ZULULAND is an area rich in wildlife from Richards Bay along the north coast up to Pongola, including small towns such as Ulundi and Vryheid. The area is steeped in tradition and examples of historic Zulu culture abound. Visitors are invited to view Zulu villages such as Shakaland and DumaZulu, where they can sample traditional Zulu beer and cuisine, witness a rural wedding ceremony, enjoy a Zulu dancing display or consult a ‘sangoma’ – a traditional Zulu healer.

Bordering the historical Battlefields route and the magnificent Drakensberg, Zululand offers visitors diverse sights of tea plantations, cattle farms and abundant wildlife. The area hosts many parks, farms and reserves aiming to conserve the natural beauty and species of Zululand and which include the Siyaya Coastal Park, the Umlalazi Nature Reserve and the Amatikulu Reserve.

Adding to the extensive wildlife spectrum is the enormous diversity of bird species; over 650 available along the Zululand Birding Route which links the top 70 birding spots in Zululand. Other natural highlights are the Dlinza Nature Reserve near Eshowe, which is a wonderful birding spot as well as providing great hikes and the chance to observe various species of wild fig and African plum trees.

BABANANGO, the highest village in northern Zululand, is located on the way to Dundee along the R68. Its name, ‘ubaba, nangu’ means ‘father there she is’ and is said to refer to a child who was lost in the mist on the slopes of its hills. It offers a convenient place to stay if travelling along the Battlefields Route which highlights sites of the many fierce Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu battles engaged in between early 1800 and 1900. The area was given to European farmers by King Dinizulu in 1885 as part of a land grant. Birding is a rewarding pursuit in this region where the focus is on conserving birds and their natural environment by encouraging birding tourism of the over 600 recorded bird species.

COWARDS’ BUSH near Eshowe is a site where Shaka is said to have had potential cowards tested and defeated warriors executed. Those who failed his tests or had not fulfilled their duties as warriors were buried in the place known as ‘Isihlala Samagwala’, the resting place of cowards.

DLINZA FOREST is situated near Eshowe and covers an area of some 200 hectares, supporting many natural attractions and wildlife such as birds, vervet monkeys, wild pigs, blue and red duiker and bushbuck. The forest boasts the only aerial boardwalk in the southern hemisphere – 150 metres long and rising to 20 metres in height – as well as many walks and trails. Besides walking the forest trails, it is possible to negotiate the Royal Drive, a gravel road through the centre of the forest from where glimpses of blue duiker or bushbuck are possible. Trees along the trails are marked with useful information for visitors. In autumn, as many as 80 species of butterflies may be spotted.

EMPANGENI lies approximately 15 kilometres from Richards Bay on the coast and in the region of 160 kilometres’ travel from Durban along the R34. It apparently derives its name from the Zulu word ‘pangaed’ or ‘grabbed’, which may stem from the many crocodile attacks in the nearby Empangeni stream. The area was originally used by Norwegian missionaries, and while the mission was subsequently relocated to Eshowe, Empangeni was established as a magisterial district in 1894.

Empangeni retains the quaint and hospitable nature of a small town, although it has become quite modern in recent times, producing sugar, cotton and timber, and engaging in cattle farming. The area is notably hot and humid in climate with summer temperatures rising to 45° Celsius. Winters, however, are mild; making the area is suitable for tourism year-round.

Zululand’s natural heritage is evident in the Enseleni Nature Reserve some 13 kilometres north of Empangeni and offering glimpses of zebra and impala, a seven-kilometre hiking trail and pleasant picnic areas. The history of the area can be viewed at the local museum which displays Zulu cultural and contemporary art, while the 18-hole Empangeni golf-course is a draw-card for sports enthusiasts. As the gateway to both Hluhluwe and Umfolozi, Empangeni is a good place at which to pause en route to further adventures.

