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KwaZulu Natal is renowned for its Game Reserves and traditional Zulu Culture

The attractions in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) range from vibrant cities to the gorgeous Land of a Thousand Hills, from tranquil beaches to outstanding Game Parks and Nature Reserves.

These are just some of the sites you shouldn't miss:
  • Big Five Game Reserves (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino - and lots more, of course) and Travellers volunteers are able to work in many of them, including Tembe and Mkhuze.
  • Beautiful St Lucia Wetlands with its Crocodile Center and Wetlands
  • Numerous nature parks,
  • Fantastic beaches for swimming and diving. The beaches are truly golden.
  • Lively Durban where South Africans go to have fun,
  • The San Art Park for a collection of astounding rock paintings,
  • ... And much, much more!


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Durban (Tekweni in Zulu) lies in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, the ancestral home of the Nguni people.

Africa's bewitching seaside playground in the sun, Durban has from its earliest days possessed a special charm...a certain mystique that adds 'something extra' to the meeting of warm Indian Ocean, radiant golden sands and lush sub-tropical greenery. The city is blessed with balmy weather all year round, making it a perfect vacation paradise.

Durban is a major gateway to Africa and is also the largest and busiest port city on the continent. There is an extensive road network leading to and from any destination in South Africa and Durban International Airport is only a 10 minute drive from the City.

Sophisticated and cosmopolitan, Durban Metro after dark buzzes with elegant lounges, funky taverns and cozy inns, distinctive local theatre and live music, and trendy clubs, pubs and discos. Rave 'till dawn and catch sunrise over the vast Indian Ocean horizon - this is nightlife in a modern, authentic African metropolis!

Probably the first European to have sight Durban was Vasco De Gama on his pioneering sea voyage to India in 1497.Durban takes its name from Sir Benjamin D'Urban, governor of the Cape Colony at the time of the first successful colonial settlement in 1835. Since then, Durban has been colonised by firstly Dutch and then English traders.  A large number of Indian labourers were brought to Durban during the 19th century to farm the emerging sugar industry.  With them came traders and their ancestors form a large percentage of Durban's current population.

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Rickshaw driver on the beach promenade in Durban

PMB City Hall at night

Howick Falls, near Pietermaritzburg

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Pietermaritzburg (called Maritzburg or PMB), set amidst forested hills and rolling countryside, is one of the best-preserved Victorian cities in the world. It has one of the best climates in the world, with clear blue skies and warm weather virtually all year. It is also known as the Events Capital of the country! Music and theatre events and outdoor festivals stand next to sports and athletics events tht take place all year round. This is a buzzing city, full of surprises.

Shopping malls are plentiful, but the real run comes from browsing through quaint craft shops, discovering a cottage furniture restorer's workshop, bargaining with a shop-owner in Failsworth Road, finding a unique gift at a flea market, supporting a street vendor or painting up your own teaset.

The city is famous for  an incident early in the life of Mahatma Gandhi, where he was thrown off a train for refusing to go sit in third-class seating so that a white man could have his seat; even though the Mahatma held a valid first-class ticket. This incident inspired Gandhi to begin his career protesting against laws discriminating against Indians in South Africa. Today, a bronze statue of Gandhi stands in Church Street in the city center.

Pietermaritzburg is also famous for trivia, such as

  • the City Hall being the largest all-brick building in the southern hemisphere

  • standing at 14m tall, Pegasus, adorning the entrance of the Golden Horse Casino, is the largest horse statue in the world

  • Pietermaritzburg cricket ground is notable as one of the two grounds used regularly for first-class cricket that have a tree within the boundary (the other is St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury, Kent).

Attractions in PMB range from one end of the scale to other. For example, you should visit the Tatham Art Gallery, housed in the handsome Old Supreme Court building built in 1871. It houses beautiful beadwork and intricate basketry and wood and bronze sculptures. There's also an impressive collection of British and French 19th and early 20th century paintings, including Degas, Picasso, Matisse, Hockney and Renoir.

You could follow this with a visit to the Golden Horse Casino. Good food, good entertainment and a good evening to be had by all.

The city is ideally placed to visit one of the many, many Game Reserves in the region, such as Queen Elizabeth Park, Tala, Umgeni and too many more to mention! and don't forget the surroundings -  There are numerous gorgeous waterfalls surrounding the city that you shouldn't miss, like Howick Falls (pictured right).

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South Africa is unique in its mixture of languages, beliefs, races, colours, creeds, traditions, the old and the new, the modern and the historic - and just about everything else! And it is this mixture that makes it such a wonderful country.

The people who have had possibly the most exotic impact on the country are the Zulu. Their history is inseparably entwined with the history of the country.

Traditions: The Zulu are a warrior nation and military might and physical courage are celebrated in all aspects of the Zulu culture. These ideals are central to the oral traditions and ceremonies that keep the Zulu culture alive to this day.

Traditionally young boys learned the art of stick fighting from an early age. Stick fighting is a unique form of martial art and requires great skill and discipline. Fighters carry a small oxhide shield in the left hand and a metre-long stick in the other hand. The stick is used primarily to strike at the opponent's head. Strength and agility are important in winning a tournament or fight.

Dance and Music: Social gatherings present dancers of the various clans with the opportunity of displaying their skills and fitness while the onlookers accompany them by playing drums, singing, whistling and ululating. Dancing, making music and drinking traditional beer all form part of all Zulu ceremonies, such as the celebration of the coming of age of a boy or a girl, a marriage or a funeral. Men and boys usually perform separately from the women. The dances of the men may reflect stylised battle movements or describe the whipped up energy before the hunt. Women's dances are more likely to portray a humorous story.

