Fiona is a South African through and through. She couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
Do Animals Roam the Roads in South Africa?
There is So Much to See and Do in South Africa
Okay, so I am a little biased about living in South Africa - I can't help it; it's a great place to live. Being the most economically developed country on the African continent has its perks. Add Africa's natural beauty into the mix, and you have a great place to live or visit.
I also believe that Kwa-Zulu Natal is tops when it comes to beauty. There are several things to do and so many things to see that you will be utterly spoiled for choice. It's not a case of what to see but more of what you might miss.
In this Hub, I will give visitors tips about what to do and see within the province and general advice about norms, security, etc. You also get to meet some of the friendly and quirky locals. P.S. If you liked this photo, please take the poll further down the page and let me know how you park your zebra.
I also have a completely unbiased poll about loving the Midlands. It caters to anyone who loves the Midlands - entirely objective.
Have You Been to South Africa Before?
The Heart of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands South Africa
How to Interview a Zebra
When interviewing a zebra, stand in front of them, watch their teeth, and be very polite and patient. Zebras do NOT like the "horse in pajamas" jokes. See my interview with Chris (Zebra in the pic above) further down.
Other than that, be yourself. They have a good sense of humor in most situations.
Where to Find Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
Where to Start Your African Adventure
Deciding where to begin can be a bit daunting so let's start with you getting off the airplane.
The King Shaka International Airport is just north of Durban - the biggest city in KZN and a major seaport. It's a busy town and has a whole host of different things to do.
Most people assume that Durban is the capital of KZN, but this honor goes to Pietermaritzburg. (About an hour's drive inland.) It's an understandable mistake, as Durban is far more extensive than Pietermaritzburg.
It is advisable to arrange some transport from the airport to your hotel before you leave. There are, of course, car rentals available at the airport, but it is best to secure your spot.
Having a map or GPS on hand is also advisable if you plan to explore Durban yourself - it can be very confusing for the newcomer. (I lived there, and I still get lost.)
Several buses are available in Durban central and the Beach Front at a fairly reasonable price. Ask your hotel for details - the buses are ideal for those wanting to explore by themselves. The beachfront buses run every 15 minutes or so.
Please be careful when you're out on foot. Don't wear jewelry or carry a lot of cash. There are many pickpockets and muggers in the city.
The Durban Botanic Gardens
The Durban Botanical Gardens
The Botanical gardens are lovely and over a century old. They're the oldest in Africa and situated in Berea, Durban. There is a wide range of plants to see, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and peaceful. There is no entry fee to the garden, but car guards are on duty in the parking lot so have some change handy if you drive yourself there. (See the notes about car guards for more info - a standard tip is around R5 - R10, depending on how long you stay.)
The tea garden is open from 9:30 to 16:15 every day.
The orchid house is my favorite spot in the garden - a wide range of beautiful orchids beautifully laid out - and is always popular.
There is also a pretty lake with ducks and ibis - the funniest thing is seeing these big birds roost in the trees.
There are many trees - some of them in place before the first garden was established in 1849.
Overall, this is a serene and beautiful area amid the hubbub of city life.
(Car guards in SA came about as a response to the number of vehicle thefts and break-ins. You will find them in most public parking areas. Generally speaking, you will be able to identify a car guard as they will have a safety vest or wear a uniform.)
The Orchid House in the Botanic Gardens
More Pix from the Botanic Gardens
Interview with a Zebra
(It was a slow day news-wise)
Why interview a zebra? Why not – it’s the Midlands; we’re quirky folk.
This was a hard-won interview – zebras are notoriously tight-lipped. When I eventually caught up to Chris (zebra in intro pic ), he would only say that he could “park” himself where he chose and that if anyone complained, he’d bite them on the bum. He took the stance he did to be in a position to fend off would-be drivers.
When I asked why he didn’t want anyone driving, he told me it was a protest action on behalf of zebras worldwide. Zebras are sick of being asked if they are striped horses. For the record, they are not. They are also sick of all the horse-in-pajama jokes.
The interview was cut short by Chris’s agent, a rather pushy Wildebeest when I burst out laughing at the thought of a zebra protest action. But, as the new saying goes – You don’t argue with a zebra’s wildebeest agent, or you may get bitten on the bum.
An Interesting Detour for the First Monday of the Month
HARTS - The Howick Arts Society meets on the first Monday of every month and welcomes visitors. The meeting starts at 2 pm and ends at about 4 pm. They are currently meeting at Amber Valley, just up the road from WESSA, but this is subject to change, so check out their website or Facebook page for more information.
The meetings always feature an interesting talk, tea, and, for the very brave, a critique. Members bring in their work so that the visiting artist can give them constructive criticism.
While it sounds nerve-wracking for beginners, it's the ideal way to gain experience and take the first steps toward becoming a professional. There are artists with varying degrees of experience from whom you can learn.
The members also choose their favorites by secret ballot, allowing those displaying their work to earn points toward annual prizes.
I don't get to attend as often as I'd like, but it is a fun bunch of people who are more than willing to share their experience and tips.
