The greatest fresh-water lagoon in southern Africa and one of the oldest and most beautiful game reserves on the subcontinent are included in this tour from the St Lucia Estuary on the Zululand coast.
The great lake of St Lucia, originally named Santa Lucia by Portuguese navigators who passed this way in 1507, is the largest fresh-water lagoon in southern Africa. It forms roughly the shape of the letter H, the western arm of which , False Bay, is connected to the eastern limb by a channel known as Hel's Gate. Of the four rivers that feed the lake the most important, the Mkuze, flows in from the north. At the southern end the Mfolozi also used to drain into this vast expanse of water, but it carried so much silt with it that in 1951 the mouth of the estuary became blocked – with disastrous effect on the estuarine ecology and once-splendid fishing.
In the lake, too, fishing deteriorated since the seasonal migration of mullet and game fish no longer occurred between lagoon and sea. To remedy the situation, in the 1950s work was started on reopening the estuary and creating a new mouth for the Mfolozi so that it could empty directly into the sea. After the completion of the work in 1961 marine life started returning to Lake St Lucia, followed in due course by the water birds that had disappeared when their source of food had been destroyed. About 40 species of fish have since been recorded in the estuary, whilebream and catfish are caught in the fresh-water streams that flow into the lake.
The mangrove swamps at the estuary and the reedbeds and dense indigenous forest surrounding the lake provide a habitat for a great many species of wildlife which are protected in four reserves. Hippo and crocodiles abound in the St Lucia Game Reserve which comprises the lake and its islands, while St Lucia Park, a 1-km strip of land around the lake, is inhabited by vervet monkeys, black-backed jackal, duiker, reedbuck, bushpig and spotted hyena. The False Bay Park, on the western shore of the lake, is home to the only breeding colony of pinkbacked pelican in southern Africa, as well as flocks of up to 20 000 flamingo and, in the surrounding parkland, nyala, duiker, bushbuck, reedbuck, steenbok, suni and bushpig.
Denizens of the fourth sanctuary, the Eastern Shores Nature Reserve, include red duiker, bushbuck, vervet and samano monkeys, bushpig and cheetah, which have been introduced to control the prolific reedbuck population. Camping sites, caravan parks and hutted camps are numerous in the St Lucia complex, and there are opportunities to take part in guided and self-organised wilderness trails. The angling is superb at times and boating, either in hired or in privately-owned craft, is encouraged in the estuary and the lake, although swimming is prohibited even for those courageous or foolhardy enough to reckon with crocodiles.
The Natal Parks Board crocodile research station, pool and museum near the resort of St Lucia welcomes visitors who, apart from learning about the great reptiles, may see displays interpreting the entire St Lucia area and its fauna and flora. Anti-malaria medication, which is available without prescription, should be taken before going to St Lucia and for four weeks after leaving.
Surrounded by green rolling hills, is an attractive trading centre popular with the many cane and timber labourers in the area. On the outskirts to the village there are impressive views of the Mfolozi River and the scenic beauty of the countryside around.
From Mtubatuba drive 3,3 km north-westward on the R618 to the N2, cross it and continue on the R618 in the same direction. After 15,6 km turn right (SP Hluhluwe Game Reserve) and travel 14,8km to Gunjaneni Gate, the southern entrance to the reserve.
HLUHLUWE GAME RESERVE
Even if none of the more exciting of Africa's big game is spotted in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, which was proclaimed a sanctuary s long ago as 1897, the splendour of its scenery and the wide diversity of its abundant birdlife make a visit an exceptional and worthwhile experience. The 23 000-ha reserve is hilly, with a range in altitude spanning almost 500 m from valley floor to hilly, and than 100 km of road meanders up and down the fascinating topography, presenting something new around nearly every bend. Dense forest covers the northern and higher parts of the reserve as well as the banks of the numerous streams, while the vegetation of the remaining areas varies between park-like savanna and thick scrub.
