The remarkable diversity of attractions of KwaZulu-Natal region is unsurpassed in South Africa. It encompasses splendid Drakensburg Mountains, sublime subtropical beaches, top rated nature and game reserves, historic battlefields, rolling green hills of Natal Midlands and city of Durban. The range of activities possible is a challenge even for those with most eclectic of tastes: swimming, fishing, boating, scuba diving, hiking, abseiling, game viewing, cultural and historical touring, whale and bird watching and golfing.
Warmer and more authentic South Africa than Cape Region, KwaZulu-Natal is favourite holiday destination for locals. The region lies between Drakensberg Mountains and Swaziland to west; Indian Ocean to east stretching from Port Edward in south to Mozambique border in north. As you transition from a subtropical to tropical environment, you encounter cool mountain ranges, savannah grassland, coral reefs, indigenous coastal forest and dunes, lakes and lagoons and papyrus wetlands. Here 9 million people occupy 92,000 sq km of some fairest and best-watered lands in South Africa.
Little wonder that Zulu, or "people of heaven" considered area a heaven on earth indeed, and were extremely jealous of late comers who sought a share of it. And yet Zulu people themselves had arrived only in 16th century. Their ancestors, Nguni, had been pushing southwards from Great Lakes region for at least three thousand years. The land was inhabited- if you could use term- by San Bushmen. This hunter-gatherer society was very sparing in its demands on land. The arrival of Nguni, a people with numerous cattle herds and great thirst for land, put Bushman under great stress and severe disadvantage.
The Zulu derive directly from a clan head of Nguni named "Heaven" or Zulu, who established a territory bearing his own name or KwaZulu in Umfolozi valley. The Zulu was a fairly insignificant power, even among Nguni, until arrival of Shaka Zulu. Shaka, born in 1787, was first-born son to Chief Senzangakhona, but was considered illegitimate on account of a technicality. Shaka eventually corrected this injustice by plotting death of his younger brother - legitimate heir. He thus rose to be chief of his people when his father died in 1816.
Shaka was a man gifted with great daring, cunning and imagination. He repulsed numerous attacks by Ndwandwe- a rival and more militarily superior Nguni people, eventually forcing enemy to flee northwards. Shaka appreciated that Ndwandwe would be back unless he created conditions to make it impossible. Above all else a military leader, he devised such weaponry, battle tactics and training methods that resulted in an unbeatable army among known enemies of day. By numerous treacherous devices -war, assassination, deceit and intimidation - he subdued smaller and larger clans, and gathered all to his realm.
Within three years to 1819, Zulu nation emerged as largest and most feared in whole of southeastern Africa. And Shaka, now King Shaka, was sitting pretty as its head. His success had however caused unprecedented mayhem in region, and aroused bitter jealousy amongst his ambitious compatriots. He also ruled with an iron fist and was such a tyrant as had never risen before among Zulu. Shaka was speared to death by Dingane -his half brother, in 1824. The Zulu kingdom survived him, but his legacy was to be severely tested, later n century in conflicts with new rivals - British and Boers.
The British had approached Shaka, shortly before his death, for trading rights in ivory and animal skins. Shaka signed a document granting them chieftaincy of Port Natal, their small base on east coast. In a very liberal and rather dishonest interpretation of Shaka's intentions, they claimed Port Natal area in name of King of England. Port Natal is today known to most as Durban -and to locals as "Durbs". The city is gateway and business hub of KwaZulu-Natal, and logical starting point for exploring region.Its port ranks among world's top 10, and is busiest on African continent. To discover KwaZulu-Natal, rent a car at Durban or take a South Africa tour or safari that covers region.
Durban's weather is mild and pleasant - temperatures average 17 degrees C in winter (June-August) and 27 degrees C in summer (December to February). Holidaymakers are favoured with sea temperatures averaging 24 degrees C in summer rarely falling below 19 degrees C in winter. This coastal playground enjoys at least a good 320 days of sunshine every year. The rains come over summer months, when it can get quite hot and humid, with temperatures reaching for 33 degrees C. Long before everybody else, San Bushmen wintered in Durban, taking advantage of excellent climate relative to their inland domains.
"The Golden Mile" is a 6 km long waterfront lined with some of Durban's top rated hotels. The city has some of finest beaches in country. Good beaches for swimming and surfing can be found to south of city- Ansteys, Brighton, Cave Rock, and Garvies. To north- Country Club, Tekwini, and Laguna beaches are more exclusive and less crowded. Within city, you can visit museums and art galleries and shop for crafts. The Kwa-Muhle museum will educate you about Apartheid, which is important if you want to understand South African society.
There are numerous restaurants- Indian, African and Western - in this cosmopolitan city. The Indians started coming here in 1860 as indentured labour for sugar plantations. Today, Durban metro area has largest Indian population outside India. Durban stands between North and South Coast of South Africa's eastern seaboard. The North Coast beaches include Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito, Shaka's Rock and Shelley Beach. Here you find good accommodation and myriad opportunities for swimming and surfing. Around Ballito is great for watching ever-fascinating dolphins.
The South Coast stretches from Durban to Port Edward and covers Hibberdene, Port Shepstone, Margate and Southbroom. The region has fantastic beaches and matching amenities. Between Port Edward and Hibberdene is scene of sardine run. This most spectacular display of natural world occurs around June and July. It is triggered by a 4-5 degrees C drop in sea temperature that prompts millions of sardines in great shoals to head northwards. On this dash, game fish, dolphins, sharks, whales and others of their mortal enemies follow. This unforgettable experience appears to be marine world's answer to annual wildebeest migration on Kenya-Tanzania border.