Tourist boost for iSithumba

By ARTHI SANPATH Time of article published Apr 19, 2012

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iSithumba mountain – an imposing, huge bald rock – which stands guard over a sprawling village alongside the mighty Umgeni River in the Valley of 1000 Hills, in KwaZulu-Natal, will soon be well known to locals and tourists alike.

The Zulu tribal village, which takes its name from the majestic mountain, is just 45 minutes out of Durban and with no 4x4 needed to travel to this scenic spot, the area is receiving special focus as part of the Durban Green Corridor programme and the Sportgarten (Sports Garden) organisation from Germany.

Local children will be groomed to some day lead tour groups canoeing, rock climbing and other activities while their parents will find employment in the accommodation and catering industries.

And it is an idyllic setting – thatched rondavels, cows drinking water in the middle of the river and goats crossing the road paint a picturesque scene welcoming tourists who want a Zulu village experience.

Gary Cullen, project manager for the Durban Green Corridor, said this naturally beautiful setting was ideal for growing watersports and other adventure activities as part of the eThekwini municipality’s greening programme.

The Green Corridor Programme is taking over a neglected adventure centre that was established in iSithumba a few years ago.

“The municipality is picking it up to re-establish it as a place for tourism in the area, the main objective is to use the naturally beautiful location and establish adventure sport activities in the area,” said Cullen.

Trail running, mountain biking, bird watching, rock climbing and canoeing are some of the sports that are envisaged for the area.

Work is at present in progress for the centre to be renovated and transformed into an accommodation and adventure sports facility.

The site at iSithumba forms one of three sites that the Durban Green Corridor has adopted to promote environmental education, water sports, tourism and employment along the Umgeni River.

Inanda Dam and the Green Hub at Blue Lagoon are the other two sites where water sports and youth programmes have been started.

At iSithumba, however, the local youth have benefited from the presence of German volunteers who have come to the area as part of eThekwini municipality’s Sister Cities Partnership.

Volunteers and athletes from Bremen, in Germany, have been visiting iSithumba for a number of years, teaching local children about different sporting codes, under the Sportgarten programme.

Sportgarten is an organisation in Germany that promotes sports among the youth.

Athletes from that city’s under-19 soccer teams, as well as athletes from the Bremen Track and Field Association have come to the area to share their skills with the local children.

Birgit Rix, one of the volunteers from Germany, who has been in iSithumba for about three months, said they run the sporting programmes with children six days a week and would be involved in teaching children about the different water sports.

“This is a social programme with sport as a focus,” said Rix.

And such partnerships mean a better future for employment.

Jeffrey Buthelezi, one of the local guides in the community, said the initiative to re-establish the adventure centre was good for the community.

“This area needs more jobs and the people would be able to work in the chalets, in catering, and cleaning, and the children will be able to learn about watersports,” he said.

Buthelezi leads groups up the iSithumba mountain, along a zig-zag path, which he says offers a great view of the Valley of 1000 Hills.

“Once people go up there you can see the valley and the uMgeni River, it is a beautiful spot for tourists,” he said. - Saturday Star

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