Among the trees there are such interesting species as the Cape shestnut, red ivory, tamboti, marula, tree fuchsia, cabbage tree and several species of acacia and coral tree, in addition to the plant from which the reserve derives its name, the thorny climber 'umhluhluwe' (Dalbergia armata) which grows along the banks of the Hluhluwe River. Zulu herdboys cut down the long, slender, liana-like branches and use them to muzzle calves to prevent them suckling while they are being weaned. The wide variety of animal life at Hluhluwe includes lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, both black and white rhino , giraffe, zebra, a number of antelope species, warthog, monkeys and hyena, and hippo and crocodiles in the rivers.
Some of the animals may be observed from the hide at the Munywaneni waterhole. Among the birds in the reserve are the marabou stork, white-backed vulture, bateleur, crested guineafowl, emerald cuckoo, narina trogon, ground hornbill, lourine, blue quail and Delegorgue's pigeon.
From the Memorial Gate at the eastern boundary of the reserve drive 14 km eastward to the N2 and turn right (SP Durban, Mtubatuba). Travel 49,2 km southward before turning left (SP Mtubatuba) on to the R618 and reach Mtubatuba after another 3,3 km. Turn left on to the R620 and drive 25,8 km to return to the St Lucia Estuary bridge.
WHITE RHINO SANCTUARY
As well as the Umfolozi Game Reserve, famous habitat of the white rhino, this tour includes the capital of KwaZulu and the battlefield on which the military might of the Zulu nation was finally broken.
The name of this village commemorates Sir Melmoth Osborn, resident commissioner of the area after Zululand was annexed to the British Empire in 1889.
From Melmoth continue on the R34/R68 into grassland interspersed with wattle and gum tree plantations. After 30 km turn right (SP Nongoma, Ulundi) on to the R66 and 12 km further on cross the white Mfolozi River by the replacement for the bridge which was washed away in the flood caused by Cyclone Demoina early in 1984. From the bridge drive 3,8 km and pass the right turn to Ulundi's dormitory village, then continue 2,6 km further to pass the right turn ti the Umfolozi Game Reserve. Continue straight on under the railway bridge to the KwaZulu legislative Assembly and Ulundi Holiday Inn.
The capital of fragmented KwaZulu, Ulundi is dominated by the imposing building of the KwaZulu legislative Assembly, completed in 1984 at the cost of many millions of rands. The town was first established as capital of the Zulu nation when Cetshwayo became king in 1873, and it witnessed the great defeat that brought to an end the Anglo-Zulu War. In December 1878 Governor Sir Bartle Frere had given Cetshwayo an ultimatum with which he knew it would be impossible for the king to comply. The Zulu king ignored the command and the following month British forces under Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand.
They were routed at Isandhlwana and a number of confrontations followed, until July 1879 Chelmsford – with his cavalry and African units surrounded by a rectangle of infantry led by Gatling gunners – advanced towards Cetshwayo's 20 000 warriors on the Plain of Ulundi. After watching his army being repulsed in successive attacks on the British and eventually defeated, Cetshwayo became a fugitive. The awesome military power of the Zulu was thus broken, and to honour the brave men of both sides, a memorial (NM) now stands on the site of the battlefield.
Return to the railway b ridge from the legislative Assembly and immediately after passing under it turn left (SP Ulundi Battlefield, Ondini). Drive 2,5 km to reach Ondini.
Which means 'the heights', is the site of Cetshwayo's second royal kraal of the name, the first having been destroyed by the British after the Battle of Ulundi. The Zulu king built the second kraal a short distance to the north of the original one after the British reinstated him in 1882, but this was sacked by the Swazi impis of Usibepu in 1883. The ruins of part of the kraal, including the floor of the royal hut which was 8,5 m in diameter, can still be seen. Ondini, which bears the bronze plaque of the National Monuments Council, is now the seat of the Zululand Cultural Museum, housed in a kraal much like Cetshwayo's 'great place' of traditional dome-shaped dwellings made of woven grass.
