Four dynamic rural tourism experiences on the KZN South Coast

There is a major drive within the South African tourism industry to promote inclusive tourism that expands the geographical reach of this sector. Along the KZN South Coast, Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT) – the local destination management organisation for the region – has thoroughly embraced this positive transformation.

 

“Developing our rural tourism products not only enhances the diversity of our destination offerings for the benefit of domestic and international tourists looking for a unique cultural experience but it benefits the local communities and economy as a whole,” said USCT CEO Phelisa Mangcu. “Within the KZN South Coast, we’ve provided training and guidance for local tourism operators, and are marketing our rural tourism products such as KwaXolo Caves Adventures, Ntelezi Msani Heritage Centre, the KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails and Nyandezulu Experience. We’re also excited about the impending launch a new rural tourism offering in 2022, the Agri-CULTURE tours, which will take visitors through our beautiful farmlands.”

 

1.      Ntelezi Msani Heritage Centre

This iconic heritage centre was established in 2007 within Emjahweni in Mthwalume by the non-profit organisation, Ntelezi Msani Heritage Foundation, as well as Ikhwezi Le-Afrika, Umzumbe Municipality and other strategic stakeholders.

The name of Ntelezi Msani is derived from one of the stalwarts of the 1906 Bhambatha Rebellion (Poll Tax Uprising) which has an interesting history. Following the South African War, the shortage of agricultural labour prompted government to impose a £1 on all men over the age of 18 which required them to work for cash. This was set to be imposed on 1 January 1906, but certain izinduna refused to pay. Ntelezi Msani was one such resistor who, after a failed court case, was exiled to St Helena where he died.

The establishment of the Ntelezi Msani Heritage Centre is a way to pay tribute to these liberation stalwarts, those who came before and after them, as well as to celebrate the area’s traditional history through afro-theatre, music, dance and folklore. The centre is a valuable creative arts and heritage facility which plays an important role in preserving the local culture and showcasing the many creative activities of Umzumbe Municipality and Ugu District.

Visitors to centre can enjoy a number of culturally enlightening experiences. Among these are:

  • Origins of the Zulu Kingdom: Discover the history of the 1906 Mthwalume Poll Tax uprising, more about the Zulu Kingdom and the expeditions of King Shaka on the KZN South Coast.
  • Zulu traditions: An integral part of the Zulu culture is the art of stick fighting alongside the intricate crafting of beads and reeds, all of which can be discovered at the centre.
  • Isivivane: A cairn of pebbles, known as isivivane in Zulu, marks a place of ancient spiritual importance. When Zulu warriors travelled the country, they would throw a stone onto such a pile as a mark of respect to past leaders. One such KZN South Coast location, Isivivane seNkosi uShaka in Umzumbe, is where it’s believed King Shaka and his warriors passed on the way from Zululand to Pondoland in 1828. Visitors get the chance to participate in this age-old tradition.
  • Zulu healing: Revered for its physical strength and ability, the Zulu nation has many insights on health and wellness for visitors to the centre.
  • Theatre: The centre hosts musical productions and annual celebrations throughout the year.
  • Shop: Visitors can buy high-quality crafts and support the local communities.

For more information, contact 060 473 3712, email howardmsomis@gmail.com or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za.

 

2.      KwaXolo Caves

 A range of caves was identified in the mountains along the KZN South Coast recently, within which are a series of San cave paintings which date back hundreds of thousands of years. These partially opened rock shelves once served as shelter for the San tribes that lived out in the area 100 000 years ago. Each painting tells an interesting story, reflective of the local culture and heritage – some of which are even evident into the culture of those living in and around the area today. The paintings provide a fantastic glimpse into the day-to-day lives of those who existed so long ago.

The prehistoric San rock art forms a significant part of the Ugu District Municipality (UDM), the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province and South Africa’s cultural heritage. This is one of a series of painted rock shelters situated in a coastal zone stretching roughly from Port Shepstone in the north to Port St John’s in the south.

The caves were previously inaccessible to the public, however, through dedication and a commitment to cultural history, the KwaXolo Caves Adventure was launched. An experienced guide is available to take visitors to the caves via Ferrata system. This is a set of steel cables and rungs securely affixed to the rock face which takes hikers up to the caves.

