a must if you prefer markets and galleries, while the magnificent Drakensberg is home to breathtaking snow-capped cliffs, lush yellowwood forests and cascading waterfalls. For a pure rush of adrenaline climb the sheer rock face of the mountain or view from above as you soar in a helicopter. KwaZulu Natal offers something for every taste and fulfils every dream.
 
Top Ten Attractions
 
KwaZulu Natal Beaches
The KwaZulu Natal coastline boasts six hundred kilometres of white sandy beaches on the warm Indian Ocean coastline. The beaches offer something for everyone, from protected beaches for family outings to the more untamed beaches that are a surfer's paradise. Scuba dive or snorkel on the Elephant Coast or enjoy the holiday vibe at one of the South Coast's four ‘blue flag' beaches. The beaches offer plenty of relaxation and sport opportunities, including surfing, boating, fishing and whale and dolphin watching, or for the more adventurous take a trip in a microlight to enjoy the spectacular view from above.
 
Shakaland
A visit to this traditional Zulu homestead or umuzi is a must for any traveller out to explore the cultures of South Africa. The homestead is divided into two areas, the home of the Zulus and hotel rooms. Experience the magic of Africa as in this authentic kraal, as you see warriors wielding their spears and listen to the secrets of the tribe elders and Sangoma witch doctors. Learn more about the local customs as you experience them first hand, from tribal dancing to traditional beer-drinking ceremonies. You will leave richer for the benefit of having lived as one with one of South Africa's oldest tribes.
 
KwaZulu Natal Battlefields
Step back into the poignant memory of numerous battles that have taken place on African soil, and learn the fascinating stories behind these wars. Walk in the footsteps of Shaka, Churchill and Gandhi, while guides talk you through each battle, explaining strategies, losses, awards and victory. The legacy of the kingdom's bloody conflicts lives on in a series of battlefield sites, monuments, museums and towns. The region also offers beautiful scenery and a mix of culture, and the hospitable nature of the locals make it a must see for history buffs and general tourists alike.
 
UShaka Marine World
A trip to this kaleidascope of adventure and entertainment is a must for any visitor to Durban, and at least a day is needed to enjoy it in its entirety. At the centre you will find Sea and Dolphin world, comprising of a large aquarium and dolphin stadium where you will be entertained by the antics of the dolphins, seals and penguins. Children will love the rock touch pool, while the more adventurous can dive into the tanks of the offshore rocky reef exhibit. Next to the main complex you will find Beach World, where adventure seekers can enjoy non stop activities such as windsurfing, surfing, jet skiing, kite surfing, charters and more. The complex's Wet ‘n Wild World also offers great water entertainment for the whole family, from swimming pools and river rides to a supertubes and a rollercoaster. With all this on offer it will be no surprise if you don't find time to enjoy uShaka Marine World's shopping and restaurants - there really is something for everyone at uShaka Marine World!
 
Midlands Meander
The Midlands Meander is worth a visit to enjoy the heart of KwaZulu Natal. It started up in 1985 with a small number of crafters who put their talents together to create an arts and crafts route, and today this self-drive route from Pietermaritzburg to just north of the Mooi River boasts about 134 members. Choose from one of four tours and with the help of colour coded road markers enjoy country roads filled with arts, crafts, monuments, potters farms, antiques and plenty of restaurants and places to stay. There is plenty to discover through your leisurely trip with a wide range of sporting, environmental and historical activities thrown in for good measure, offering something for everyone.
 
Drakensberg / uKhahlamba Mountains
Named by the Dutch Voortrekkers The Dragon Mountain and the Zulu people The Barrier of Spears this World Heritage Site range offers breathtaking basalt cliffs towering above lush yellowwood forests and scenic waterfalls. The mountains form the border between South African and the Kingdom of Lesotho, the only access being via the Sani Pass, at the top of which you will find Africa's highest pub, some 3000 meters above sea level. There are plenty of San rock art sites throughout the mountains, and for the more adventurous the mountains and valley offer sheer rock or ice climbing opportunities, as well as abseiling, white water rafting, and helicopter flips. There are some beautiful guest establishments in the region, offering good bases to explore all that is on offer, and the Drakensberg is particularly beautiful in winter when snow covers the jagged mountain peaks.
 