Continue eastward on the same road and reach Cengeni, the western gate of the Umfolozi Game Reserve, after 31,6 km. The helpful, immaculately informed Zulu on duty will supply a map showing the 85 km of road, the viewing sites, waterholes, hide and picnic sites in the sanctuary and , with the courtesy characteristic of Natal Parks Board staff, he will also answer the questions that are inevitably asked.
UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE
The 48 000-ha Umfolozi Game Reserve, proclaimed in 1897, is the habitat of the densest population of white (aquare-lipped) rhino in the world. Although there was a time when the species had almost been wiped off the African continent, the 900-strong population is now healthy enough to permit the relocation of surplus animals to other reserves. It is in the acacia thornbush terrain which comprises most of the sanctuary that the white rhino thrives, its survival the achievement of the dedicated conservationists who protected the species here.
There is also an exciting variety of other wildlife in the reserve, both in the thornveld and in the riverine vegetation and other dense woodland. Some 50 animal species occur, including lion, cheetah, leopard, black rhino, buffalo, blue wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, several antelope species, bushpig, wathog, baboons, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and crocodile. The lions of Umfolozi appeared long after trigger-happy hunters had exterminated the last of the breed in Natal. A single male made his way to the reserve from Mozambique in 1958 and several years later was followed by several lionesses who had also been able to survive the hunters' guns.
The descendants of the progeny of these proud, errant beasts are now permanent denizens of Umfolozi. Among the 300 or more bird species with which the reserve teems are Shelley's fancolin, black-bellied hrhaan, yellow-billed stork, heron, Wahlberg's eagle, Temminck's courser, the little bee-eater, vultures, busterd, marabou stork and the crested barbet. For those with the time and wisdom to do justice to Umfolozi there are rest camps at Mpila and Masinda as well as bush camps at Mhlogaza and Nselweni. At optimum times a hide at the waterhole on the Gqoyeni River, which is reached through a long, reed-walled passage, affords opportunities for close observation of some of the wildlife. Three-day wilderness trails which rangers conduct through acacia country enable visitors to encounter at even closer range, among other creatures, the white rhino for which the reserve is famed.
From Mambeni, the eastern gate of the Umfolozi Game Reserve, drive 4,7 km eastward to the R618 and turn right (SP Hluhluwe, Mtubatuba). Travel 17,9 km to the N2, turn right again (SP Durban, Mtubatuba) and after 41 km (1 km beyond the left turn to Richards Bay) turn left to the Enseleni Nature Reserve.
ENSELENI NATURE RESERVES
This reserve, the haunt of many species of waterfowl and monitor lizards, also has a wealth of plantlife. Wild fig trees along the river form a forest so dense that in places hardly any sunlight reaches the ground, while along the smaller streams there is concentrated coastal bush. Indigenous trees in the reserve include crotons, Cape ash, monkey thorn, coral trees, flatcrowns, and along the reserves swampland trail, mangroves and ilala palms. A game park, open only at weekends and on public holidays, is populated and on public holidays, is populated with bushbuck, nyala, impala, reedbuck and wildebeest.
Return to the N2 and drive 14 km southward before turning right on to the R34 for he remaining 2 km back to Empangeni.
HISTORY WAS MADE HERE
Once a region of violent conflict, the beautiful and now peaceful countryside around Eshowe is steeped in the history of the Zulu nation and the early white settlers.
Situated on a hill with a splendid view of surrounding Zululand, Eshowe is one of the most beautiful towns in South Africa. It also has a beautiful name, for those who accept the most poetic of the three theories about its derivation – that it is 'the sound of the wind in the trees'. More prosaically, it has also been suggested that name, which has been used since the Nguni tribes started settling the area in the seventeenth century, simply means 'windy place'. And the third proposition is that it is a form of the Zulu name for a species of Xysmalbium bush – 'ishowe' or 'ishongwe' – which abounds in the region and, because of its repulsive smell, is used to keep dogs away from hides during the curing process.
