UMkhanyakude District, in the northern-eastern district of KwaZulu-Natal, contains many areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Named after the famous yellow-barked fever tree, and literally meaning “that shows light from afar”, it is the perfect getaway destination.
Its name reflects the uniqueness of its people and their hospitality, as well as the biodiversity and conservation history of which the region is extremely proud.
Well-known for its world-renowned game reserves, this is an adventurer’s paradise that offers visitors an abundance of breathtaking scenery, wildlife and outdoor adventures.
It is the second-largest district in the province, and consists of the following four local municipalities: uMhlabuyalingana, Jozini, Big 5 Hlabisa and Mtubatuba.
Here are four of the best places to visit in the district:
Sodwana Bay - adventurer’s paradise
Sodwana Bay is one of the most unique and unspoiled parts of KwaZulu-Natal. It is situated within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first world heritage site. The park, which is recognised for its superlative natural beauty, ecological processes and biodiversity, covers 332 000 hectares and a coastline that stretches 230 km.
Known as a diver’s Mecca, Sodwana Bay is renowned for its sport fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling. Its rich natural biodiversity lends itself to a range of other activities too, including turtle tours and ocean tours.
While on land, you can go quad biking or on nature walks. The area is a prime location for bird watching, and several game reserves offer safaris where the big five can be spotted.
While visiting Sodwana Bay, adventure seekers can experience the wild side of Africa by camping in the bush. Those looking for a bit more luxury will also find a variety of affordable accommodation in the various cabins, chalets, guest houses, lodges and hotels in the area.
Tembe Elephant Park – where giants roam
Tembe Elephant Park – spanning 300km2 – is not just home to magnificent elephants with long tusks, it also boasts rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo and wild dogs, all living in a diverse landscape of sand forest, scrub and thornveld.
A comfortable four-hour drive from Durban, the park is a community-owned reserve and is co-managed with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It offers an array of local activities available, and the lodge serves as a perfect base to explore the area from beach to bush.
You will fall in love with the mosaic sand forest and the woodlands of black monkey-horn, buffalo thorn, marula and tamboti. Tembe’s diverse habitat supports about 340 bird species, making the park a good birding destination, too.
Tembe Elephant Park offers day visits with three-hour guided drives that start at 10am. Bookings are essential.
There are several options for accommodation in the park. You can stay at the 3-star Tembe Elephant Park Lodge - a tented camp that offers a “real” African experience.
A more conventional option is the 4-star Royal Thonga Safari Lodge, which is uniquely located to offer guests total privacy and luxurious comfort within a sand forest.
Jozini – Elephant Coast
Jozini, a small town on the main route to Mozambique, is synonymous with the dam of the same name. It’s a town of serene space, with lots to explore.
Jozini Lake is worth visiting for its breathtaking views alone. Boats trips – for example, on a Shayamanzi Luxury Houseboat – also offer great opportunities to see elephant, hippo and birds. Tiger fishing is another big attraction.
Those who prefer staying on dry land can enjoy a guided safari experience at one of the Big Five game reserves in the area – Manyoni Game Reserve, uMkhuze Game Reserve or Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
Accommodation in Jozini is as breathtaking as the views. Jozini Tiger Lodge is positioned along the banks of the lake, and is backed by the splendour of the Lebombo Mountain range. It boasts superb facilities, including a Mangwanani Spa, gym, rim-flow swimming pool, exceptional dining experiences, extensive conference and banqueting facilities, as well as a wide range of activities for all ages.
Ghost Mountain Inn
At the foot of the legendary Ghost Mountain in Mkuze, lies the enchanting Ghost Mountain Inn. A tale of family, history and an innate love for Africa, this award-winning hotel is the ideal location from which to explore the game and coastal reserves of Zululand and the Elephant Coast. From the remarkable scenery of the Lebombo mountains, the wildlife of uMkhuze Game Reserves and the heritage of the Zulu culture to the tranquillity found at the spa, Ghost Mountain Inn promises an experience beyond compare.