Empangeni is just 15km from Richards Bay on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Set within the rolling countryside of the Uthungulu district, the town is characterised by sugarcane plantations, hot days, cotton, cattle, and timber. With a subtropical climate and easy access from the N2, Empangeni is a fantastic stop for those travelling through Zululand.
Empangeni overlooks a coastal plain, 90 - 150km above sea level, and offers beautiful views of Richards Bay and the Indian Ocean. The town has humble beginnings as a small village in 1906 which expanded rapidly when Felixton Sugar Mill was built - the largest in South Africa.
According to folklore, the name Empangeni comes from the Zulu word “Pangaed” which means “grabbed” and is thought to refer to the number of crocodile attacks on water bearers in the nearby Empangeni stream. But it more likely comes from the Mpange trees that grow along the banks of the river.
The town enjoys average temperatures of 28.4˚C in summer and 14.5˚C in winter, but can get as hot as 45˚C in summer with extremely high humidity. There is a variety of accommodation to suit all needs and budgets.
Empangeni is the gateway to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, offering a chance to spot the Big Five on a game drive. Nature lovers will also enjoy a trip to Enseleni Nature Reserve (13km) with a 7km hiking trail where you can spot a variety of wildlife, such as zebra and impala, and enjoy a light lunch at the picnic spot.
Delve into the local culture at the Empangeni Art and Crafts Centre in the CBD and browse arts and crafts made by the locals. The centre hosts street theatre, Zulu storytelling, and jazz sessions. The nearby Jabulani Crafts has a selection of Zulu curios and souvenirs made by physically handicapped people. Empangeni Art and Cultural Museum, housed in an old building built by local sugar farmers in 1916, was originally used for meetings, weddings, church services, theatre, a library, and a gym before it was declared a museum. Today, the museum portrays the history of sugar pioneers and offers an insight into the local Zulu culture with a variety of contemporary art displays, oil paintings, old photographs of early sugar farms, and displays of traditional Zulu clothing and crafts.
Other attractions include the University of Zululand (founded in 1959), Tusk Umfolozi Casino, and the 18-hole Empangeni Golf Course Golf Course which also offers tennis, bowls, squash, and conference facilities. Explore the rolling beauty of Empangeni today.