Holiday in the Province of Kwazulu Natal
Friday 14 September 2018
HOLIDAY IN THE PROVINCE OF KWAZULU NATAL
I flew with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul to Durban. The flight touched down in JNB to allow passengers to disembark but onward passengers stay on-board. This stop takes approx. 1 hour.
Durban International Airport is a modern airport but is not a busy one so I did not encounter any delays at immigration or in the baggage hall.
I arranged for a private transfer from the airport to Umhlanga (phonetically pronounced Umshlanga). After a long flight this is a simpler option even though it’s not a long or difficult drive from the airport and it only takes about 20 minutes.
I stayed 3 nights in The Oyster Box, a Red Carnation Hotel. Its located on the prestigious beachfront and has sweeping views of the Indian Ocean and the iconic lighthouse. This award winning hotel offers a really relaxed atmosphere, whether it’s eating breakfast out on the terrace, dinning in one of its two restaurants or sipping a cocktail in the evening in one of their popular bars you are sure to feel at ease in the beautiful surroundings. The hotel also offers a Spa, a 24 seater cinema and a lovely pool area with views out over the sea.
Above Left – The pool at The Oyster Box. Above Right – Buffet Breakfast at The Oyster Box.
There are a number of bars and restaurants within a few minutes’ walk of the hotel. Eating out is inexpensive. In the Butcher Boy restaurant located at the back of the hotel a meal consisting of a starter, steak with salad, mushrooms and chips, dessert and two glasses of wine was €23.50. Lunch of burger, chips and a beer €6. There is also a large shopping centre in the area. And of course, there is the beautiful promenade, which runs for approx. 5 klms, for taking your evening stroll.
A half days’ excursion to Durban City is recommended just to get a feel for it. You will visit the Botanic Gardens, the Spice Market and the Sports Stadium. For the more adventurous you can book The Big Rush Big Swing, the world’s tallest swing which allows you to take the thrilling leap swinging out into a massive 220m arc where you soar into the centre of the Moses Mabhida Staidum. Not for the faint hearted!
The Europcar depot is located across the road from the Oyster Box so on Day 4 we picked up our car and headed north to the Fairmont Zimbali Resort. (approx. 30 minute drive from Umhlanga). This is a vast resort set within a luscious forest on the North Coast. With its golf course, selection of swimming pools, spa and numerous restaurants it’s an easy place to spend a couple of days just relaxing. If anyone is interested in trying out another golf course in the area there is one called Umhlali Country Club in Ballito ( which was approx. a 10 minute drive from the Fairmont resort to Ballito ). You cannot swim in the sea here due to undercurrents but it is a lovely walk. Also there is lots of wildlife around the resort such as monkeys, bucks, frogs and an amazing amount of crabs down along the seashore. Nearest town is Ballito which is about 10 minutes’ drive away.
Golf in Umhlali Country Club will cost approx. €27 for 18 holes in high season
Above my bedroom in Fairmont Zimbali Resort. Below Zimbali Golf Course
After a pleasant two days golfing I headed another 2 and half hours further north to St. Lucia Wetlands in Zululand which is South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is a coastal wildlife paradise as it has lakes, swamps, forests and offshore reefs. The main street, Mc Kenzie Street, is lined with accommodation, restaurants and gift shops. All of the properties are low rise. I stayed in Lidiko Lodge which is a family owned and managed 4 star lodge. The main building of the lodge is one of the original thatched buildings erected in St Lucia.
There is plenty to do in this area. A “must do” is an evening boat trip along a 10km stretch of the St Lucia Estuarine System. On this 2 hour trip you will be treated to the sight of hippos, crocs and birdlife. Also worth a visit is Cape Vidal located in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This park is where Bushveld, Grassland, Sand Dunes and Beach Merge. If you are taking a self drive visit here you will pay upon entering the park. Guided tours are also available. Make sure to bring a packed lunch and your swimming togs as Cape Vidal has a lovely beach but there aren’t any places to have lunch.
Left – The stunning beach at Cape Vidal. Right – Wildlife in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park
I was sorry to leave St Lucia Wetlands and would like to have spent more than two days there as the area has so much to offer. However, we still had one last destination on our itinerary and that was Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. This was about a 2 hour drive from St Lucia. However, please take note, DO NOT FOLLOW the GOOGLE MAPS directions as they will lead you to a dead-end (something I learned from experience)
Rhino Ridge offers exclusive 4 Star luxury accommodation, excellent cuisine, unbelievable views out over the bush, twice daily game drives and a holistic spa. The park has an abundance of Rhinos, Buffalo, Gazelles, Impalas, Giraffes, Zebra and Elephants. It also has a lot of larger birds. Whilst the park has the Big Five I did not see any “cats” on my drives but others guests did during their stay. This was a fantastic way to finish up what was an amazing visit to the Kwazulu Natal region.
The drive back to Durban Airport is 3 and a half hours. If you had longer you could also include a few days in the Drakensberg Mountains and also visit the Zulu Battlefields. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do these.
Getting up close and personal with some of the wildlife at Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge.
In summary, I would highly recommend this region to anyone who has already been to Capetown and the Garden Route and would like to try out some of the other fascinating areas that South Africa has to offer. Having been along the Garden Route a few times the main thing I noticed was that each of the places I visited was vastly different to each other. Indeed it almost felt like I was in a different country each time. I thought this region had a much more “African” feel to it. People still grazed their animals on the side of the road, whilst some of the older ladies had their faces painted with red clay. Many locals also spoke their own language, Xhosa, whereby they click their tongue to make certain sounds. It’s fascinating to listen to and it’s an amazing place to visit.