If you believe that life isn’t measured by the breathes we take, but rather the breathes that take us away, a visit to South Africa’s Kwazulu Natal Province might be just what you need for your next holiday. Covering 94,361 km2 of a breathtaking natural setting along the shores of the Indian Ocean, it has a distinctive combination of raw natural beauty, modern sophistication, cultural diversity and pulsating energy. Out of the countless adventures it has to offer, here are some that are likely to blow you away as they did to me few months back. Writes, Solomon Oleny
Nelson Mandela capture site
A lot is known about Nelson Mandela’s captivity. However, very little is known about how and where he was captured.
Approximately 5 kilometers outside Howick, Kawzulu Natal, is a historical site with a portrait sculpture and museum erected in memory of 5th August 1962.
Ianda Nyandeni a senior guide at the Museum observes that on this historic day, armed apartheid police flagged down a car in which Nelson Mandela (RIP) was pretending to be the chauffeur. This took place at the road opposite the mentioned attraction. Having succeeded in evading capture by apartheid operatives for 17 months, Mandela had just paid a secret visit to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli’s Groutville home. He had gone to report back on his African odyssey, and to request support in calling for an armed struggle.
“It was in this dramatic way, at this unassuming spot, that Papa Mandela spent his last day as a free man for the next 27 years.” says Nyandeni
In memory of this event, the arena was turned into a tourism destination about 10 years back. It features a creatively designed portrait sculpture of Madiba, symbolizing his 27 year imprisonment.
It consists of 50 steel columns between 6 and 9.5 meters high along a thirty-meter length. At first glance, it looks like a forest of steel poles. However as you look at it more keenly, you start to see a fascinating portrait statue of Madiba. To see the image well, you need to jiggle your position cleverly, fun experience that feels like putting pieces of a puzzle together.
Here, you will also find a museum that exhibits the life story of Mandela right from childhood, and his fight against oppression. The site equally gives an insight about how Madiba united a country torn by racial differences.
Entrance to this attraction is free, but donations were welcomed.
Shakaland Zulu cultural village
Born in 1787, Shaka was a great Zulu warrior who brought together independent Nguni chiefdoms, forming the Zulu kingdom after which Kwazulu Natal was named.
Since his assassination by his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana on September 1828, on a rock near the barracks of his Capital Dukuza, hundreds of books and documentaries about his legacy have been profiled. Chances are high you must have watched or read them by now. While most of these documentaries go a long way in giving an insight about this great conqueror, they don’t give a full picture of him. They ignore other interesting bits that influenced the person he became. For that, you can’t miss visiting the places where his history was made. To know Shaka better, you need to hear what his people say about him and places where his history was made.
Kwazulu Natal Province has a couple of these places ranging from where life was given to him to where it was taken. Most of them have been turned into fully fledged museums, some with regalia used by him. Such include the Shaka Memorial, a provincial heritage site in Stanger where he repeatedly stabbed to death with spears. Then there is Shakaland Zulu Cultural Village, a replication of a Zulu homestead, featuring over 50 comfortable beehive huts. It is here that the famous Shaka Zulu, 1986, a renowned television series directed by William C. Faure and written by Joshua Sinclair was shot. At these two historical places, the spirit of this tall and powerfully built warrior, still lives even in his afterlife.
You can’ miss a shark cage diving in the warmer waters of Aliwal Shoal, a rocky reef approximately 5 km off the coast of KawZulu Natal Province.
Precisely, the adventure entails observing aquatic species of the Indian Ocean from a strong square cage, under the watch and guidance of professional aquatic experts. It offers captivating views of black tip sharks, dusky sharks, Zambezi sharks and Sand tiger sharks. Among these species, the dominant is the sand tiger shark. They have sharp, pointy heads, and bulky bodies. For an extra dose of adrenaline rush, don’t hesitate to crown the adventure with a scuba diving experience. It offers an up-close and personal experience with them. This new challenge is more fulfilling yet safe as the sharks that dwell around don’t have an appetite for eating humans.
That said, I cannot recommend Aliwal Dive Center and Lodge enough. It is the agency we went for the adventure with. An agency I remember for being very professional and always going the extra mile.
Hot air balloon safari
You can’t go wrong with a hot air balloon safari over Drakensberg’s escarpment, also home to UKhahlamba, a renowned world heritage site where Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San or Bushmen, lived.
One of the major take off points is The Nest, a country hotel surrounded by pine forests and commercial farmlands. In total, you will explore 4-5 kilometers during the hour long flight (which costs between $300-600 depending on the company of your choice).To reduce risk of accidents, you will set off very early at 6:00am in the morning when the winds are still calm.
Once inside the basket, anxiety might take toll on you as more helium is fired from the burners into the envelope (balloon) to allow it take off. It is so loud but before you know it, the balloon will be ascending in all its glory all the way to 300 meters off the ground. You will feel like you are ascending in a lift. The only difference is that you are in one controlled by the forces of nature, not electricity. That aside, unlike a lift, the balloon renders impressive views which stretch from the Amphitheatre in the north to Giant’s Castle in the south.
From above, people on the ground look microscopic, so small. You will also see typical commercial farms which spread for hundreds of miles. The cherry on the cake is beholding the morning sunrise as it arises to announce the break of beautiful new day. It is so dazzling and cozy, a perfect treat for both honeymooners and family travellers.