Zululand
Be inspired by the sheer majesty of this region, offering diverse views of the brilliant blue Indian Ocean, Mangrove swamps , lush green hills and indigenous forests, with the Drakensberg mountains standing proud in the distance. Enjoy the welcoming hospitality of the local people, who will accommodate you in everything from game lodges and seaside cottages to floating Lake chalets and Zulu homesteads. The region offers plenty of game viewing opportunities as well as hiking and nature trails. Enjoy the true Zulu experience by taking an ox wagon through a mud-hut villages or witness a traditional Zulu wedding ceremony before having your fortune read by a traditional sangoma (healer). After all the excitement restore your soul with a visit to Paulpietersburg where you can replenish in the therapeutic sulphur springs.
 
KwaZulu Natal Surfing

The KwaZulu Natal coastline is a surfer's paradise, offering some of the best waves in the country. There are great waves wherever you go, with warm waters all year around, so that you need little more than a spring wetsuit for warmth, and on hot summer days even this is not a necessity. Winter heralds the start of the true surf season, with breezy eight-foot swells sweeping in from the Cape coast between May and August. The swells are a bit smaller in the summer months, offering fun surf at the many beach breaks, with most surfers taking advantage of the wind-free mornings before the north-eastern winds pick up. With some 600 kilometres of coastline only a handful of popular breaks get crowded, but many quieter waves can be found along the coast, with many good roads making for easy access. With all this on offer any surf fanatic would be sorry to miss this awesome coastline, and your adventure could even find you surfing a strip of coast that has never before been touched!

 
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park was declared South Africa's first Natural World Heritage Site in 1999, and extends across 328 000 hectares of breathtaking scenery, from Mapelane (Cape St Lucia) in the South to Kozi Bay in the North. The Park is home to a huge hippopotamus population as well as many crocodiles, as well as elephants, the humpback whale, buffalo, rhino, zebra and buck. A horseback wildlife safari is a must to experience the wildlife up close for an unusual experience. The Park also offers a range of other activities, including bird-watching, fishing, hiking, camping and scuba-diving, all of which offer fantastic photographic opportunities to capture your amazing experiences forever.
 
Hluhluwe / Umfolozi Game Reserve

A trip to the oldest game reserve in Africa is a must, where you can see the big five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo) as well as a range of birds and other wildlife. The park is well known for its white rhino conservation, as well as its 96 000 hectares of diverse fauna and flora. Take a guided game viewing trail or walk, or enjoy a trip across the dam on a 40-seater boat. This Game Reserve is worth a visit for its beauty and diversity of wildlife across its savannah planes.

 
Major Events & Festivals
 
The Comrades Marathon
The Comrades is South Africa's most gruelling road race from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, encountering five major hills commonly known as ‘the big five', interspersed with other landmarks and points of interest. The Comrades started in 1921 when 34 runners ran from Pietermartitzburg to Durban to pay tribute to their fallen comrades of the Great War. The race has grown to include some 13 000 runners from all over the world, and now takes place on the 16 th of June every year, a national holiday called Youth Day. If you are not participating join the crowds of spectators to encourage the runners along the way, so that you too can get a taste of one of Africa's greatest races.
 
Splashy Fen
Thousands of people have flocked in April every year to South Africa's longest-running and most well known music festival, Splashy Fen, held on a farm near Underberg in KwaZulu Natal since. Splashy Fen started off as a folk, light rock and traditional music festival, however it has evolved into the ultimate outdoor experience for music and nature lovers alike, with mainstream and alternative rock and pop music included in the mix. Stay in one of the local Bed and Breakfast establishments, or camp on site where electricity, telephones, ablutions, market stalls, medical and security have been set up. Enjoy three stages providing entertainment and see many local popular bands showcasing their immense talents.
 
Awesome Africa Music Festival

This festival, hosted by Standard Bank, takes place in September every year, and was first held in 1999. Enjoy three stages of non stop music with over 200 artists from more than twenty countries coming to entertain the crowds. The festival aims to collaborate musicians from Africa with international artists, and past musicians have included South African legends Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim. A must stop for visitors who enjoy cross-cultural music.

