South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province has a rich heritage of history, culture, crafts and endemic fauna and flora. In this article, Tourism Tattler explores the province’s well-planned tourism routes and provides links for more information on each route.
Much of the history of South Africa has been written in blood, and no visit to the province is complete without a visit to at least one of the world-famous battlefields, which still carry memories of some of the best-known battles in history. Stories of heroism and bravery over the centuries abound.
The province is also home to, among others, the proud Zulu people who cherish their unique and colourful heritage, so cultural visits are truly rewarding. The province also has many rock art sites where such ancient and fascinating artworks can be enjoyed. Many famous writers and artists have lived, and still live here, drawing inspiration from the surroundings. The province is also home to crafts and skills of all kinds, many of which provide lasting memories to take home.
But not all routes are serious. While South Africa is best known for the Cape Wine routes, one of the most fun things to do in KZN is follow the Beer Route, where some great brews can be sampled, in the lovely countryside where they are created.
KwaZulu-Natal has a great variety of scenery and landscape, including the magnificent golden beaches that line its shores, the towering Drakensberg Mountains, and the tranquil green farmlands of the Midlands. It’s great hiking and walking country, and with its well planned birding routes, many wonderful species can be seen, including the rare and beautiful lammergeyer vultures, who soar on the thermal air currents. The Ezemvelo KZN wildlife parks are home to the Big Five – and many, many other wonderful animals besides.
Check out the many tourism routes – any of which will give you a truly special experience, unique to this lovely province.
1000 Hills Route
The Valley of 1000 Hills is a half an hour’s drive from the centre of Durban and follows the M13 between Durban and Shongweni. Marked routes include the Comrades Route, the Krantzkloof Route, the Assagay Alverstone Route, the Isithumba Route and the Shongweni Shuffle Route. For more information visit: 1000hillstourism.co.za
The Amajuba Route (doves, the symbol of peace) takes its name from a story about the Zulu King, Shaka and one of his raiding parties returning from the North West. They stopped to rest at the foot of Majuba Mountain, and noticing the vast number of doves, called it Kwamajuba, (The place of the Doves). The route covers the area that makes up the Amajuba District Municipality in the North-Western corner of KwaZulu-Natal and incorporates the Dannhauser, Utrecht and Newcastle local municipalities. For more information visit: www.openafrica.org/route/Amajuba-Route.
Visiting the Battlefields should not be done in a haphazard manner. By browsing the Battlefields website, one can choose an era, war or campaign and then select the sites you want to visit. To assist in this respect the site divides the route into the various eras and wars. The route covers historical sites in the towns of Dundee, Eshowe, Greytown, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Vryheid, Utrecht, Ulundi and Winterton with links to other KwaZulu-Natal towns relevant to battlefield archaeology. And use a guide, it doubles the value of the experience! For more information visit: www.battlefieldsroute.co.za
The Beer Route provides a showcase for a number of breweries in the province and the beer they produce. These include The Congella – United National Breweries in Durban, South African Breweries in Prospecton, The Nottingham Road Brewery at Rawdons Hotel in the Midlands, the Wartburger Brauhaus in Wartburg, The Ijuba-United National Breweries in the Battlefields of Dundee, the Shongweni Brewery and the Zululand Brewing Company in Eshowe. For more information visit: www.zulu.org.za/about/routes/beer-route
The Boston-Bulwer Beat is a community tourism association, which covers the areas surrounding these two South African villages on the R671, as well as the Upper Dargle area, located between the Midlands and the Southern Drakensberg. Birding in this area includes the endangered Blue Swallow and the Cape parrot. Activities include fishing, walking, hiking, rafting, mountain biking, paragliding and hang-gliding. Just over an hour’s drive from Durban, the Boston Bulwer Beat is the ideal weekend getaway. For more information visit: www.drakensberg-tourist-map.com/Boston.html.
