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Kwazulu Natal - Where to Go in KZN
Travel

KwaZulu Natal – Why I love this place

KwaZulu Natal is the Kingdom of the Zulu and the keeper of heaven and sky.

I was 16 when the English shire-like rolling green hills of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands broke through a misty haze and captured my heart. Caught completely off guard, I still, to this day remain completely enamoured with this particular piece of South Africa.

I’m happy to say, not much has changed. KwaZulu Natal, which means “Place of the Zulu”; is flanked by the Indian Ocean on one side and brings with it a beautifully sunny sub-tropical climate and incredibly long golden beaches. This is a place where you are likely the only one to leave your footprints behind.

KwaZulu is also rather eclectic. It holds the historical intrigue of the Battlefields and a resultant heady mix of cultural flavours. But what many don’t mention is the wildlife experiences which are available to you here. Did you know that the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the best place in the world to see endangered rhino? Probably not, right?! There is also the Phinda Private Game Reserve; sandwiched between the Mkuze Game Reserve and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which offers a Safari experience comparable to none.

For nature lovers…

The high point of KwaZulu Natal – literally – and worth the half a day’s drive from Durban; and one of the most spectacular sights to behold is the soaring Drakensberg! It is one truly magnificent sight to behold.

The capital of the province is, of course, Durban. This is a place of contrasts where Victorian buildings fanned by Palms sit aside squatters living under flyovers. High-rise offices tower over temples, and curry houses challenge the further developed beachfront’s (and what ‘spicy’ actually means). Though an often overlooked cousin, Durbs is a cultural melting pot with its bustling Indian district. I’d just go to Govenders if I could! But the flaxen coloured and totally surf-worthy beaches to both the south and north of the city also make it an opt-in for surfers.

Moving north within KwaZulu Natal towards the Mozambique border lies South Africa’s wildest stretch of coast, and arguably my favourite; the ecotourism paradise of Kosi Bay. Here you can take a walk between tanning sessions and spot a hippo, a crocodile or a loggerhead turtle. True story. Other secret spots include Mtunzini, Zinkwazi and Blythedale. South coast beaches aren’t quite as isolated. But small towns like St Michaels, Hibberdene and Umkomaas are less populated, especially in the mild winters. Beachcombers unite!

A few of my favourite places to stay in KwaZulu Natal:

Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

I think my favourite thing about Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge is its remoteness. The 96,000ha that make up the wild, indigenous Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park landscape stretches out as if infinity lay before you. A special piece to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is that it is also home to the largest population of endangered white rhino. It is no doubt that seeing these magnificent creatures amongst the Big 5, and 300 birds species – besides the further innumerable wildlife – is a privilege to catch – if only – a glimpse. An 11-meter infinity lap pool which spills out over into the surrounding bush isn’t a bad touch either.

The Oyster Box Hotel

If you find yourself in Durban, The Oyster Box tops my list. Views of the Indian Ocean, with the Umhlanga lighthouse in the fore is something special. I do also love the Ocean Terraces Restaurant which has a great sundowner feel, making it a great place to meet people – especially for those solo-travellers – or simply grab a bite. This particular hotel is located in the heart of Umhlanga, with easy access to Durban’s city centre and walking distance from local restaurants and shops.

Three Tree Hill

If you are wishing to explore the Drakensberg at all, do yourself a favour and stay at Three Tree Hill. The experience you will gain here will be second to none. With the combination of great food (even the butter here is made from scratch) to the warmth and generosity of its people, to the awe-inspiring views, (and the opportunity to learn about the infamous Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars). I think once you visit Three Tree Hill you may never want to leave…

Thonga Beach Lodge

Oh, I do love the ocean! And if you know anything about me, it’s that I love the ocean (and nature). I am also happiest when these two worlds meet. Nature’s Valley anyone?! You can imagine then that Thonga Beach Lodge, which is perched on a forested dune, and just a few meters from a private beach on the Maputaland Elephant Coast may be a kind of heaven. Add to that azure blue waters, pristine coral reefs and around 1,250 species of fish? Welcome to one of the world’s best snorkelling and scuba diving sites. Depending on the time of year, you’ll even get to swim with dolphins or see turtles lay their eggs (btw. around November). And not to worry, the gorgeous thatched suites have all the amenities you’ll need including Wi-Fi, air conditioning, mosquito nets (and even a hairdryer). Best part? Fresh catch every single day.

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