Swaziland to KwaZulu-Natal (Zulu Kingdom)

September 20, 2012  •  1 Comment

Today's alarm call? 5.30am. Oh for just a little bit of a long lie! Today we are travelling from Swaziland to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, with another afternoon game drive in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, particularly famous for its conservation of black and white rhino.


I can't help but feel that we have missed a little trick in Swaziland. After having driven for so long, and passed through the border to get here, I would have liked to have stopped off in more places. But, with the exception of the roadside market and a glass factory that we visited yesterday, most of Swaziland has unfortunately been seen from our fast moving bus. So with a little disappointment, I climb back on to the bus for the two hour drive back to the South African border. 


When we reach the border we have to disembark the bus and walk the walk, passing through both Swazi and South African Passport control as we do so. I have no idea why I find this process quite so intimidating, but I do! Possibly some deep routed irrational fear of my face not fitting, being refused entry, and getting stuck in No-Man's land indefinitely. Or worse still being thrown into a jail for harbouring an unknown resemblance to someone on Africa's 'Most Wanted' list!  It's with a huge sigh of relief therefore that South Africa let's me back through the door!


We travel a little further, before making a welcome stop for a bite of lunch at a beautiful little restaurant at Hluhluwe, in the province of KwaZulu Natal. Ilala Weavers was established some 30 years ago, with a clear vision and objective of revitalising and enhancing the age-old tradition of handcrafts, which at the time were in danger of being lost forever. Today it helps over 2000 Zulu people attain self sufficiency by selling their home-made beadwork, woven baskets etc. It also happens to have the Savannah restaurant, which offers a mean cheese and chutney toastie!


Lunch Stop


A little about KwaZulu-Natal; it is otherwise known as the Zulu Kingdom and is a province in the east of South Africa, bordering Mozambique in the north and the Eastern Cape in the South. It is broadly speaking the size of Portugal. KwaZulu-Natal is home to the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhezuzul (try saying that when you've had a few!). He does not hold any direct political power, but does carry considerable influence among the more traditionalist Zulu people in the region. The King currently has six wives; traditionally each year a ceremony is performed in which the king receives another. Interesting the current king has not chosen any new wives recently. Instead he has used the time to promote abstinence until marriage as a way of preserving Zulu culture, and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.


There are a number of regions in KwaZulu-Natal, and we will be starting our time here in Zululand, full of little zulu villages, rolling green hills and indigenous forests. Tomorrow we will have the thrill of staying overnight in Shakaland, a cultural village which offers an insight into the Zulu's traditional way of life. For today however, we will travel on from lunch to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, for what will be our final game drive of the trip.


Our drive this afternoon will last 2.5 hours, and our guide is the very delectable Adam. I like this reserve, probably a little more so than the Kruger. It has vast areas of relatively flat landscape , as opposed to bush and scrub, making seeing the animals a little easier.


Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve


We drive for less than a minute before we get a sighting of an entire herd of buffalo - probably 50+ in number at a guess. Mummies, daddies and of course gorgeous little babies....


Young Buffalo


White rhino are also easy to spot, having a stronghold here. Black rhino are more elusive so we weren't so lucky there. Below is an in-between species that I have named 'white-rhino-turned-brown', having recently had a mud-bath!


White Rhino


White rhino and black rhino are the second largest animals in Africa, after the African elephant, and live to be 50 years old or more. White rhinos are one of South Africa's best conservation successes, with the population having increased from 20-50 individuals in KwaZulu-Natal in the early 1900s, to the current global population of over 20,000 animals. That said, since the mid-2000s, demand for rhino horn from Asia has led to dramatically increased levels of poaching, and in 2011 alone 448 rhinos were killed. Indeed it is with great sadness that, only days after visiting this reserve, we heard that five rhino had been killed in a poaching incident. Here's hoping it wasn't our little mud-monster above.


Back to slightly cheerier matters......


The highlight of the day for me is a lone bull elephant, who had half-crossed a road in the reserve, before deciding to go for a little afternoon nap. So he just flipped his trunk over his horn, and off he popped into a lovely slumber, totally oblivious to the traffic jam he had caused on either side of him! We were the third vehicle in line on one side of him, with at least one car on his other side!


African Traffic Jam!


Of course the last thing you should endeavour to do is move the elephant on by e.g. tooting the horn. If you frighten or anger a beast of this size when he is directly in front of you, then quite frankly you will find yourself in trouble. So all the vehicles sit patiently, as Mr Sleepy Head continues his snooze.............




.........time passes.............




..................clock's ticking............




.....................is that snoring??.................


Eventually our driver decides to reverse back and find another route, it becoming quite apparent that we weren't going to be going anywhere for quite some time!!


Our game drive finishes with some more wonderful sightings, before we then drive on to our next hotel.


It's day six of the trip and I'm feeling absolutely exhausted, so it's yet another early night in readiness for tomorrow's visit to Shakaland - a day I have been looking forward to in such a long time.....


Thank you for reading.






helen mcdonald(non-registered)
"Brilliant" sleeping elephant was "very amusing", great reading.
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