This is perhaps South Africa’s best kept secret. The Valley of 1000 Hills is literary un-spoilt, only 45 km from Durban, in the midst of the famous as the Kingdom of the Zulu of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
It makes for a picturesque drive along the edge of densely folded hills where Zulu people still live in traditional homesteads.
The Valley forms around the majestic valley created by the Mngeni River and its tributaries resulting in a dramatic landscape and Zulu culture which is well interpreted at three cultural villages.
Named after the thousands of hills which tumble down to the mighty Umgeni River, which flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains to the warm inviting Indian Ocean the area has been sculpted over aeons by mighty waters powering headlong to the sea.
Literally thousands of hills are covered with beehive-hutted villages that adorn these hillsides filled with welcoming traditional Zulu homes while along the spine of the Valley you will find colonial buildings that perhaps belong on a different continent like the broekie lace gazebos at the Victorian style Heritage Market and Medieval Restaurant with its rolling green meadows and dams straight out of the English countryside
To have a feel of the culture, visitors are taken into the homes of rural people to share a meal and find out more about Zulu lifestyle and traditions at the Isithumba Village, situated next to the Umgeni, The Phezulu Safari Park and the Izimtaba Cultural Village, two well established and carefully replicated cultural villages with Zulu dancing and cultural shows three times a day.
The eternal tranquility of these rolling hills does not give a hint about the the blood-soaked historical drama that unfolded almost two centuries ago with the arrival of King Shaka’s indomitable army of the old.
Shaka Zulu, after his coronation in 1816 moved to bring the tribes that today constitute our Kingdom of the Zulu into his Kindoms’s fold, and the Thousand Hills’ Debe clansfolk were given no exemption. Those that chose not to flee capitulated to the monarch of Africa’s newest empire or stood, or fought and were overwhelmed by Shaka’s military genius.
Rainbow-hued mist will then direct your gaze towards Shongweni Dam and the column of waterfall spray that inspired its Zulu name. Breathtaking views of the lofty Drakensberg peaks and warm Indian Ocean destination can be owned from the emkhambathini (Place of the Giraffe Acacia Trees).
You can travel in the Thousand Hills on foot, horseback or boat-deck, while style and grace of yore hails ‘All aboard!’ the steam-driven ‘Choo-Choo’ that follows the tracks of pioneer wagon trains. However one can soar aloft aboard a microlight, paraglider or kite.