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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  • 1.ZULU dawnsing though it was at the time for the nation. From its moving Zulu and Boer War battlefield sites, toNever before had a native army taken on and superlative wildlife parks, stunning beaches and annihilated such a powerful, well-armed and magnificent scenery, South Africas Zulu Kingdom istrained fighting force. Yet, another battlefought later that day, January 22, 1879, less a world-class destination, which will soon be welcomingthan 10 miles away has gone down in legend.the world. Peter Ellegard reportsVictoria CrossThat battle was Rorkes Drift, celebrated forI t was one of the most movingplace 130 years ago were vividly brought tothe fact that 139 British soldiers holed up in moments I can ever recall. We werelife 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 awayreinforcements 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 singlement 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 British1964 blockbuster film, Zulu, which starredscape all around us, the highest concentration Empire Isandlwana. An entire garrisona young Michael Caine. Whereasaround the base of the crag, where there werecomprising over 1,000 of the British ArmysIsandlwana, where three VCs were won, wasalso several larger monuments. There was a finest had been overwhelmed and wiped outdepicted 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, itsummer in the Southern Hemisphere, but ited stones marked where they had all fallen.almost felt as though we were witnessing thewas nothing compared to the chill I felt in my Few other than historians would recognisebattle itself. But then much of it had beenspine as the tragic events of that desolatethe name of that bloody episode today, shock-passed down by word of mouth from Zulus28 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009

2. off the beaten TRACKKWAZULU-NATALRoger de la HarpeI Zulu dancersI Rorke's DriftmemorialPeter Ellegard Roger de la HarpePeter EllegardI Isandlwanabattlefield siteI Rorkes Driftwho had actually fought there. The near eye- Zulu battlefieldsduty soldier and keen amateur historian. witness accounts had been collected by his-The Anglo-Zulu War battlefields wereThere are many Zulu and Boer War bat- torian David Rattray, who spent many hours among the highlights I had been lookingtlefield sites you can visit, particularly sitting overlooking the battlefield as we did, forward to seeing on my trip to Southaround Ladysmith (famous for its siege in talking to an elderly Zulu chief.Africas KwaZulu-Natal province, other-1899) and Dundee, the nearest city to Tragically, the man locals called thewise known as the Zulu Kingdom. They Rorkes Drift. Provincial capital Durban is white Zulu was killed in a robbery at themore than lived up to my respectively 235km and 173km from them, Fugitives Drift lodge he ran with his wifeexpectations and I about three hours or so by road. Nicky and three sons, near Rorkes 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 didnt get to anyone think- meet her husband, especially having listened ingabout to his spellbinding narration from a recordedvisiting radio series while en route to Isandlwana on thereto the bus. include them On the way to the lodge we had spent anon a tour itin- all-too-brief 20 minutes at Rorkes Drift. erary. Months Having listened to Davids graphic recordedlater, 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 Scotlands Trossachs region and survive. Perhaps the most poignant sight was overheard the people on the next table being the bronze Zulu memorial, consisting of atold about the Battle of Isandlwana by anRoger 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. I Superb beachesfor 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 28C. Its hotels are second to none, too. Few places pamper you as much as the beachfront Suncoast Hotel & Towers. Sadly, my groups 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 atAction andthe same time as us. adventure Sharks That night, we dined alongside a giant aquarium full of menacing sharks in one ofThe Zulu Kingdom is heaven for adrenalin the most unique dining environments I have Toruism KwaZulu-Natal junkies. It offers some of the best diving inencountered, set in an imaginative rustingthe world, notably for encounters with ships hulk at the uShaka Marine Worldsharks.park (www.ushakamarineworld.co.za). Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoals,This coastline is famous for its sharks.respectively 90 and 45 minutes south ofThe KwaZulu-Natal Sharks BoardDurban, are the prime shark-diving areas (www.shark.co.za) has been protecting theoff KwaZulu-Natal. Divers can encounterbeaches off Durban for swimmers andspecies such as non-aggressive ragged- surfers for over 40 years with netting. It istooths, 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-visualcongregate in schools of up to 60 at Aliwaldemonstration followed by a live dissection,from July to October, as well as Zambezis, after which you can view lifelike replicas ofgreat whites and hammerheads.You can sharks, fish and rays, including that of aPeter Ellegardeven free dive with dangerous tiger sharks 892kg great white shark.at Aliwal, where operators chum the KZN (as the province is often shortenedwater with bait to attract them. to) is known for other wildlife too, and we Sodwana Bay is Africas most southerlygot the chance to see some of its most notedcoral reef, and also marks thewildlife which provide the thrills. Besidesinhabitants on water and game safaris.southernmost area where giant whale Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, other game reservesWe took a boat tour of the iSimangalisosharks are found, their range extending upwhere you can see them include Phinda, Wetland Park, the new name for UNESCOto Mozambique. Another incredible Thanda and the Tembe Elephant Park.World Heritage Site the Greater St Luciaspectacle is the annual Sardine Run And if you want sports action, there isWetland Park, and got some fantasticbetween May and July, when huge shoalsgolf of the highest calibre on courses close-up views of hippos wallowing in theup to 15km long migrate up the KwaZulu- including Princes Grantshallows. A short drive took us toNatal coast.(www.princesgrant.co.za), Durban Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, one KZNs most cele- The former Greater St Lucia WetlandCountry Club (www.dcclub.co.za), brated game reserves and one of severalPark, now iSimangaliso, has boat safaris to Selborne (www.selborne.com) andwhere you can see the Big Five. Once thesee hippos and many different bird species. Champagne Sports Resorthunting 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 white30 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009 4. July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 31 5. I Zulu woman Roger de la Harpe Peter Ellegard I Elephant encounterrhino was saved from extinction, in the KwaZulu-Natal facts1960s. 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 immediatePeter Ellegard Game viewing is best in winter (June and July). Seasight of an elephant as we entered the gates. temperatures averaging 22C make it a great family destination.And as we were driven around the reservewe were lucky enough to see another one Getting therealmost 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 attractionsArriving 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 traditionaldancing by local Zulu boys. You can see Accommodationdancing and other Zulu culture throughout You can find top-quality accommodation throughout the province. Amongthe province, visiting a rural Zulu village or South African hotel groups with properties are Southern Sunenjoying 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 includingBesides 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) andbeauty. 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 Holidaysactivity 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 inKwaZulu-Natal was over. It was a truly mes- Tourist informationmerising destination, yet one I feel I haveTL Visit the Zulu Kingdoms website on www.zulu.org.zabarely scratched the surface of. One thingsfor sure I will definitely be back.32 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009 6. July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 33

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