Regarded as an unexpected favourite destination in South Africa, Zululand hides a surprisingly magnificent number of attractions. Aside from its acclaimed cultural heritage and historic battlefields, there are little-known, unexplored game parks, tremendous walking trails and, of course, the most seductively beautiful lakes at its heart. Chelsey Hale tells all.
“They say great things happen in threes, and that’s certainly the case with Zululand, says Brent Dickson, Director of Dream Hotels & Resorts. “Lake St. Lucia, Lake Sibaya and Lake Jozini together make up what we refer to as the ‘three great lakes of Zululand’. Together they form a must-see experience for any nature-lover worth their salt.”
Stretching from the northern and western KwaZulu-Natal borders to the towns of Ladysmith and Colenso in the south and towards the Elephant Coast in the east, Zululand has managed to remain out of reach from industrial expansion
“Whilst traversing this region in search of these three watery wonderlands, you’ll find yourself passing sugar cane fields and rolling hills dotted with traditional isiZulu villages, local settlements and ubiquitous goats. It is a destination that can be explored easily at your own pace”
Lake St. Lucia
Great for: birdwatching
First up on the great lakes list is Lake St. Lucia, an estuarine lake system which sustains an abundance of birds and wildlife proving you don’t have to make your way to the Kruger to see it all.
St. Lucia is a haven for hippos and crocs, but what makes it even more magnificent is that it is included within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site that protects a large portion of South Africa’s eastern coastline. “If you are a keen birder, keep an eye out for Pink-throated Twinspots, Narina Trogon, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Rudd’s Apalis and African Broadbill. The floodplain areas are also home to large flocks of flamingoes and annual sightings of rarities like Long-toed Lapwing, Caspian Plover and Rufous-bellied Herons.”
Ever wanted to see a flap-necked chameleon? This little fellow is found ‘easily’ at night during a Chameleon Night Safari in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. These night safaris also offer an opportunity to see nocturnal species you wouldn’t ordinarily see during the day like bush babies and even aardvarks!
For accommodation near this lake visit: www.dreamhotelresorts/nibelalakelodge
Great for: off-roading
Quietly tucked amongst forested coastal dunes, parallel to iSimangaliso’s coastline. Lake Sibaya stands as South Africa’s largest freshwater lake, at an estimated size of 7 750ha.
What makes this lake so unique, are its clear waters fringed by pure white sand which are fed entirely by run-off from the high vegetated dunes. No rivers flow in or out. “The undulating soft sand roads along the lake’s shore are strictly 4×4 territory. Out here, you’ll feel as though you are a million miles away from home, cast back in time, where the focus of the holiday is the pure pleasure of experiencing nature,” Dickson maintains.
Listed as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance, it is also home to KwaZulu-Natal’s second-largest population of hippo and crocodile and remains an important breeding, feeding and roosting area for a host of bird species (279 in total). Of particular importance at Lake Sibaya is the growth of an orchid, Vanilla Roscheri, which only occurs at this particular lake.
What also makes Zululand a favourable destination for local visitors in 2020 is that it is completely malaria free, and visitors to this lake can also head over to Tembe Elephant Park to witness some of Africa’s large tuskers in their element.
For accommodation near this lake visit: www.royalthonga.com
Great for: Tiger fishing
The largest for last, Lake Jozini, also known as Pongolapoort Dam, lies along the Pongola River between the majestic Ubombo and Lebombo mountains and covers over 16 000 ha.
This formidable dam was originally designed to irrigate the surrounding farmlands, growing sugarcane, rice, coffee and various sub-tropical fruits. Many have compared it to Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba and it is fast becoming the mecca of many wild game seekers as the vast tracts of land around it are slowly returning back to its former wildlife kingdom.
Lake Jozini, as the dam is now called, has become an exceptionally popular Tiger fishing destination. As the dam borders the Pongola Nature Reserve and Game Reserve, you can view wildlife from your boat. The glow-flies light up the early evening shoreline, transforming the water into an incandescent array of fairy lights.
The main attraction in this area is the return of the elephant. But there are vast numbers of other game to be viewed, including: buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, kudu, bushbuck, duiker, steenbok, hyena, cheetah, wild dog, serval cat, warthog and even the occasional sighting of leopard, which roam the Lebombo mountains.
For accommodation near this lake visit: www.dreamresorts.co.za/jozini-tiger-lodge