Clarens – Jewel of the Free State

Clarens – Jewel of the Free State

The little town of Clarens is known as the Jewel of the Free State and little wonder. Surrounded by phenomenal natural beauty and teeming with art galleries, exclusive boutiques and tempting eateries, it shimmers like a diamond in the rough.

With a distance of just 390 kms from Durban and 300 kms from Johannesburg, a road trip to and around Clarens is easily achieved in a day. Have your BOOXE Emergency Kit and First Aid Pack neatly stored in your BOOXE Boot Box – you never know what emergency might happen along the way. Keep maps, cell phone chargers and other documents, as well as snacks for the road trip, stored neatly in your BOOXE Keep-it-tidy Caddy!

Many of the buildings in and around Clarens were crafted from sandstone originating from the gold and ochre shaded cliffs that make up the majestic Golden Gate. The town is endowed with more trees than any other Free State town, ranging from willows to poplars and the many fruit trees, which are a mass of colour in springtime.


Clarens was established in 1912 and named in honour of Paul Kruger who had been influential in defending the region and had spent his last days in the Swiss mountainous village of Clarens. It’s a fitting name for this town encompassed by The Rooiberge and set in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains to the southeast, close to the Golden Gate National Park and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.   Art lovers and Action junkies alike will find loads to do in and around Clarens, as there are more than 20 reputable art galleries and artists’ studios, and more than 25 outdoor adventure activities here. Centred on a grassy village square, there are also scores of craft shops, specialist boutiques, restaurants, a brewery, adventure centre, tourist information centre and the Clarens Museum.


Take a tour of the Clarens Art Route featuring many of the popular galleries around the square and including some of the investment galleries where you’ll view many renowned South African artists’ and Old Masters’ works. Art and Wine Gallery on Main combines the markets of investment art with fine wines; the Gallery on the Square exhibits many local artists’ fine art; and the Blou Donki features work by contemporary South African artists.


If you’re into vintage style don’t miss the Mona Lisa Garment Gallery where you will find classical era jewellery, shoes, garments and décor. The Cherry Company offers a plethora of items made from cherries grown in this area. Anja & Friends Lifestyle Gallery specializes in whimsical home décor items and gifts. Kalmer is one of the newest and most colourful shops in town located in a newly-built corrugated-iron structure perfectly suited to the unique contemporary designs and décor offered here. Look no further than Ember Down if you’re in the market for goose and feather down pillows and duvets guaranteed to send you to dreamland in a wink. At The Knife Makers Shop you can learn how to craft your own knife or buy one of their hand crafted hunting or folding knives, daggers or even a full dinner set of knives.


Hiking trails abound in this area and there are many operators offering a choice, from easy walks that children can manage to longer trails with cave sleep-overs. Maps of the trails are available from the Clarens Village Grocer, the Old Stone Bottle Store, Bibliophile, Mountain Odyssey and Maluti Tours. Opportunities for abseiling are plentiful around Clarens as the mountains are close by and not too menacing. Beginners are welcome as experienced guides offer easy techniques needing little strength and will control the descent – great for a group activity. If you’re an avid mountain biker then Clarens is known as one of the best destinations for this sport. Clarens Extreme offers adventures for “all ages, shapes and sizes”; from archery and fishing, Enduro motorbiking trails and quad biking, to ski and snowboarding, white water rafting and Zipline. There are also 4×4 trails, adventure golf, hot air ballooning, pony trekking and horse riding, as well as history tours and even dinosaur tours when you’re in Clarens. For info on any of the above adventures go to


After all that activity, art gazing and shopping, the appetite will need feeding. Luckily there is a plethora of restaurants, cafes and pubs perfectly situated every few metres around the town square and a few on the outskirts of town. Clementines is a cosy restaurant housed in a bright red corrugated iron house and is the closest you’ll get to fine dining in Clarens. The Post House restaurant is open all day for fresh country cuisine; sit outside on the verandah or on the patio beneath the shady fir trees and watch the tourists go by. Vito’s Restaurant serves great Italian fare with a smile. The Clarens Brewery is not to be missed if you like hand crafted beer and cider as it’s brewed right there on the premises. They also serve legendary finger platters of cheeses, sausages and pickles.