ESHOWE is situated just beneath a ridge of hills in which the Dlinza Forest is located. The name Eshowe is said to have been formed from the sound of the wind sighing through the trees in the forest, but probably actually emanates from the Zulu word ‘ishongwe’ or ‘showe’, a term for the prolific milkbush shrubs (xysmalobium) in the area.

Eshowe is the oldest European settlement in Zululand, located in the Uthungulu district in close proximity to beaches, lagoons and wetlands. Despite its sub-tropical setting, the town suffers less humidity than the rest of the region, making it a popular vacation spot for holiday-makers. Historically, these have included the Zulu Kings, who came here in a bid to escape the heat of the coast. King Cetshwayo erected a kraal in Eshowe in 1860, whereafter it was annexed by the British in 1887.

Freshwater fishing from Rutledge Park Dam and Eshlazi Dam, maintained by the uThungeulu District Municipality, and Phobane Lake in the Nkwaleni Valley between Eshowe and Melmoth, can be a successful and pleasurable experience since as many as 24 different species of fish have been identified in Phobane Lake.

In addition to the Dlinza Forest, natural attractions include Entumi Nature Reserve, home to an indigenous forest and boasting amazing views. Mpushini Falls is yet another attraction, and visitors can also see the Bishop’s Seat, an open area where Anglican Bishop Carter used to sit and meditate.

Martyr’s Cross is a monument erected on Mpodweni Hill on the outskirts of Eshowe overlooking the Umlalazi Valley. It is a memorial to Maqhamasela Khanyile, the first Christian martyr in Zululand, who was executed by Cetshwayo’s men upon refusing to join the army. Following his death, his family and 30 other Zulu Christians sought refuge with Ommond Oftebro at KwaMondi. Originally indicated by an ordinary cross, the memorial has been upgraded over the years from concrete, then to steel, and now to granite.

Princess Nandi kaBebe, born in 1760, was a member of the eLangeni tribe and gave birth to King Shaka near Melmoth in the mid-1870s. She was the third wife of Senzangakhona. Her marriage failed and she was obliged to flee with Shaka, taking refuge with the Mtethwa clan. She witnessed Shaka rise to greatness before she died in 1827 of dysentery, which was followed by ritual mourning and slaughter. However, unscrupulous citizens settled scores during this period of mourning, and the death toll at the end reached some 7 000. Shaka was murdered by his half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, the following year.

Nandi’s grave is situated outside Eshowe, off the old Empangeni Road, and was originally marked ‘Nindi’. In March 2011, the Mhlongo Committee met in Eshowe with staff from the office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier to finalise the plans for Nandi’s grave. It was decided to schedule an official opening to present Nandi’s gravesite upon approval of the new designs. It was agreed that the name on the grave would read: ‘Princess Nandi Mhlongo, mother of King Shaka’.

Eshowe is also immersed in colonial history. In 1879 during the Anglo-Zulu War the mission at KwaMondi was used as a fort. In that capacity, Colonel Pearson and his men manning the fort were besieged by the Zulu army under Prince Dabulamanzi for ten weeks until the siege was lifted by the arrival of reinforcements under Lord Chelmsford. Several years later, during the Zulu Civil War, the British used Fort Curtis as a military headquarters where they established a British presence of around 3000 troops. There are no signs of Fort Curtis today, but it is believed to have been in the vicinity of the current Eshowe Sports Club. The fort of Eshowe grew into a town following these wars and was declared a township in 1891. The British Royal Family visited Eshowe in 1947, spending a night with the Zulu King Cyprian in his royal residence.

FORT NONGQUAI was established in 1883, near Eshowe, and houses several sites of interest. These include the Zululand Museum, which has a marvellous collection of ‘ingxotha’ – the brass armbands worn by the Zulu kings and soldiers as tokens of bravery under the rule of Dingane, Mpande and Cetshwayo. There are also many fine pieces of antique teak and mahogany furniture, some of which furnished the original residences of John Dunn, the ‘White Chief’.

