The Travel & Leisure Magazine Kwazulu Natal Feature

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From its moving Zulu and Boer War battlefield sites, to superlative wildlife parks, stunning beaches and magnificent scenery, South Africa's Zulu Kingdom is a world-class destination, which will soon be welcoming the world. Peter Ellegard reports.
This feature appeared within the July-August edition of The Travel & Leisure Magazine for futher information on the magazine please visit www.tlmags.com

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The Travel & Leisure Magazine Kwazulu Natal Feature

  1. 1. ZULU dawns ing though it was at the time for the nation. From its moving Zulu and Boer War battlefield sites, to Never before had a native army taken on and superlative wildlife parks, stunning beaches and annihilated such a powerful, well-armed and magnificent scenery, South Africa’s Zulu Kingdom is trained fighting force. Yet, another battle fought later that day, January 22, 1879, less a world-class destination, which will soon be welcoming than 10 miles away has gone down in legend. the world. Peter Ellegard reports Victoria Cross That battle was Rorke’s Drift, celebrated for I t was one of the most moving place 130 years ago were vividly brought to the fact that 139 British soldiers holed up in moments I can ever recall. We were life by our guide, using his baton for effect as a tiny, fortified mission camp held off thou- sat on chairs on a hillside plateau, he reconstructed that infamous day in breath- sands of Zulu attackers for 12 hours until overlooking a sweeping plain dom- taking detail. A few hundred yards away reinforcements arrived. Eleven Victoria inated by a craggy hill directly in another group was equally fixated as their Cross medals were awarded to the valiant front of us and with a long escarp- guide regaled the same desperate tale. defenders, more than for any other single ment in the distance. For we were on the battlefield of one of battle in history. And it inspired the iconic Small, white stone cairns dotted the land- the worst defeats ever inflicted on the British 1964 blockbuster film, Zulu, which starred scape all around us, the highest concentration Empire – Isandlwana. An entire garrison a young Michael Caine. Whereas around the base of the crag, where there were comprising over 1,000 of the British Army’s Isandlwana, where three VCs were won, was also several larger monuments. There was a finest had been overwhelmed and wiped out depicted in the follow-up flop, Zulu Dawn. chill in the December air despite it being by 20,000 Zulu warriors, and the white-paint- So captivating was the recounting, it summer in the Southern Hemisphere, but it ed stones marked where they had all fallen. almost felt as though we were witnessing the was nothing compared to the chill I felt in my Few other than historians would recognise battle itself. But then much of it had been spine as the tragic events of that desolate the name of that bloody episode today, shock- passed down by word of mouth from Zulus 28 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009
  2. 2. off the beaten TRACK KWAZULU-NATAL Roger de la Harpe I Zulu dancers I Rorke's Drift memorial Peter Ellegard Roger de la Harpe Peter Ellegard I Isandlwana battlefield site I Rorke’s Drift who had actually fought there. The near eye- Zulu battlefields duty soldier and keen amateur historian. witness accounts had been collected by his- The Anglo-Zulu War battlefields were There are many Zulu and Boer War bat- torian David Rattray, who spent many hours among the highlights I had been looking tlefield sites you can visit, particularly sitting overlooking the battlefield as we did, forward to seeing on my trip to South around Ladysmith (famous for its siege in talking to an elderly Zulu chief. Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, other- 1899) and Dundee, the nearest city to Tragically, the man locals called the wise known as the Zulu Kingdom. They Rorke’s Drift. Provincial capital Durban is “white Zulu” was killed in a robbery at the more than lived up to my respectively 235km and 173km from them, Fugitives’ Drift lodge he ran with his wife expectations and I about three hours or so by road. Nicky and three sons, near Rorke’s Drift, in would highly With Durban one of the host cities early 2007. We had lunch at the lodge later, recommend and met Nicky. I was sorry I didn’t get to anyone think- meet her husband, especially having listened ing about to his spellbinding narration from a recorded visiting radio series while en route to Isandlwana on there to the bus. include them On the way to the lodge we had spent an on a tour itin- all-too-brief 20 minutes at Rorke’s Drift. erary. Months Having listened to David’s graphic recorded later, I did just portrayal of events there, the graveyard and that when I was in a museum were just as emotional an experi- pub in the middle of ence, even if the original buildings no longer nowhere in Scotland’s Trossachs region and survive. Perhaps the most poignant sight was overheard the people on the next table being the bronze Zulu memorial, consisting of a told about the Battle of Isandlwana by an Roger de la Harpe leopard resting on a stack of warrior shields. enthusiastic member of their party, an off- July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 29
  3. 3. I Superb beaches for the 2010 football World Cup, this south- eastern part of South Africa is likely to see a lot of interest and increasing visitor numbers in the next year or so. Durban itself is undergoing a huge ren- aissance, with many new facilities being added (including a superb new stadium to stage the World Cup games) and major investment in its infrastructure. The beaches in the city and along the neighbouring coast- line are some of the best in the world and they enjoy the warmest sea temperatures in South Africa, reaching up to 28ºC. Its hotels are second to none, too. Few places pamper you as much as the beachfront Suncoast Hotel & Towers. Sadly, my group’s timing Roger de la Harpe could have been better. We played golf near- by the day we checked in – and our late arrival meant we just missed the poolside swimsuit parade at the hotel for the Miss World contestants, who were in Durban at Action and the same time as us. adventure Sharks That night, we dined alongside a giant aquarium full of menacing sharks in one of The Zulu Kingdom is heaven for adrenalin the most unique dining environments I have Toruism KwaZulu-Natal junkies. It offers some of the best diving in encountered, set in an imaginative “rusting” the world, notably for encounters with ship’s hulk at the uShaka Marine World sharks. park (www.ushakamarineworld.co.za). Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoals, This coastline is famous for its sharks. respectively 90 and 45 minutes south of The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board Durban, are the prime shark-diving areas (www.shark.co.za) has been protecting the off KwaZulu-Natal. Divers can encounter beaches off Durban for swimmers and species such as non-aggressive ragged- surfers for over 40 years with netting. It is tooths, known affectionately as Raggies, the only organisation of its kind in the world, which go to Protea Banks in spring and you can visit its HQ in Umhlanga Rocks (August/September) to mate and to learn about sharks with an audio-visual congregate in schools of up to 60 at Aliwal demonstration followed by a live dissection, from July to October, as well as Zambezis, after which you can view lifelike replicas of great whites and hammerheads.You can sharks, fish and rays, including that of a Peter Ellegard even free dive with dangerous tiger sharks 892kg great white shark. at Aliwal, where operators “chum” the KZN (as the province is often shortened water with bait to attract them. to) is known for other wildlife too, and we Sodwana Bay is Africa’s most southerly got the chance to see some of its most noted coral reef, and also marks the wildlife which provide the thrills. Besides inhabitants on water and game safaris. southernmost area where giant whale Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, other game reserves We took a boat tour of the iSimangaliso sharks are found, their range extending up where you can see them include Phinda, Wetland Park, the new name for UNESCO to Mozambique. Another incredible Thanda and the Tembe Elephant Park. World Heritage Site the Greater St Lucia spectacle is the annual Sardine Run And if you want sports action, there is Wetland Park, and got some fantastic between May and July, when huge shoals golf of the highest calibre on courses close-up views of hippos wallowing in the up to 15km long migrate up the KwaZulu- including Princes Grant shallows. A short drive took us to Natal coast. (www.princesgrant.co.za), Durban Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, one KZN’s most cele- The former Greater St Lucia Wetland Country Club (www.dcclub.co.za), brated game reserves and one of several Park, now iSimangaliso, has boat safaris to Selborne (www.selborne.com) and where you can see the Big Five. Once the see hippos and many different bird species. Champagne Sports Resort hunting grounds for Zulu kings, they intro- On land, it is the Big Five animals and other (www.champagnesportsresort.com). duced the first conservation laws there, in 1895. It was in the reserve that the white 30 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009
  4. 4. July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 31
  5. 5. I Zulu woman Roger de la Harpe Peter Ellegard I Elephant encounter rhino was saved from extinction, in the KwaZulu-Natal facts 1960s. The weather was so cold as we clambered When to go aboard our open-sided safari trucks that we The Zulu Kingdom enjoys a sub-tropical climate with year- needed blankets over our legs to keep warm. round sunshine, and rain generally in November and March. But we were rewarded with the immediate Peter Ellegard Game viewing is best in winter (June and July). Sea sight of an elephant as we entered the gates. temperatures averaging 22ºC make it a great family destination. And as we were driven around the reserve we were lucky enough to see another one Getting there almost within touching distance, but so busy Durban is a one-hour flight or easy six-hour drive from Johannesburg, eating juicy leaves we were scarcely noticed. which is served by direct flights from London by South African Airways We also spotted lots of antelope and zebra, (www.flysaa.com), British Airways (www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic some water buffalo, warthogs, giraffes and a Airways (www.virgin-atlantic.com). Flight time: 11 hours. pride of resting lions with playful cubs. Getting around Rich culture KwaZulu-Natal is easy to get around, with excellent roads. Most attractions Arriving for our overnight stay at our near- are within a three or four-hour drive of Durban and each other. Car rental by hotel, the Protea Umfolozi, we were companies include Avis (www.avis.co.uk). treated to an energetic display of traditional dancing by local Zulu boys. You can see Accommodation dancing and other Zulu culture throughout You can find top-quality accommodation throughout the province. Among the province, visiting a rural Zulu village or South African hotel groups with properties are Southern Sun enjoying organised cultural experiences (www.southernsun.com),Three Cities (www.threecities.co.za) and such as Shakaland or Duma Zulu. Protea Hotels (www.proteahotels.com).There are also lodges including Besides its battlefields, wildlife and rich Fugitives’ Drift (www.fugitives-drift-lodge.com) and resorts such as culture, KwaZulu-Natal is rich in natural Champagne Sports Resort (www.champagnesportsresort.com) and beauty. Nowhere is that more evident than in Selborne Hotel, Spa & Golf Estate (www.selborne.com). the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains, where you can go hiking, mountain biking Tour operators or horse-riding. We were there for another A number of tour operators feature KZN, including Virgin Holidays activity – golf. Staying at the Champagne (www.virginholidays.co.uk), Somak Holidays (www.somak.com), Jetset Sports Resort, the mountains reared up dra- Holidays (www.jetset-holidays.co.uk), Premier Holidays matically just beyond the course and behind (www.premierholidays.co.uk),Tropical Sky (www.tropicalsky.co.uk), our chalets. With an elevated clubhouse deck Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk) and Audley Travel (www.audleytravel.com). giving sweeping vistas, few golf resorts can Local tour operator Thompsons Africa (www.thompsonsafrica.com) has enjoy such glorious surroundings. an extensive programme of KZN tours. All too soon, our week-long stay in KwaZulu-Natal was over. It was a truly mes- Tourist information merising destination, yet one I feel I have TL Visit the Zulu Kingdom’s website on www.zulu.org.za barely scratched the surface of. One thing’s for sure – I will definitely be back. 32 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009
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