‘KZN’, as insiders call it, was once riddled with conflict: Zulus, Boers and Brits bloodily duked it out here for bragging rights over a land the size of Portugal. 150 years later, and the battle is now for tourist attention, with a unique array of offerings tempting visitors. Whether your preferred holiday poison is safaris or scuba diving, beaches or birdwatching, history or hiking, South Africa’s easternmost province has almost all bases covered.
Such diverse riches are the result of a wide-ranging spread of landscapes. From 280 miles of nearly unstinting sand—a succession of well-developed resorts surround Durban in the south; sugar-cane plantations, secret beaches and Maputaland’s wetlands await further north—stretch away lowlands riddled with rivers and classic savannah, with wildlife and high-grade accommodation. Standing guard atop it all are the impressive Drakensberg and Lebombo mountain ranges.
KZN’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites appear on most touring itineraries for good, gasp-inducing reason. The Maloti-Drakensberg Park promises photogenic peaks, a world-leading hoard of ancient cave paintings and the planet’s second-highest waterfall, while the coast’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as St Lucia Wetlands Park) is a gobsmacking home to dolphins, crocodiles, whales, warthogs and lots more.
Other must-sees include the Battlefields, where fabulous guides movingly recreate the Zulus’ resistance at Rorke’s Drift among other significant skirmishes, and top-quality Big Five game reserves like Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge near Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and Phinda Private Game Reserve, all offering experiences and luxury lodges to rival Kruger.
Those are the headline acts, but don’t forget the traditional Zulu townships and their beehive huts and artisans. Or the wilderness beach lodges, where surfing and watersports are possible, and where endangered turtles lay eggs. Or indeed the world-class golf courses, Midlands Meander and shark-attracting Sardine Run, an annual marine-life get-together best observed just north of Durban.
Almost all visitors to KZN arrive in Durban, thanks to direct air connections to Cape Town, Johannesburg and South Africa’s other main cities. Self-driving or private car transfers are the best means of traversing the region.
Best Time To Visit
If it is heat you are after, November to Feb will give you just that. Autumn, April to September—when it’s dry, mild and sunny—is the optimum season. Game-viewing is also better then, reaching a crescendo between June and September when shorter grasses and waterhole congregations make sightings easy. The Sardine Run typically occurs between May and July, while steamy summer (November-March) is when turtles are most visible. Neither too hot nor too cold, autumn’s best for Drakensberg hiking.
Famed for its busy beachfront and Indian influence, cosmopolitan ‘Durbs’ is well worth a day’s exploration. Grab a curry along Victoria Street, then admire downtown’s colonial and art deco architecture, along with lively markets and exotic aromas. Interrupted only by an attractive waterfront promenade – part of a pre-2010 World Cup spruce-up – that seaside’s part of a stretch which extends for leagues in either direction. South Africa’s third-largest city is also a jumping-off point for visitors headed for Drakensberg and the Battlefields, plus those off whale-watching or surfing along the wild Elephant Coast.
KwaZulu Natal is the widest expanse of untouched savanna in South Africa, and its only fitting that it would be home to some of the most prestigious game reserves too. A combination of coastal and inland beauty KwaZulu Natal has all the charm of an African adventure but all the refinement one would expect from award winning luxury holiday accommodation.
Found west of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve, and between the Black Imfolozi and Tugela rivers,Central Zululand was one of Africa’s most powerful regions in the 1820 and 1830s, ruled with relish by King Shaka—although not quite with the penchant for blood and bewitchery some portrayals would have you believe. In the 19th century’s second half, however a series of battles took place: first Zulus and Boers, then Zulus and the British, and finally Boers and Brits grappled for supremacy.
Found in the country’s east near Durban, the vast Drakensberg Mountain Range pairs South Africa’s most spectacular scenery – which truly is saying something – with an unrivalled haul of cave paintings. Here in her favourite playground, Mother Nature has exuberantly forged towering cliffs, deep gorges and rivers, then splattered the whole beautiful paradise with a wealth of biological diversity. The activity options are as endless as the peaks, and high-quality hotels lend a welcome luxury element.
The Kwa-Zulu Natal Midland’s pastoral scenes of rolling hills, farms and country estates are interspersed with quaint villages and the occasional large town steeped in history. An artists’ paradise, the area is rich in local crafts, art galleries, restaurants and pubs, and these form the Midlands Meander Route, an arrangement of fascinating places and activities
The Best of South Africa Travel map displays the locations of the destinations and accommodation that we have selected and visited; for each item, hovering over or clicking the marker will display a short summary and photo of that place or hotel, and hotel pricing. Follow the links in the info box to the full page listing which has much more information.
Note that the online map offers both a satellite view (click satellite in the top right) and, for some locations, a street level view (Drag the person in the top left onto the map). These let you explore the country; and when you wish to explore in person, or if you have any questions about the places you see, give our staff a call, or request a quote. Our staff regularly visit the places and accommodation that we feature.
When you book a holiday with us we will provide full driving instructions for reaching your accommodation, where necessary; these can be used by yourself, or you could enjoy the luxury of a driver. Alternatively we will arrange private (car rather than coach) transfers for you; helicopter transfers are also possible for some destinations.
A wonderful 7 night break to South Africa
We have just come back from a wonderful 7 night break to South Africa. We were incredibly well looking after from the second we stepped off the plane, by a lovely representative of Best of South Africa Travel - who met us and escorted us through customs and immigration literally behind the pilots. It was very efficient, and we felt very ...