Some weeks ago I was contacted by a Dutch family who were planning on traveling around South Africa. They week keen to get some insight in Zulu culture when they started their Zululand and Durban leg of the trip. After some emails back and forth we settled on an itinerary which explored Zulu history, culture and custom in a far greater depth than even I had explored before; and so started their private Zulu cultural tour that started in Durban.
Zulu History, Culture and Custom
The family was to spend two days with me, and although two days is definitely not enough time to explore Zulu history, culture and custom to the depth the people and subject deserve, it is a great start.
The history of the Zulu people really begins with King Shaka who during the early 1800’s embarked on a period of growth, using his well trained and feared Zulu amabutho (warriors) King Shaka quickly subjugated smaller and larger clans about him in an effort to consolidate his position as chief of the Zulu clan.
This consolidation led not only to the Zulu kingdom being created, but also to the Zulu army army becoming the most feared “crack troops” in Southern Africa at that time.
KwaDukuza and King Shaka’s Assassination
We start our tour with a visit to KwaDukuza where King Shaka had one of his great military kraals, the location chosen in order to keep an eye on the new white settlers that had arrived in 1824. King Shaka was assassinated in 1828 and the site at which he was killed is marked by a large boulder. Contrary to what some guides say, King Shaka is not buried at this site but somewhere nearby.
From here we headed up towards KwaBulawayo. It’s in this area that King Shaka was born, and it’s where Shaka’s mother, Queen Nandi lays buried. Unfortunately the site here is is the center of a political tangle between two institutions who both claim the right to the site, but for us it’s a great place to not only chat about Queen Nandi and her strength’s, but to also to talk about the customs of the Zulu people.
Our overnight stop was at Shaklaland, which as usual is a great place to visit. We were treated to an afternoon tour of the a model Zulu village, followed by what I believe is the best Zulu dance show in South Africa (and I have seen many).
The following morning we left nice and early and headed towards Ulundi. We were planning to visit two sites that I think don’t get enough attention these days. The first was the “Spirit of the Emakhosini” and the second was uMgungundlovu.
Spirit of Emakhosini
We arrived at the memorial to the Zulu people at about 9am. We were met by Thandi, the site guide who with the brightest smile walked us to the impressive memorial at the top of the hill. The memorial consists of a giant Zulu beer pot with seven horns of animals surrounding the pot, each horn representing one of the seven kings buried in the valley below.
We spent quite a bit of time at this memorial. Not only was the memorial photogenic, but in the valley beyond we spotted giraffe, some impala and possibly wildebeest. We also chatted quite a bit about the influence of the Boer people and British people on the Zulu way of life.
Our next visit was the original site of King Dingaan’s kraal, uMgungundlovu. This site is busy being re-built under the watchful gaze of archeologists. It’s fascinating to think this site was once home to some 7000 Zulu people!
We had a fantastic opportunity to walk around the site quite a bit and enjoy the beautiful views. We could see the missionary Owen’s camp on a nearby hill, and ominously”the place of execution”, KwaMatiwane. When we left uMgungundlovu we stopped at KwaMatiwane and I spoke about one of the causes of mistrust between Zulu and Boer, the death of Piet Retief at this site.
As usual though time constraints were getting the better of us so it was soon time to go. We headed back towards Eshowe, and instead of taking the usual road back to Durban, we actually took a road that led us to where King Cetswayo is buried.
The road to the site is difficult, so we weren’t able to make the entire trip, but it was fantastic none the less to get as far as we did; on a high hill overlooking the Nkandla Forest and Middle Drift on the Tugela river.
Time was really getting on now, so after a very quick picnic lunch we started on our way back to Durban, crossing over the Tugela River and onto Kranskop and then onto Greytown and Durban. The 2 hour trip on the way back was an opportunity to talk in depth about South Africa’s past.
On reflecting on this 2 day Zulu cutlural tour, I have to admit is defintely one of my favorite tours, my guests and I truly leant a great deal and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to guide this tour!
Booking this tour or any of the tours offered by Country and Coastal Touring is easy. Simply use the form below to get in touch and we’ll do the rest.
Country and Coastal Touring CC
Country and Coastal Touring CC are registered guides and operators based int eh city of Durban in South Africa. We offer a number of day tours, overnight tours and extended tours throughout South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal. All our guides are qualified and registered with local authorities and our vehicles are registered with the Department of Transport and carry the correct certification.