Stop Off at Ushaka Marine World
Visit Ushaka Marine World
This is a definite stop for anyone on a South African holiday to make. It is nicer in warm weather because then you get to experience the water park to its whole. For me, this is one of the premier attractions in Durban.
There is tons to do, even if the weather is terrible - there is a lot of shopping, a few restaurants, a reptile park (Not for the faint of heart), and a great aquarium.
For me, the aquarium is the best part of Ushaka Marine World. The whole thing is set up in an old ship. Inside, most of the fittings are upside down, and, with the lighting, it is easy to imagine that you are in a sunken ship on the bottom of the sea.
There are plenty of viewing windows and lots and lots to see. You will almost feel as though you are in the ocean. My camera club thought I'd taken some of my pictures underwater.
I even attended a wedding there one night, and that was magnificent.
You can choose to visit only the water park or only the aquarium or both, as it suits you. If doing both, it is a good idea to make it a day trip. You will not be able to take your food in, so be sure to bring money to buy food.
Ushaka Marine World - Fun in the Sun
Midlands Marshmallow Farm
Ever Seen a Marshmallow Farm?
I was on a “short” walk one day, and as we took a shortcut (it was as a result of this shortcut that the walk was so “short”) through a field, we saw hay bales. Now, Midlands farmers are lovely, they even tuck the hay in at night, but one of the kids in the group was intrigued. Eventually, we asked him what he had found so fascinating, and he said,” I always wondered how they grew marshmallows.”
Go to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site
The Sculpture of Madiba
For more on the Capture Site
- Mandela Capture Site
I have written a much more in depth Hub here, take a look for pix of the site and tributes paid to Madiba after his death.
Another Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands Baby
Swing By the Karkloof Canopy Tours
The Karkloof Canopy Tours
The Karkloof Canopy Tours
This is something remarkable that you can do in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands. It is an exciting and unique way to sightsee. Travel through the air on a zip line through the tops of the trees and survey the valley below.
There are eight levels to enjoy and different things to see at each level. There is even a hidden waterfall (depending on the season) at one of the rest stops on the way down.
If you are unsure about managing yourself on the zip lines, the guides will be more than happy to guide you. However, the worst thing you can do is grab the line – this acts as a break.
If you follow it up by letting go of the line (like some people who remain nameless), you will find yourself stranded in the middle of the line and have to try to pull yourself in. So make sure that you don’t grab the rope!
Head off to Butterflies for Africa?
Butterflies for Africa in Pietermaritzburg
This is a great place to stop and great for keen photographers.
It is best to go on a warmer day - the cooler the day, the less active the butterflies.
The "house" is pretty magical - you walk along raised pathways over a stream full of fish and past a pretty waterfall. There are a good number of birds and also monkeys to see. (If you get there at the right time, you see them feeding the monkeys.) There are also some pet Iguanas. (I preferred the butterflies.)
I enjoyed my trip - the place was nice and peaceful, and there were so many different types of butterflies. I couldn't believe how many different types there were. They have a special section with pupae in the process of developing into butterflies, so you get to see the whole life cycle of the butterflies.
This place will keep little and big kids enthralled for hours.
There is also a gift shop, coffee bar, art gallery, and nursery - plenty for everyone to do and see.
They are closed on Mondays, except those that fall on public holidays, so plan your visit on any other day of the week.
They are open from 9:00 to 15:30, Tuesdays - Friday
9:30 to 15:30 on Saturdays
10:30 to 15:30 on Sundays
Check them out - it is a worthwhile excursion.
Butterflies for Africa in Pietermaritzburg
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Fiona
What do you Think of Kwa-Zulu Natal so Far?
CJ Dempers from Philippines on August 21, 2019:
This just made me a little homesick after almost 5 years away and remines on the fun times that was had in KZN
Fiona (author) from South Africa on August 13, 2016:
Robert Sacchi on August 13, 2016:
It seems a beautiful and interesting place to visit. The zebra interview was cute and quirky.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on June 26, 2014:
Glad you like the site. I haven't stayed at the Ammazulu African Palace myself but have met a couple that did - they loved it. Kloof is a lovely suburb - close to the major shopping areas but removed enough to be peaceful as well. Do try to do a drive in country if you are able - the Mandela Monument listed above is around about 40 minutes from Kloof. Keep following the road and you will come across Thokens Cash Store - a typical example of an old-fashioned trading store. About another 5 minutes down the road is the Piggly Wiggly Centre - there is great food and great shopping there! Have a great trip!
Ishkabibel on June 24, 2014:
My family and I will be taking our first trip to Africa late July and plan to visit our friend who is involved with a creche in KZN.
We plan to stay at Ammazulu African Palace. Have you heard of this place?
Your website looks great!
Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2013:
I find it amazing because it is so peaceful in the middle of Durban, Jeanneter
jeanetter on December 16, 2013:
Looks really great - I went to the Botanic Gardens a long time ago, would love to go again.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on June 23, 2013:
If you ever get the chance, make a plan and visit Kwa-Zulu Natal - it is gorgeous and we have great weather. (Although it's pretty chilly at the moment)
Tammy from North Carolina on June 22, 2013:
I have never heard of this beautiful place. Visiting this country is on my bucket list. Great hub!