KwaZulu-Natal

Travel Guide Africa South Africa KwaZulu-Natal

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Introduction

KwaZulu-Natal is a province in South Africa's southeastern corner, bordering the Indian Ocean, Swaziland and Mozambique. It is an extremely beautiful region, with fantastic beaches, wilderness areas, game parks, dramatic peaks and fantastic people, towns and cities like Durban.

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Geography

At around 92,100 km2 in area, KwaZulu-Natal is roughly the size of Portugal. It has three different geographic areas. The lowland region along the Indian Ocean coast is extremely narrow in the south, widening in the northern part of the province, while the central Natal Midlands consists of an undulating hilly plateau rising toward the west. Two mountainous areas, the western Drakensberg Mountains and northern Lebombo Mountains form, respectively, a solid basalt wall rising over 3,000 metres beside Lesotho border and low parallel ranges of ancient granite running southward from Swaziland. The area's largest river, the Tugela, flows west to east across the center of the province.

The coastal regions typically have subtropical thickets and deeper ravines; steep slopes host some Afromontane Forest. The midlands have moist grasslands and isolated pockets of Afromontane Forest. The north has a primarily moist savanna habitat, whilst the Drakensberg region hosts mostly alpine grassland.

The province contains rich areas of biodiversity of a range of flora and fauna. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, along with uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and Ndumo, are wetlands of international importance for migratory species, and are designated as Ramsar sites. South Africa signed the 1971 Ramsar Convention to try to conserve and protect important wetlands because of their importance to habitats and numerous species.

The former Eastern Cape enclave of the town of Umzimkulu and its hinterland have been incorporated into KwaZulu-Natal following the 12th amendment of the Constitution of South Africa. The amendment also made other changes to the southern border of the province.

The northwesterly line of equal latitude and longitude traverses the province from the coast at Hibberdene (30°34′35″S 30°34′35″E) to northeast Lesotho.

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Cities and Towns

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Sights and Activities

Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park

Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park is located in the east of KwaZulu-Natal north of Durban. The park is around 96,000 ha big and is the oldest national park in Africa and the only one in KwaZulu where you can see the Big Five. Apart from these (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo) you can see crocodile, hippo, cheetah, hyena, wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, warthog, bushpig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys and wide varieties of birds, over 300! All this can be done by your own car, tours and even boat tours and walking safaris are a possibility. For more information about getting and staying here have a look at the official Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park website.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a park in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal. It is the country's third largest protected area, covering 3,300 square kilometres of natural habitat. The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective 1 November 2007. The word isimangaliso means "a miracle" or "something wondrous" in Zulu. The name came as a result of Shaka's subject having been sent to the land of the Tsonga. When he came back he described the beauty that he saw as a miracle. The park is due to be integrated into atransfrontier park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This is in turn planned to become a part of the greater Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Royal Natal National Park

The Royal Natal National Park is forms part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. Notwithstanding the name, it is actually not a South African National Park managed by the SANParks, but rather a Provincial Park managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The park will be included into the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area Peace Park. The main features of the park are the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a rock wall 5 kilometres long by up to 1,200 metres high, Mont-Aux-Sources peak where the Orange and Tugela rivers have their source, and the 948-metre Tugela Falls, the world's second-highest waterfall. The best time to visit is in late summer (March to May) when all the rivers are full, the air is crystal clear and vegetation is lush and green.

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Events and Festivals

World Cup 2010

The big upcoming international event on the South African horizon is the FIFA World Cup beginning on the 11th of June 2010. One of the most prestigious and popular world sporting events, the World Cup 2010 promises to bring throngs of passionate supporters from around the globe. Held once every four years, it's a football tournament (called soccer in South Africa) where 32 world nations vie for the famous golden trophy.

Durban will be hosting some of the World Cup matches at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 70,000.

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Weather

KwaZulu-Natal has a varied yet verdant climate thanks to diverse, complex topography. Generally, the coast is subtropical with inland regions becoming progressively colder. Durban on the south coast has an annual rainfall of 1,009 mm, with daytime maxima peaking from January to March at 28 °C with a minimum of 21 °C, dropping to daytime highs from June to August of 23 °C with a minimum of 11 °C. Temperature drops towards the hinterland, with Pietermaritzburg being similar in the summer, but much cooler in the winter. Ladysmith in the Tugela River Valley reaches 30 °C in the summer, but may drop below freezing point on winter evenings. The Drakensberg can experience heavy winter snow, with light snow occasionally experienced on the highest peaks in summer. The Zululand north coast has the warmest climate and highest humidity, supporting many sugar cane farms around Pongola.

