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A place of natural beauty and diverse marine life, the Elephant Coast along the northern stretches of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa comprises the continent’s oldest game reserve, pristine beaches with ancient dune systems along a vast tropical coastline, unique wetlands and tribal traditions.
A small settlement in the area is named Dukuduku, a Zulu word meaning ‘groping in the dark’ because of the thickness of bush and many wild animals, including large herds of elephants, in the area. This problem, along with flooding rivers and the threat of malaria and bilharzia are the likely reasons why the area remained unspoilt for so long. Today, the Elephant Coast attracts hordes of nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts and those seeking absolute solitude.
The Elephant Coast is the ultimate location for holidaymakers wishing to combine a beach and bushveld getaway.
Top 8 reasons to visit the Elephant Coast
1. Take a night time tour along the beaches at Kosi Bay to watch the female loggerhead and leatherback turtles arrive in large numbers to lay their eggs in the dunes. This spectacle occurs between June and November and hatching happens 60 days later.
2. For Big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo) game viewing, visit the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Park, a UNESCO world heritage site where concerted efforts are being made to conserve the rhino.
3. Scuba divers flock to Sodwana Bay for excellent reef diving. From the brilliant, colourful macro life at the Bikini Reef System to Quarter Mile Reef bursting with sharks and rays, the reef variations here are practically endless.
4. Purchase a colourful Zulu handcrafted basket or wood carving at Ilala Weavers. The site has a museum and a village where crafters can be seen showcasing skills handed down over the centuries.
5. Visit the fish kraals used by the local Thonga people in Kosi Bay to trap fish in the estuaries. Fish are corralled into a hand-woven basket suspended at the end of a reed funnel.
6. The coastline along the Elephant Coast is well suited for swimming, fishing and surfing with over 300 days of sunshine per year to spend on the unspoilt beaches and in the warm Indian Ocean. If you’re lucky, you might encounter dolphins to join you in a swim.
7. Take an exciting 3-hour guided kayak safari along the beautiful St Lucia Estuary. Be aware that the river mouth is infested with hippos and crocodiles! The area is renowned for its birdlife.
8. Immerse yourself in the Zulu culture at the Gooderson Dumazulu Lodge and Traditional Zulu Village in Hluhluwe. Watch the locals make traditional spears, shields and clay pots. While here, taste the Zulu beer and experience a reading from a Sangoma (witch doctor).
The nearest airport is King Shaka International Airport, between 200km and 300km from the Elephant Coast, depending on where you are located. Newcastle Airport is an alternate option. There are a number of airstrips in the area for incoming chartered flights, ask your host for more details. Car Rental agencies operate in most large cities. Collect a vehicle from the airport or you could order a rental online. There are no taxi services in the region, however, several tour operators offer shuttle services from the main centres to parts of the Elephant Coast.
Did you know?
In the past, many Zulu men would carry a knobkerrie, a type of hunting club made from wood with a knob at its end. Security guards on the late shift began decorating their knobkerrie using discarded coloured wire woven into beautiful patterns and today this tradition lives on, the knobkerrie now viewed as a treasured ornament rather than a hunting club.
There is a malaria risk in the extreme north of the Elephant Coast, take the necessary precautions before travelling into the area.