In the Vukani Museum, the visitor can observe samples of Zulu pottery, basketry, beadwork and can admire intricate tapestries. One of the most well-known potters was the late Nesta Nala, who discovered early Iron Age pottery on an archaeological site near her home and began incorporating the designs and styles into her more modern pottery, creating stylistically unique works of art. The KwaZulu-Cultural Museum predominantly features the work of the Nguni-speaking peoples, and is home to exquisite beadwork collections and tapestries.

The Zululand Mission Museum completes the visitor’s tour and covers the arrival of Norwegian missionaries to the area in the mid-19th century. This small museum is located in a modern version of the traditional Norwegian mission chapels, and the Mission Chapel itself is hired out for weddings and functions. The Fort is also home to a craft shop where the Phumani Paper-Making Project provides poverty alleviation for the community who craft attractive handmade paper for sale in the shop.

GINGINDLOVU, which is near the Amatikulu Game Reserve, boasts the amazingly unexpected sight of wildlife feeding on forested dunes with a sea outlook. Wildlife is prolific, and fishing and canoeing on the Amatikulu Estuary are pleasurable pursuits for water-sports enthusiasts. The Reserve supports over 300 bird species, including 25 species of raptor as well as a healthy game population.

Gingindlovu has its roots firmly in the area’s history, since it acquired its name from the ascendancy of Cetshwayo to the Zulu throne following his victory over his brother Mbulazi. Meaning ‘swallower of the elephant’, uMgungundlovu was once the royal homestead of Dingane and marks the spot of the historical execution of Piet Retief and his men.

Dingane was declared king following his murder of Shaka. His royal kraal, uMgungundlovu, was situated in a valley known as eMakhosini or the Valley of Kings (also sometimes referred to as the ‘cradle’ of Zululand) since the graves of previous Zulu kings, namely Zulu, Phunga, Magebu, Ndaba, Jama, Senzangakhona and Dinizulu, are located here. Set against the cliffs of a tributary of the Ntonjeni River, this site holds both geographic and strategic significance, since from a crest known as ‘Singonjama’ the entire area of eMakhosini can be viewed. Water is plentiful due to the Ntonjaneni fountains and the site’s proximity to two rivers.

Around the same time that Dingane was purging the Zulus of Shaka’s stalwarts so that he could take control, the Voortrekkers began arriving on the boundaries of Zululand following their move to freedom away from the Cape Colony and their search for land upon which to settle. This led increasingly to minor clashes between them and the Zulu people.

Piet Retief was one of the outriders of the Great Trek. Upon entering Zululand in 1837, he headed to uMgungundlovu to meet Dingane in the hope of extracting a land grant from him. Dingane set a condition upon this reward, namely that Retief should recover some cattle previously stolen from him, allegedly by Trekkers. Retief agreed and subsequently recovered the cattle from the Mantatisi in North-Basutoland. On 3 February 1838 Retief and approximately 69 companions with 30 coloured helpers arrived at Dingane’s kraal, where they stayed while Dingane drew up a treaty granting them land between the Thukela and Umzimvubu rivers. The treaty dated 4th February was signed on 6th February before a great feast which Retief and his men attended unarmed. During the festivities, Dingane gave the order to capture Retief and his company whereupon they were dragged to the execution hill, kwaMatiwane, and killed.

Retief and his men’s remains were later buried by Pretorius at the foot of kwaMatiwane. In 1922 a monument was erected in their memory. Today, in Dingaanstad on the hill overlooking the site of Dingane’s kraal, the giant concrete cross is visible from far afield.

The Valley of the Kings offers visitors many worthwhile sites of interest. The Spirit of eMakhosini memorial, which was opened in 2003 by His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini, provides awesome views of the valley. The memorial is encircled by seven animal horns relating to the seven deceased kings buried in the area. The reconstructed capital or royal residence can be visited, as well as the museum of uMgungundlovu which now boasts a modern media centre. The grave of Piet Retief and his followers and its memorial, as well as the site of the Battle of Gqokli Hill, where Shaka destroyed the Ndwandwe clan in 1818, are points of interest.