Barely two years old, the East3Route is an annual tourism and trade initiative, referred to by some as the History Route, as it spans over three countries, namely Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province. In 1998, leaders of these three countries; Swaziland’s King Mswati III, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Mozambique’s Joachim Chissano coined an idea that would ensure integration between these three countries, giving birth to the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative. It was within the precincts of this initiative that the East3Route was established, a journey that would in the long-term attract tourism and investment opportunities along the corridor. The essence of the East3Route partnership between the three countries is about sharing marketing resources for tourists to explore the diverse tourism attractions. For more information visit: east3route.com
Freedom Route / Inanda Heritage Route
The Freedom Route provides the tourist with an insight into the Freedom Struggles of the Past, the Present and the Future. The freedom nodes around Durban include the KwaMuhle Museum, Cato Manor and other townships around Durban, the Inanda Heritage Route, which includes Mahatma Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement and Dr John Dube’s Ohlange Institute, and the Luthuli Museum in Groutville. The freedom nodes around Pietermaritzburg include the Pietermaritzburg Train Station, The Old Prison, Edendala and Mbali routes, the Gandhi Statue, the Alan Paton Centre, Sobantu Township, Manaye Hall and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site near Howick. For more information visit: www.southafrica.net/gl/en/travel/article/inanda-heritage-route and www.zulu.org.za/about/routes/freedom-route
King Shaka Heritage Route
The King Shaka Heritage Route is a community-based cultural tourism initiative aimed at generating and developing economic activity inland from the renowned beach resorts. The route includes a self-drive tourism experience that meanders through the local municipalities of KwaDukuza, eNdondakusuka, Ndwedwe and Maphumulo, providing a fascinating cultural experience. Before taking the route, check at the Sangweni Tourism Centre in Ballito on the route’s rehabilitation status and the best access routes. This Centre will also advise of other cultural heritage attractions in the region. For more information visit: www.zulu.org.za
KZN Literary Routes
KZN Literary Tourism has developed six area-based trails – the North Coast Writers Trail, South Coast Writers Trail, Midlands Writers Trail, INK (Inanda, Ntuzuma, Kwa Mashu) Writers Trail, Cato Manor Writers Trail and the Grey Street Writers Trail – as well as two stand-alone trails on Rider Haggard and Alan Paton’s Pietermaritzburg. Community guides have been trained for the Cato Manor, Inanda and North Coast trails. Most popular for tourists is the Grey Street trail in central Durban which takes in the Madressa Arcade and Markets, as well as the INK trail which visits sites related to the Gandhi family printing press, John Dube’s house at Ohlange and Inanda Seminary, the oldest private school for black girls in South Africa. All sites are seen through writers’ eyes or are linked to local writers in some way. For more information visit: www.literarytourism.co.za.
Maloti Drakensberg Route
The Maloti Drakensberg Route spans the borders between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The Route covers substantial areas of Lesotho, Eastern Cape, Eastern Free State and Ukhahlamba Drakensberg. Focusing on the majestic mountains and the interesting people who inhabit them, this Route provides travellers with an opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures including Basotho, English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. For more information visit: www.malotidrakensbergroute.com/.
Midlands Amble Route
The Midlands Amble Route follows Route 33 in the North East Midlands. The traditional heart of the Amble is the Albert Falls Dam but the ambit of The Amble stretches from Pietermaritzburg south to historic Baynesfield House and Museum; south-east to the Lion Park and the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary near Ashburton; east to tranquil Harburg; northeast to busy KwaSizabantu Mission; and north to adventurous Zingela Safari and River Company near Weenen. For more information visit: www.facebook.com/themidlandsamble
Midlands Meander Route
The Midlands Meander Route is a collection of arranged routes extending over a distance of 80 kilometres between the city of Pietermaritzburg in the East and the majestic uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountain range (a World Heritage Site) in the West, in the uMgungundlovu district, one of eight regions of the ‘Zulu Kingdom’. An easy one-hour drive from Durban and on the N3 highway from Johannesburg, there is much to explore and do in the Midlands. The Midlands Meander has grown into a vibrant network consisting of 210 members, who make a substantial contribution to the local economy in terms of expenditure and employment, as well as undertaking social responsibility activities (tourism and environmental education in 19 rural schools, and studies of the Karkloof Blue Butterfly.) For more information visit: www.midlandsmeander.co.za.
Route 22 is in the district of uMkhanyakude (northern KwaZulu-Natal) links with Mozambique and Swaziland on the N-E and N-W respectively. You can be in three countries (South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique) in one trip. Seven days on Route 22 offers: The Big 5 in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and other private game reserves in the district; the “Small 5” and “ugly 5”; water adventure activities along the shores of South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso; a world-renowned diving site in Sodwana; over 500 bird species in Ndumu Game Reserve and surrounds; unique bead ware and a wide range of authentic craft and last but not least, home-made pineapple juice and dried pineapples for which the district’s agricultural industry is renown. For more information visit this Wikipedia stub.
Route 66 Zululand Heritage Route
This route runs through Zululand from the N2 Gingindlovu off ramp up to Pongola. It covers two district municipalities; Zululand and Uthungulu with towns like Eshowe, Melmoth, Ulundi Nongoma and Pongola. For more information visit: www.zululandroute66.co.za.
Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route
The Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route stretches from the beaches and forests of KwaZulu-Natal’s North and South Coastlines through the Lowveld and up to the Drakensberg Mountains. The variety of habitat provides a bird list in excess of 550 species including many rare and endemic species. For more information visit: www.zulu.org.za/about/routes/southern-kwazulu-natal-birding.
Southern Explorer Route
The Southern Explorer Route is a map-based route guide of KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast. With over R3 million worth of National and Provincial road signage displayed the Southern Explorer is well branded. Specialised Maps of each tour have been designed by the Southern Explorer Association to direct tourists directly to their destination. For more information visit: southernexplorer.co.za/.
Zululand Birding Route
The Zululand Birding Route has 605 bird species and a wonderful range of destinations where they occur. The routes include the Elephant Coast Route, the North-West Route and the Southern Route. The Zululand Birding Route is helping create a new career path for South Africans, through training as bird guides. Individuals are selected from communities neighbouring birding spots for training. Ongoing follow up assistance sharpens and assesses their skills and ensures they are accredited as bird guides. For more information visit: https://eshowe.com/zululand-birding-route/