Between the towering peaks and passes of the mighty Drakensberg mountain range and the Indian Ocean is an enthralling landscape that tells of cultures past and present. South Africa’s very own Kwa Zulu Natal is also home to some of Africa’s greatest safari and unique historical experiences. It is to this fascinating corner of our own country that Somerset Tours & Travel now invite you to join us as we journey to explore this rich cultural heritage.
Participants will fly into Durban to meet the group on 19 November 2021 and will transfer to our hotel on Umhlanga Ridge for one night.
The following day, the itinerary proceeds to Cathedral Peak in the majestic Drakensberg mountains. Much of the range is protected within the UNESCO World Heritage-listed uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, which is made up of various South African national parks and reserves. Between the Royal Natal National Park and Giant’s Castle is Cathedral Peak Nature Reserve with its spellbinding scenery and interesting day walks beneath the towering summits of the Bell (2930m), the Horns (3005m) and Cleft Peak (3281m). We’ll be spending two nights at the 5* Cathedral Peak Hotel with time to explore the mountains and relax in nature.
The Drakensberg, or ‘Mountain of the Dragons’, is the tallest range in Southern Africa, and one of the continent’s most superlative places to hike. Let your eyes wander to tumbling waterfalls, bubbling rivers, flat-topped ridges, dramatic peaks, wide valleys and steep escarpments while your legs negotiate the ever-tempting terrain. Trails range from simple walks and half-day hikes to testing treks of up to 12 hours.
It’s a short drive from Cathedral Peak to Spioenkop, scene of the most futile and certainly the bloodiest of the Boer War battles fought to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith from the surrounding Boer forces. Here we will spend two nights at the Three Tree Hill Lodge. Our hosts, Simon and Cheryl Blackburn (ex Singita Private Game Reserve and ex Kwando Safari Experience) have woven their love and knowledge of nature with the history of the area and offer guests an unparalleled diverse, activity-rich experience in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains.
The itinerary then continues to the very arena in which the historically significant Boer War battles at Islandlwanda and Rorke’s Drift took place.
The Boers and the British, the Voortrekkers and the Zulu, all went to war in Kwa Zulu Natal at one time or another, and the battles they fought shaped the history of South Africa. At the thought-provoking Isandlwana Battlefield, monuments stand in testament to the lives lost when the Zulu emphatically dealt the British Empire one of the greatest battlefield defeats in its history. Nearby is Rorke’s Drift, a place where 139 British soldiers famously fought off a force of 4 000 Zulu warriors. Needless to say, a visit to the Battlefields region in the province’s northwest is a must for history buffs.
At Rorke’s Drift we’ll be spending two nights at the 5* Fugitives’ Drift Guest House. It was here that David and Nicky Rattray pioneered Heritage Tourism in South Africa and created an award-winning lodge for visitors to savour this extraordinary saga. Evident in every corner of Fugitives’ Drift is the Rattrays’ love of South Africa, its people and its unique history.
From here the group will travel to Ghost Mountain Inn in Mkuze for two nights. Here we will enjoy a cruise on the Jozini River and Dam which attracts many wild animals from the Pongola Game Reserve.
The last stop on the itinerary is the awe-inspiring ecosystem of Lake St Lucia, which is also Africa’s largest estuarine system. It owns a sense of place like no other, being one of the most abundant, naturally-endowed and beautiful places on earth. Apart from the lake and dune ecosystems, the Park protects a marine zone of warm tropical seas, coral reefs and endless sandy beaches; the papyrus and reed wetland of the uMkhuze swamps, on the north of the lake; and, on the western shore, dry savannah and thornveld. Any one of these would justify conservation, but their confluence around Lake St Lucia makes this a world-class wilderness.
It is here, in St Lucia, that we will base ourselves for two days to explore the area and the nearby wildlife parks. Established in 1895 and set in the heart of Zululand, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu kings such as Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put the first conservation laws into place.
Today, Africa’s ‘Big Five’ (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros) stalk the flourishing savannah. Game-viewing is the principal attraction in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Viewing hides overlook pans and waterholes enabling one to observe the wildlife at close range.
The Park covers some 96 000 hectares and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora and the northern section is noted for its wide variety of both bird- and wildlife.
Liz Cotton will be leading the tour and the group will be escorted by an English-speaking local driver/guide.
This bespoke, small group tour has been put together to showcase the incredible historical, scenic and fabulous wildlife that this very special part of South Africa has to offer and we do hope you will be able to join us.
Please note that as we are very close to departure date and travel is opening up to both local and international travellers, deposits need to be paid in order to secure the very limited accommodation in the lodges. I appreciate your understanding of the situation and trust that we can act quickly in order to ensure positive outcomes.
Indeed, this tour, will leave you, not only with very happy memories but also with some very poignant moments.