 
Adventure
 
Canoeing

KwaZulu Natal boasts some of the country's best canoeing spots, and is home to a number of popular canoe marathons, including the 50 Miler on the Umsindusi and Umgeni Rivers in December, the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon in January, the Umkomaas Marathon in February and the the Drakensberg Challenge on the Umzimkulu and the Tugela Marathon, both in March. Enjoy a relaxing canoeing adventure down the rivers, enjoying the cool waters and beautiful scenery, spending peaceful nights camping on the banks of the rivers.

 

Game Fishing

For the adventurous spirit a deep sea fishing charter assures an incredible day in KwaZulu Natal's south coast sub-tropical waters. Experienced boat skippers supply bait and tackle to ensure that all you have to do is enjoy the rush of catching game fish such as tuna, kingfish, sailfish or even marlin, with June to August being sardine run season. If you are lucky you might get to experience an encounter with the coast's friendly dolphins who love to frolic around the boats, or spot a whale or two in the depths. Make sure you pack plenty of sun protection to enjoy a day at sea, with memories of many fishing stories and your own to accompany you home.

 
Arts, Culture & History
 
The eMakhosini Valley

This is one of the richest and most cultural and historic sites in Africa, the birthplace of the Zulu Nation, the home of King Shaka and his legendary Royal Residence. It was here that Shaka conquered the Ndwandwe people, and Trekker leader Piet Retief was put to death by Shaka's successor, King Dingane in the same spot. The eMakhosini Valley is also home to beautiful highveld grasslands, with roaming Steenbuck, Impala, the Grey Duiker and Reebuck, as well as the rare Secretary Bird and the Bald Ibis. It is worth taking on the services of a Zulu Guide to truly understand the historical and cultural significance of this valuable site.

 

The Talana Museum
The Talana Museum in Dundee is the site where the first battle of the Anglo-Boer War took place in 1899, and the buildings from the time of this battle still exist, as well as a cemetery and the original Scottish homestead of the town's founder, Peter Smith. Talana House, built by Smith's son, is home to a range of displays, including remnants of the South Africa's past, and guided tours to nearby battlesites are also on offer. Visitors can also see a typical coalminer's home, and there is also a restaurant and curio shop where you can take home souvenirs of your visit.
 
Port Natal Maritime Museum

Learn more about Durban's seafaring tradition as you would through the various interesting ships on display, including the 75-year old coal-fired Ulundi. See also the 38-year old JR Moore which with its oil-burning engine worked as a tugboat in the harbour, or the SAS Durban, a 42-year old naval minesweeper. Take a walk through the Britannia Exhibition Hall to learn about the whole nautical experience, from communication systems to weather prediction to star navigation. The children will love exploring the ships while you learn more about Durban's maritime history.

 
Shopping
 

KwaZulu Natal offers a range of options for those wanting to explore the shops, from lively open-air markets to the more commercial shopping malls. Most of the bigger towns and cities offer the usual centres with their standard chain-stores, restaurants and cinemas, including The Gateway at Umhlanga, the Pavilion off the N3 at Westville and The Workshop in Durban. A visit to the Indian shopping district in downtown Grey Street is a must to purchase spices, incense and Indian crafts, although it is recommended that you go with a guide.

For those wanting to snap up a crafty bargain visit Pietermartitzburg's monthly Oval Arts and Crafts Market, or purchase traditional Zulu crafts such as wood carvings, beadwork and instruments at one of the many craft markets along the way. Support home industry and local crafters on the Midlands Meander, where you will find a range of goodies at bargain prices. KwaZulu Natal offers something for every shopper's taste, and you are bound to return home with a suitcase packed with memories.
 
Climate
 

KwaZulu Natal boasts a climate that can be described as all year round tourist friendly. Being on the eastern coast of South Africa and bordered by the warm Indian Ocean the province has a warm, subtropical climate. Winters have an average temperature of 23° C, and are warm, dry and clear, with occasional frost in the interior and snowfalls in the higher mountainous areas. There is an average of 7 hours of daily sunshine in winter, some of the highest in the country. KwaZulu Natal summers are hot and humid, with temperatures averaging on 28° C, with summer experiencing the annual rains.

Sea temperatures in KwaZulu Natal are also stable and warm, averaging on 21° C all year round, providing ideal conditions for the many water sports on offer in the province, including fishing, diving, surfing, boating and swimming.