I’m hoping you can offer some advice on a trip I’m going on to the Kwa-Zulu Natal region of South Africa in May/June. I will be based in St. Lucia for the month of May, in June my partner will come out and we are looking to sort out an itinerary for those two weeks. I have a few ideas of where to go and the month I will of already been there will give be some knowledge of the area.
I don’t know whether it will be best to book accommodation and excursions in advance as this ithe beginning of June will be quite busy. If so then I will have to sort out my iis it best to sort out exactly what we will be doing before hand or , The problem is that I don’t know whether we can be laid back about planning or whether to have accommodation/excursions booked before hand as I presume the beginning of June will be quite busy. We are also hiring a 4wd car, is this area generally pretty safe?
Any advice on any of this would be appreciated.
Sounds like you have a couple of interesting and exciting months ahead of you. Kwa-Zulu Natal is one my favourite areas in South Africa, and I try to go there at least once a year. There are a couple of hotspots which I truly suggest to you, The Drakesnburg Mountain are definitly one of the greatest locations in my lovely country, and it is definitly worth spending 3/4 nights especially if you are a hiker! I always enjoyed Lotheni Restcamp, it is rather remote and has some of the best hiking you could ask for. Didima is also a lovely destination but is alittle touristy, while Kamberg and Castle Peak also come in highly suggested. The battlefields are definitly worth a stop for a day or 2 but isn't a must if you are not interested in the history of the area, thses sites mainly focus on the Zulu v British battles of the colonial years. Since you will be in St Lucia, you may not be too keen to spend too much time at Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve but it is a fantastic Game Reserve worth a night or 2 for your partner to see some big Game. I also suggest Mkuze Game Reserve in the north, it is just so awesomely beautiful with rugged rhyolitic mountains, and beautiful terrain, and its absolutely loaded with Rhino, it is also quite remote destination, where rual dwellers still live in mud huts etc! Ndumo is a lessor known reserve and is a great getaway but doesn't have the Big 5 or many mammal species to talk of but is a great birding destination. On the coast I would highly suggest Cape Vidal, awesome beach location with fantastic dunes and great sea life. And lastly, I would spend a day in Durban, just to see this extremely diverse city!
I just recently returned to South Africa after spending 14 months in the UK, and I found that the Press in the UK do give SA a good working over every now and then, especially about the crime. Unfortuantely the crime rate is high, but is limited to certain areas which you as a tourist will never really go to. It is always wise to stay vigilant, not to flaunt money, cameras and cell phones around, and try not to walk around at night, rather get a taxi or drive. Saying that though these rules really only apply when you are in the city. Rural crime is low, and usually in settlements. Just be vigilant and safe, and don't risks and you will be fine... sounds very gloomy but I can assure it is not even half as bad as it has been described to you.
If you are still a bit nervous to Travel, you may look into travelling with an escort/guide, who knows the areas, and will make sure you are safe at all times while on the move. You also don't have to have a guide all the time, you can merely travel from point to point with an escort and then do guided activities from your overnight venue in order to see the area. This way you will always be with someone who knows what they are doing, you'll get to meet new people (on the activities) and it wont cost you an arm or a leg, as the guide/escort won't be staying with you overnight saving you money on the guides fees, meals and accommodation.
If you have any further questions feel free to send a message via Travellerspoint
Otherwise, best of luck and I really enjoy your stay in our lovely country!
"Don't See Africa... Live Africa!"
I agree with Ian and would also like to suggest southern Mozambique. There is an opperator called Afrikar in the area. Meet up with them while you're there or take a look at there website.http://www.afrikar.com This is a self-drive guided option in one of there specialy designed vehicles. Great fun and an opportunity to also experience Moz.
"With an adventurous spirit and a sense of humor, Africa will love you back."
Thank you very much for your replies Ian and Andre!
The Drakensburg Mountains sound great, and yes I am interested in the battlefields, I've heard there are some very good story telling guides. Don't think I can get to Mozambique as we're flying out of Durban, it would be a bit of a detour.
As for safety, quite right that SA doesn't get a good press in England regarding that but I think this society worries about most things, common sense should keep me out of any trouble.... I'm more worried about grumpy hippos!!
What do you think of hiring a car, would a 4WD be needed?, also do you think I need to book up accommodation and excursions before I go?
You won't really need a 4x4 unless you are into that kind of things. You can easily reach all of the locations mentioned before without one. The only place I can think you could need 4x4 is in St. Lucia, but you could easily book a game drive to take you to the locations that require one. As for booking accommodation in advance, it certainly can't hurt if you have some specific things that you wouldn't want to miss and your dates are set into stone. Like staying in Mkuze for Hluhluwe, for example.