Preserved within Eshowe is the Dlinza, or 'place to tomb-like meditation', part of the indigenous forest that once covered the hill on which the town is situated. From nature trails through the cool Dlinza Forest Nature Reserve it is sometimes possible to catch glimpses of its denizens, such as bushbuck, blue and red duiker, vervet monkeys and bushpigs. A second nature reserve in Eshowe is at the southern entrance to the town. Visitors, accompanied by guides, may explore the Ocean View Game Park on foot and perhaps encounter such wildlife as wildebeest, impala, duiker. Reedbuck, kudu, zebra, bushpig, warthog and a wide variety of birds.
Much of the history of the Zulu people was enacted around Eshowe. Shaka had one of his kraals, bulawayo, in this district, while the kraals of two other paramount chiefs, Mpande and his son Cetshwayo, were also not far from the town. Among the relics at Eshowe of Zululand's troublous times is Fort Nongaqi, which was built by the British in 1883 to accommodate the Natal Native Police, mustered originally as a bosyguard to Sir Melmoth Osborn, British Resident for Zululand. Officially designated the Reserve Territorial Carbineers, the force also came to be know as the 'Nognqayi', a name derived from a Zulu world meaning 'to seek' or 'to detect'. It served in the Zululand disturbances between 1883 and 1888, in the Anglo-Boer War from 1899 to 1902, and in the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906. The quadrangular fort, of brick construction and provide with loopholes, stand on a ridge on the commonage south-east of Eshowe and has crenellated, three-storey corner towers. It is a well-preserved national monument and houses the interesting Zululand Historical Museum.
East of the town and encircled by a deep moat – the remains of a fort – is a cemetery once used by the Norwegian Missionary Society of Kwa-Mondi, the name of which stems from the Zulu corruption of the name of the first pastor at the station, Ommund Oftebro. Kwa-Mondi was converted into a fort by Colonel Charles Pearson when he heard of the defeat at Isandhlwana of his general, Lord Chelmsford, in the Zulu war of 1879. Pearson's force, one of the three Chelmsford columns advancing into Zululand, was besieged in Fort Kwa-Mondi (also known as Fort Eshowe) for two months, and its provisions were almost exhausted by the time Chelmsford's remustered force was able to relieve it. Iron crosses mark the graves of those who died of privation or were killed during the siege.
From the traffic circle where the John Ross Highway runs into Osborn Road in Eshowe drive 1,4 km north-eastward along Osborn Road – which continues as a fork to the left after 1 km-turning left into Kangela Street. Drive another 13,6 km generally westward to the left turn to the Entummeni Nature Reserve.
ENTUMENI NATURE RESERVE
In the surrounding country side, form which most other wildlife has retreated as the ocean of sugar cane has Advanced, the Entumeni Nature Reserve is a 436-ha forest sanctuary for birds and butterflies.
Continue westward from the reserve, passing after 9,5 km the left turn to Entumeni, where the Norwegian Missionary Society established another station in 1860. Fork right (SP Nkandla) 4,5 km further on, continuing on a gavelled surface after 2,2 km. Pass the right turn to Fort Yolland 7,7 km from the fork, the left turn to Cetshwayo's grave after another 6 km and enter the Nkandla Forest 12,9 km further on, although the KwaZulu Government notice defining the boundary of the forest reserve is another 3,6 km ahead.
NKANDLA FOREST RESERVE
Straddling a pass through the mountains 35 km north-west of Eshowe, this 1 620 ha of unspoilt Indigenous forest is an enchanting part of Zululand where perennial mists promote the prolific growth of tree ferns, orchids, creepers, cycads and other moisture-loving plants. The forest shelters leopard, bushbuck, duiker, baboon and vervet monkey, as well as birds such as rameron pigeons, tambourine doves, chorister robins and the rare bronze-naped pigeon. It was in the almost impenetrable Nkandla Forest that the Zulu king Cetshwayo took refuge after his defeat in 1883 by Usibepu, and here that he died a year later. His grave marked by a black marble stone, is in the Mome Gorge at the end of a 25-km sidetrack from the Nkandla road to the forest's western edge. The forest was also the scene of furious fighting in the rebels, led by Bambatha, retreated to the Mome Gorge to make their last stand.
