KwaZulu-Natal - also known as KZN - is a coastal area of South Africa that's often overlooked and usually only deemed popular for those with an interest of touring the battlefields. However, with direct flights from London, Katie Dalrymple-Hamilton from our Africa Team recently went to get a full flavor of this multi-faceted state and discovered that KZN offers experiences in the bucket load - if you know where to find them!
Big Five Safari
With direct overnight flights from London to Durban, you can find yourself on safari with the Big Five on Saturday afternoon after a busy week in the office. Your money goes a long way here compared to the better-known reserves in the north, and there are some sensational safari camps and lodges offering all the comforts you could imagine. From East African inspired 1920's romantic tented camps to elevated thatch-roofed lodges with views as far as the eye can see, there is something for everyone. The undulating and green landscape provides plentiful food for the fabulous resident wildlife providing an amazing safari experience.
There is something magical about taking to the water and cruising down a wide estuary full of hippos and the odd enormous crocodile. The iSimangaliso Weltand Park is a World Heritage site on the edge of the Indian Ocean and a place of huge diversity. Their 4x4 land safari is surprisingly rich in its delivery, with easy rhino sightings and lovely giraffe herds, but their real unique selling point is the pontoon boat with the most charismatic skipper who has tales of the various hippo pods and history of the area. Topped with an onboard picnic this is a bucket list experience in KZN.
The Amphitheatre - an incredible, dramatic cliff face situated in the Royal Natal National Park in the north - is the best-known part of the Drakensberg and it is truly magnificent with many hiking trails for all ages and competence levels. However, the Drakensberg Mountain Range extends roughly 700 miles from north to south and there are some breathtaking areas off the main tourist trail. Privately owned, these family-run boutique hotels welcome you in with open arms to give you a behind-the-scenes access to their local area. From riding, trout fishing, walks and hikes, bushman art, quad biking, cycling, polo estates, artisan shops, working farms or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery, there is something for everyone.
The KZN area is steeped in history both old and new. Nothing is more humbling than stepping on the rugged terrain where the ferocious Anglo-Zulu war was fought under the intense sun, where so many lost their lives. Raconteurs like Andrew Rattray bring these scenes alive in memory of all those that fought for their countries. More recently and closer to Durban, just outside Howick, is the "Face of Freedom", a memorial to Nelson Mandela and the story of his life.
The waters here are warm year-round and Durban is a great city for a night or two pre- or post-flight. However, Mozambique is only a few hours north of Durban and is home to a handful of beautiful beach lodges, and the perfect end to a KZN holiday.
When To Travel
May and June - the grasses are green and the wildlife healthy in May and June after the rains of the summer months where the heat is high and rains come in heavy downpours. Days can reach around 28 degrees Celsius and nights fall to around 10.
September and October - the spring is a lovely time to visit before the region is hit with the heat of summer.
The summer months of November to February are hot but the rains bring much relief from the dry winter. Earlier starts with siestas are the best way to plan your days in these months.
If you are looking to plan a trip to Kwazulu Natal, do not hesitate to get in touch, and one of our excellent Africa experts will be able to help.