Holiday fun on a shoestring

2012-12-11 00:00

Picnic at Howick Falls

The Howick Falls is a historical site and one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. It has a special viewing platform where you can stand and watch the water plunge over the edge and you can also watch some intrepid adventurers climb down the rock face on the opposite side.

The local Zulus believe that a river monster lives in the deep canyon beneath where the Umgeni River flows towards the sea. It is a sacred place for the local tribes.

There are tea rooms and restaurants near the Howick Falls and curio shops, but also a nice field and grassy banks where one can unpack a picnic and enjoy an afternoon — for free.


Nature walk at Umgeni Valley NATURE Reserve

The Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, which includes the gorge below the Howick Falls and the surrounding area, is home to giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope. There is an indigenous tree trail which surrounds the main Education Centre and self-guided walks where you can mingle with the game animals. It is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with over 270 bird species to view throughout the year and lots of butterflies too.

Phone 033 330 3941. Cost: R20 adults, R10 children under 12.


Botanical Gardens

The Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens with its wide open lawns, river and deep flower beds is a magical place for children to play and adults to wander and chill out.

The gardens were created on an ancient floodplain and hillside on the edge of a mist belt, and focus on indigenous plants. There is an abundance of birdlife as a result. It has an indigenous muthi garden displayed around a traditional Zulu hut, and a series of lovely walking trails through grassland and indigenous forest, as well as a popular guided-walk programme. Phone 033 344 3585 to book guided walks.

Cost: R16 adults and children, R12 students/pensioners.


Watery fun at Midmar Dam

Sprawling Midmar Dam offers a large stretch of fresh water surrounded by a game park. The game park has red hartebeest, blesbok, reedbuck, black wildebeest, oribi and zebra. The dam, which is only seven kilometres from Howick and 24 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, is a popular picnic and braai spot where water sports happen in every form. Tubes and paddle boats are available for hire from the boat shop and cyclists can enjoy the roads around the dam.

Find a tree, set up camp and let the children find their own fun while you enjoy a good book.

The cost is R20 per person for a morning or R35 for the full day.


Art appreciation at the Tatham Gallery

The Gallery’s education staff offer guided tours to groups and members of the public. Prior bookings need to be made a week in advance and confirmed the day before.

Subjects for discussion are about current exhibits, the history of the building, and other topics. The Gallery can accommodate up to 25 people.

They have a lovely tea room and a shop full of creative nick nacks and arty gifts.

Mondays’ walkabouts are conducted between 10 am and 2.30 pm.

For more information, contact Pinky Nkabinde at 033 392 2801.


Visit the Natal Museum

The KwaZulu-Natal Museum in Jabu Ndlovu Street is one of the top museums in the country. It is a cultural and natural history museum renowned for its unique collections and there are galleries showcasing mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, an extensive mollusc collection, and even a life-size T-Rex replica.

There is also a room dedicated to KwaZulu-Natal history, geological and paleontological material, and a reconstruction of a Victorian street, set in the late 1800s, complete with shops, stable and period homes.

Take a walk through a life-size recreation of a Drakensberg cave with rock art drawings or a walk on the wooden deck of a wrecked trading vessel in the Towns and Trade Exhibition.

Phone 033 345 1404. Cost: adults R10, children under 12 free.


African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is a privately funded conservation initiative, and all entrance charges go towards the upkeep and care of the raptors that live at the sanctuary. The birds of prey in cages have all been found and rehabilitated.

They are used in displays to educate the public about these specialised birds and their habits. They show how accurate the birds’ eyesight is and their hunting ability.

Phone 031 785 4382 or 082 925 3023. Cost: adults R40, children R25. Open Tuesday to Sunday. 10.30 am to 3 pm.

The Durban Natural Science Museum

This museum has many displays and stuffed specimens of extinct animals rather than interactive experiences. The museum is popular with local families and school groups, attracting up to 300 000 visitors annually. It’s a great alternative for kids to visit while adults take in the exhibits at the upstairs Durban Art Gallery.

Located in the city hall, the museum is on a main bus and taxi route.

Phone 031 311 2242. Cost: free.


Durban Mini Town

This knee-high miniature replica of the city is great for kids to look at from an eagle’s-eye view. It has moving models of planes and trains, a circus complete with gorilla, a movable bridge that makes way for passing ships, landmark buildings, and even a tug boat that makes its way around its very own miniature dock. All models and buildings have been created on a 1:24 scale.

Funds go towards the Quadriplegic Association of KwaZulu­-Natal. It is close to the Suncoast Casino and many popular beach-front hotels.

Phone: 031 337 7892 Cost: R15 adults, R10 children.


South Coast — Amanzimtoti Bird Sanctuary

A popular attraction, consisting of a large expanse of open, shimmering water surrounded by rolling lawns. Gardens are on the one end and indigenous lush forests on the other.

An effortless 30-minute, self-guided trail winds itself through the forest and is a haven for birdlife. One has an opportunity of sighting many of the 150 bird species in the sanctuary, including the resident Spurwing Geese, White-faced Duck, Greenback Heron, Giant Kingfisher and Hamerkop.

Phone: 031 903 7498. Cost: Free/donations.


South Coast — Bellevue Park

A natural heritage site in Ramsgate, this area has been rehabilitated to provide a living resource to encourage environmental education. It has over 200 indigenous tree species; a variety of habitats (forest, wetland, ponds and stream); a “noo-noo” wall, sensory play area and sand pit for children; and naturally occurring wildlife, including birds, frogs, butterflies, leguaan, dassies and crabs.

Picnic or buy refreshments there. Phone 039 316 6097.

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