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Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal

Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal

The Valley of a Thousand Hills, covering a vast area inland of Durban on the way to Piermaritzburg, has been carved out by the mighty Umgeni River and its tributaries as it makes its way from the Drakensberg Mountains to the Indian Ocean. As its name suggests, the landscape is serenely beautiful rather than dramatic – the rolling green hills stretch for as far as the eye can see. The area has a rich history having played a major part in King Shaka’s creation of the Zulu nation. It also played a role in the life of the Voortrekkers as they made their way to the coastline. The English have also played a major role and colonial influence is also evident.

The Zulu culture and heritage can be experienced at the PheZulu Safari Park where members of the Gasa clan will take you on a tour through their traditional thatched huts while they explain their customs, beliefs and rituals with grace and a touch of humour. The Park also offers a 4X4 three hour drive around the Valley stopping off at real Zulu villages on the way. One of the largest crocodiles in Africa can be seen at the Park’s extensive reptile park.

There are no less than 15 nature and games reserves in the area – more than in any other region of comparable size in the country. Chief among these is the Shongweni Resources Reserve, a proclaimed Heritage Site. The huge Shongweni Dam lies in a deep depression created by the uMlazi, Sterkfontein and Ugede Rivers and is a very popular destination for water sport and recreation. It gets its name from the waterfall where the Ugede River enters the dam – Shongweni means “column of smoke” in Zulu. The reserve is well populated with animals and even has two of the Big 5, namely buffalo and rhino. The area is also a major birding hotspot with over 200 recorded species.

Other reserves in the area include the Nagle Reserve, at the foot of the fabled ”Table Mountain”, well known for its fishing in well-stocked dams, warm water hatchery and access to the Umgeni River; the Inanda Reserve with its bass filled waters, boating, canoeing and wind-surfing; the Alverstone Wildlife Refuge, where ranger-escorted trails can be arranged as an ‘educational alternative’ to self-guided hikes and the Springside Nature Reserve with its stream-fed wetlands, coastal forest and grasslands in the very heart of suburban Hillcrest. The 532ha Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, between Pinetown and Hillcrest is located at the meeting place of the Molweni and Nkutu Rivers. The terrain consists of dramatic gorges carved out by the rivers, well-preserved coastal forests and grasslands.

The area is well-known for its major sporting events such as the Duzi Canoe Marathon and the world famous Comrades Marathon. It is also the centre of equestrian sports in KwaZulu-Natal such as polo and show-jumping.

There is a diverse range of accommodation establishments in the area from camp sites in the reserves to luxury hotels, guest lodges and B&Bs.

More info on the town of Pietermaritzburg More info on the Natal Midlands area