eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park, KwaZulu Natal
Set in the valley also known as the Valley of Kings, eMakhosini Opathe Heritage Park lies less than 10 kilometres south of the town of Ulundi on the banks of the White Mfolozi River and incorporates the Ophathe Game Reserve and the eMakhosini Valley. This beautiful and large heritage park aims to recapture the cultural heritage of the Zulu people, and natural landscape of the valley at the time of King Shaka.
The 24 000 hectare park encompasses valley bushveld, mist belt grasslands, wetland, woodland, ngongoni grassland and riparian that collectively gives rise to a rich biodiversity, diverse geology and varying temperatures making it a beautiful place to visit at any time of year. Game has already been reintroduced, including black rhino, and the WWF has been largely responsible for funding fencing of the area. The ultimate desire is to remove internal fencing and allow black rhino free access to 20 000 hectares of their original stamping ground. Other animals include buffalo, giraffe, blue wildebeest and various antelope.
The Valley of the Kings or the eMakhosini Valley is the birthplace of the Zulus, also known as the 'people of heaven', and this is where Shaka spent much of his youth and where Dingane fought the Voortrekkers. Today the only remaining Zulu King - King Goodwill Zwelithini - has his home within the valley. He launched a memorial to the spirit of his ancestors, known as the Amakhosini Monument, in 2003. It is a particularly magnificent monument that sits high on a hill overlooking the valley and is a circular platform decorated with bronze plaques depicting scenes from Zulu life. On top of this rests a huge bronze imbiza, or beer pot symbolic of friendship in the Zulu culture.