Must Do’s

Zulu Experiences

Zulu people refer to themselves as ‘the people of the heavens’ and make up the largest ethnic group of South Africa, with an estimated 10 million Zulu residents in KwaZulu-Natal. isiZulu is the language of the Zulu people.

In the 19th century they merged into a great kingdom under the leadership of Shaka. After the death of his father, Senzangakhona, Shaka accepted leadership of the Zulu clan who at the time only consisted of 1 500 people. Under his reign from 1816 until 1828, an army (impi) of 50 000 emerged and defeated other clans. Shaka devised many military tactics to defeat the enemy, including the invention of the assegai (short, large bladed stabbing spear) and the lethal means to utilise the weapon. He proved to be a brilliant military leader and soon became a threat for his clan.

After the death of his mother, Nandi, Shaka became deranged with grief and had hundreds of Zulu killed, so the nation would mourn with him. The lesser chiefs, his half-brothers Dingaan and Mhlangana, assassinated him. Dingaan, Shaka’s half-brother, took reign over the clan after the assassination of Shaka.

Shakaland is a replication of a Zulu Umuzi or homestead, complete with 55 very comfortable beehive huts that overlook the Phobane Lake. Participate in a traditional ceremony, learn Zulu customs, try traditional beer and thrill to energetic Zulu dancing.

Khula Village
About 15 minutes from St. Lucia, the contemporary Khula Village will give you an overview of current Zulu life with visits to schools, churches, Zulu dancing and even a traditional sangoma. Guides are residents of this village and can answer questions about past and current Zulu culture and affairs. A taste of Zulu beer combined with a traditional Zulu lunch will round off the experience.

iSithumba Adventures
Zulu BangleiSithumba is an authentic Zulu village in the Valley of 1000 Hills, situated on the banks of the uMngeni River and at the foot of the impressive granite boulder, iSithumba Mountain. Explore the surrounding rivers, forests and hills via a network of hiking and mountain biking trails. Besides the beautiful nature, the hospitality of the Zulu villagers will leave you with an unforgettable experience.

Township Experiences

If you want to experience how the majority of South Africans live, then Durban’s township tours are the way to go!

Umlazi Township
Umlazi is the biggest township in KwaZulu-Natal and the second biggest in South Africa after Soweto. In 1967 it was established as a black township under the apartheid government and was one of the places where many of those removed from Cato Manor (uMkhumbane) were relocated. Now free of the oppression that defined life under apartheid, Umlazi is a buzzing example of township life in South Africa, experiencing significant infrastructural development since 1994. According to legends, the name Umlazi comes from “umlaza” (Zulu for the sour acid produced from fermented milk or sour milk). It is believed that when King Shaka was passing through the area, he refused to drink from a local river claiming it had the taste of “umlaza”, from that incident, the area has been called Umlazi.

Umlazi is divided into section using alphabets from A to Z with additions of AA, BB, CC. It consists of Umlazi Coastal College and Mangosuthu University of Technology. Mangosuthu Highway being the most popular road in Umlazi. It has two shopping malls and almost each section of Umlazi consists of its own clinic and police station and a school.

On a guided tour, which can be conducted individually or in a group, a guide will show you round the various suburbs visiting township sites including churches, museums, restaurants and markets. The township guides were all born and raised in Umlazi which gives the tour a personal feel with visitors frequently being introduced to friends and family.

A tour will invariably visit one of the many markets where traditional foods and herbs used by the sangomas (shamans) and inyangas (healers) are sold.

KwaMashu is a township 32 kilometres (20 mi) north of Durban, South AfricaKwaMashu is notable for its lively performing arts scene, lively performing arts scene thrives including Maskandi, hip hop, pansula dancing, dance, drama, football.

