One of the alternatives driving from the Free State or Johannesburg to KwaZulu Natal is by using the Oliviershoek Pass. The Oliviershoek Pass straddles the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal just a few kilometres to the south of the starkly beautiful Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. The area is a mass of deep dark pine forest that overlooks the northern reaches of the Royal Natal National Park, which boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa.
Zulu wars, Shaka, Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift, Colenso, Spioenkop, Ladysmith, Dundee, Churchill, Blood River, Cetshwayo, Boers ... are some of the terms which are associated with this internationally renowned area of South Africa
Here are a hotel, a coffeeshop, souvenir shops and Phezulu, where you can watch Zulu dances, with the beautiful 1000 hills in the background.
It is touristic, but I wouldn't call it a real tourist trap.
The Estuary St Lucia,
Incredible waterway Great fishing, good boating, you may notice that most of my photo's on this VT site are overcast conditions, that is by choice the African sun can really hurt you, dryer heat than most anywhere on our earth, you can Blister within 30 minutes and not even feel it.
Oh yeah... Don't jump overboard for a cool down while your here, the crocodiles are pretty quick.
In Dundee, which a good city to be based while touring the battlefields, there is a nice city museum called Talana Museum.
There are several sections in the museum, about ancient rockpainting cave dwellers, about modern zulu beadwork, but also about the mining industry which once thrived here.
There are also several old buildings depicting live from long ago.
A nice museum to spend a few hours.
Scattered across the nations of southern Africa one finds rock art sites left behind mainly by San hunter-gatherer peoples. Some of the better known accumulation of sites can be found along the base of the Drakensberg mountain range. The Drakensberg sites are not the oldest nor are they the most extensive, but they have been studied intensively and from these studies much of our interpretations for the pictographs have been developed.
The eland was the center of the hunter-gatherer people here in the Drakensberg - much like the buffalo was for the American natives people of the Great Plains or the salmon was for the peoples here found in the American Northwest. Life revolved around the eland herds and supernatural powers were attributed to them and to those shamans who could master those powers. While in a trance state - helped along by appropriate herbal concoctions - the shaman would transform themselves into the animal, shown clearly by some of the paintings of tehrianthropes - figures with both human and eland body parts drawn on one figure.
There are two rock centers devoted to explaining what the San people have left - one newer center at Didima near Cathedral Peak and the other is here at Kamberg. Kamberg is in the southernmost extension of the central Drakensberg and technically it is not in the main Drakensberg range but in the Low Berg. The path up is about 3.5 kilometers and gains a few hundred meters in elevation. You might want to carry some water though there is a stream at about the midway point where you can get a drink, as well. The cave at Game Pass Shelter is like most caves in the area, not a real cave but actually a large overhang worn away in the sandstone rock layers. You have a great view to the south as you climb and around the south corner from the cave you can see the pass that gives the cave its name. Here the hunters waited and passed the time, always searching for the eland herds that transversed the slopes of the Low Berg.
Here in the overhang walls are the figures painted in ochre (eland blood may have been used as part of the binding agent) showing the life and roles of man and eland. Here you find a 'church' of the San set into the natural setting of the Berg. Silence is a matter of course.
For more, see my tips in the Drakensberg tips.
Giant's Castle is not the southern end of the Drakensberg Escarpment, but it is the southernmost end of the most dramatic sections that run north from here to the Amphitheatre in Royal Natal National Park. This park has a comfortable accomodation center at the road's end. There is a a fairly short trail leading to some caves with San rock art from the center. Other trails extend much farther. It is possible to ascend the Giant's Castle - around here is the center for ice climbing in South Africa - but that ascent involves more than one day usually. A easier option that will give you a great view over much of the park is to take the trail to World's View. For more, see my Giant's Castle tips. Click on photo for full panorama.
One of the grandest section of the Drakensberg Range falls within this small park on the border of KwaZulu Natal and the Free State. Founded in 1916 as the Natal National Park - ‘Royal’ was added after a visit by the British royals in 1947 - the park is best known for the awe-inspiring rock walls of the Amphitheatre. One kilometer in height and five kilometers wide, bookended by two magnificent outlying buttresses - East Buttress and the Sentinel - the Amphitheatre is one of the most famous sights in South Africa. Entry into the Park is R25 - not covered by the South African Wild Card which allows entry into all South African National Parks because the National Park system is replaced in KwaZulu Natal by the provincial park system, though the Wild Card may be accepted in the near future here as well. There is one campground found in the Park and one self-catered hutted camp. There are several trails wandering about mostly in ravines and gullies north of the Amphitheatre. One trail does wind its way up to meet the road that most hikers/climbers use - the roads comes from the west in the Free State - to reach the top of the Escarpment crest. The main trail attracting attention of one and all is the one to Thukela Gorge which is at the base of the Amphitheatre.
