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Thangami Game Reserve 4x4 Trail

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74km from Vryheid

-28.0104, 31.3107

60km, 2-12hrs, Grade 1-4

+27 83 256 6037 www.thangami.co.za

Configuration: A network of four trails are interlinked on the game farm.

Terrain: Steep slopes, logs, sand, mud, river crossings and rocks.

The trails are all self-drive; no guide is needed. You can come and drive here any time of the year. Self-catering or B&B accommodation is available. There is also a campsite, a restaurant, a pub, swimming pools and a spa. There are four trails as well as an obstacle course at Thangami. Relaxing spa treatments, lazing in a jacuzzi, hot mineral springs or mudbaths, swimming, game viewing and abseiling are all on the activities menu.

About

If you love 4x4ing and nature then the Valley of the Kings is your ideal next destination. Set in the scenic Umfolozi valley, Thangami is the epitome of relaxed comfort and light-hearted enjoyment. A balmy climate and soils rich in nutrients ensures a wide variety of plants, birds and animals to surprise you around every corner. The history is rich and powerful and the presence of kings can be traced back to the days prior to the founding of the Zulu nation when the valley was inhabited by the Bhutelezi clan. Later came Dingiswayo, Shaka and Mpande, among others.

The Thangami routes are all set in a stunning game reserve and there are enough of them to keep you busy for at least a weekend. The four trails vary in length. The easiest and shortest trail is 8km long and should take you around two hours to complete. The most difficult trail is 20km long with driving time estimated at about four hours. The trails wind through valley bushveld with muddy marshlands, river crossings, rocky climbs and descents, rough terrain, and savannah bush. As you're in the middle of a nature and game reserve you can expect to see abundant fauna and flora.

If no one else has attempted the 'Hard Route' in the few weeks prior to you doing so, you might want to pack a panga. Things grow mighty quick in the Valley of the Kings and this awesome route gets very overgrown. Sometimes it's even difficult to see the tracks. The tricky and exceptionally steep section down the hill will have you gripping your steering wheel. Don’t bother looking for a chicken run - there isn’t one. The other three routes will take you over some interesting and rocky river crossings, great muddy sections and mountain climbs. Though they do not present any serious challenges for skilled drivers, it's recommended not to attempt the trails without low range or good ground clearance. The recovery fee is up R350. Finally, the obstacle course is 100% guaranteed fun.

Thangami offers several accommodation options that can be booked as self-catering or B&B. Two-, four-, five- or ten-sleeper bungalows are available. A camping and caravanning site with hot showers, toilets and electricity closes the deal. A restaurant and pub will allow you to enjoy perfect sundowners and scrumptious African dishes. The spa will get everyone relaxed after a day of active 4x4ing, abseiling, swimming or game viewing. The jacuzzis, hot mineral springs and mudbaths are wonderful.

Follow the R34 from Vryheid to Glückstadt that you will reach after approximately 33km. Turn left here towards Swart-Mfolozi that you will reach just after crossing the Black iMfolozi River. Now turn right again for another 17km, looking out for the Thangami sign on your right.

Zululand & the Battlefields

KwaZulu Natal

About

It was from the bush and grassland of northern KwaZulu-Natal that the impis of King Shaka emerged, sweeping down onto the other tribes of the hinterland and eventually engaging the British forces and shaking the very roots of the Empire. At the height of its power, the Zulu nation covered 30 000km2, but 60 years after it was first formed, its reign was over. In those 60 years, the Zulus shaped the future of the country and were engaged in battles with the Boers and the British, but these were not the only bloody conflicts in the region. 

After the Zulu empire was broken, the English and the Boers fought for control of South Africa, with many battles taking place in Natal. While the best-known battles in the area are undoubtedly Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, as well as the siege of Ladysmith, there is fascinating history to be had at countless other ones. 

The beauty of the scenery clashes harshly with the devastating past, while the rough terrain makes one wonder how the machines of war were manhandled across the country, and how the Zulu impis managed to cover such vast distances in a single day, barefoot.

The regions of Zululand and the Battlefields merge together and are hard to separate, stretching from the northern and western KwaZulu-Natal borders to the towns of Ladysmith and Colenso in the south and towards the Elephant Coast in the east.

Zululand has managed to remain largely unaffected by industrial expansion and much of it remains farmland, timber plantations and rural wilderness, including beautiful Big-Five game reserves and grasslands. 

On the other hand there is the industrial hub of Richards Bay, the largest port in South Africa.

Tourism revolves around the natural beauty and diversity, as well as the haunting battlefields on which so many lost their lives and which are simply fascinating to visit, especially with a knowledgeable guide, of which there are a few.

Since this is the birthplace of the Zulu nation, it is also the place to come to grips with Zulu tradition, culture and history.

A number of cultural experiences exist, where tourists can become immersed in the local tradition and culture, learning a huge amount and enjoying themselves even more.

A few reserves in the region offer good game-viewing, from Weenen and Spioenkop in the south up to Ithala in the north. The diverse ecosystem means that hundreds of bird species are present, and a few notable bird-watching spots include the Dlinza and Ongoye forests, as well as the wetlands of Richards Bay.

An area as large and diverse will always have an almost endless array of attractions, and Zululand and the Battlefields are no different, from fishing in Richards Bay to horse-riding, mountain-biking, game-viewing and bird-watching. There is even a brewery to lighten the spirits when the history gets a little heavy.

Look out for

Zululand Brewery in Eshowe is a great place to pop in for a relaxing Zulu Blonde Export Ale, a beer that has won awards and rave reviews internationally. While you’re sitting at The Happy George Bar, ask around for recommendations on what’s new to do in the area.

The Dlinza and Ongoye Forests are serious birding hotspots and both are easily accessible. In fact, the Dlinza aerial boardwalk is something that even non-birders will enjoy and appreciate.

Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are the two seminal battlefields in the Battlefields tour and are both intensely fascinating and moving. A good guide is invaluable in bringing them to life. Ulundi and Blood River are also well worth visiting, giving different insights into the bloodshed that shaped this land.

Take a hike up Majuba or Spioenkop mountains, both of which offer sensational views in addition to stirring battlefield history. The historic O’Neills cottage, where a peace treaty was signed to end the first Anglo-War, lies at the base of Majuba.

The majestic Ithala Game Reserve in the very north of KwaZulu-Natal offers good game-viewing and bird-watching, as well as epic scenery of mountains and valleys. While there is a variety of accommodation, the pick of it is undoubtedly the bush camps that can be booked out for your group.

Every year the Zulu nation holds the Reed Ceremony near the eNyokeni Royal residence in Nongoma north of Melmoth, thousands of maidens gathering to pay their respect to their king. This happens in spring and visitors from all over the world come to watch the women dance and sing to King Goodwill Zwelithini in his ceremonial regalia.

The eMakhosini Ophate Heritage Park should not be missed by anyone with a sense of history. It is the birthplace of the Zulu clan and what is known as the Valley of the Kings. The Spirit of eMakhosini memorial and an educational multimedia centre are worth a visit, and there is also game, including the rare oribi antelope and black rhino.

Immerse yourself in the Zulu culture at a place like Shakaland and watch Zulu dancing, ask a sangoma (witch doctor) for his sage advice, sample traditional Zulu beer, listen to singing and perhaps try out a few simple phrases for yourself. Arts and crafts are also on sale and make wonderful gifts and souvenirs.

When to go

To Do

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