Historical Background: The eastern portion of Southern Africa, the area known as KwaZulu-Natal, was settled at the beginning of the 17th century by the clans who would collectively become known as the Nguni people and, individually, as the Zulu, Xhosa, Pondo and Swazi people.

The land they came to was a land of 'milk and honey', a fertile land with numerous rivers and streams. Their banks were covered with fig trees so huge and dense that their boughs touched overhead.

Every spring this lovely place erupted into colour as the extravagantly beautiful Erythrina caffra trees started showing off their crimson flowers. Vast numbers of antelope and other game roamed the green hills and valleys, each having a special name - the Lion was iNgonyama (a wild beast of prey), the Elephant was iNdlovu (the trampler) and the Giraffe was called iNdlulamithi (taller than the trees). This then was the birthplace of the mighty Zulu nation. According to tradition, a man named Nguni led the first migrants who settled in KwaZulu-Natal.

Many years later, King Shaka turned the Zulus into a mighty warrior nation. Because of his extraordinary military and strategic finesse, Shaka succeeded in building a mighty Zulu nation - to this day the largest ethnic group in South Africa.

Shaka revolutionised contemporary Black warfare by introducing the short stabbing spear to enforce fighting at close combat. This method proved to be so effective that the Zulus were still using it 60 years later in the war against the British. Zulu shields made from oxhide were used both as a protection and as a method of concealing the weapons the warrior was carrying.

Shaka was assassinated in 1828 by his brother Dingaan, but not before he had united all the tribes in the area, known today as Kwazulu-Natal.

It was Shaka's brother Dingaan whom the White migrants, the Voortrekkers, encountered when they crossed the Tugela River. In December 1838, on the banks of a tributary of the Buffalo River, the two groups faced one another in battle after Dingaan had ambushed and killed the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief, and his men. Following the Zulu army's defeat at the hands of the Voortrekkers, the river was known as Blood River.

The Zulus paid dearly for their defeat, they lost not only the battle but also the traditional home of their fathers. However, under the subsequent leadership of Cetshwayo, the fame of the Zulu nation grew and forty years later they regained their pride when they defeated the British in the Battle of Isandhlwana during the Anglo-Zulu War. The battle was savage and at the end of the day, 58 British officers, 806 British soldiers and 470 African allies, as well as 1 000 Zulus, lay dead or dying. The Zulus' pride was restored but they, and later the Voortrekkers too, would eventually have to bend the knee to Britain.

The British finally defeated the Zulus at Ulundi in July 1879. They partitioned the Zulu kingdom into thirteen independent chiefdoms, without a monarchy to unite them. The area known as Zululand was eventually annexed by Britain in 1843 and ten years later it became part of the Colony of Natal.

Courtship and Marriage: The process of courtship and marriage was conducted according to strict rules and protocol. As each clan was regarded as one family, members of the same clan were not allowed to marry. A young man was only allowed to woo a girl if she was considered to be mature enough and if her peer group considered him to be a good proposition. The man was then allowed to make a series of indirect approaches, often through his sisters.

After an initial period of playing 'hard to get', the girl was allowed to indicate her acceptance by sending the man a gift of betrothal beads. Once her family had indicated their acceptance and approval, the young man set up a white flag outside his hut, indicating his plan to marry soon.

In the interests of diplomacy, close relatives of the two families undertook the negotiations for the bride price (lobola). Polygamous marriages were common and a man could take as many wives as he could afford. He had to pay a dowry in the form of cattle for each wife he took. Today, money is often used instead of cattle. The first wife was considered the senior wife and each subsequent bride had to know her place in the hierarchy and had to take care not to outshine her elders.

Belief System: The Zulu's traditional religion was centred on ancestor worship. According to Zulu religion, the spirits of the ancestors (called Amadlozi) guided their daily lives and sacrifices were therefore made to appease these spirits. They believed that the ancestors could only be seen in dreams and that soothsayers (called sangomas) were the only ones who had the power to communicate with them.

Gender roles: Young boys herd cattle and goats and their elder brothers assist in milking the cows. Girls clean the huts, collect water and firewood and help in the fields. In the absence of schools, children learn about their past history and customs by word of mouth, through story-telling.

Art and Crafts: Ceremonial dress was usually an elaborate combination of exquisite beadwork and skins, pelts, plumes and feathers. Men often carried a ceremonial shield and wore an otter skin headband, to indicate their regiment. Weapons are an integral part of the Zulu tradition and to this day, men still carry different sized wooden staffs and clubs as part of their traditional attire.

The choice of animal skin was also indicative of the status of the wearer. For example, only members of the Royal House were allowed to wear leopard skin and any leopard killed automatically became the property of the chief.

Small knives and choppers were used to make bowls, platters, combs, spoons, ceremonial sticks, spear handles and the headrests they used instead of pillows to protect their elaborate headdresses while they slept. Today, Zulu animal carvings and masks are popular items in the tourist trade. Zulu women are expert grass weavers and make a variety of mats and baskets.

Pottery is also a well-developed skill among the Zulu people. Colourful clay pots are left in the sun, fired by burying them in hot ashes. The art of Zulu beadwork dates back centuries. The beadwork expresses messages in symbolic language, such as coded love messages, the wearer's age or status or his or her home area. The beadwork is a prime example of the artist's superb use of colour and innovative design. Like all the people of Africa, Zulus love to dance and sing.
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