The remains of 15th century structures can still be seen on the hillsides, and these date back to the forefathers of the Zulu kings. Other ancient sites rumoured to be sacred and surrounded in mystique are the Nobamba, the homestead of Shaka’s grandfather Jama, and Maheni, which is regarded as a site where no man may touch the ground with a stick lest he disturb the rest of the ancestral spirits. The Ophathe Game Reserve which bordered eMakhosini Valley was declared contiguous with eMakhosini in 2001, and the area is now known as the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park.

KWA MONDI was a mission station established by Bishop Schreuder in 1860 for the Norwegian Mission Society. It was later taken over by his successor, Reverend Ommund Oftebro. The mission was named KwaMondi apparently after the abbreviated name given to Ofterbro by the Zulus – ‘Mondi’.

Reverend Hans Schreuder (sometimes spelled in the more Anglicised form ‘Schroeder’) was born in Sogu in 1817 and ordained in 1843. He came to Port Natal as a Norwegian missionary, and stayed in that region from 1844 to 1851 trying to gain admission to Zululand from King Mpande. Mpande allowed Schreuder to establish a mission station in 1851 and a year later a further mission station was set up at Ntumeni. In 1858 the Reverend baptised his first Zulu convert. He was ordained as mission Bishop in 1866.

Schreuder began his mission by opening a rudimentary clinic and soon gained a reputation among the Zulu people as a doctor. In fact he is said to have treated snakebite wounds so well that he saved the life of his assistant’s daughter. Mpande called for Schreuder’s assistance as he became unwell; suffering, it is now thought, from dropsy. The early wheelchair or mobile wooden chair made by Schreuder for Mpande is displayed with pride today in the Zululand Historical Museum in Fort Nongquai.

MAGUDU is situated in north-western KwaZulu-Natal between the Pongolapoort Dam and Ithala Game Reserve. Surrounded by rolling hills, rural Magudu is rumoured to have been the home of Magudu the Rain Queen, while the prominent mountain of Magudu is deemed to be sacred. Magudu is said to have been able to harness the clouds and the rainfall, and perhaps this has contributed to the beauty of this inland region which consists of terrain as varied as mountains, wetlands and savannah.

The town itself is encircled by an ever-growing number of game farms, offering bush and safari experiences which prove to be a great draw-card for visitors, who can view rhino, giraffe, antelope, wildebeest, elephant, buffalo and leopard. Indeed, many game-farms have removed artificial boundaries between farms to allow animals to roam in a natural way which permits visitors a more authentic bush experience.

MELMOTH is a quaint town which serves as the gateway to the Zulu Highlands and is located 200 kilometres east of Durban. It has both an indigenous and colonial history, since the Nkandla forest, about 68 kilometres from Melmoth, has always been deemed a sacred or supernatural site by the Zulus; while history indicates that the Chobe metalworkers who were indigenous to the Nkandla area were never subdued by Shaka. The town itself was named after Sir Melmoth Osbon who was Commissioner of Zululand in 1888 when the goldrush town was established.

The area produces some of the best export-quality tea in South Africa, grown by Ntingwe Tea Plantations (1987) which have established a solid reputation in the overseas market for fine tea. The tea company is the largest employer in the area and has become a sound source of income and economic stability.

Nkandla forest is an increasingly rare example of a high, wet rainforest and a surviving mist belt forest. Deep gorges have been carved out by streams which rise in the forest, and these lead into the Nsuze River which meanders along the base of the ridge.

