The South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – a Travelogue
From Klerksdorp to Durban
Some time ago we left Klerksdorp in the North West Province in South Africa to explore the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the South Coast. We did the 645 km (± 400 miles) road trip from Klerksdorp to Durban in 3 phases:-
The first phase was our trip through the Eastern Free State - a tranquil region with stretched-out grasslands, lots of crops, and towns that reveal history that expand a visitor's perspective on the present.
During the second phase we crossed the magnificent Drakensberge (South Africa's own Switzerland) to travel through the midlands of Kwazulu-Natal - an undulating hilly plateau that reminds tourists of Europe's northern regions.
The third phase was Durban - the third largest city, and the second most important manufacturing hub in South Africa.
And now we are ready to travel south, all along the South Coast - one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country.
The hot, humid, subtropical climate of Durban and the South Coast is foreign to visitors coming from drier regions, but it is most certainly the ideal holiday climate. We were lucky to visit the region in February, the end of summer. The humidity is more bearable, and holidaymakers don't include hyperactive youngsters that tend to clutter the beaches during school holidays.
The South Coast offers a variety of activities for lovers of sports, such as white water rafting, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, boat trips, shark cage diving, surfing, canoeing, paddle boats, mountain-biking, and not to mention 4×4 trails. Swimming in the sea and sun tanning on the beach go without saying, and then there are the animal parks, nature reserves, restaurants, water parks, and the casino. Nobody could ever become bored in this region of South Africa.
We decided not to take the highway, but to travel all along the coastline on the old main road.
The South Coast - From Durban to Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal
Coastal towns south of Durban
Due to limited space, I will introduce only some of the coastal towns, using the distance from Durban as an indicator.
Amanzimtoti, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
26 km (±16 miles) - Amanzimtoti was named after the river that enters the Indian ocean here. The Zulu word 'amanzimtoti' means 'the water is sweet'. According to legend these were the words of the Zulu King Shaka when he tasted the water of the river for the first time in 1828. Locals refer to the town as "Toti". Approximately 14,000 people are permanent residents, but the town has enough accommodations for thousands of tourist throughout the year.
Photo gallery, AmanzimtotiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Illovo Beach, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
37 km (±23 miles) - Illovo Beach is a small coastal town on the banks of the Illovo River. The river was named after the Mlovo (iLovo) trees that grow on the river's banks. The town has about 1,100 permanent residents, and countless luxury apartments for holidaymakers throughout the year.
Photo gallery, Illovo BeachClick thumbnail to view full-size
Umkomaas, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
48 km (±30 miles) - Umkomaas is named after the uMkomazi River that flows here into the sea. The Zulus named the river uMkhomazi, which means, the place of cow whales. Unfortunately, cow whales no longer regard the estuary as the ideal place to give birth to their babies. The town has about 2,700 permanent residents. The most popular attractions are the Umkomaas Golf Course (which is regarded as one of the best in KwaZulu-Natal), and the Empisini Nature Reserve, the renowned Aliwal Shoal reef, and the Sardine Run in July, when millions of sardines migrate from the Wild Coast to KwaZulu-Natal.
Photo gallery, UmkomaasClick thumbnail to view full-size
Port Shepstone, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
Port Shepstone is the administrative, educational and commercial centre of Southern Natal. After Durban, it is the largest town in the South Coast with a population of approximately 36,000. The town, named after Sir Theophilus Shepstone, was founded in 1867 after marble was discovered in the region.
In the vicinity of Port Shepstone are two gorges known as the Oribi Gorge, named after a small antelope that lives in the gorge. Along the bottom of the Oribi Gorge, at the confluence of the Mzimkulu River and Mximkulwana River, is the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve, approximately 27 kilometres (17 mi) long, and 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) wide at its widest point. It was proclaimed a protected state forest in 1950.
