[Updated July 2020]
The north coast of KwaZulu-Natal is mild, sunny and dry in winter and sub-tropical in summer, with delicious rainstorms and blazing beach weather. Replete with wild forests pulsating with bird and animal life, here are 18 fun and adventurous things to do around and along the northern strip of KZN.
1. Relax at Fairmont Zimbali Resort
Keen for a luxury couples retreat or family getaway? Book a stay at Zimbali for a much-needed detox and escape from reality. Enjoy endless shopping, long lazy beach days, forest walks, golf and some pampering at the spa.
Make your way to Dolphin Coast and stretch out along the golden sands of Ballito’s beaches. Clarke Bay, Willards and Salt Rock are especially popular beach spots to enjoy some swimming and watch the sunset.
3. Visit gentle giants at Tembe Elephant Park
Right near the Mozambique border, in Maputaland, these large tuskers roam among tiny Suni antelope. The Tembe people co-own and run the Tembe Safari Lodge. You can check out a live cam of the waterhole in the reserve here.
4. Get away from it all at Rocktail Beach Camp
Rocktail Beach, situated in a remote coastal forest area of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park up the North Coast, combines luxury and rusticity for a glorious beach and bush break where you really feel like you’ve escaped life’s stresses. Each unit has an open-air feel inside shower. The Honeymoon Suite has uninterrupted views of the welcoming Indian Ocean.
5. Spot aquatic tigers in Jozini Dam
Officially known as Pongolapoort Dam, prior to the dam’s construction this was Africa’s first formally recognized conservation area. In the reserves around the dam you’ll find elephant, leopard, Nile crocodiles on the banks, pink and white-backed pelicans, rhino, buffalo, hippos, waterbuck as well as many others. A healthy tigerfish population makes this a prime fishing destination.
6. Go on a photographic safari at Zimanga
Combine your passion for excellent photography with your love of wildlife and visit Zimanga Private Nature Reserve. Zimanga is based on the Zulu word for something unbelievable, and this is the first reserve in Africa to specialise in wildlife photography. The hides have been designed with the guidance of a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winner and are unobtrusive ensure to that the animals remain undisturbed by the photographers.
7. Go diving in Sodwana Bay
Sodwana Bay offers some of the best diving in the world with outstanding marine life and beautiful coral. Dive sites range from 20 to 40 metres, so if you’re an experienced diver you can go seeking out the hammerhead sharks. Water temperature varies from 28 degrees Celcius in summer to 20 degrees Celcius in winter. Contact the scuba centre at Sodwana Bay Lodge for more info.
8. De-stress at rustic Mabibi beach camp
Wonderful rustic Mabibi Campsite is situated at Hulley Point on the Elephant Coast. It has eight secluded sites with a private braai area and equipped self-catering chalets.
9. Spot Palm Nut Vultures at the Raffia Palm Monument
Declared a National Monument in 1942, the Raffia Palm grove in Mtunzini has a lovely boardwalk trail from where you can spot the distinguished Palm Nut Vultures. The palms grow to an impressive 25 metres high with 18-metre-long leaves!
10. Go on an affordable luxury safari at Mavela Game Lodge
For a first-class luxury tented camp safari experience that doesn’t break the bank, consider Mavela Game Lodge. They offer an affordable all-inclusive package that includes drinks food, accommodation and activities.
You can expect an ensuite tented accommodation in one of their five guest tents, daily guided game drives in an open 4×4 vehicle, daily meals and all-day refreshments, early morning coffee with rusks and fresh fruit, full English breakfast, high tea and three-course gourmet dinners.
11. Visit Lake Sibaya, the largest freshwater lake in SA
This pristine freshwater lake is one of the 10 jewels of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is 70 square kilometres and teems with animals and birdlife. Watch out for the crocs and hippos on the banks! Lake Sibaya (also known as Sibhayi) was once the mouth of a powerful river but is now naturally separated from the sea by sand dunes. Stay at any of the luxury lodges in the surrounding area or at the Mabibi Beach camp (see above).
12. Spectacular sunsets at Rhino River Lodge
The Zululand Rhino Reserve features 3-star and 4-star lodges and runs many conservationist projects. A stay at the 4-star Rhino River Lodge set along the Msunduzi River is a magical experience with candle-lit dinners under the thorn trees and spectacular sunsets and game drives.
13. Spot birds and bush babies at oNgoye Forest Reserve
This rare habitat of scarp forest hosts a plethora of birdlife and even some cycads. The oNgoye forest reserve is one of the oldest protected nature areas in the country and was first under the protection of the Zulu Royal household for the important medicinal plants found here. You’ll need a 4×4 to access this remote reserve, crossing three streams to get there. There are no camping facilities so when you arrive you must contact the resident officer on duty and make a self-contained camp.
14. Trace Route 66 on the Zululand Heritage Route
KZN’s answer to the Western Cape’s Route 62, follow the R66 along one of the oldest trade routes in the country. The Shakaland Zulu Cultural Village is a popular stop on the route.
15. Book a turtle tour at Bhanga Nek
Bhanga Nek is a protected area with the largest sea turtle population in South Africa. It’s the best spot to see turtles laying their eggs in the dunes from November to March. Book a turtle tour (you need a guide to view the turtles) and be sure not to disturb the turtles or interfere with this fragile ecosystem.
16. Take a dip in the Shu Shu hot springs
You can find these natural hot springs in the Tugela valley near Greytown. The locals will tell you July is the perfect time to have a relaxing soak in these bubbling pools. Don’t go in the rainy season (summer months) as the river will be too high.
17. Kosi Forest Lodge
Escape to luxurious Kosi Forest Lodge. Do a guided canoe trip on the lakes, explore the estuary or go turtle tracking in season.
18. Visit the Shaka Memorial in KwaDakuza (Stanger)
Visit the Shaka memorial heritage site, erected in 1932, to honour the Zulu king as well as the memorial garden and interpretive centre. Look for the rock adjacent to the monument where it is said King Shaka was sitting at the time of his assassination in 1828.
Beach or bush? Which are your favourite destinations along the North Coast of KZN? Let us know in the comments below.
Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to stay on top of flight deals, travel tips and so much more.
All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.