KwaMashu was one of the first of Durban’s townships that emerged with the implementation of the Apartheid Group Areas Act during the 1950s. Construction of KwaMashu began in September 1957 and in November the Council started to systematically remove Africans from Cato Manor. KwaMashu’s name is a Zulu adaptation of Marshall which means ‘the place of Marshall’. It refers to Sir Marshall Campbell, the sugar cane farmer and magnate who owned the land on which KwaMashu stands today.

Highlights of a tour to the South Africa township of KwaMashu include a glimpse into the bustling neighbourhood life of residents. While visiting the township, visitors might consult with a sangoma (traditional herbalist), visit to some of KwaMashu’s finest shebeens (informal bars), to try out umqombothi, traditional African home-brewed beer, and feast on shishanyama (meat cooked on open fires).

Indian Quarter

Location: Dr Yusaf Dadoo Street, Durban
Open daily
Two major Indian ‘icons’ in Durban, the Jumah Mosque and the Victoria Market, mean that where Alfred Britini Xuma, Monty Naicker and Yusaf Dadoo streets meet will always be known as the Indian Quarter, if only for its history.

The Indian Quarter remains a great part of town for a bargain, and the two-storey building that is the Victoria Street Market, with under cover parking below, is a top-to-bottom array of clothing, leather goods, jewellery and Indian spice shops.

The buildings that make up the Indian quarter have soaked up years of history, and the narrow little lanes and avenues are begging to be explored, particularly Madressa and Ajmeri arcades. It remains one of the best places to pick up a “bunny chow” – a quarter loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with a curry of your choice.

Here you’ll also find two more markets: The Oriental Bazaar on Albert Street (between Queen and Commercial) and the Indian Market which is on the far side of the M3 at the west end of Victoria Street. Here one can find very good bargains – fabrics and clothes, shoes and leather goods, jewellery and curios or electrical and electronic appliances.

Ushaka Marine

At the end of Durban’s Golden Mile is the beginning of uShaka Marine World – spanning over 15 hectares of prime beach front, this world-class entertainment centre is Africa’s largest Marine Theme park.

Incorporates fresh and sea water, lush vegetation, natural materials and the re-creation of a wreck of a 1940’s cargo ship, uShaka boasts the fifth largest aquarium in the world by volume of water. With a focus on family entertainment, there is plenty to do at uShaka. As well as having fun at Sea World and Wet n’ Wild, visitors can go shopping in over 11,250m² of retail space.

Sea World
As well as a salt water aquarium with indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits, you will find a 1200 seater dolphin stadium, the seal stadium and a penguin rookery. In addition, Sea World offers edutainment tours behind the scenes and special interactive activities such as snorkelling through reefs and grottos and scuba dives.

Sea World also incorporates the research facilities of the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) which manages and protects scientific and environmental credibility of Sea World and SAAMBR as a whole. These research facilities also offer classrooms for lectures to school and other groups on marine and other coastal matters as well as a research and reference library.

Wet’n Wild World
Wet ‘n Wild World offers fun and safe entertainment for the whole family. This huge water park has separate swimming pools for kids and adults, relaxing river rides and high speed chutes for the adrenaline junkies.

Bell’s Beach
Adjacent to uShaka Marine World, this beach has been set aside for adventure seekers and offers perfect all-year non-stop fun. Activities include windsurfing, beach volleyball, and beach rugby, surfing, jet skiing, kite surfing, paddle boat rides, dolphin viewing charters and national and international beach sports events.

To reach uShaka Marine World from central Durban, join Point Road from West Street or Victoria Embankment and travel south. Continue on Point Road, turn left into Southampton and again into Albert Terrace.

Durban Botanic Gardens

Situated in The Berea, the Durban Botanic Gardens is currently the oldest surviving botanic garden on the African continent and is Durban’s oldest public institution. Developed in 1849 as a botanic station for the trial of agricultural crops, the Gardens has progressed as part of a network of botanic gardens internationally to focus on core areas of biodiversity, education, heritage, research, horticultural excellence and green innovation.

