The parks of Zululand

Posted on Aug 26, 2015

The parks of Zululand

Zululand covers a major part of Kwazulu-Natal and is the closest you get to real Africa in South Africa. The region is dominated by one tribal group, the Zulu, and it is here that you still see many traditional villages with roundel huts and where you need to take great care in driving, as even on the highways you will find cows, goats and people walking. But we did not come to Zululand for the culture or traditions, but we came here to visit some of the great parks that are home to Zululand.

After we left Nambiti we first had a farm stay booked in Vryheid; an area where the Dutch farmers settled years ago and where you still find villages with names like Amsterdam, Ermelo or Utrecht. We enjoyed the farm life, cuddled with all the animals and drank fresh milk. From Vryheid we drove via Ulundi to the Southern entry gate of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park. Ulundi is the capital of Zululand and we enjoyed the views of the traditional villages en-route to the park. The South gate is not used very much and we know understand why, as the route to the park is not that good and signs are missing. But after taking a few wrong turns we managed to find the gate and enter the park. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is the oldest and among the best parks in South Africa. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is well known for its efforts in conserving the white and black rhino population. We had originally planned to stay a few nights in the park, but unfortunately all the suitable accommodation was fully booked, so we only had a few hours to visit the park as we crossed the Imfolozi from South to North. The landscape was amazing, dense bush, open savanna’s and large hills and valley’s where you can spot animals far away and hardly another car in sight. We did see buffalo, elephant, rhino and lions without much difficulty and several other species of plains game. When we left the park we concluded that we must return one day to this park.

From Imfolozi we con tuned further to the coast as we had booked 6 nights in a small but cosy wooden cottage in st. Lucia. This small tourist settlement is the gateway to the iSimangaliso wetland park that now covers a large coastal area including lake st Lucia, Mkuze and Thembe park. The best thing of this park is that you can combine wildlife viewing with trips to the beach. It is winter here in South Africa, but the temperature on the beach and in the water is as good as our European summers, so we did enjoy the beach. According to the tourist brochures, st. Lucia is home to some 500 residents, 800 hippo’s and 1500 crocodiles. The best way to see the latter two is by doing a boat trip on the lake. We did not find them all, but we saw a couple of crocodiles and several large groups of hippo. Also birdlife is very prolific here due to the wetland system. In st Lucia we also picked-up our grandparents, who will join us for the next three weeks as we slowly make our way back to Kruger.

The third park we visited was Ithala. This is a slightly smaller park, but with a great mountainous landscape and off the main routes, so not as much frequented as the other parks. We had booked the private lodge in the Ntzondse camp and the lodge was much bigger than we had expected and had superb views over the reserve from our private patio with swimming pool. It was difficult to leave the lodge and go on a game drive as we had such a good time in the lodge. Giraffes are plentiful in Ithala and they have become the official logo of the park. We did not find the elusive elephants of Ithala as they were hiding in the far north of the reserve, but we had several good rhino sightings and lots of wilde beasts, zebra’s and other game. But what we will remember most is the landscape with rolling hills and mountains.

From here we will drive to Swaziland for a totally different experience.