As a Capetonian I always feel like I fairly South Africa really well, until I visit an entirely new region. Then I’m left feeling like I still have so much left to explore and the tiny pockets I do know are merely a few chunks of glass in a breathtaking mosaic that is my homeland.
Bays like Sodwana, Kosi, Rocktail and St. Lucia Town have always beckoned me. I’m not sure if it’s their seclusion, their wild beauty or the burgeoning eco systems of this land that held such appeal for me but when I finally got to visit with Vaughan and my son Caleb, I couldn’t be more excited. Road tripping through the region, staying a different place every night we saw so much. But here are the spaces and parts of the trip I loved the most and the ones I suggest you visit ( and yes they all involve water)
1. Lala Nek.
It could be my childhood nickname ‘Lala’ or the fact that it means ‘place of rest’ in Zulu but after a Land Rover drive along a sandy lane through a dense dune forest, I arrived at what appeared to be paradise. Shards of light peaked through the white pear and milkwood trees and we parked in this portion of the Isimangaliso Wetlands which allows a maximum of four vehicles. Beach towels and Caleb in arms, we made our way through a tunnel of woody hedges with only a deserted beach in view. Other than one couple, we had the beach all to ourselves for sunning, swimming and snorkeling.
There is no shade on this beach so take an umbrella, sunblock, beach towel, swimming costume. Snorkelling is great here so bring a snorkel and goggles to take advantage of the rich world here. Try not to swim alone as there are no lifeguards on duty and don’t go too far out especially if you don’t know about the currents here. Please take your litter home with you.
2. Lake Sibaya.
Also within the 32 000Km which make up the iSimangaliso Wetlands, lies the alluring Lake Sibaya. One of the best parts about this Lake is actually the journey it takes to get there. Our guide Gugu rom Rocktail Bay Camp took us through dense forest, golden savannah with grazing Nguni cattle and past sparse Mabibi homesteads. Time of day is everything and judging from the way the sunset glow cast a warm glow on this light blue lake,I would say don’t go at any time other than this. I trudged through swampy ground, felt the moist moss beneath my feet and even dipped my toes into the fresh water with a family of hippos far in the distance.
While this blue lake beckons you to dive in, do not as crocodiles, hippos and much more call this lake home. I would advise you not to go near the water without a guide present who knows the area and can spot the wildlife quickly. Go at sunset time and take a camera, you don’t want to miss golden hour here.
To find our more about stays and guided tours in and around Rocktail Bay, visit Wilderness Safaris.
3. Hippo Cruising in St. Lucia.
I’ve done many incredible things first thing in the morning, but this was the first time I was able to sip coffee, watch hippos playing the water and eat croissants at the same time. It was a splendid way to start the day. Aboard a Shakabarker Tour boat, we chatted about the multiple eco systems around this river, the natural sun protection of hippos and their ability to breathe beneath the water. We saw a crocodile, hippo paths up the hills and babies peeking above the estuary’s surface.
When going on a boat tour in the morning, take a warm top as the wind can pick up and it can get quite chilly early in the morning. Whilst we went with Caleb who was crawling at the time, it may not be the best for toddlers who are walking/running as there are areas of the boat which are not tightly closed. And just means parents will have to keep them on a ‘tight leash’ to avoid any accidents.
To book your Hippo cruise, visit Shakabarker Tours.
4. Houseboating on Lake Jozini.
This was my virgin house boating experience and it was pretty unbeatable. Think cruising between the Lebombo mountains ever closer to the horizon at the end of Lake Jozini, whilst sitting in a jacuzzi or fishing on deck. You have everything you’d ever need on board like couches, a cosy cabin, dining area, bar, jacuzzi and the tutorage of Captain Bransom when it comes to tiger fishing. I was able to bag a tiger fish one morning just after stepping out of our cabin which is often the goal of most people staying on the Shayamanzi. My absolute has to be watching fire flies in the night sky from the bed in my cabin.
It’s hot aboard the boat in the day and gets cooler in the evening so bring something to wear in different conditions including a swimming costume for the jacuzzi. Don’t miss out not the fishing, even if it’s not your thing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fun it really is. Also be sure to look outside at night to see the fireflies.
To stay and cruise aboard the Shayamanzi I, visit Shayamanzi houseboats.
What did you love about Northern KZN?
This post was sponsored by SA-Venues.com. All opinions expressed about the region and our experiences remain our own.