KwaZulu Natal DestinationsEmpangeni, Zululand
Empangeni, a town about 160 km from Durban on the R34 just off the N2, is positioned in the hilly countryside of the Uthungulu district. The area around Empangeni brings to mind sugarcane plantations and hot, sticky, languid days. It is only 15 km away from Richards Bay on the coast and these two towns, together with Esikhawini, Vulindlela, Felixton, Nseleni and Ngwelezane make up the City of uMhlathuze.
Empangeni was originally the site of a Norwegian Mission station established near the stream called eMpangeni. The mission was later moved to Eshowe but a magistracy, called Empangeni, was established here in 1894. The name Empangeni, according to folklore, comes from the Zulu word ‘pangaed’, which means ‘grabbed’, and is thought to refer to the number of crocodile attacks on water bearers in the nearby eMpangeni stream.
The town is a centre for sugar, cotton, cattle and timber and despite its development into a modern town, it has retained its small town charm and locals are hospitable in true Zululand style. The temperatures here rise to as high as 45° Celsius and combined with the notorious humidity of the region, necessitate the purchase of sunscreen. The subtropical climate does make it a perfect all year round destination.
The Enseleni Nature Reserve is about 13 km north of Empangeni and offers a 7km hiking trail in amongst the local animal life, mostly zebra and impala, and a number of picnic spots. Empangeni’s museum is worth a visit to track the history of early sugar pioneers and local Zulu cultural and contemporary art displays. There is also the impressive 18-hole Empangeni Golf Course for golf enthusiasts. Empangeni forms the gateway to the reserves of Hluhluwe and Umfolozi and is a good stopover before venturing further a field.