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Getting There

By Plane

King Shaka International Airport (DUR) is 35 kilometres north of the city centre of Durban, South Africa, and replaced the former Durban International Airport on May 1, 2010, just before the World Soccer Championships. International flights arrive from Dubai, Maputo and Mauritius. There are domestic flights from eight South African airports, including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The airport is accessible from both the N2 freeway and the alternative R102 road. There are about 6,500 short-term- and long-term parking places available and metered taxis travel to and from the city centre.
  • Public transport: regular buses connect the airport to Durban centre. A direct link will be in operation in the near future.

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl offers a number of trains:

  • Cape Town - Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Ladysmith, 36 hours, tourist and economy class both once weekly
  • Johannesburg - Durban via Ladysmith and Pietermaritzburg, 13,5 hours, premier class twice a week, tourist once a week and economy daily except Tuesday.

By Car

The N2 connects KwaZulu-Natal with Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. If you are driving from the Kruger National Park to Durban, the N2 between Piet Retief and Pongola is often badly pot-holed. You might do better to travel by way of Middelburg, Ermelo, Volksrust, Ladysmith, and Pietermaritzburg.

If you are driving to Durban from the Cape, the stretch through the Eastern Cape from East London onwards is hardly worth the bother and can be unsafe in and around Mthatha. Better to drop off your rental at Port Elizabeth, fly to Durban, and rent again.

The N3 connects KwaZulu-Natal with Gauteng via Van Reenens pass.

If you are driving through Swaziland, cross into South Africa at Golela and get onto the N2 southbound.

Great lengths of the N2 (coast) and N3 (Johannesburg-Durban) are toll roads. You can pay at the toll plazas with a credit card, but cash may be wiser from the point of view of card fraud.

By Bus

The main companies run regular buses from Durban to Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Public transport east of Durban is limited.

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Getting Around

By Train

There is a Metrorail suburban rail network around Durban and the North and South Coasts, and inland to Pinetown. However, it is generally not thought of as safe, unless you are in a large group (going to a sporting event, for example, at Kings Park rugby stadium, Moses Mabhida soccer stadium, or Kingsmead cricket ground).

By Car

If you would like to travel around by car, there are numerous car rental companies available from the airports and downtown locations. Just make sure that you have sufficient insurance to cover you if the need arises. Some of them offer the possibility to reduce excess (the amount you pay when involved in an accident) for a daily fee. Car hire companies include Avis, Imperial, CABS, First Car Rental as well as many other international and local ones. Usually, the local ones are cheaper but don't have the same standard as the international ones, which have more branches throughout the country and therefore are able to help you more quickly if needed.

If travelling by car, be sure to plan your routes carefully to insure that there are sufficient places to fill the tank with petrol as some towns are located quite a distance apart with no filling stations in between. It's a good idea to fill up with fuel when you have about half a tank left if possible.

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Language

KwaZulu-Natal languages include English, Afrikaans, and Zulu. In KwaZulu-Natal, English is mangled least by the English, more by the Indian, even more by the Africans and worst of all by the Afrikaners.

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Eat

Since the province has such a strong Indian heritage, it’s a good idea to try the local Indian restaurants. At Jai Pur Palace in Durban, try the eat-all-you-like buffet and sample as many of the dishes that tempt you. Well worth it. At the other end of the culinary scale is bunny chow, a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry. Be careful - food hygiene may be poor where bunny chow is sold.

If you are staying at B&Bs, your hosts will know where you can get a good meal. The newer shopping malls generally have a good choice of reasonable eating places; most towns have international fast-food franchises.

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Drink

Durban has a typical large city bar and nightlife culture. Outside of those places, you are usually stuck to the local bars, either in towns or lodges.

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Sleep

Ranging from camping to luxurious hotels and lodges.

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Contributors

as well as Hien (3%)

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This is version 19. Last edited at 14:01 on Sep 15, 17 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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