KwaZulu-Natal – The Zulu Kingdom
The Elephant Coast in KwaZulu-Natal is made up of towns such as Hluhluwe, Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, iMfolozi, Mkuze and St. Lucia stretching along the coastline of the province.
This area is known for its whales and turtles as well as its elephants and rhinos. It also incorporates the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park which is a World Heritage Site and a must see when on vacation. The Wetlands, known as iSimangaliso in Zulu, is a natural blend of swamps, rivers and lakes home to thousands of bird life and animals. You can take walks and hikes along the many trails just across the Mfolozi River and into the St. Lucia Estuary. At the edge you will come across pristine mangrove swamps home to many crocodiles and hippos. There are two main campsites to stay at while visiting and you have the choice of sleeping in round huts or tents.
The Emoyeni Trail and the Tewati Wilderness Area Trail provide you with the great opportunity to witness leopard, antelope, black rhino, crocodile, zebra, and buffalo among others. There is also a Whale Tower Trail which will enable you to see the majestic ocean creatures that pass by. In the north you will be able to enjoy the interesting marine animals like the manta ray, the ragged tooth shark and the giant whale shark at the Maputaland Marine Reserve. This is also the unspoiled location where the loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles emerge to lay their eggs on the dunes. The park stretches all the way up to the border of Mozambique and offers a unique and rich ecotourism destination.
The Elephant Coast would not be complete without its namesake, the African Elephant. The Tembe Elephant Park offers travelers the utmost in elephant viewing. There are fantastic luxury lodges, game drives, shops, activities and other Big Five excursions. While in this part of the country be sure to visit the traditional African craft markets and stores to get some interesting mementos of your trip.
Some accommodation options along the Elephant Coast include Hornbill House, Anna’s B&B, Namib Safari Lodge, Santa Lucia Guest House, Sea Sands Lodge and Garden Cottages, Mango’s Guest House, Country Rose Bed and Breakfast, Sand Forest Lodge, Phumobala Hotel, Bushbaby Lodge, Ghost Mountain Inn, and the Protea Hotel among many others.
Sugar Coast – Umhlanga and Umdloti
These two areas are richly steeped in culture, history, sun and sand. Aside from the peaceful beaches and vibrant coastline you will find the Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom where the African Sun can bring you luck.
There is a strong settler history here and a short distance north you will come across the Battlefields of old.
Zulu tradition is very prominent here and amongst this you can find stunning wildlife and foliage. From the fertile lands and Iron Age coves to the playful surf and marine life this is a true paradise that has been preserved to this day. A landmark of this area is the red and white striped lighthouse on the rocks near O Conner Promenade. The Promenade will also take you to Granny’s Pool, a safe, calm rock pool for swimming and exploring. At the end of the Promenade the trail for the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve begins. This is an hour and a half walk through flora and fauna and you can meet the cheeky vervet monkey and small buck.
A bit further along is the natural woodland called Hawaan Forest and if you want to explore this you will need to make prior arrangements. You will also need to do this to bird watch at Umhlanga Ponds. At night this Mediterranean style resort town comes to life with music, dance and fun at the brilliant night clubs, taverns and restaurants dotted along the coastline. The uniqueness of this area’s Indian heritage is shown in the traditional Hindu Temple set among flowers and tall trees. As you near the end of Umhlanga you will find the stunning hideaway of Umdloti set in amongst masses of sugar cane fields and wild tobacco. There are great diving spots where you can see the exquisite reefs and shipwrecks of the Fontao that sank in 1991, the T-Barge that went down in 1990 and the Fame Wreck of 2000.
The Hibiscus flower which grows abundantly here is where the name of the Coastline originates and this area includes the seaside and beach resort towns of Port Shepstone, Margate, Hibberdene, Shelley Beach, Southbroom and Port Edward. This is the holiday beach mecca area and some of the best beaches to visit and relax on are Banana Beach, Scottburgh, Pumula, Umtentweni, Uvongo, Marina Beach and more.
Much of this area is similar to a tropical island and you can also enjoy bird watching, chartering a boat to go deep sea fishing, diving and snorkeling, kite flying, horse riding, game viewing and shopping at the local flea markets and craft stalls. There are also luxury health spas and resorts like the Wild Coast Sun and Oribi Gorge nature Reserve where you can relax. There is also an interesting reptile park with crocodile ponds and snakes as well as museums, garden centers, and animal farms. Make sure you come here with sunblock, casual clothes and ready to be pampered and tranquil.