South Africa is blessed with an endless list of beautiful places to visit and things to do.
If you’re planning your first trip to the Rainbow Nation, it may be difficult deciding which province to visit. I’m writing a series of articles about South Africa’s provinces and on what there is to do and see in each province, which hopefully will make your travel planning to South Africa slightly easier.
My first article focuses on KwaZulu Natal’s most famous destinations, although there is of course so much more to see and do – but I’ll leave it to you to do further research.
So, here follow some of the most scenic attractions in KwaZulu Natal, which in my opinion ought to be on your list of places to visit and things to do in the province.
The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of South Africa’s most magnificent World Heritage Sites. The area consists of waterfalls cascading down a 200m mountain range, dipping valleys and trickling streams. UKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is particularly pretty in winter when the peaks are dusted with snow. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, the park will be the perfect place for an adventure of rock climbing, hiking and fly-fishing. If you go hiking, keep an eye out for the ancient San rock art. There are about 30 000 paintings to discover in the 600 caves in the area.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Another World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park boasts a variety of wildlife. It is one of the last remaining sites where you can see Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles – a good enough reason to have it on your bucket list of places to visit in KwaZulu Natal. What makes this park incredibly special is that it has five different ecosystems. The Kosi Bay region, which is close to the border of Mozambique, has four lakes linked by a network of channels. This part of the park is famous for estuary fishing.
If you enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving, you should visit the coastal forest region, which has some of the prettiest beaches in the country. These beaches are Mabibi, Island Rock, Rocktail Bay and Black Rock. Then, there is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Sibaya, home to large populations of hippo and crocodile.
If you’ve always wanted to see a leopard, then head to the uMkhuze Ecosystem part of the park. Other wildlife includes rhinos, elephants, giraffe, wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas and antelope. Bird lovers can rejoice in the fact there are more than 420 species of birds.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is also home to various cultural groups, such as the Zulus, Swazis, Shangaan, and Tonga.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is considered one of Africa’s oldest game reserves and is famous for its conservation of both species of rhino – the square-lipped white rhino and the hook-lipped black rhino. Both species are critically endangered. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is also one of Africa’s largest reserves where you can encounter the Big Five, as well as other wildlife, such as antelope and birds of prey. The reserve is divided into two distinct regions, each with unique ecosystems and landscapes. The northern Hluhluwe region consists of thick forests and mountains, while the Imfolozi region is dry savannah.
The sardine run
Marine biologists are still scratching their heads over the phenomenon known as the sardine run; no one knows exactly why it occurs. Known also as the ‘Greatest Shoal on Earth’ the annual sardine run brings plenty of excitement to the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. Each winter (June/July), thousands of sardines swim away from the cold Cape waters to the warm Natal coast, followed closely by great white sharks, dolphins, whales and seabirds – all looking for an easy meal.
However, it’s not only marine wildlife that benefit from the sardine run, local fishermen do too – and by the end of July, it’s all over. Like whale watching in Hermanus and the stunning Namaqualand flowers that only bloom a few weeks in spring, the sardine run’s seasonal peculiarity has plenty of local and international visitors flocking to KwaZulu Natal’s shores each year. Whether you witness the sardine run from under the waves, on land or boat, it’s definitely bucket list worthy.
Sodwana Bay is South Africa’s most popular scuba diving location. Situated along the province’s Elephant Coast, this sparkling blue bay is well-known for its beautiful coral reefs that make for an epic scuba diving adventure. Sodwana Bay is also home to the coelacanth, a fish that was previously thought to be extinct.
The Valley of a Thousand Hills
The Valley of a Thousand Hills is an awe-inspiring site, so make sure you keep your camera close. The natural scenery of rolling green hills will charm you and so will the cultural attractions, which are worth a visit too. This part of KwaZulu-Natal is home to the Zulu tribe. This tribe is one of South Africa’s largest and its people have lived in the valley for generations.
Visit the Zulus at Phezulu Safari Park to gain insight into Zulu culture and tradition. Perhaps they’ll perform a traditional dance for you – and perhaps you can take part in one too. Also, visit the 1000 Hills Arts and Crafts Village for souvenirs, such as beadwork and traditional Zulu dolls.