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After living in beautiful Cape Town, our South Africa specialist Annie was looking for a new experience, and where better to head than KwaZulu Natal. Filled with breath-taking scenery, Zulu culture, history and wildlife – KwaZulu Natal is off-the-beaten-track in South African terms and well worth a visit, particularly for return visitors.
Fugitives’ Drift is an Imagine favourite for those visiting the historic Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana. Expert guides recount enthralling tales of overcoming adversity, with charming accommodation and incredible scenery to boot.
KwaZulu Natal and the northern coast
KwaZulu Natal’s Drakensberg Mountains are a walker’s paradise, for history buffs the battlefields are not to be missed, and for those who love to dive in, the Elephant Coast is a must! Big five game reserves complete the package, proving that as one of South Africa’s most diverse provinces, KwaZulu Natal has much to offer first-timers and repeat travellers alike.
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Encompassing the scenic Drakensberg, historic battlefields, cultural melting pot of Durban, sub-tropical beaches of the Elephant Coast, and a range of big five game reserves, KwaZulu Natal truly has something for everyone. Families can enjoy a safari and beach holiday without travelling vast distances, whilst honeymooners can enjoy activity-filled adventures exploring the Drakensberg.
As with much of South Africa, KwaZulu Natal is often best explored on a self-drive holiday, giving you the freedom to stop off and explore as much as you wish. Distances between points of interest are manageable meaning that it is possible to pack lots in whilst still feeling like you’ve had a rest.
Driving through the Midlands is reminiscent to us of driving through the rolling hills at home – it is perhaps unsurprising that so many Brits choose to settle here. This is the perfect spot for a night or two after an overnight flight for those wanting to avoid Durban, or a few days following the Midlands Meander route. Near to the town of Howick is the spot where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, after which followed his 27 year imprisonment.
The Drakensberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are one of the biggest attractions of KwaZulu Natal. Bordering the tiny state of Lesotho (a day trip up Sani Pass is possible), this spectacular landscape is best explored on foot, bike or horseback, with the Amphitheatre being one of the most picturesque spots in the region. For those with a keen interest in the arts, this is one of the best spots in the world for rock art; whilst the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir’s weekly concerts are the hottest ticket in town.
South Africa has such a rich history and the focus in KwaZulu Natal is on the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars of the late 19th and early 20th Century. The Anglo-Boer battlefield at Spioenkop saw both the future president Paul Kruger and future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in action, whilst Ghandi was a non-combatant stretcher-bearer. The Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift (notable for having more Victoria Crosses awarded in one go than there has ever been before or since), as depicted in the epic film Zulu, never fail to move as part of a battlefield tour. Despite what you may think, you don’t need to be a history expert to enjoy the battlefields; the tours are conducted by the most engaging of guides, and the scenery is as breath-taking as the rest of the country.
Safari options in KwaZulu Natal range from self-drive options in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, which is one of the most successful sites in South Africa for rhino conservation, to luxury private reserves including Phinda. Whilst not offering the same scale as the Kruger, the convenience of a safari in KwaZulu Natal when combining it with the coast, Drakensberg and Battlefields make it a popular destination.
The warmest waters in South Africa are to be found in KwaZulu Natal. Durban is perfect for those wanting a beach experience but with plenty going on, but for those looking to get off-the-beaten-track and experience high-quality diving, we recommend heading north to the Elephant Coast. Dolphins, turtles and whales abound and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beaches here are unspoilt and are matched by barefoot luxury properties away from the crowds.
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