The valley of a 1000 Hills experience

2016-06-28 06:00

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THE simple yet eloquent variation on a beaded Zulu Love Letter that symbolises our Thousand Hills Experience speaks volumes about the myriad delights of this wondrous terrain.
While pointing directly at the seemingly endless, signature rolling landscape, the layering of hill and valley hints at treasures lying hidden from view until the next corner is turned. Unmistakably ethnic motifs denote easy access and a friendly welcome to authentic, indigenous local culture that beckons with the promise of 'Africa on your doorstep'.
Vast blue skies form a true reflection of the Zulu people - whose name translates as 'Heaven' - although it has to be said that our occasional mist-shrouded days must surely have reminded early Colonial pioneers of the eerie Scottish Highlands! Finally, the little artifact itself, painstakingly hand-created by local communities is synonymous with the impressive array of decidedly singular arts and crafts for which the Valley of a Thousand Hills is renowned.

Nature for Life

Our enviable heritage of flora and wildlife is safeguarded within no less than 15 conservancies - the highest concentration anywhere in the Zulu Kingdom if not the entire country. Several offer unique bush- lodge or do-it-yourself accommodation from which to experience game drives, horse and hiking trails, bird-watching, fishing and boating. Well-appointed Conference Venues further allow decision- makers invaluable 'space to think' in surrounds more conducive to clear- headedness than bustling inner city environs!

Pride of place among these oases belongs to the Shongweni Resources Reserve, a proclaimed Natural Heritage Site and home to a wide variety of wildlife including two of the famed Big Five - rhino and buffalo. Also rated among the premier bird sanctuaries, more than 200 species have been recorded among the spectacular sandstone cliffs, precipitous gorges and valleys, lush forests and open plains. Shongweni Dam is a vast body of water ideal for recreational activities, lying in a deep depression formed by the uMlazi, Sterkfontein and Ugede Rivers. A thundering waterfall on the latter gives Shongweni its Zulu 'Column of Smoke' moniker.

Sophistication-meets-earthiness is the order of the day in these pristine wilds, and delightfully decadent-sounding excursions such as the Champagne and Rhino Breakfast Drive, Warthog and Wine Sunset Drive plus Buffalo and Boerewors Night Drive will surely tempt the khakis and pith helmet from your holiday luggage! To reminisce on yet another day in paradise, retire to your luxurious bush lodge or trails camp situated in the heart of game-viewing territory, cliff cabin in climbing country, secluded fishing camp, tented camp or camp-sites on the water's edge.

Nagle Reserve at the foot of 'Table Mountain' is the fisherman's dream-come-true, boasting a fertile Warm Water Hatchery plus well- stocked dam and access to the fabled Mgeni River itself. An ideal break from hard bargaining at the reserve's fully-equipped Conference Centre or a dedicated activity in its own right, this paradise for rod 'n' reel offers the choice of two lodges or campsites in tranquil setting. Yet more aqua-centred delights are to be found at the Albert Falls Reserve, Darville Resources and Hazelmere Reserve.

Mahlabathini Park within the Inanda Reserve surrounds bass-filled waters also ideal for boating, canoeing, windsurfing and the like. A clearly marked trail leads to bird-watching opportunities through forest, thicket and open grasslands before heading back to the campsite.

Yet more feathered friends await your appreciation in the spectacular, densely forested Krantzkloof Gorge and Nature Reserve, dramatically sculpted over millennia by the Emolweni River which continues to tumble from precipice to pool. Established more than half a century ago, the 532-hectare reserve is traversed by hiking trails demarcated to suit all preferred levels of exertion.
These are dotted with picnic areas and safe, easily accessed lookout points from which to marvel at the scenery and catch sight of the many small antelope, bush pigs, monkeys and several cats that call this protected wilderness home.

Game viewing and birding - complete with a waterhole and hide - are features of the Alverstone Wildlife Refuge, where ranger-escorted trails can be arranged as an 'educational alternative' to self-guided hikes. Function facilities are available by appointment, and both tour groups and school outings are welcome.

Springside Nature Reserve waits to surprise lovers of the great outdoors with an unexpected quilt of stream-fed wetlands, coastal forest and grasslands in the very heart of suburban Hillcrest. Also a favourite for school projects, the reserve offers a lecture hall ideal for assimilating the sights and sounds gathered along its two hiking trails.

Waterfield Hydroponic Farm and Food Factory, with yet more fruits of our rich soil available from the many fresh- produce stalls and plant nurseries. Your little ones, and 'inner-child' perhaps, will be captivated by the four-legged inhabitants of Nanna's Animal Farm, The Farm Yard, plus Duck & Deck - home of indigenous animal breeding.

For the all-in-one experience of breathtaking vistas, big game viewing plus meaningful insights into authentic Zulu culture, follow the sounds of rolling percussion to a commanding hilltop where PheZulu Safari Park awaits with a friendly, traditional welcome. Within the beehive huts of their meticulously recreated historic village, members of the internationally-known Gasa clan will explain foundation beliefs, rituals and artifacts before entertaining in fine style with Zulu dancing infused with hallmark grace, agility and humour.
The park further offers a three-hour exploration of the Thousand Hills in an open 4X4 vehicle, to meet Zulu folk in their own homes for sharing of stories from antiquity plus their views on life in the modern age.
Other excursions with the top down will reveal a host of wild animals and the only uninhabited sectors of our fascinating region.

For more information please contact (031) 777 1874 or contact Thousand Hills Tourism info@tourism-1000hills.com. - Supplied

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