As well as being an enjoyable day out in the warm Durban weather, the Gardens also feature music concerts on a regular basis. Visitors can either bring along their own picnics or purchase food at the venue.

70 St Thomas Road, Durban, 4001, KwaZulu Natal
+27 (0)31 201-1303 or +27 (0)31 309-1170
From 07h30-17h15 during 16 April to 15 September, and from 07h30-17h45 during 16 September to 15 April

Battlefields and Military Sites

The battles fought in the rolling hills and valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal over 120 years ago changed the course of South African history.

A number of guided tours are available, and these provide an opportunity to get a full and well-rounded background of the history of the area. Other options are to self-drive to each site with a good guidebook and just enjoy the views, or for an authentic experience, you can tour some places on horseback.

Engaging the services of a qualified tourist guide will bring these sites to life. A great many forts established by the British during the South African wars have disappeared, while others, such as Fort Durnford near Estcourt, are now most interesting and somewhat quirky museums.

Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are two of the most famous battlefields in the country, and also perhaps in British history, perhaps because it was here that, in a furious two-hour battle, Zulu forces armed primarily with traditional spears and shields thrashed the mighty British Colonial Empire forces; one of the few times they were ever routed by an indigenous army. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to those who defended Rorke’s Drift.

Another interesting battlefield site is Spioenkop, where three men who would play an important role in world affairs were present. Winston Churchill was there as a war correspondent, Mahatma Gandhi was present as a stretcher bearer, and Louis Botha became the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa. Visits to Elandslaagte, the Blood River Monument and Talana Museum near Dundee are also worthwhile.

Distance from Durban: 293km
Location: 28°21′32″S 30°39′10″E
Protagonists: British and Zulus

Isandlwana is an isolated hill located 169km (105 mi) north/northwest of Durban. On 22 January 1879, this was the site of the Battle of Isandlwana, where approximately 22,000 Zulu warriors defeated a contingent of 1,350 British and Native troops in one of the first engagements of the Anglo-Zulu War. The British force was largely wiped out by the Zulus under Cetshwayo, and remains the single greatest defeat for the British Army at the hands of a native army.

Isandlwana hill rises 16km (10 mi) southeast of Rorke’s Drift, a ford on the Buffalo River, a tributary of the Tugela River.

Rorke’s Drift
Distance from Durban: 263km
Location: 28°21′29″S 30°32′12″E
Protagonists: British and Zulus

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift, also known as the Defence of Rorke’s Drift, was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu War. The defence of the mission station of Rorke’s Drift, under the command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, immediately followed the British Army’s defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879, and continued into the following day, 23 January.

Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive but piecemeal Zulu attacks on Rorke’s Drift came very close to defeating the tiny garrison but were ultimately repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

Distance from Durban: 234km
Location: 28°39′0″S 29°30′59″E
Protagonists: British and Boers

On the evening of Tuesday 23 January 1900, 1 700 British troops deployed to South Africa prepared to attack their enemies on a hill in Natal known as Spionkop – the name ‘Spioenkop’, meaning ‘Spy Hill’ or ‘Lookout Hill’, was coined by the Dutch settlers for the commanding views it afforded of the slopes and valley below. During the days that followed, a bloody battle ensued – essentially between the might of the British Empire and a ragged group of Boer farmers – and eventually it was the British who were defeated. Reports at the end of the two-day battle stated 332 killed, 563 wounded and 163 prisoners taken, but these figures are still open to question with some claiming 340 killed and up to 1000 wounded.

To commemorate the fallen upon their return to Britain, the surviving soldiers named the stands at various local football grounds ‘The Kop’, the most famous of these being The Kop at Anfield in Liverpool.

The battle site is open daily and there is a self-guided trail amongst the trenches, graves and monuments. It is found at the end of a clearly signposted short gravel road from the R616 to Bergville. The R616 is easily accessible from the N3 at the Bergville/ Ladysmith offramps. Spioenkop offers a panoramic view of the entire Northern and Central Drakensberg.