Owen’s Camp …

2011-07-09 00:00

NORTHERN KwaZulu-Natal has a new vacation spot that offers both relaxation and edutainment of the history of the Zulu nation.

Owens camp, located in uMgungundlovu Dingaanstat in the area called Emakhosini about 30 kilometers from Melmoth, opened its doors to tourists in February this year. It is named after a missionary Rev Francis Owen who moved there during the era of King Dingane.

Owen had apparently moved to the area from England to open a mission station in Zululand. He asked for permission from King Dingane and was granted land close to uMgungundlovu, King Dingane’s official residence.

Owen however did not stay long in the area as he witnessed King Dingane’s men killing Piet Retief and his party. He asked the king for permission to leave the area and he never returned.

The camp is built on the ruins of the dormitory of that mission.

As a tourist destination, the camp offers service more suitable for older people, interested in the quiet surroundings and who enjoy the sounds of nature.

It has fully equipped rooms that cater for a total of about 20 people. Each room has two standard beds.

The rooms do have their shortcomings, for instance, there are no television sets. However, television addicts can watch their favourite soapies and other programmes on the set provided in the common room. Chances are, however, that a resort like this is not going to have much appeal to television junkies.

In keeping with the simple ambience of the camp, the food on offer is tasty home-cooked fare, rather than five-star restaurant cuisine.

The location of the camp is in one of the most fascinating areas, especially for someone who is interested in the history of the Zulu nation.

It is located in the middle of the Emakhosini Valley, which is considered to be the birthplace of the Zulu Nation. The founding father of the nation Nkosinkulu is buried there along with seven other Zulu kings.

Other kings buried there include, King Senzangakhona Ka-Jama, the father of the legendary Shaka Zulu, King Phunga, King Mageba and three other kings.

Because so many kings are buried there, the area has been declared a protected area and humans are not allowed to build or settle there and that means the area provides spectacular views of unspoiled natural vegetation.

The memory of the kings is kept alive at a tourist site called the Spirit of Emakhosini. Here all seven kings are honoured with seven bronze horns of wild animals which celebrate their powers.

There is also a media centre which details the history of the Zulu people. It looks at the significant moments such as the battles fought especially by King Shaka, detailing his strengths and intelligence.

Among those is the memorable war between King Shaka and Zwide where King Shaka managed to defeat Zwide despite being outnumbered two to one.

The area is credited with contributing immensely to Zulu literature. Some of the most famous and defining Zulu idioms come from events that took place in the area.

For instance the Zulu idiom Ungiholela Ophathe (leading me to danger) was coined after King Dingane tried set a trap for the white settlers coming to avenge the death of Piet Retief in the area across Emakhosini called Ophathe.

Also next to the camp are two parks where wild animals such as rhinos, (who unfortunately have been decimated by poachers) are kept. There are no big cats, such as lions, as they would be a danger to people living in the area.

As a vacation spot, the Owens camp has plenty to offer those who have a passion for nature and who enjoy tranquility.

That is the view echoed by the owner of the lodge Authur Koningkramer, a Zulu history fanatic. He says he plans to quit his job and move to the area permanently and become a tour guide.


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