KZN is one of South Africa’s nine provinces. Although there are 11 municipal districts in KZN, for travel purposes it is more comfortably divided into eight regions, namely Durban, the South Coast, the North Coast, Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands, the Drakensberg, the Battlefields, the, Zululand and the Maputaland or Elephant Coast. Each of these areas has its own unique characteristics and attractions and you will find you are spoilt for choice.
BEACHES AND ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES
KwaZulu-Natal is a traveller’s dream and with the seemingly perpetual summer of our subtropical climate, it is not surprising that we are famous for our outdoor activities, beaches, natural environment, sporting events and the variety of adventure activities. The Indian Ocean is warm and with relatively stable sea temperatures averaging 21??C, it provides opportunities to swim, surf, fish, sail, snorkel and scuba dive or just hang out on our numerous beautiful beaches throughout the year. In addition to all the water related activities, in KZN adrenaline junkies can abseil the world’s highest gorge, bungee jump, go mountain biking, white-water rafting, dive with sharks or even do some ice-climbing in the snowy mountains in the winter.
At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities for those so inclined to perhaps, take a more measured approach to experiencing and enjoying the region because KwaZulu-Natal is rich in history and we have an enviable diversity of cultures. This gives visitors endless authentic and fascinating opportunities to learn about, meet and interact with South Africans from all walks of life. Cultural diversity is apparent everywhere; in the traditional and contemporary music, dance, architecture, theatre and art, and even the agriculture of the local people. In addition, there are always plenty of exciting local and international culinary delightsawaiting exploration.
The variety of spiritual beliefs found existing side by side in KwaZulu-Natal is also most interesting, and there are many beautiful churches, temples and mosques to be seen and traditional ceremonies to be experienced. Situated in the centre of Durban, KZN’s largest city is one of the largest African traditional healer’s markets in the southern hemisphere, and there are traditional Indian Ayurvedic health treatments to be experienced as well.
Historically, the battles fought in the beautiful hills and valleys of northern KZN at the turn of the 19th century, changed the course of South African history and the sites of famous skirmishes that rocked the British Empire, weakened the Boers and broke the mighty Zulu nation, draw visitors from throughout the world. Some of the more famous battlefields are at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana in Zululand, but there are many other interesting historical sites, museums and monuments throughout the province.
Not many people know that it was in KwaZulu-Natal that Nelson Mandela was finally captured after having been in on the run from the apartheid government. He was later sentenced and spent 27 years in prison. Commemorating this event, is a magnificent memorial, “The Mandela Capture Site”, outside the town of Howick in the Midlands area of the province. It was also in KwaZulu-Natal that Mandela chose to cast his vote in South Africa’s first ever democratic elections. This he did at the Ohlanga Institute on the outskirts of Durban.
THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Some of South Africa’s premier game and marine reserves are situated in KwaZulu-Natal and we are very proud that two of the country’s eight magnificent World Heritage sites, namely iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the Elephant coast, and the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in the mountains to the west of the province are here. Another important game reserve is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, world famous for the role it has played in preserving Africa’s white rhino populations. In addition, there are many more state run and privately owned protected natural areas to suit everyone’s budget.
FAST FACTS ABOUT KWAZULU-NATAL
Name: In the local isiZulu language, KwaZulu means ‘Place of the Zulu people’. The word Zulu is derived from eZulweni, which loosely translated means ‘heaven’ or ‘sky above’. The name ‘Natal’ dates back to 1497 when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sighted the beautiful coastline while sailing past on Christmas day and named it ‘Terra de Natalia’ in reference to the birth of Christ. After South Africas’ first democratic elections in 1994, the two names were joined to form “KwaZulu-Natal”, more commonly referred to as KZN.
Location: KZN is situated on South Africa’s eastern seaboard, on the edge of the Indian Ocean.
Area: 92 060 km²
Share of total area of South Africa: 7,7%
Coastline: 599,73 km
Neighbouring countries and provinces: Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mpumalanga, Free State and Eastern Cape.
Capital City: Pietermaritzburg
Major Cities and towns: Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Shepstone, Margate, Richards Bay, Ulundi
Home Language: 11 different official languages are spoken in South Africa. In KZN, 80,9% Zulu, 13,6% English, 2,3% Xhosa, 1,5% Afrikaans, 1,7% other
Population: approximately 10 449 300
Population density: 113 people per km²
KZN has 11 districts
uThungulu (Richards Bay)
iLembe (KwaDukuza, formerly Stanger)
Ugu (Port Shepstone)
Protected areas: There is a system of approximately 96 protected areas covering some 8% of the province, roughly 736 480 hectares. The larger parks include Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.
The best time to visit KwaZulu-Natal is all the year through. With few exceptions, the sun is hot, the air is sultry, the leaves are big and sub-tropical and even in mid-winter, when there can be snow on the mountains, the sea will be relatively warm and in the coastal regions you can still wear your summer clothes with perhaps a light cardigan at night.
Average summer temperatures: Durban 21-28??C, Pietermaritzburg 18 -28 ??C, Richards Bay 21-29 ??C
Average winter temperatures: Durban 11-23??C, Pietermaritzburg 3-23 ??C, Richards Bay 12-23 ??C
Average annual rainfall: 1 009 mm with summer being the rainy season.
Winds: The major winds that influence the climate in KZN change seasonally. In summer, northerly winds bring regular rain from the moist tropical and equatorial regions, while in spring and early autumn southerly winds from the Arctic bring cold fronts and infrequent rain.
The South African Weather Service weathersa.co.za provides more detailed and up to date information for travellers.