KwaZulu Natal: Upon discovering this coast the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sighted a large river mouth (now Durban harbour) on Christmas day of 1497. He named the river ‘Rio de Natal’ or ‘Christmas river’.
Today the region is known as KwaZulu Natal and extends from Port Edward to Mozambique and inland to the Eastern Drakensberg, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. The traditional homeland of the Zulu nation – once the most formidable military power in Africa – has been fiercely contested over the centuries by all parties, leaving the soils of KwaZulu Natal steeped in history and blood.
The climate is sub-tropical with summer rains. It is hot and humid from November to February, whilst the winter months are pleasantly warm and dry.
The inland savannah regions of KwaZulu Natal once boasted some of the most productive hunting grounds in Africa. Despite intensive development to the North and South of Durban, much of the region is unspoilt and the many large game reserves preserve vast areas in their natural state.
The St. Lucia Wetland Park, surrounds a 60km long estuary lying parallel to the sea. A barrier of forested dunes – the highest in the word at 120m – separates the two and extends up to Sodwana Bay. The area is also a marine park with a 6km wide coastal and ocean reserve extending from Cape Vidal up to Kosi bay and its nesting sites for leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
St. Lucias’ plants and animals are dependent on the areas unique physical, chemical and biological factors which provide fresh water and nutrients to this fragile ecosystem. Primarily a reserve for hippo and famous for its birdlife and crocodiles, the system also supports leopard, buffalo, bushbuck and bushpig amongst its many game species.
The smaller Mkuzi reserve and the combined reserves of Hluhluwe and Umfolozi, with their varying habitats, are amongst the worlds finest and most rewarding. As sanctuaries for both, black and white rhino, they also complete the big five with elephant, buffalo, lions and leopard amongst almost 90 other species of mammal.