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South Africa

Durban and KwaZulu-Natal holidays

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Durban? Doddle.

On South Africa’s east coast, the province of KwaZulu-Natal blends together beaches, culture and wildlife. From the harbour city of Durban to the remote battlefields, a trip to KwaZulu-Natal offers adventure and history lessons in equal measure.

With a 125-mile coastline, this large province has plenty of sunbathing spots – but you don’t really go on holiday to KwaZulu-Natal to lie on the beach. Home to tribal settlements, historic battlefields, dramatic mountains and rolling savannahs, this region gives you a fascinating glimpse into South Africa’s heritage. You can discover Zulu culture and learn about the clashes of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. See ancient rock paintings and visit Howick, where Nelson Mandela was captured. Marvel at the vast Drakensberg Mountains, and go on safari in search of the ‘Big Five’ in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

And no KwaZulu-Natal holiday would be complete without some time in Durban. South Africa’s third-biggest city – after Johannesburg and Cape Town – this coastal hub is a melting pot of African, Indian and colonial influence. You can explore colourful markets, interesting museums and the lush Botanic Gardens. Make sure you stroll along the sleek waterfront area, too – it was given a complete makeover ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

When planning your holiday to Durban and KwaZulu-Natal, it’s important to think about how you want to spend your time. The best time to go very much depends on what you want to do. November to April is the hottest time of year, so it’s also the best time for bird-watching, as lots of species flock here to enjoy the warmer climate. But you’ll find that the dry season from April to September is the best time to go on safari in KwaZulu-Natal, when the animals gather around waterholes. Whales migrate along the coast between May and December so there’s a high chance you’ll see them at this time of year, especially if you go on a whale-watching trip from Durban.

Durban

Anglo-Zulu battlefields

Drakensberg Mountains

Safaris

Things to do in Durban

With Zulu history, colonial imprints and the highest concentration of Indians outside of India, diverse Durban is a real mishmash of cultures. Admire Victorian architecture along Florida Road, and visit the largest Hare Krishna temple in the whole of Africa. Go on a walking tour around the India District, and immerse yourself in vibrant markets filled with spices, incense and bright fabrics.

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As well as cultural sights, Durban has plenty of attractions for nature-lovers. Stroll around the Botanic Gardens or visit the fifth-largest aquarium on the planet, uShaka Marine World. And, when you fancy some beach time, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Durban’s ‘Golden Mile’ of beaches actually stretches for four miles, and is popular with sunbathers, swimmers and surfers alike.

At some point during your Durban holiday, you must try bunny chow. Often simply called “bunny”, this much-loved dish is a hollowed-out white loaf filled with curry. It’s usually made with lamb or chicken, plus beans, potatoes, tomatoes and a range of delicious spices.

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Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift

A visit to the battlefields is a must-do on your KwaZulu-Natal holiday. The area is rich in Anglo-Zulu history, as more battles were fought here than anywhere else in South Africa. It’s best to book a day tour, to get the most out of your visit.

You can see where the Battle of Isandlwana took place in 1879. It was the first major clash between British troops and Zulu forces. In retaliation to the British invading the Kingdom of Zululand, around 20,000 Zulu warriors wiped out an entire British regiment within just a few hours. 

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You’ll also be able to visit Rorke's Drift, the site of another famous battle. A mission post manned by about 150 British troops, Rorke’s Drift was attacked by around 4,000 Zulu warriors. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the colonial soldiers managed to defend and retain the post. You guide will be able to tell you individual stories, as well as the struggles and successes of the battlefields.

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Drakensberg Mountains

Step into the Drakensberg Mountains and you’ll be greeted by stunning scenery. The range sprawls for 700 miles, while the highest peak soars to just under 3,500 metres. Dramatic and vast, the Drakensberg Mountains have several hiking trails, game reserves and national parks.

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Show Less

These mountains also boast a UNESCO World Heritage Site, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Made up of valleys and gorges, this protected land is also dotted with caves which once sheltered the indigenous San people, before they were wiped out by Zulus and colonial settlers. Inside these caves, you’ll be able to see incredible rock art – depicting both animals and humans, these paintings are hundreds of years old. There are around 35,000 images in the park, and the oldest is thought to date back 2,400 years.

