The Gurney's Sugarbird perched on an aloe.
The Gurney's Sugarbird perched on an aloe.
The camp at sunrise.
The camp at sunrise.
Aloes were in dramatic bloom at Didima in the Cathedral Peak area.
Aloes were in dramatic bloom at Didima in the Cathedral Peak area.
The chalet bedroom, where you recharge your batteries.
The chalet bedroom, where you recharge your batteries.
Didima in the Cathedral Peak area, part of the uKahlamba World Heritage site, is one of more than 63 parks around KZN.
Didima in the Cathedral Peak area, part of the uKahlamba World Heritage site, is one of more than 63 parks around KZN.

Phillida Ellis

 

Durban - Parks Board camps’ hold a special place in the memories of thousands for so many reasons: They range from beach to bush and berg.

They offer self-catering or fully catered, they appeal to couples seeking solitude and families seeking fun - and everyone in between.

The organisation’s correct name is Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, but it has a history, encompassing many name changes, that dates back to 1947, and a principle of preservation and conservation that dates back to King Shaka, who forbade the excessive hunting of game animals in the Mfolozi River valley.

Didima in the Cathedral Peak area, part of the uKahlamba World Heritage site, is one of more than 63 parks around KZN.

A long time since I had last stayed at Didima, I remembered it for its extreme tranquillity and really chilly winter nights warmed by roaring log fires. Nothing had changed much, except that this time the Aloe arborescence were in dramatic bloom attracting the Gurney’s Sugarbird in abundance - a really welcome sight for bird lovers. There were, of course, also the Double Collared and Malachite sunbirds along with dozens of other species, but it was the welcome from the Gurney’s Sugarbird that sealed our pleasure.

Chalet 32a is a short walk from the car parking area, but cheerful staff appeared out of nowhere with a luggage trolley to make sure we carried nothing to our accommodation. Here we were greeted by the same spotlessly clean, spacious bedroom from memory, complete with fireplace and picture windows to take in the magnificent view of Cathedral Peak. A small kitchen and full bathroom round off the accommodation.

No time to lose, we selected one of the lesser hikes which took us above the camp to an unparalleled panorama of the sun starting to drop behind the Berg. With it came a drop in temperature and the need to light a fire and open a bottle of red wine while the sun completed its descent into complete darkness.

Having selected a fully-catered stay we made our way to the diningroom, and there it was: the huge log fire crackling in the grate. The menu, with a fair wine list, offered the usual selection of steaks, chicken and curry and, naturally, fresh Drakensberg trout.

Going to bed with a fire glowing in the room is a rare treat and one to be revelled in.

Didima camp doesn’t just offer peace and mountain splendour. There is quad biking, archery, helicopter rides and paintball, plus golf and horse riding at nearby Cathedral Peak Hotel.

Hiking is one of the big attractions, with three to five-day trails overnighting in a number of caves. Local community members have been trained as guides as they are embedded in the history and folklore of the area.

The Didima camp site has 30 fully electrified stands with running water and braai facilities - fully booked from August to April.

Unfortunately, one of the big attractions of Didima - the road up Mike’s Pass to the unique vulture hide - is currently closed due to major rock falls.

Almost the raison d’etre for Didima is the Mountain San rock art and artefacts which were found in the Didima Gorge. Didima’s rock art centre tracks the history and culture of these people, the last known descendant of whom, Kerrick Thusi, made significant input into the centre.

Possibly the most unexpected treat is the newly-opened, small spa run by two local women who offer excellent treatments ranging from pedicures to hot rock massages. Having decided on an anti-ageing facial I sank into a blissful stupor for 90 minutes. It goes so well with mountain air.

Didima also boasts a conference centre and wedding venue. According to camp manager, Lihle Madondo, the wedding venue, is in use almost every weekend in peak season with bride and groom often choosing a helicopter as their preferred method of transport.

The pleasure and peace the Berg offers make it well worth the visit. It is the perfect place to recharge executive batteries and let young pent up energy explode.

Call KZN Wildlife Reservations on 033 845 1000 or visit www.kznwildlife.com

Sunday Tribune