Zululand is a beautiful region of pristine coastline, rolling hills, deep forests, winding rivers, mangrove swamps, tea plantations, and cattle ranches. Extending from the Dolphin Coast at the Thukela River mouth to Richards Bay in the north and inland to Paulpietersburg, Zululand is fantastic destination for birding, game viewing, Battlefields tours, and true Zulu hospitality.
Covering approximately a quarter of KwaZulu-Natal, the region known as Zululand or Elephant Coast includes the towns of St Lucia, Eshowe, Hluhluwe, Mkuze, Richards Bay, Pongola, Mtunzini, Kosi Bay, and Meerensee.
The Zululand Heritage Route 66 is one of the oldest trade routes through Zululand, beginning at Dokodweni Toll Plaza in Mtunzini, and ending less than 250km further north in Pongola. Settlers in the 19th century once set off in ox wagons along this part of the coast before turning inland towards the Zulu Kingdom to acquire permission from the Zulu king to hunt and trade in his territory. While infrastructure has been upgraded, visitors can still enjoy a drive back in time.
Zululand is steeped in ancient history and Zulu tradition. There are several Zulu villages where you can experience the culture for yourself - namely Shakaland, Veyane Cultural Village, and Dumazulu, where you can explore the village, visit a sangoma (traditional African healer), taste beer, and watch Zulu dancing. Shakaland in Nkwaleni Valley was originally created as the set for the TV production of Shaka Zulu and now offers guided tours and the chance to overnight in beehive huts after enjoying a dinner of traditional food and dancing. Don’t miss the annual reed dance ceremony in Eshowe.
The Zululand Birding Route allows bird lovers to spot 650 species of birds, including the rare Pel’s fishing owl and only breeding population of pink-backed pelicans in South Africa. The Dlinza Nature Reserve is an extremely popular birding spot.
Zululand has a strong emphasis on conservation. It is home to the world’s largest concentration of white rhino and plays a big role in saving white and black rhino from extinction. The region is home to numerous nature and game reserves, ranging from subtropical forested reserves along the coast to game reserves in the bush. Big Five reserves include Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, Phinda Game Reserve, Mkuze Game Reserve, and Itala Game Reserve. Other reserves include Pongola Game Reserve, Ndumo Game Reserve, Siyaya Coastal Park, Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Amatikulu Nature Reserve, and Tembe Elephant Park.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a World Heritage Site with 8 independent ecosystems including coastal dunes, rivers, lakes, freshwater pans, mangrove forests, reed and sedge swamps, water grassland, and rocky barrier reefs. It is home to thousands of migrating flamingos, as well as pelicans, crocodile, and hippo.
Visit the beautiful beaches in Richards Bay; go fishing and scuba diving in Sodwana Bay, Cape Vidal, Khosi Bay, and Lake Sibaya; or visit Paulpietersburg, known as the healthiest town in South Africa for its therapeutic sulphur springs. St Lucia is popular for whale watching and hippo and crocodile cruises. Eshowe is home to the Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum and the Zululand Historical Museum. Ulundi is the site of the final battle of the Anglo-Boer war. Kosi Bay, an estuary with a chain of lakes, marshes, and swamp forests, is the breeding site of the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtle.
Other attractions include the the Siege Museum in Ladysmith, Mtonjaneni Zulu Cultural Museum in Melmoth, Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre in Hluhluwe, and Battlefields Route where you can visit the sites of historical clashes between the Zulu, Boer, and British.
Activities include fishing, 4x4 trails, bird watching, hiking, horse riding, snorkelling, scuba diving, and canoeing. Townships tours to see modern Zulu life with taverns, shebeens, and traditional medicine shops are also popular.
With a variety of natural, historical, and cultural attractions, Zululand offers a beach to bush holiday that’s hard to beat!