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Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

If you want to go on safari during your trip to KwaZulu-Natal, this is the place to do it. Lying 150 miles north of Durban, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park – formerly known as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve – covers an incredible 96,000 hectares. And the plains are home to a vast array of wildlife.

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As well as having lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant – also known as the ‘Big Five’ – the park has cheetahs, giraffes, wild dogs and more. You might even be lucky enough to spot a rare white rhino, which the park managed to save from extinction. Hop in your 4x4 with your guide and go on an incredible game drive at dawn or dusk, when the animals are at their most active. You can also enjoy a river cruise and search for wild crocodiles, hippos and birdlife.

Show More
Show Less

Durban

Things to do in Durban

With Zulu history, colonial imprints and the highest concentration of Indians outside of India, diverse Durban is a real mishmash of cultures. Admire Victorian architecture along Florida Road, and visit the largest Hare Krishna temple in the whole of Africa. Go on a walking tour around the India District, and immerse yourself in vibrant markets filled with spices, incense and bright fabrics.

Show More
Show Less

As well as cultural sights, Durban has plenty of attractions for nature-lovers. Stroll around the Botanic Gardens or visit the fifth-largest aquarium on the planet, uShaka Marine World. And, when you fancy some beach time, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Durban’s ‘Golden Mile’ of beaches actually stretches for four miles, and is popular with sunbathers, swimmers and surfers alike.

At some point during your Durban holiday, you must try bunny chow. Often simply called “bunny”, this much-loved dish is a hollowed-out white loaf filled with curry. It’s usually made with lamb or chicken, plus beans, potatoes, tomatoes and a range of delicious spices.

Show More
Show Less

Anglo-Zulu battlefields

Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift

A visit to the battlefields is a must-do on your KwaZulu-Natal holiday. The area is rich in Anglo-Zulu history, as more battles were fought here than anywhere else in South Africa. It’s best to book a day tour, to get the most out of your visit.

You can see where the Battle of Isandlwana took place in 1879. It was the first major clash between British troops and Zulu forces. In retaliation to the British invading the Kingdom of Zululand, around 20,000 Zulu warriors wiped out an entire British regiment within just a few hours. 

Show More
Show Less

You’ll also be able to visit Rorke's Drift, the site of another famous battle. A mission post manned by about 150 British troops, Rorke’s Drift was attacked by around 4,000 Zulu warriors. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the colonial soldiers managed to defend and retain the post. You guide will be able to tell you individual stories, as well as the struggles and successes of the battlefields.

Show More
Show Less

Drakensberg Mountains

Drakensberg Mountains

Step into the Drakensberg Mountains and you’ll be greeted by stunning scenery. The range sprawls for 700 miles, while the highest peak soars to just under 3,500 metres. Dramatic and vast, the Drakensberg Mountains have several hiking trails, game reserves and national parks.

Show More
Show Less

These mountains also boast a UNESCO World Heritage Site, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Made up of valleys and gorges, this protected land is also dotted with caves which once sheltered the indigenous San people, before they were wiped out by Zulus and colonial settlers. Inside these caves, you’ll be able to see incredible rock art – depicting both animals and humans, these paintings are hundreds of years old. There are around 35,000 images in the park, and the oldest is thought to date back 2,400 years.

Show More
Show Less

Safaris

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

If you want to go on safari during your trip to KwaZulu-Natal, this is the place to do it. Lying 150 miles north of Durban, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park – formerly known as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve – covers an incredible 96,000 hectares. And the plains are home to a vast array of wildlife.

Show More
Show Less

As well as having lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant – also known as the ‘Big Five’ – the park has cheetahs, giraffes, wild dogs and more. You might even be lucky enough to spot a rare white rhino, which the park managed to save from extinction. Hop in your 4x4 with your guide and go on an incredible game drive at dawn or dusk, when the animals are at their most active. You can also enjoy a river cruise and search for wild crocodiles, hippos and birdlife.

Show More
Show Less

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