By ZamaNdosi Cele
Zululand is a culturally rich, magical place. Unlike Wakanda and Pride Rock, it’s real – and situated in the north-eastern region of present-day KwaZulu-Natal. As the home of the Zulu people, it is an African gem that boasts breathtaking landscapes, stunning beaches, forests and wetlands, thrilling wildlife and a diversity of unique flora.
The “Kingdom of the Zulu” has everything you need when it comes to vacations or staycations.
Why go to heaven when you can take a trip to Zululand?
Here are five reasons why travelling to Zululand should be at the top of your bucket list:
Hluhluwe - Imfolozi Park
If you love game drives and wildlife, this gem will steal your heart. Nestled between Ulundi, Nongoma, Hluhluwe and St Lucia, it’s the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. It is home to the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo. The park also has the largest population of white rhino in the world due to its conservation efforts.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Isimangaliso means “a miracle” or “something wondrous” in isiZulu. Legend has that the name arose after one of King Shaka’s subjects who had been sent to the land of the Tsonga, came back and described the beauty that he saw as a miracle. The wetland park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Kosi Bay estuary and is South Africa’s third-largest protected area. It has a rich biodiversity with coral reefs, sandy beaches and subtropical dune forests. It is home to elephants, crocodiles, hippos, marine turtles, dolphins and whales.
Lake Jozini - also known as Pongolapoort Dam - is found near the small town of Jozini, enroute to Mozambique. Situated on the Phongolo River and built in 1973 as part of a conservation area, the dam is home to tigerfish and a population of Nile crocodiles, and supports more than 350 bird species. The Jozini Tiger Lodge boasts spectacular views and offers enjoyable boat cruises on the lake.
Zululand Heritage Route 66
If you’re into scenic drives, and Zululand has plenty of those, why not take this one. The Heritage Route 66 is one of the oldest trade routes through Zululand. Places of interest along the way include The Valley of the Zulu Kings, the Dlinza Forest and Fort Nongqayi Museum. The route links the towns of Gingindlovu, Eshowe, Melmoth, Ulundi, Nongoma and Pongola. You can soak up some history as the route was travelled by early transport riders, missionaries, soldiers, settlers and farmers. The route also includes the Battlefields where Zulu, Boer and British forces clashed in bloody conflicts that shaped the course of South African history.
What better way to celebrate Zulu culture and heritage than to attend the Annual Reed
Dance or Umkhosi WoMhlanga held at eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma. Maidens from all over South Africa and neighbouring kingdoms participate in the reed dance. The gathering takes place in September or the beginning of Spring, and the festival is a rite of passage for maidens that promotes purity and abstinence. The young women wear bright and colourful traditional attire while carrying a long reed which is gifted to His Royal Highness, the Zulu King.
Read more about KwaZulu-Natal has to offer here.