7 of the best things to do in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Often overlooked by the customary Cape Town – Winelands – Garden Route itinerary, South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is a go-to in its own right. Here are just a few of the adventures waiting for you...

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1. Find the Big Five in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

A rhino and its puppy in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Shutterstock)

A rhino and its puppy in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Established in 1895, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is one of the oldest game reserves in Africa. Conservation efforts at the park are to be commended, as it’s home to an incredibly important population of both black and white rhino ,so you can be sure as the animals are in safe hands. 

You’ll need a trained eye to spot the inhabitants of this game reserve, so hire a private guide for the day to do most of the work for you. Leopards in particular are notoriously elusive, however visit early morning or late afternoon to give yourself the best chance of spotting one.

2. Drive up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho

Sani Pass, from South Africa to Lesotho (Shutterstock)

Sani Pass, from South Africa to Lesotho (Shutterstock)

A day trip from Underberg along the Sani Pass will take you across the border into the culturally diverse Kingdom of Lesotho. Your passport will be stamped en route, proof you’ve ticked off two countries in one day.

Expect a warm welcome from the Sotho people across the border. Offerings of homemade bread and locally brewed beer - served under the roof of their traditional Basotho huts - provides a fascinating glimpse into the locals' way of life. 

On the way back to South Africa, stop for a liquid reward at the highest pub in Africa: Sani Mountain Lodge. It stands at an impressive 2,874m tall. A local maluti beer, brewed by your new Sotho friends, is an excellent choice.

3. Dive with Sharks at Aliwal Shoal

Sharks swimming the Aliwal Shoal (Shutterstock)

Sharks swimming the Aliwal Shoal (Shutterstock)

Thrill seekers, you're in luck. Just a few metres off the KwaZulu-Natal coast lies Aliwal Shoal, a coral reef offering once-in-a-lifetime diving opportunities with spinner, black tip and tiger sharks. No cages used here. You’ll just need dive equipment and nerves of steel…

Timing is key to make the most of your experience, with the winter months (June to November) being the prime time of year to spot a ragged tooth shark. It also offers the best underwater visibility. That said, if a tiger shark satisfies your adrenaline craving, head to the reef in November, which is the start of tiger season.

Sharks aside, the annual Sardine run excitement (when billions of Sardines move en masse towards the east coast of South Africa) comes to Aliwal in May, June and July.

4. Skydive in Durban

Durban from above, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Durban from above, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Durban Skydive Centre is the best option for those wanting to tick off a bucket list classic: the skydive. Due to the warm climates, the centre is open year-round, seven days a week. Booking is preferred and will make sure you’re not left disappointed.

For those new to this extreme sport, the experience goes a little something like this: you'll begin with a scenic 20-minute plane ride, exiting the plane attached to a qualified tandem instructor, then free falling for an exhilarating and unforgettable 45 seconds. You'll then gently float back down to earth under a parachute. 

It's guaranteed to be over much too quickly. And don't worry, whether it's your first go or you're a seasoned pro, the highly qualified and experienced team at Durban will be with you the entire way.

5. Microlight along Umhlanga coast, Durban

Microlighting above Durban's Umhlanga coast (Anthony Bennett)

Microlighting above Durban's Umhlanga coast (Anthony Bennett)

Not struck by the idea of free falling 12,000ft? That's understandable. Luckily, microlighting (going sky high in a ultra light plane for no more than two passengers) is an equally scenic alternative. The route will take you along the pretty coast of the town Umhlanga

Manta rays, turtles and even whale sharks can be spotted in the waters below you. Being much closer to the ground also allows you to make out Umhlanga's high rise buildings, its iconic red and white striped lighthouse, and the internationally acclaimed Moses Mabhida stadium.

6. Relax with a sundowner at The Oyster Box Hotel

The Oyster Box Hotel is situated by Durban's iconic lighthouse (Anthony Bennett)

The Oyster Box Hotel is situated by Durban's iconic lighthouse (Anthony Bennett)

 

Constructed in 1869, The Oyster Box was converted into a hotel in the 1930s. Today, it still retains an effortless charm and timeless elegance. It's the ideal spot in Durban to enjoy exquisite views of the Indian Ocean, along with Durban's historic lighthouse.

It makes perfect sense to soak up the views with a glass of South Africa's world-renowned wine in hand. From Pinotage to Chenin blanc, you can pick and choose your preference from the country's best at the bar. After your evening tipple, head downstairs for fresh oysters in the grill room - because the local seafood is as fine as the wine.

7. Stroll the Umhlanga Coast, Durban

Whalebone Pier in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal (Shutterstock)

Whalebone Pier in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal (Shutterstock)

You've been diving, and you've seen Umhlanga from the sky. Don't eschew a slower travel experience for exclusively high octane adventures, and enjoy a slow stroll along Umhlanga's picturesque promenade. 

Head off later in the day, for cooler temperatures. Start at the lighthouse and head west, zig-zagging your way along the coastline until you reach Whalebone Pier – where there'll be ample opportunities for photos.

Keep meandering in the same direction until you reach Umhlanga's main beach. Here, step off the decking and onto the sand, following the tide until you reach the sparkling Lagoon Nature Reserve. The peaceful reserve feels a million miles away from town. It's the perfect relaxing way to end your visit.

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