Visitors to the KwaZulu-Natal coast will quickly realise why this region has become one of South Africa's favourite holiday destinations.
From popular seaside holiday towns on the South Coast stretching north to the uninhabited beaches and teeming coral reefs of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, this lush subtropical coastline offers warm sea, golden sand and a fine selection of both family-friendly beach hotels and secluded honeymoon hideaways.
Don't let the tongue-twisting nature of the name put you off: Umhlanga Rocks is an enticing coastal region just 20 km north of Durban and the beginning of a 200km stretch of golden sand beaches that ends in the wildlife and scuba-diving paradise of Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.
There's a distinctive sub-tropical feel to this part of South Africa: hot sultry weather, mild winters and warm Indian Ocean waters characterise the KwaZulu-Natal coast and there are a number of resorts and beach hotels along with some very exclusive and tucked away luxury lodges.
Ballito is a small coastal holiday town and is located 30 minutes north of Durban. Ballito has a friendly, small town charm and offers safe swimming beaches and good surf breaks. Bottlenose dolphins are often spotted along Ballito's coastline and the relatively clear and shallow waters results in dolphins swimming close to the shore when wanting to feed.
Holiday makers can chose from a variety of activities. There are safe swimming beaches, oysters and muscles to be picked, and there is a 2.5 kilometres long beach-front promenade that people perfect for scenic walks and jogging. Accommodation is generally holiday apartments and during the peak season most are rented on a weekly basis.
Beginning a 2-hour drive north of Durban, the Elephant Coast runs the entire length of the northern KwaZulu Natal coastline to the Mozambique border, taking in the natural wonders of the coast such as the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly St Lucia) along with inland KwaZulu-Natal safari reserves like the Hluhulwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve and Phinda Private Game Reserve.
It's a place of big mammals - rhino, hippo, giraffe, lion - and of smaller ones too - antelope, monkeys, and cats. Not only that but the Elephant Coast has the best scuba diving in South Africa: teeming coral reefs, whale sharks, humpbacked whales, dolphins and breeding turtles are among the highlights off shore. Combine a marine adventure with a few nights at one of the many wildlife reserves and suddenly you've got the holiday of a lifetime.
Known previously as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, the Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site incorporating over a dozen separate conservation areas ranging from marine reserves to coastal forests.
The St Lucia estuary, 60km long and 10km wide, is at the heart of the park, a huge freshwater wetland packed with hippos, crocodiles and an astonishing bird list. In fact, if you are even remotely interested in birds, then head for the Isimangaliso Wetland Park: over 520 species have been recorded here, almost the same as the number seen in the British Isles.
Go on day and night game drives along with guided walks, fishing is very popular and offshore you’ll find South Africa’s best scuba diving with whale sharks and dolphins among the highlights.
Kosi Bay is one of the most beautiful and remote places on the KwaZulu-Natal east coast. Well loved by anglers, divers and holidaymakers, it is situated close to the border ofMozambique.
A number of lakes and streams enter the sea at Kosi Bay and the region is famous for numerous pristine beaches. Much of the area is protected within the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve and it is possible to go on several lovely hikes.
At a Glance
Head for the KwaZulu-Natal coast for some of South Africa's wildest and most beautiful beaches - expect warm water, lots of wildlife and plenty of sunshine.