MTUNZINI, which translates as ‘the place of shade’, is located atop a hill with views of the beach, the dune forest below and an estuary lined with mangrove forestation. The town was declared a conservancy in 1995 has been commended for its dedication to preserving the natural environment. Alien weeds have been eradicated and the natural forests have been rehabilitated, providing a spectacle for bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts on the various birding and bush trails. Even the streets of Mtunzini are home to indigenous trees.

The Palmnut Vulture, South Africa’s largest breeding bird of prey, is attracted to stands of Raffia Palm. A boardwalk through a swamp forest guides visitors easily to the heart of the colony of palms, which were brought to Mtunzini about 100 years ago from Kosi Bay and are one of only six species indigenous to South Africa.

The diversity of habitats, which include mangrove swamps, estuarine mudflats, coastal dune forests and grasslands, attract over 300 species of birds, while the sub-tropical climate with its comfortable winters attracts those who enjoy bird-watching. Mtunzini hosts annual birding weekends where fortunate visitors may stand the chance of observing the Green Barbet, found only at Ongoye Forest outside Mtunzini. The Umlalazi Nature Reserve (1028 hectares) also offers a network of trails for exploration, and the Mangrove Kingfisher may show itself to the lucky bird-enthusiast. The winter butterfly migration is a world-famous event which has been widely photographed and recorded.

Mtunzini is also a great site for fishing in a variety of forms. Ski-boats can launch from Mlalazi lagoon, while fishing from the lagoon banks may prove very satisfying since generously-sized fish such as Grunter, Salmon, Rock Salmon/River Snapper and Rock Cod may take the line. Ski-boat fisherman can usually catch Dorado, Kingfish, Barracuda, Yellowtail Tuna and others species in the summer months.

Sadly, Mtunzini seems to be threatened by its economic potential in the form of minerals. Opencast mining already takes place next to the Ongoye Forest west of Mtunzini and should developers have their way, Mtunzini itself will also be mined. Save Our Sands (SOS) Mtunzini is a campaign particularly opposed to this project and actively seeks to preserve these natural areas for future generations,

MTUNZINI’S HISTORY and its name are interlinked with the influence of John Dunn, who was Cetshwayo’s diplomatic adviser from around 1856. Dunn received a large portion of land equivalent to the size of present-day Mtunzini as remuneration from Cetshwayo, and it is his milkwood tree which is the tree referred to in the Zulu phrase ‘eMthunzini’ – ‘in the shade of the umthinzi tree’.

John Dunn is a fabled character whose exploits seem larger than life, but in fact he was a real person who featured strongly in the history of this area and whose descendants are alive today. Born in 1834 to a British immigrant mother and a Scottish father, Dunn originally lived in Durban. His father was a successful hunter and Dunn grew to adolescence speaking Zulu fluently and became proficient with a rifle. In 1847 he witnessed his father being trampled by an elephant, after which his family became destitute. However, fortune favoured John, who in 1857 married Catherine, a girl of mixed descent. He was thereafter befriended by the eccentric Border Agent for Natal, Joshua Walmsley. Aided to complete his education he became Walmsley’s assistant, monitoring traffic across the Thukela River. When Cetshwayo and his brother became embroiled in civil war over the succession, Dunn tried to bring peace to the area and a friendship and mutual respect developed between him and Cetshwayo, with Dunn subsequently becoming his Secretary and Diplomatic Adviser. Along with this title came that of Chief and two Zulu maidens, which was the beginning of a dynasty of Dunns. Catherine remained Dunn’s ‘Great Wife’ in his official residence; however, he later took in the region of 48 (some say more) additional wives.

However, when it became clear that war between Cetshwayo and the British seemed inevitable, Dunn reverted to his British roots and left Cetshwayo, who was reportedly very bitter that his friend had changed sides. In 1879 Britain divided up Zululand into 13 states, the largest of which was given to John Dunn to serve as a buffer between the Zulu and the colonised areas. John added this to the considerable land he had already been granted by Cetshwayo, and died quietly in 1896 at the age of 61. His story continued well into 2007 when the High Court gave his heirs (several generations hence) rights to land granted them by Cetshwayo. The extended Dunn family, around 6 000 in total, celebrated their reinstatement.