Photo gallery, Port ShepstoneClick thumbnail to view full-size
The coastal towns south of Port Shepstone are even closer to each other -
Shelly Beach, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
129 km (±80 miles) - Shelly Beach accommodates about 2,500 permanent residents and thousands of tourists through-out the year. The Uvongo River Nature Reserve is in the vicinity as well as the biggest reptile farm in Africa, the Pure Venom Reptile Park. The park hosts among others nine species of rattlesnake, boomslang, mamba, five species of crocodile and the giant Sungazer lizard.
Photo gallery, Shelly BeachClick thumbnail to view full-size
Uvongo, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
132 km (±82 miles) - Uvongo, the largest residential area on the lower South Coast, has about 4,288 permanent residents. The town is situated at the mouth of the Vungo River. Near the river's mouth, a beautiful waterfall flows into a small gorge. The Zulu word vungo describes the sound of a waterfall or the wind in a gorge.
Photo gallery, UvongoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo gallery, MargateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Road Trip From Margate to Ramsgate
Ramsgate, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
140,4 km (±872 miles) - Ramsgate is situated at the mouth of the Bilanhlolo River. Bilanhlolo is the Zulu word for 'marvelous boiler'. Due to strong currents, the river appears to be boiling. The town is named after the original farmstead in the area, which was named after the coastal town Ramsgate in Kent, England.
Ramsgate Beach, which offers a 6km (3.7 miles) walk, is a Blue Flag Beach – an award given to beaches which meet the stringent criteria of the International Blue Flag Campaign.
Ramsgate has about 1,500 permanent residents and accommodations for thousands of holidaymakers throughout the year.
We had lunch at the Pistols Saloon in Ramsgate – a replica of one of those saloons we only see in American Wild West movies. While waiting for our steaks, the saloon’s patron, Huckleberry Donkey, did his regular rounds and enjoyed a snack from my hand.
Photo gallery, Pistols Saloon, RamsgateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Port Edward, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
163,2 km (± 1,014 miles) - On the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Province is Port Edward, named after the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII.
In 1552, the Portuguese Carrick "Sao Joao" ran aground at Port Edward. This is one of the greatest enigmas in South African maritime history, as little is known about its cargo, passengers and crew.
Overlooking Port Edward's main beach is Tragedy Hill. In 1831 a party of settlers, including Francis Fynn from Port Natal (Durban), was massacred by Zulus who had acted on a rumor that the settlers were stealing the Zulu King Dingane’s cattle. According to legend, when the king learned that the rumor was false, he ordered the man who had spread the rumor to be executed by one of the surviving settlers. The settler was given five head of cattle as a reward.
Port Edward has ± 4,500 permanent residents and, of course, more than enough accommodations for holidaymakers through-out the year.
Just South of Port Edward, connecting KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape, is the CH Mitchell Bridge, better known as the Umtamvuna Bridge as it lies across the Umtamvuna River. Built in 1966, this is still the largest steel suspension bridge in South Africa. On November 27th, 2002 an extremist far-right group who called themselves The Boeremag rocked the bridge with two bombs. It took three weeks to repair the damage. Twenty-two men were charged with forty-two counts of treason, murder, and illegal weapons possession. Only twenty-one were sentence to prison terms between five and thirty-five years.
Photo gallery, Port EdwardClick thumbnail to view full-size
Languages spoken in the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal
In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, 77.8% of the total population speaks Zulu in their homes, 13.2% speaks English, 3.4% Xhosa, and 1.6% Afrikaans.
Most of the English-speaking people live in the coastal towns.
First languages spoken in the South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
AVERAGE in above coastal towns
Landscapes between towns, South Coast, Kwazulu-NatalClick thumbnail to view full-size
Wild Coast Sun, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Only 5 km (3.1 miles) south of Port Edward in the Eastern Cape Province is the exotic Wild Coast Sun. Besides the ocean and the beach, the casino, restaurants, 18-hole golf course, and the Wild Waves Water Park offer the most luxurious holidays.
During our next holiday we will explore the Eastern Cape Province.
Wild Coast Sun, Eastern Cape, South AfricaClick thumbnail to view full-size
© 2017 Martie Coetser