When we visited Lesotho in April, we decided to extend our road trip with some stops in KwaZulu-Natal. Kwazulu whatta? When you think of South-Africa, you think of a safari in the Kruger, Apartheid, Mandela, Cape Town, maybe the World Cup … not of KwaZulu-Natal. A shame, because, as we discovered, this less-known region has a lot to offer.
We went for nature in Drakensbergen, city-life in Durban and safari’s in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and Saint-Lucia. With some last-minute decision stops on the road, we managed to add culture and history to our beautiful experience. Ah, the luxury of a rented car and creating your own adventure!
Hiking and a picnic in the magical Drakensbergen
The literal translation of ‘Drakensbergen’ is mountains of the dragons. It is also the mountain range that marks the border of Lesotho and South Africa. People are very warm and won’t hesitate to show you the pride they feel for the place as well as show you wild flowers and where you’ll find the most stunning sceneries. There are ample marked walking paths, some a little easier than others, so you can easily have an adventure of your own.
We went to Underberg, where we passed from South-Africa to Lesotho taking the Sani pass (the dragon’s tail!). Read about our Lesotho adventures here. It is definitely a must.
However, our golden tip about Underberg would be to discover the privately owned – yet open to the public – parcs and take a picnic along. Romance is in the air!
A big city in Africa is always a little adventure. Now when you visit the city on the day of the former president’s corruption trial, either you’re in for a show or you decide to spend your days on the relaxed Waterfront. We went for the latter. The Waterfront in Durban has a Florida-vibe to it: it’s a place where people meet, concerts are given, you can surf, swim, rent a go-cart (that was fun!) and where you can eat.
Let me tell you about the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever had. Twice to be exact, because it was that good. It was at the Circus Circus Beach Cafe in Durban.
Hippo and crocodile spotting in Saint-Lucia
Saint-Lucia, a very touristic wetland park right at the ocean, where you can spot hippo’s crossing the road, but mainly in the water. Many tours by boat are proposed. We took a small platform boat that brought us to see the large hippos and cranky crocodiles. Pretty cool. Our tip? Take the boat around sunset so you can capture the true beauty of the wetlands.
The -literally- golden tip would be to wake up extra early to see the sunrise looking out over the ocean.
The big 5 in the small Hluhluwe-iMfolozi
Compared to the Krüger, the safari park of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is teensy tiny. Yet, you can also spot the big five. The experience is completely different though. There’s more local tourism, less mass. Less adrenaline and less ‘we’ve seen that, wow, how about you?’. It’s enjoying the small things, surrounded by big animals.
Where in the Krüger we really had to search for rhino’s, in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi we saw at least 21 of them (after I lost count), as this park is known for saving the white rhino. We even walked sort of next to them. That’s right, and that’s my golden tip to you: book a walking safari while you’re there.
Behave at your best, respect the animals and your two (armed) guides when going for a walk in the park. While discovering the ecosystem of the park, you’re surrounded by the smaller creatures of the park like birds, butterflies and tube spiders. And as you go, you pass the wild animals at sometimes less than 50 meters away. There is nothing in between you and the animal except a little space and maybe a guard. This is quite the adventure!
Discovering South-Africa’s history leading up to today’s social battles
But what makes South-Africa so special and unique? The land, the people and the history they share. If you want to get a better understanding of the country, or get inspired by the figure of Nelson Mandela, we suggest some stops on the road.
These roadside museums enlightened us on the rich history that caused Apartheid and today’s social battle for farming lands.
In between Durban and Saint-Lucia/Hluhluwe-iMfolozi we can strongly recommend the small museum in Eshowe, where you can easily spend more than two hours, as they not only handle the history, but have a most inspiring collection of Zulu woven baskets. Internationally known, of the finest quality and of course, the prices are accordingly. Sadly, no pictures were allowed as they were strict about the artist’s rights.
In between Underberg and Durban (just above Pietermaritzburg), we visited the Capture Site of Mandela. The atmosphere there was intense. Overwhelming and soft at the same time, a bit like the sculpture by Maco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose. In an old shed, big (temporary) panels explained to us the importance and influence of Madiba, aka. Nelson Mandela.
We saw a businessman and teacher from Mozambique doing the tour of the site at the same time as us and we could hear them talking, looking up to the man. Wishing they had a freedom fighter just like him.
This Capture Site just captures you, and makes sure you go home with Mandela’s words in mind:
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
Guest blog by Ludwine
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