As my flight approached Durban, the scenery unfolding before me was a great introduction to South Africa’s most vibrant location.
I was told that the soul of Durban was the Golden Mile, the ocean waterfront area, and that’s where I headed right after checking into my hotel. I grabbed Durban’s signature food, the bunny chow, before heading off towards Durban’s landmark, the Moses Mabhida Stadium. What an engineering marvel it is!
A SkyCar Ride and a Segway TourI took the two-minute SkyCar ride up the stadium arch to a 106 m-high vantage point. The magnificent ocean views and spectacular skylines of this cutting-edge city blew me away! My tryst with my camera had already begun.
Next, I booked a Segway Tour around the Stadium and then along the promenade to experience the same views up-close. It did not take much time to get used to Segway, and what a fun experience it was!
Durban City Tour
Most of Durban’s attractions are concentrated along the beach and harbour. But I wanted to see the old historical neighbourhoods and markets of Durban too. So I booked myself on a brief Durban City tour and ended with an authentic South African lunch. In the evening, I took a detour to the colourful Indian Markets to see the impact of Durban’s Indian population on the traditional South African food and culture.
The Drakensberg Mountains
The next day, a guided tour drove us inland to the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, 1000 metres above sea level. It is a World heritage Site for its richest collection of San Rock Paintings in Africa.
But first we visited The Nelson Mandela Capture Site. This is where Nelson Mandela was arrested on the 5thof August in 1962, which catalysed a series of events that changed South Africa’s history. The sculpture has all of 50 steel columns cut by laser to form a dramatic image of the former President. A magnificent must-see!
NELSON MANDELA CAPTURE SITE
From here, we continued up the mountain roads to arrive at the Granny Mouse Country House & Spa on the banks of the Lions River. The air here was cool and crisp, and the property a slice of paradise tucked away into the mountains. This is a well-known gourmet destination with plenty of outdoor activities on offer. Much as I wanted to indulge myself, my excitement for what lay ahead prevented me from spending time here.
GRANNYS MOUSE COUNTRY HOUSE & SPA – C – UMANG GOSSAIN
After lunch, we drove to the point where a Westline Aviation Helicopter took us for that much-waited for ride over Drakensberg Mountains. This was yet another highlight of my South African adventure. The sun was setting and the landscape was bathed in rich orange colours. As we took in the spectacular mountain views, we flew past the Hole Of The Needle, followed the Python Lake as it snaked through the mountain ranges and viewed the snow clad mountains up-close.
HELICOPTER RIDE OVER DRAKENSBERG
The temperature had dropped by the time we returned to settle at the Drakensberg Sun Resort for the night. Fortunately the heaters were out and we enjoyed the buffet meal amidst lot of bonhomie and discussions of the spectacular flight.
The Ushaka Horse Trail
I woke up to the sounds of chirping birds and the most amazing views of the mountains. We were set up for another exciting adventure that day, with the Ushaka Horse Trail. I found myself with a gentle horse called “Beauty”. The guide Nathi led us up the slopes and through fields of tall yellow and green grass. We followed the trails up through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever experienced in my years of travels.
The ground changed from flat plains to hills as we tracked slowly up the uneven terrain. After a break at the top of the mountain, we continued along the trail.
USHAKA HORSE TRAIL
San Rock Art Cave Site
About 2 hours later we were greeted with lush greenery and the sound of waterfalls. We were at Giants Castle. The name comes from the silhouette of the mountain, resembling a sleeping giant. This area is home to the famous San Rock Art Cave and the majestic Lammergeier bearded vulture. The Cave is one of the largest and best preserved rock art sites in South Africa. There was a guide to explain symbolism of the various paintings.
GIANTS CASTLE SAN ROCK PAINTINGS
Nambiti Private Game Reserve
We were up bright and early the next day as we had plenty lined up. The first destination was the Spoienkop Battle Fields, where we were met by Ron Gold of Three Tree Battle Field Tours, whose knowledge about the Boer War is extensive. Next we drove towards Nambiti Private Game Reserve, where we were welcomed warmly at the Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge . The views here are beautiful as the lodge is perched on a cliff overlooking the Sunday River. There was time for an afternoon game drive, when we came by a huge herd of Buffalos passing right by our vehicle.
SPIOENKOP BATTLE FIELDS
The Big Five Encounter
Next morning, was pretty cold as we set off with blankets and a hot water bottle on our seats, armed with camera for our Big Five experience. As soon as we got radio information about a couple of Lions on a kill, our jeep raced to the location. And lo! There they were! A female Lioness and two sub- adult males were tucking into a Kudu a few feet away as we looked on. There was more to see and experience and the imagery remains etched in my mind, as one of the best safari experience I have ever had.
NAMBITI GAME RESERVE