Cetshwayo was the son of King Mpande. While Mpande was still alive but ailing, Cetshwayo and his brother fought a vicious civil war over the succession, with Cetshwayo emerging victorious. When Mpande died at the age of 74, Cetshwayo established his residence at Ondini to rule the Zulu kingdom. However, he soon became involved in skirmishes with the British army, which later presented him with an ultimatum insisting that he disband the Zulu army and declare himself subservient to Britain. War ensued and Cetshwayo was taken prisoner and exiled to Cape Town. He was permitted to visit Queen Victoria in England to plead his case, whereafter he was restored to his throne with limited powers. He died in 1884 leaving his 15-year-old son, Dinizulu as King. He was buried in the Thukela valley below Nkandla forest.

NONGOMA, northwest of Hluhluwe, is the location of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s royal palaces, which are now open to the public. This area is steeped in Zulu culture and tradition and its name is derived from the Zulu word ‘ngome’ meaning ‘the mother of songs’. The town was set up as a buffer between two warring Zulu factions in 1888 to encourage peace in the region. The hereditary leader of Zululand and local businessman, Mlungisi Percy Nzuza, encourages tourism, and regularly arranges for members of the royal family to mingle with visitors at dinners.

Nongoma is also on the fringe of the smallest South African wilderness region: Ntendeka Wilderness. This breathtaking area can be explored comfortably on foot via more than 45 footpaths lying deep beneath the forest canopy. One such path, the Zulu Highway, is said to have been a traditional route carved out by the original inhabitants of the area. Ntendeka has been protected since 1905, although previous woodcutters had destroyed large sections of the area with uncontrolled logging. This conservancy is an unusual blend of coastal and inland tropical forest seldom experienced in KwaZulu-Natal. It supports around 200 species of bird, 180 species of tree and shrub, including terrestrial and tree orchids, awe-inspiring cliffs, waterfalls and abundant wildlife numbering baboon, samango monkey, vervet monkey, duiker, bushbuck, bushpig and porcupine.

Nongoma is also the venue for the Zulu cultural festival which culminates in the Reed Dance by Zulu maidens. This is a celebration derived from the reed-sticks carried by thousands of maidens invited to the King’s palace to celebrate their approaching womanhood. The dance involves a procession led by the Chief Princess in which each maiden carries a reed to symbolise the reed bed from which their original ancestor is said to have sprung.

PAULPIETERSBURG is cupped within the foothills of Dumbe Mountain, a large, level-topped mountain frequented by paragliders and hikers. This charming town forms part of the Rainbow Route, an alternative to the coastal route, beginning in Mpumalanga and heading through Paulpietersburg, Vryheid, Melmoth and Piet Retief, and ending in Mtunzini. A mere 3.5 kilometres’ journey from Johannesburg and Durban, Paulpietersburg draws visitors to its nine hot and cold mineral water pools situated at the Natal Spa, just outside town. These pools are supplied by a natural, hot spring which arises from the southern faces of Dumbe Mountain.

Another Battlefields Route-marker, the town gets its name from two Boer heroes, President Paul Kruger and Voortrekker Piet Joubert. The town also features in the Anglo-Zulu War, with the site of the Ntombe battlefield on the northern bank of a tributary of the Pongola River, the Ntombe. It is here that Captain Moriarty and around 60 troops were overrun and destroyed by the Zulu impi.

PONGOLA is located about 10 kilometres from the Swazi border in the low hills beneath the Lebombo Mountains. Although a small town, it is steeped in Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu war history, as are many of the locations in the Zululand region. An area surrounded by 50 kilometres of sugarcane and sub-tropical fruit plantations, it is linked to wildlife viewing by virtue of its proximity to the southern gates of the Kruger Park. It thus features many game farms and lodges as well as such pleasurable venues as the Pongolapoort or Jozini Dam and a local nine-hole golf course.

