KwaZulu Natal DestinationsNongoma, Zululand
Nongoma, considered one of the busiest little towns in rural KwaZulu Natal, lies north west of Hluhluwe and is fast becoming a major tourist attraction, thanks to King Goodwill Zwelethini, who makes Nongoma his home.
Derived from the Zulu word, ngome - the mother of songs - Nongoma was originally established in 1888 as a buffer between two warring Zulu factions to try to establish peace in the area. Today, the hereditary leader of Zululand has his royal palaces here and has opened these to the public. Local businessman, Mlungisi Percy Nzuza, who owns Nongoma Lodge, is a driving force behind local tourism in the town and arranges dinners at which members of the royal family appear to chat informally to visitors about the Royal House and the traditions of the Zulu people.
Another reason for visiting Nongoma is its proximity to the Ntendeka Wilderness, just outside of town and about 70km east of Vryheid. This ‘place of precipitous heights’ is 5 250 ha of wilderness within the indigenous Ngome forest and, although South Africa’s smallest wilderness area, perhaps one of its most beautiful.
It is easily explored on foot and has over 45 km of footpaths, most of them deep beneath the forest canopy. The Zulu Highway, one of these footpaths, was originally a traditional route established by some of the earliest inhabitants of the area and still in existence. The wilderness has been protected since 1905, after initial woodcutters’ saw pits ravaged the area with uncontrolled logging and today is a rare combination of coastal and inland tropical forest not found in any other conservation area in KwaZulu Natal.
Ntendeka is home to nearly 200 species of bird, 180 species of trees and shrubs, including terrestrial and tree orchids, some magnificent waterfalls, precipitous cliffs and a variety of animals including: baboon, samango monkey, vervet monkey, duiker, bushbuck, bushpig and porcupine.