Spion Kop should be familiar to fans of Liverpool football whose stadium is known as the Kop after this ground. Here is the site of one of the sharper engagements of the Second Anglo-Boer War. British units got themselves surrounded by Boer commandos in the nearby town of Ladysmith. They had been besieged for three months and several English relief attempts had been thwarted. Extra reinforcements under the command of General Charles Warren had been detached from the main English army in the Cape province. These troops were trying to sweep around the right end of the Boer forces strung out along the Thukela. Forcing their way up the hill, the English found the position weakly held and quickly captured it one night, but then instead of pushing on they dug in on top of the hill. The delay gave the Boers a chance to counterattack and they blasted away with rifle and cannon at the English troops crowded on the top of the hill. Both sides suffered from desperate fighting throughout the day. Both sides withdrew by the end of the day, each thinking the other had won the day. Early the next morning, the Boers discovered the hill was empty, reoccupied the hill and won the battle. The relief of Ladysmith would have to wait for another month.
There is a good self-guided trail around the battlefield atop the hill or you could hire one of the many guides to give you another view to this site and other local battlefields in the area. Memorials to the British units - 25th Lancaster and the Imperial Light Infantry - along with more general memorials to British and Boer causes are all found to be along with the graves. You will not be bothered by many other tourists either. I was there on a Saturday and there was but one other small group present. History doesn’t necessarily change, but the way it is seen is open to constant new interpretations. Spion Kop has undergone a couple of interpretations already in the past century, but there is plenty of room and time for new interpretations, new meanings, new emphases.
The view from the top of Spion Kop is worth the somewhat nasty drive up - watch the ruts, cows and sheep on the way. From the top, the walls of the Drakensberg to the west rise up darkly. Directly below is the large reservoir lying behind the Spion Kop dam - water supplied by the Thukela river. The mountain lies north of the Spion Kop Nature Reserve where there is a guesthoiuse and a campground, though Ladysmith, Bergville and Winterton are three towns close at hand offering additional lodging choices.
See my Bergville tips for more information about the battlefield here.
Founded in Pietermaritzburg in 1896 by James Cameron Todd, an Anglican canon.
n 1901 the school relocated to Balgowan, click for Google map 29° 23' 50" S 30° 3' 23"E
Spent two [2 ] years doing my final years of high school
a memorable experience, pity the academics showed otherwise
Howick Falls is a waterfall where the Umgeni river plunges over.
It is 300 feet high, and a beautiful sight!
It is found near the small town of Howick in the Natal Midlands, which is 24 kms north of the much larger town of Pietermaritzburg.
There are various trails, for the fit and more energetic, as well as amblers and those who prefer taking things a tad easier.
It is quite touristy, and has local crafts and art for sale.
It is definately worth a visit if you are in the area.
Go rafting down the Umkomaas or Tugela rivers during the hot summer months!
This is great fun, albeit hair-raising at times! There are some fun rapids and some absolutely gorgeous landscapes :)
Ensure you have a hat/cap on at all times, as well as sun screen - applied a few times each day. When you are in the water it is easy to forget the harshness of the sun's rays.
You can hire rafts and canoes there if you dont have your own.
The sardine run takes place along the South Coast annually. You can witness it in June and July.
Every year, billions of sardines swim up north along the Wild Coast of South Africa, coming very close to the shore.
It is spectacular to watch (I have yet to see it!), and the fish are frenzied yet controlled apparently.
They feed on plankton and swim near the surface of the water, driven by the cold Benguella current.
As there are so mnay fish, their predators follow! There are literally thousands of humpback whales, sharks, killer whales, gannets, dolphins etc. that swim after the sardines, eager for an easy meal!
The website below gives a diary account of what was spotted, when and where.
the photos are of sharks in Cape Town, but they are the type of shark that appear for the sardine run!
There are some lovely game reserves to visit, the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park being one of them, Lake St Lucia being another.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park is the oldest wildlife game reserve in Africa.
They offer the visitor the Big 5 as well as an array of magnificent birdlife, tons more wildlife, exciting scenery and landscapes, and a holiday to remember!
I realise I am probably sounding like a tour guide here (I am not one, promise!), but there are some spectacular places to visit in Natal.
It is a green and fertile province. Beautiful :)
Visit uShaka Marine World in Durban, which has a wide array of sealife, including dolphins (and dolphin displays), sting rays and jellyfish.
This is a delight for younger children especially.
They have a wide variety of sealife, and it is not only an entertaining display, but an educational one for the kids too.
They have plenty of water rides and is the 5th largest aquarium in the world according to its volume of water.
I have mixed feelings re this place, as I prefer animals to be in their natural habitat, and dont like zoos and places like this usually... but there are zoos and marine worlds that are doing conservation and breeding work for certain species, and this is to be applauded.
I am sure that the animals are VERY well cared for and loved by their keepers, but I do just wish that the dolphin that entertains by day can be freed into the sea by night...
If you dont mind asking for new towls, shampoos, soap on a daily basis, this hotel is for you. Claim...more
This safari lodge situated just outside of Hluhluwe game reserve is second to non. A family run...more
R103 Nottingham Road, Pietermaritzburg, 3280, South Africa
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