by Tamlin Wightman on March 29, 2012
7 min read

Our German Copywriter, Patricia Valerio, is sadly leaving us at Rhino Africa and Rhino Afrika as she heads back home to Germany.

But before jetting off, she decided to go on one last South African journey – a quick tour of the east coast of South Africa – to make the most of her last few days by travelling through KwaZulu-Natal, the subtropical province on the East Coast of South Africa.

Over to Patricia – This is her KwaZulu Natal Story

My friend and colleague – German travel consultant, Silke – and I left Cape Town for a five day adventure in KwaZulu Natal, flying to King Shaka Airport in Durban on a Saturday morning. After the two hour flight, we stepped off the plane into the tropical heat that is Durban.

We picked up a snazzy rental car and drove off to St Lucia on my last SA road trip…

Silke and Patricia

Silke and Patricia

Isimangaliso Map

Kwazulu Natal Highlights

  • The warm Indian Ocean and warm climate makes it a great beach destination all year round
  • Hikers and nature lovers will love the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg area, while those that enjoy the more gentle pursuits can indulge in the Midlands Meander
  • There are great game and nature reserves, with superb safari options including Phinda and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park
  • For culture vultures, the Battlefields and Zulu villages will no doubt be right up your alley

Accommodation

We visited two lodges in KZN, firstly Lidiko Lodge, a four star B&B in St Lucia, for two nights. It has 16 air-conditioned en-suite Garden Rooms next to the swimming pool in a lush, green garden. The decor is contemporary mixed with African influences and the atmosphere is welcoming.

St Lucia

St Lucia is a famous destination at the border of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (former Greater St Lucia Wetland Park), on an estuary of the St Lucia lagoon. It has heavenly white sand beaches, warm water, huge sand dunes covered by grass, as well as hippo, crocodile, turtles (seasonal from November to January) and extensive bird life. There are great fishing opportunities.

Silke and I visited St Lucia a few years ago. This time, we were positively surprised at how much it has developed since then. On the last trip, we went on a boat tour to watch hippos and crocodiles and a safari at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, so this time we decided we’d try a self drive through iSimangaliso to Cape Vidal.

Hluhluwe

Back at Hluhluwe

You’ll find the little bay of Cape Vidal within the St Lucia Marine Reserve and north east of St Lucia. It is host to a whole host of accommodation, including cabins and campsites, as well as numerous other facilities.

Other luxury accommodation options

Thonga Beach Lodge is a great coastal property only metres away from the beach above a secluded bay on the Maputuland coast just 25 minutes drive from Lake Sibaya in northern Kwazulu Natal. Kosi Forest Lodge is the only private lodge in the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve and is set in a beautiful sand forest on the banks of the Kosi Lake.Visit our list of KZN Coastline Hotels for more luxury options.


iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Isimangaliso

iSimangaliso is divided into 5 ecological systems, which makes this park so fascinating. It lies on the Eastern shoreline of Africa and is warmed up by the water of the Indian Ocean. There are hundreds of species of fish, turtle and dolphin here, and whales pass by in season from June to November on their way to the South.

iSimangaliso is the perfect self-drive destination (although a sturdy 4×4 vehicle is recommended in some instances), with tarred road and gravel road loops to get into the bush, and watch mammals and reptiles in the floodplain. Let me not forget the highlight of the day – about 10 km after we entered the park, we saw a leopard on the side of the road. A totally unexpected view of such a timid creature!

It was windy and cloudy on that day, so the snorkeling tour at Cape Vidal was out and we continued our road trip through the park. At Cape Vidal we relaxed at the beach and swam in the warm water (compared to the icy Atlantic Ocean we are used to in Cape Town). It’s just what a week away from work calls for!

We dined that night at Albertos, an Italian restaurant and prepared ourselves for the 5,5 hour drive the next day to the Midlands.


From Coast To Country

After breakfast, we jumped back in our rental and headed south to Durban and then Pietermaritzburg, through the idyllic countryside, through Zulu villages, until we reached Three Tree Hills Lodge in the afternoon.

The lodge lies on the border of a 4000 hectare nature reserve, far away from all the tourists and noise of the city. Owners Cheryl and Simon Blackburn – along with their four pooches – welcomed us. The atmosphere was very relaxed and warm – we definitely felt very welcome and thoroughly enjoyed the company. The weather was ideal, not too hot, but sunny enough to catch some rays. They have solar power – which does mean no air con, TV or mini bar in the room, but it was still awesome!

Getting in touch with nature

We went on a bush walk after the afternoon tea (which included delicious homemade scones). Cheryl and Ranger Mike – and of course the dogs – accompanied us. We spotted several game on the reserve – rhino, giraffe, zebra and antelope. We ended the evening with drinks in the boma and heard jackals screaming like babies to mark their territory.

After a healthy breakfast on Tuesday morning, we drove 40 minutes along the Woodstock Dam and uThukela River in the Northern Drakensberg to the Royal Natal Nature Park – an awesome spot for nature lovers and camping. We walked to the Cascades, a rock pool filled with water from the waterfall that runs down the mountain and swam in the clear water of the pool with the sun shining on us. We had to share our lunch from Three Tree Hills with a baboon who jumped out of the bush to crash our little party!

Waterfall

Chasing waterfalls

On our last day in KZN we had to choose between hiking the Drakensberg and getting to see Tugela Falls (the highest waterfall in Africa) and various activities, including horse riding, a mountain bike tour, hot air ballooning and bird viewing.

We decided to go on the great historical battlefields tour in the Spionkop Nature Reserve with Simon and Mike. This is the place where, in 1899, the battle between the British and Boers took place. In four hours we learned a heck of a lot about the Anglo-Zulu War and the victory of the Boers due to the tactical mistakes of the British. Simon is a great storyteller and it was amazing to get to experience the tour.

You can explore the Battlefields in Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift and Spionkop and other sights and safari opportunities in this Best of KZN Tour!

On Wednesday, we had a late lunch in Umdloti on the coast (see our list of recommended Durban restaurants) before we hopped on out plane back home to Cape Town. KwaZulu Natal has so much to offer travellers! It was a great way to spend my last South African adventure before heading back home to Germany.

Phinda Mountain Lodge

Phinda Mountain Lodge


Our travel consultants can tailor-make a tour for you that includes some of the places mentioned above as well as other great South African destinations. Take a look at our tour ideas, whether you prefer coast or safari, and for more information about this region visit our KwaZulu Natal Facts & Info page. Contact us for more information and to book a great KZN safari and coastal experience.