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KwaZulu-Natal

©SA Tourism©SA TourismWith the warm, coral-fringed Indian Ocean lapping at its eastern border and the mighty Drakensberg mountain guarding its western flank, KwaZulu-Natal seems to have it all. The Drakensberg goes by the older, very apt name uKahlamba, which means "Barrier of Spears". Bright green and lush in summer and brown and snow-capped in winter, the Drakensberg offers a dramatic face in any season. It's a great place to walk, ride a pony, glide, paraglide or take an escorted trip to the summit. There is a good selection of golf courses and trout-stocked streams and dams.

Between the Drakensberg and the sea are the Midlands - beautiful, mist-covered, rolling green hills sheltering cute villages, cosy pubs, creative studios and lots of lovely restaurants and coffee shops. And just north of the Tugela River is the kingdom of Zululand, the KwaZulu part of the double-barrelled name. It was here that this proud and rather fierce nation fought so valiantly against British and Boer colonialism. You can spend days or even weeks exploring the sites of historical battles, museums and monuments. Zululand's two main rivers offer fantastic white water rafting in summer. This is, obviously, a great place to learn about Zulu culture. There are a number of cultural villages and, of course, a whole lot of Zulu people who live there. In the north is the Tembe Elephant Park, which is home to large herds of these huge and lovely beasts, as well as many other animals.

A major attraction of the region is the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve - a great big five reserve with loads of white and black rhinos. This reserve played a major role in bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction, and also pioneered the wilderness walking safaris, which are now so popular here and elsewhere in South Africa.

Although the bush, wildlife and mountains are major attractions, KwaZulu-Natal is really about the beach, and both the diving and surfing are great. In the north, the coast of Maputaland is beautiful and lush, with high, forested dunes, seasonally inundated wetlands and beautiful coastal lakes. Major attractions here are the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, the diving at Sodwana Bay, and Phinda Resource Reserve. For a really fun day out, you could try paddling on Lake St Lucia or Lake Bhangazi, among some very shy hippos and crocodiles.

Between Maputaland and Durban is the North Coast, also known as the Dolphin Coast. The surf is great, there are superb golf courses, and the beaches alternate between highly developed with every possible facility to long, pristine and deserted.

Durban, the biggest urban area in KZN, is a bustling, typical seaport. It also has some amazing surfing right in the middle of the city, good diving close by, and some great shopping and arts and crafts.

On the South Coast, you will find lots of lovely beaches, plenty of excellent golf courses, which are downright cheap by European or American standards, and the scenic Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve with its many adventure activities and small game. This is a favourite family holiday destination and the beautiful, endless stretches of beach offer every imaginable facility. This is the southern limit of the Mozambique Current, and the diving is brilliant with lots of colourful tropical fish on rocky reefs. Although there are many easier and more accessible dive sites, Protea Banks, off Margate, is one of the best dive sites in the world for large pelagics, including big game fish and many species of shark. Not for beginners, though.


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