Once strapped into safety gear, visitors enjoy a 5-minute hike to the caves by registered guides. Alongside the historical rock art, the experience includes breath-taking views of the surrounding area including a waterfall and gorge. This unique excursion also provides much-needed income to the local communities of KwaXolo and Dumezulu through job creation and skills’ development while promoting the use of indigenous knowledge.

This outdoor adventure, which is both memorable and educational, is available for all visitors over the age of 8. The experience takes between an hour to an hour-and-a-half per tour. The tour site is accessible through Great Drives Out, and on a mainly tarred road, which also offers further access into the scenic area around the cave site. This is well suited to visitors looking for an adrenaline-fuelled, socially responsible activity.

Contact 076 185 3447 or 074 8873 742, Facebook: KwaXolo Caves Adventures, or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za.

 

3.      KwaNzimakwe Experience

Situated between Mpenjati Nature Reserve and Ezinqoleni is KwaNzimakwe, a beautiful rural village which is easily accessible off the R69 Road. This captivating KZN South Coast village has many interesting sights and activities for travellers, with a warm local community ready to make everyone feel welcome.

Visitors can start exploring the region at the WowZulu Welcome Centre where they are welcomed by local hosts, Neli Nzimakwe and Zonke Madwe. There are refreshing beverages, coffees and snacks available at the centre as well as colourful array of locally made arts and crafts. Every piece found here is unique to the area and makes for a great keepsake or gift for someone at home.

From the centre, visitors can arrange for a guided walk around the village area, taking in the lush coastal forests and rolling green hills for which the region is renowned. Within KwaNzimakwe and while on the guided hike, visitors will get the chance to engage with a local sangoma – traditional healer – and receive blessings on their journey. This is a chance to sit awhile and learn about the sangoma’s history and calling, as well as the interesting stories of many the local inhabitants.

Many cattle can be seen roaming around the area, and part of the tour will include stories about the importance of cattle in the traditional culture of the region, with a viewing of a cattle kraal. There’s also a walk past the organic garden and a mountain trail leading past a Shembe Church, up to a community theatre known as Xhuluweshe – as well as the local tavern.

The walks of the village are four hours long, with easy-walking terrain and phenomenal sights. Visitors can even indulge in traditional meals consisting of chicken, Zulu steamed bread with spicy beans or spinach. There are also comfortable lodging options nearby for those wanting to extend their stay.

The launch of the KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails in 2019 has been a huge development in the area’s rural tourism. These are suited to hikers, birdwatchers, trail runners, trail bikers and 4×4 enthusiasts looking to get close to nature in this beautiful hinterland region.

There are a variety of trails to try, from the 4km hike through to the 22km off-road trail boasting incredible views, bird- and wildlife. There are also great sights when reaching the sugar cane fields where the ocean becomes visible and the landscape pieces together.

Bookings are essential and can be made by contacting Victor Jaca on 063 072 1873 or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za.

 

4.      Nyandezulu Experience

For another truly authentic rural experience on the KZN South Coast, visitors can immerse themselves in Nyandezulu, a small village which is only 9km inland of Shelly Beach. Visitors to Nyandezulu will enjoy breath-taking scenery overlooking the Indian Ocean with a view of the local settlements scattered across the rolling hills and valleys of this hinterland region.

Visitors will immediately be warmly welcomed by the local community with local guesthouses available in the village for those looking to extend their stay. Accommodation in the area includes Mfihlo Guest House, Themba Isonto Homestay, Sharon Jenkins Homestay, Zethu Mthiyane Homestay and Nondumiso Lushaba Homestay. There are locally made arts and crafts to be viewed or bought before embarking on a captivating excursion through the region.

There’s the option of a guided drive or hike to the Ntantana Mountain which overlooks the cascading 80m Nyandezulu Waterfall. During the walk, visitors have the chance to interact with a local sangoma and gain insight into their role in the community, discovering how much of an impact they still have today,

Visitors can also taste home-brewed beverages at the local shebeen or tavern, and then head on up to the Shembe Church a top holy uMdlungwana Mountain. This scenic route takes visitors past candles, coins and other signs of worship to the top of the mountain, reputed to harbour a seven-headed water snake which is believed to cause storms and floods when disturbed.

There is the option of a 30-minute hike down to Nyandezulu Waterfall, a largely hidden local gem, with the excursions currently being developed as part of a community-based tourism project. Picnics can also be enjoyed on KwaSaka Beach or the banks of the Bhuqu River.

For more information and bookings, contact Dudu Malinga on 083 736 7799 or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za.