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Located in one of the most fertile sections of land in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, the bustling town of Empangeni is surrounded by kilometres of green sugar cane fields and blue gum forests. These vast plantations have made Empangeni a major commercial sugar and timber producing area.
Established as a mission station in the mid-1800s, Empangeni is possibly named after the Mpange tree, widespread along the river that winds its way through the town. The climate is sub-tropical and in summer, Empangeni experiences days that reach into the mid-30s (Celsius).
Less than 20 minutes from the warm Indian Ocean and on the route to the oldest game reserve in Africa, Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, Empangeni is a restful stopover to best enjoy the region’s attractions.
Top 6 reasons to visit Empangeni
1. The Umfolozi Hotel Casino Resort is 5km from Empangeni. Throw the dice at the casino or visit to enjoy a meal while the children are entertained at the Magic Company. Friday nights are Karaoke Night at the Sugar Room Bar and Lounge.
2. Empangeni has a number of small shopping centres and strip malls to purchase local goods and curios. The Five Ways Mall occasionally hosts events that attracts the crowds.
3. Parts of the Battlefields Route can be undertaken between Gingindlovu and Eshowe, where bloody battles took place between the British and the Zulus in 1879. It’s best to hire a guide to fully appreciate the magnitude of the clashes and travel to the most interesting sites.
4. The Enseleni Nature Reserve lies alongside a river thickly populated by crocodile and hippo. Various antelope species roam the park which has 2 hiking trails that pass through forest and grassland. There is a picnic site near the entrance.
5. Mountain biking is a popular sport around Empangeni where trails lead from the town in all directions. The lush green vegetation over rolling hills makes for a scenic ride. Hire a bicycle and obtain route maps from the tour office in the town centre.
6. The nearest beach is only a 15km drive to Richards Bay. The Alkantstand Beach has shark nets and the waves are uniform thanks to the construction of a jetty. Spend the day catching rays and enjoying the warm sea water.
Empangeni has its own airfield for chartered flights. The nearest domestic airport is Richards Bay Airport 23km away, and Durban’s King Shaka International Airport is 136km from Empangeni. Car rental agencies are stationed in the town and at the airports, otherwise order a vehicle online. The Greyhound Luxury Bus Liner travels between Durban and Pretoria daily and stops off in Empangeni outside the tourist office at 10h30. Booking in advance is essential.
Did you know?
Sections of the Mpange tree are used for medicinal and nutritional purposes; the leaves are eaten and the bark and roots are said to cure ailments ranging from stomach pain to respiratory infections. The tree is commonly found along river banks.
The Zikulise Community Upliftment Project is a non-profit organisation setup to assist local crafters with selling and marketing of their products that include traditional beaded attire and jewellery, clay pottery, reed and grass bags, etc. These sensational products can be ordered online.