The Pongola (meaning ‘the trough’ due to its long, deep pools and steep sides) River is a central feature of the area since it floods the pans with water during the rainy season, nurturing fish, crocodiles, hippos, aquatic birds and people. It also supplies the Jozini Dam, which is a favourite Tiger-fishing venue.

The Pongola Game Reserve, a private farm through which the Pongola River runs, is another attraction, since the Pongola region sports all of the Big Five wildlife species with the exception of lion. Visitors can experience rhino and elephant tracking on foot, with two breeding herds of elephant having been introduced to the area. The game reserve is bordered by the Pongola Bush Nature Reserve, part of which was originally opened by in 1894 by Paul Kruger, the President of the former Transvaal Republic. The reserve also boasts a rare mist belt, an evergreen forest with splendid Yellowwood trees and over 120 bird species. A prior arrangement with the KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Zone Officer is required to gain access to the reserve.

RICHARDS BAY lays claim to South Africa’s largest harbour as well as being the gateway to Zululand. The town is rapidly gaining in popularity as a north coast vacation destination since it is one of the closest seaside towns to Gauteng, enjoys a warm climate year-round and provides amazing beaches as well as nature and wildlife. The most northern Blue Flag Beach in South Africa, Allkantstrand (meaning ‘both sides beach’) is here, and offers warm, safe bathing conditions throughout the year.

This area has great cultural and historical significance as Shaka built his Zulu kingdom in this location. Today, Zulu villages and kraals in the area still carry on their traditional way of life, particularly in those villages open to the public such as Shakaland and DumaZulu. Natural attractions include the 1 200-hectare Richards Bay Game Sanctuary, where water birds, crocodile and sharks can be spotted.

ULUNDI rests in the heart of Zululand, encircled by majestic hills and the valleys of the White Umfolozi River. It was the capital of the Zulu kingdom under King Cetshwayo, who gave it its name, meaning ‘the heights’. To this day, Ulundi remains the capital of Zululand.

The 26 000-hectare eMakhosini/Ophate Heritage Park has recently introduced game into the area and pledges to protect the endangered Oribi grassland antelope. Mysterious caves on the outskirts of the park, almost concealed by the Ntaba Ntuzuma Mountains, bear traces of their former habitation by the Nogobese clan over 200 years ago. These caves were once a place of safety for their dwellers, and artefacts discovered include grinding stones and wooden spoons, which have led researchers to conclude that the inhabitants were brewers of beer. The items found here can be viewed in the Dundee Museum.

Of further historical interest is Ulundi’s significance as the site of the final battle of the Anglo-Zulu War. The defeat of the Zulu army is recorded in the Ulundi Battle Memorial. A reconstruction of King Cetshwayo’s royal residence and a small site museum have been established at Ondini just outside Ulundi.

VRYHEID, developed from the Afrikaans word for freedom, has a history marked by struggle and sacrifice to achieve those aims. Nearby is the site of the Battle of Blood River, which took place between the Boers and the Zulus in 1838, when the river was said to have run red with the blood of fallen Zulu warriors. Vryheid also formed part of the struggle between Boer and Briton in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899, and is a part of the Battlefields Route.

Situated approximately 70 kilometres north-east of Dundee in Zululand, the town is dominated by coal mining, beef farming and timber cultivation, which sees it surrounded by vast wattle and other timber plantations. Crops like maize and groundnuts are also cultivated in the area. Vryheid is said to be Zululand’s main commercial, industrial and business centre, and is conveniently served by major transport routes. Intersecting the sources of four main rivers – the White and Black Umfolozi, the Mkhuze and the Pongola – the town enjoys convenient access to wetland areas, thus proving appealing to birding enthusiasts while also providing diverse terrain for hikers, not to mention the attraction of several nature reserves.


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