After driving 10,2 km through the forest continue northward and, 44,1 km from the right turn to fort Yolland, reach the Nkandla Hotel in Nkandla's only street, a stretch of tar on either side of which are a mission hospital, two banks, a post office, a police station and a few stores. Back on gravel 800 m beyond the hotel, turn left (SP Qudeni, Kranskop) 1,9 km from the end of the tar and cross the Nkanisa River 12,9 km further on. After another 3,8 km the road starts descending the enchanting scenic Manyane Pass to the Manyane River And runs alongside and above it for 3,1 km before crossing it by way a low-level bridge. Keep left (passing a right turn to Nqutu, Dundee and Vryheid) 8,9 km after crossing the Manyane and drive another 6,7 km between sheer cliffs and more splendid mountain scenery to the Dlolwana trading post.
Bear left (SP Kranskop) 1,1 km from Dlolwana, recross the Mnyane River 5,1 km further on and cross it for the third time after another 6,3 km. Reach the bridge over the Tugela River at Jameson's Drift 1,4 km still further. From the bridge the road climbs the western slopes of the Tugela River valley and then, winding through cuttings and over embankments along the mountain slopes, enters tracts of eucalyptus plantation before reaching Kranskop 34 km from Jameson's Drift.
Takes its name from the dramatically precipitous red sandstone peak, Ntunjambili, which towers 1 175 m above the Tugela River valley to the east of the town. According to Zulu folklore, girls bearing water from the river to their kraals used to be enticed into a cave near the summit by the sound of revelry within and were never seen again. Kranskop was the site of the last in a series of seven forts stretching north-westward from Umhlali which the British manned during the Zululand civil conflict of the 1850s.
Turn right (SP Greytown, Stanger_ 600 m from the start of the tar at the northern entrance to Kranskop and 2,1 km further on fork left (SP Mapumulo, Stanger) on to the R74. Drive through plantations of wattle, fields of sugar cane and beautiful mountain scenery as the road descends along the southern slopes of the vats Tugela River valley. Turn left into Reynolds street in Stanger 70,8 km after joining the R74.
Leave Stanger travelling south-eastward on the R74 from the interchange at the northern end of Reynolds Street (SP Blythedale Beach). After 3,3 km turn left (SP Gingindlovu) on to the N2, cross the Tugela River by way of the John Ross Bridge 23,3 km further on and pass the left turn to Gingindlovu 23,5 km from the river.
Which means 'the swallower of the elephant', was the site of one of Cetshwayo's Military kraals and is said to have been named to commemorate his victory over his brother Mbulazi in their contest for the Zulu throne. The kraal was destroyed after Cetshwayo's power was finally broken by the British in the Battle of Ulundi in 1879. The same year saw two other battles between the British and Zulus, which were fought near Gingindlovu. In the Battle of Inyezane Colonel Pearson's force of 4 400 defeated an impi of 5 000, and in the Battle of Gingindlovu Lord Chelmsford, with 6 000 men on their way to relieve Eshowe, vanquished an impi of 11 000. The modern village is surrounded by extensive canefields in attractive countryside.
Fork left (SP Eshowe, Melmoth) 800 m north-east of the left turn to Gingindlovu Memorial after 1,8 km. The left turn to the Inyezane Battlefield is 8 km further on and the Ocean View Game Park at the southern entrance at Eshowe is 11,3 km still further.
Maxwell Leigh. Touring in South Africa.1993. Struik Publishers (Pty) Ltd. Pages 138-143.ISBN 1 86825 328 7
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