If one thing is for sure, you will never feel bored in KwaZulu-Natal. The diverse topography was designed for adventure. From hardcore thrill-seekers to those who only occasionally like to step out of their comfort zone, there is something for everyone and plenty of opportunities to try something new.
The Golden Mile
Why you should visit: Durban’s Golden Mile stretches along the city’s main beaches. It is the perfect place to go for a light stroll or a bike ride. Grab an ice-cream from one of the local sellers (listen out for their bells) and flop down on the sand when your legs are tired. Don’t miss an opportunity for a quick ride on one of the colourful, traditional Rickshaws.
You can also explore Mini Town, a miniature replica city, or spend some time at uShaka Marine World, at either the seaworld or wet ‘n wild water park . If you have time to spare, the dolphin and seal shows are always a crowd-pleaser.
How to get there: The Golden Mile covers the main beaches in the city, starting from North Beach and running all the way to South Beach. It ends at the Point Waterfront. To get there, travel on the N3 highway. It takes you straight through the city to the Indian Ocean.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve
Why you should visit: KwaZulu-Natal is not all just about those brilliant beaches. Giving the Kruger National Park a run for its money, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, offers a treasure trove of wild animals including the Big Five, which you can witness out on 4×4 game drives. Here, professional tracker-guides will get you up close to an array of wildlife.
Remember, this is the African wild, so nothing is guaranteed. However, it does help to know that your time will be well spent with experts who are passionate about nature. The best part about Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, is that it is malaria-free, making it perfect for families with smaller children.
How to get there: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is located about 250km north of Durban on the Elephant Coast, historically known as Zululand, and is easily reached by tarred road. Most visitors to South Africa, fly into King Shaka International Airport in Durban and make the scenic self-drive from there.
iSimangaliso Wetlands Park
Why you should visit: Keep it natural in KwaZulu-Natal by visiting the wetlands and coastal forest surrounding St. Lucia and Bhangazi Lake. You can see a great variety of birds and also reedbuck, various antelope and crocodiles (at the crocodile centre). There are six looping road routes to explore on a self-drive in this region. The Marine Reserve provides protected beaches where endangered sea turtles return every year during the summer months to lay their eggs.
The floodplain areas are also home to large flocks of flamingos, many waders, including annual sightings of rarities such as Long-toed Lapwing, Caspian Plover and Rufous-bellied Herons. When you need to stock up on travel supplies, pay a visit to the town of St. Lucia. There are many quaint shops and local restaurants.
How to get there: iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is easily accessible from Durban. The two-hour road trip along the N2 is all part of the experience, passing those stunning coastal views and waving to isiZulu children from the roadside villages.
Why you should visit: Part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Sodwana Bay is the jewel of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal coast. Rich in natural biodiversity, it is rated as one of the ten best diving sites in the world. A meeting place of whales, sharks, dolphins, manta rays and turtles, you can do as much snorkelling and scuba diving as you want. Join a turtle tour and discover the local birds and wildlife on nature walks.
There are plenty of dive centres located in the area, and dives are suitable for all levels. As for non-divers, the stunning, shimmering beach is great for some family picnicking and casual fishing.
How to get there: From Durban, get onto the N2 north, which passes Ballito, Mtunzini and Richards Bay before reaching the Hluhluwe turn-off. The distance between Durban and Sodwana Bay is about 400km and the trip takes about five hours. Remember, there are many sand roads in Sodwana Bay and that getting stuck happens to the best of us!
Royal Natal National Park
Why you should visit: The Royal Natal National Park forms part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal. It is one of the best places to go hiking in the province. There are dozens of trails and trout fishing is also good at the Mahai and Thukela dams. It is a top location for birding and horse riding is another popular activity.
The main features of the park are the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a rocky wall standing 1 200 metres high, the Mont-Aux-Sources peak (the source for the Orange and Tugela rivers) and of course, Tugela Falls, the world’s second-highest waterfall at 948 metres.
How to get there: The Royal Natal National Park is located in the Northern Drakensberg, only 50km west of Bergville, and just off the R74.
The South Coast
Why you should visit: While the development of the North Coast has captured the attention of holidaymakers in recent years, there is still only one place to catch “South Coast Fever”. The craze first hit in the late 1950s, when families from across the country, flocked in their droves to this stretch of “endless summer” coastline. South Coast Fever even reached England, with a young Prince Charles and the rest of the Royals seen holidaying at Rennies Beach down in Port Edward at one point.
Keep an eye on the horizon between May and September, when schools of dolphins and porpoises, along with Humpback whales, can be seen making their move up to Mozambique for mating season. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch them showing off by breaching, spy-hopping and tail-slapping.
How to get there: The South Coast is exceptionally easy to reach. Just head south from Durban along the N2 towards Port Edward and you’ll discover a treasure trove of shimmering beaches along the way.
Sports fishing and snorkelling at Cape Vidal
Why you should visit: The lure of Cape Vidal lies in its unique appeal as a twin, beach-and-bush destination on the coast. The superb location is the pinnacle of both bush and beach, right between Lake St. Lucia with its resident wildlife and the marine delights of the Indian Ocean. Cape Vidal is renowned for its sports fishing and the bay has a designated launch site for ski boats. It is also sheltered from the elements, making it a superb spot for snorkelling at low tide.
How to get there: Cape Vidal is located along the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, within the ISimangaliso Wetland Park in St. Lucia. It is a three-hour drive from Durban and about 30km north of the town of St. Lucia.
How much does it cost: Adults: R51. Children under the age of 12-years-old: R37. Vehicle entry charge for up to five people: R61. Community Levy: R5 per person. Vessel launching fees: R100 per vessel.
Cruise the St Lucia Estuary
Why you should visit: Enjoy a leisurely cruise around the St. Lucia Estuary within the KwaZulu-Natal iSimangaliso Wetland Park onboard double-decker boats, which provide the perfect vantage point to view crocodiles and hippos as you meander through wetland waters.
There will be plenty of bird sightings of hippos, crocs, African fish eagles, vultures and African broadbills.
How to get there: iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is easy to reach from Durban. The 2.5-hour road trip heads along the N2, past the port town of Richards Bay.
How much does it cost: Two-hour boat cruises cost R300 per person.
Hiking in the Berg
Why you should visit: The Drakensberg Mountain Range is one of South Africa’s most spectacular natural wonders, with plenty of hiking opportunities.
The most famous peaks include Giant’s Castle, Cathedral Peak and Mont-Aux-Sources. However, there are plenty of smaller foothills, stunning waterfalls, inviting rock pools, fresh mountain streams and mysterious caves filled with San rock art.
How to get there: You can drive to this region from either Durban (roughly three hours’ drive) on the N3, or from Johannesburg. The main park is the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which is so vast, you’ll have to choose which parts you want to visit before you go.
How much does it cost: Expect to pay R70 per adult and R35 per child per day for entry into the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park.