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The 14800km² of land in the northern corner of the Kwazulu-Natal Province of South Africa, and bordering the country of Swaziland, is known as Zululand. This lush green region is filled with dramatic scenery and resplendent game reserves. The area is rich in biodiversity and one of the few places where ancient tribal customs are still practiced and old livestock farming methods are employed.
Ecotourism and conservation are uppermost in the minds of the people that live here. Zululand has the province’s largest rhino population, always under threat of poaching, which prompted a visit by Prince Charles and Camilla in 2011 to discuss the issue with the reigning Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelethini.
The capital Ulundi is where ceremonies important to Zulu culture take place and where the national monument Ondini, a royal residence once occupied by Zulu warrior king Cetshwayo, is located.
Expect to make new friends during your visit and leave with enduring memories in this remote and beautiful section of South Africa.
Top 10 reasons to visit Zululand
1. Take a tour of the battlefields, an area where historic battles took place between the British, Boer and Zulus during the 1800s. Sites worth visiting are Rourke’s Drift where 11 men earned a Victoria Cross medal and Umgungundlovu where a group of Voortrekkers were unwittingly led to their death.
2. Walking safaris of between 1 and 3 days are popular at the Zululand Rhino Reserve. Guides lead visitors through the reserve for up close encounters with the Big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo), as well as leopard, hyena and other large mammals.
3. There are dams and rivers spread throughout the region and enthusiastic anglers are presented with a range of fishing options. Enquire at the nearest info centre.
4. Take some time out to enjoy a round of golf at the Vryheid Country Club, a parkland 9-hole course set in picturesque surroundings. The venue has a welcoming clubhouse.
5. The Royal Reed Dance Festival held every September at the eNyokeni Royal Residence near Nongoma is a spectacle enjoyed by international and local visitors. The purpose of the event is to encourage young Zulu girls to remain celibate until they marry.
6. The KwaZulu Cultural Museum at Ondini in Ulundi gives the visitor an in depth insight into the Zulu culture. The recreated royal residence is laid out exactly as it was in the 1800s thanks to the original mud floors hardening through fire when the residence was raised by British troops.
7. Visit the KwaCeza Forest Caves outside Ulundi, a subterranean cave with perennial spring and used as a refuge by a Zulu Army during the Anglo-Zulu wars.
8. The Maputaland coastline is only a short drive from Zululand to dive the reefs, recline on the untouched white beaches and watch the leatherback turtles arrive to lay their eggs under the moonlight.
9. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park offers guided horse safaris along the shoreline and through coastal forests in this vast national park, South Africa’s first-appointed world heritage site.
10. Ask your host to arrange a visit to a Sangoma healing ceremony at a nearby Zulu village to get some advice and a possible glimpse into your future…
The nearest international airport is King Shaka International Airport, roughly 300km from Zululand. Chartered flights land at Vryheid Airport and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Airport in Ulundi, 85km and 95km away respectively. Arrange a vehicle at one of the rental agencies at the airport, or order your rental online and collect at a convenient location. Tour companies offer shuttle services, however, the area is remote and your best option is a rental.
Did you know?
On 22nd January 1879, the British Empire was to suffer its greatest loss against an indigenous tribe when the Zulu nation defeated their army at the Battle of iSandlwana in Zululand. Ironically, in the midst of the battle, a solar eclipse took place, calculated to have happened at 14h29 on the day. iSandlwana in Zulu means the day of the dead moon.
Many Zulus believe that the battlefields are an empty place, the spirits of the dead long claimed by their families.