Join WOWZULU as we explore the rich cultural and natural wealth of the region. The area has an untouched feel, and is waiting to be discovered by travellers with a sense of adventure.
The Far North of KwaZulu-Natal, which is also the northern section of the Umkhanyakude (Fever Tree) District, juts up against the border of Mozambique to the north. It extends from the border of Swaziland in the West to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the warm Indian Ocean in the East.
These include the Ndumo Game Reserve with its internationally acclaimed birding experience; Tembe Elephant Park which reputedly houses the world’s largest tuskers; a number of private and community-owned game reserves; the environmentally rich Kosi Bay lake system and Banga Neck turtle breeding areas that are part of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The soaring Lubombo Mountain Range on the Swaziland border to the west and south of Ndumo also boasts the vast Jozini Dam and Ingwavuma, Border Cave and Usuthu Gorge as must-see attractions.
The area is also home to communities with rich and ancient cultures which are a fascinating blend of Zulu culture infused with the cultures of neighbouring Mozambique and Swaziland.
As a ‘hidden gem’ in this ‘off the beaten track’ tourist area, Ndumo offers a remarkable variety of interesting tourist experiences, centred around the experience of untouched wilderness, traditional wilderness, the Shembe religion and the role of Ndumo within the apartheid struggle.
Two homestays in Ndumo each offers a slightly different experience for the visitor.
Induna Thusi Homestay
Martin Malwane Homestay
Induna Thusi Homestay
The host Induna Thusi, a member of the Shembe Church, provides insight not only into rural life but also the rich history of the Shembe religion and the value of traditional leadership. The accommodation is in an outside room with outside plumbing. Tourists can select either a traditional sleeping mat or a conventional bed to sleep on. The garden has a vibrant vegetable patch, backs onto open land and is home to a small, friendly herd of goats.
Induna Thusi is a great storyteller who knows his community well. As a host he makes tourists feel welcome and at home. He lives in the main house with his wife and children, and tourist have an opportunity to prepare meals and eat with the family. Tourists could participate in homestead activities (gardening, herding goats, fetching eggs, etc).
Martin Malwane Homestay
Tourists will feel an instant warm welcome in this home on the edge of Ndumo village. Accommodation is in a well maintained rondavel in the garden, adjacent to an outside cooking area. Seven people live on the property,including MartinMalwane, his wife and their 3 children.
The well maintained vegetable garden boasts cassava, sweet potatoes and spinach, and the family also have chickens. Visitors can help the family in their extensive vegetable garden, fetch eggs in the morning, and cook outside under a wide open sky.
Inyangaor herbalist John Tembe is renowned country-wide for his healing skills. He has clients from as far afield as Gauteng and even internationally from Swaziland.
Inyanga Tembe lives in a homestead with a large cattle and goat kraal, plus about 14 houses, together with his family of 6 wives and 36 children. He also regularly hosts initiates who travel long distances to be tutored in the skills of traditional medicine.
This tourist experience does not only include a consultation, but an entire learning experience. InyangaTembe can take guests through a history of traditional healing and medicine, collecting herbs and medicines from the forest, grinding bones, making medicine and having a consultation. Tourists then join the family for lunch.
This homestead is on the way to Usuthu Gorge, outside Ndumo Village. A packaged day tour starts at Inyanga Tembe’s homestead and after lunch the tour group proceeds to Usuthu Gorge.
Usuthu Gorge presents a unique combination of pristine sand forest, along with a legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle. During apartheid, many freedom fighters crossed the border into Mozambique through the Gorge and Usuthu River.
Tourists can self-drive or be driven to the entrance of the gorge. They then join a field guide who can take them on a 1.5 km walk to the lookout point where they enjoy sweeping views across the valley floodplain towards Ndumo. Across the Usuthu river is Mozambique, stretching away into the distance.
From here the guide walks the tour group to the river’s edge, crossing the fence line that is the border before resting on the banks of the river with a cold drink (which could be bought at a shop across the border in Mozambique) and are taken across the river by boat. After the boat trip, the group then walks back to the gate. Total walk +/- 5km. Wildlife in this community conservation area includes nyala, giraffe, wildebeest, and a rich variety of bird and insect life.
Zulu dance – The Story of the Hunt
A Zulu dance experience could be arranged at one of the homesteads. Ideally tourists should not be passively watching the dancers, but should rather be engaged in the tale.
Dancers are likely to perform the story of the hunt – its place in Zulu culture, how it unfolds, and what the importance and value is.
This is narrated by a story-teller who could also lead a discussion on the value of conservation and need to balance culture and conservation in critical wilderness areas.
Boma Park is a party venue/picnic site in the hill above Ndumo, which could provide a fascinating tourist experience if there is a scheduled party or event, or during a busy weekend night.
It presents an opportunity for tourists to join locals at a festive picnic area for a braai, some dancing and music.
The Park often host weddings and large groups who are open to the idea of tourists joining the celebration. It is owned and operated by Gama Mathe.
ShisaNyama / Tavern
There are 2 ShisaNyama experiences available in Ndumo. One is in the heart of town: “Senzo’s Shisa Nyama/Tavern” and one immediately opposite the Ndumo Game Reserve turnoff.
At Senzo’s tourists can join the after-work crowd and unwind with locals in a tavern in the heart of Ndumo town.
At the rustic but well-kept ShisaNyama opposite the NGR one can relax over a leisurely lunch.
Ndumo Game Reserve
This is probably South Africa’s prime birding destination, with ‘birders’ from across South Africa travelling to Ndumo for its exceptional birdlife, in the bush as well as on and around the lakes on the Reserve.
Highlights include sunset over pans with lots of bird activity; and walks/drives with the Reserve’s excellent birding guides who can imitate bird sounds so well that the birds come to them to investigate.
The reserve has a small but well-managed camp with basic but rondavels, with a separate ablution and kitchen block, and a caravan/camp site. Planned upgrading of and extensions to the game reserve accommodation will make a big difference to tourism into the area.