Clarens is a tourist destination so there is no shortage of accommodation options. On Clarens Golf Estate, you can stay at The Clarens Country House, a renovated stone-crafted sheepshed with unparalleled mountain views. There are four luxury self-catering apartments which open out onto a verandah and sweeping lawns with braai facilities. For the mod cons of a hotel, the four star Protea Hotel Clarens is situated right on the village square and offers 70 rooms. Great for large family groups or team-building conferences.


  • Clarens Art Route,
  • Art and Wine Gallery on Main, 279 Main Street, 058 256 1298,
  • Gallery on the Square, Clarens Village Square, 058 256 1913,
  • Blou Donki, Main Street, 058 256 1757,
  • Mona Lisa Garment Gallery, Main Street, 083 799 6636
  • The Cherry Company, cnr Main & Market Sts, 082 783 2731
  • Anja & Friends Lifestyle Gallery, Rosemary Centre, Main Street, 083 635 2793,
  • Kalmer, Main Street, 084 420 1989,
  • Ember Down, Market Street, 082 408 6770,
  • The Knife Makers Shop, Sias Oosthuizen Street, 721814700
  • Clarens Xtreme, 082 563 6242,
  • Maluti Tours Office, Maureen Tasker, 058 256 729,
  • Clarens Destinations, Shop 7, Barn Centre, Sias Oosthuzien Street, 058 256 1542
  • Mountain Odyssey, Main St, 082-654 9989

Get your vehicle prepared by fitting it with BOOXE Interior Floor and Boot Mats which you can easily lift out and shake clean or hose down. They’re made of anti-slip rubber and are tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly!

    Feel the Drama of the KZN Battlefields

    Feel the Drama of the KZN Battlefields

    Feel the Drama of the KZN Battlefields

    By Lori Booth

    A road trip to the rolling hills and sweeping plains of northern KwaZulu Natal promises adventures aplenty and stories rich with history and intrigue. 

    Get your vehicle prepared for the road trip there and back by fitting it with BOOXE Interior Floor and Boot Mats which you can easily lift out and shake clean or hose down. They’re made of anti-slip rubber and are tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly!

    ‘The Battlefields’ – it conjures up the smell of fear, the taste of blood and the sound of death. From the Battle of Blood River in 1838 where the Voortrekkers fought the Zulus, to the Battle of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in 1879 where the British fought the Zulus, and the Battle of Spionkop in 1900 where the British fought the Boers, there are more battle sites in KZN than in the rest of South Africa collectively.


    Newcastle, Vryheid, Dundee, Ulundi, Ladysmith, Colenso, Escort, Greytown; all featured prominently in the South African wars, where historic museums and monuments are commonplace. These towns and the surrounding areas offer a varied selection of places to stay, from where you can explore, dig up history, hike, mountain bike or simply rest and rejuvenate. Guided horseback trails, walks, birding or photographic tours are also available, so book in advance.   Although these scenes of terror and bloodshed occurred just over 100 years ago, there’s an eerily peaceful atmosphere that exists at each of the windswept battlefields today. On your road trip to the Battlefields, listen to The Day Of The Dead Moon, a 5 Part audio series of the Anglo Zulu War of 1879. Brilliantly narrated by the late historian David Rattray, it will set the scene for your battlefield tours.


    To get the best experience from a tour to the battlefields, hire an accredited tour guide who will make the battles come alive. Most of the leading lodges in the area employ resident guides and several independent guides come highly recommended as authoritative in their fields. If you don’t take a guide you’ll do little more than stare at graves and get bored.


    Some of the battlefields museums are modern, interactive institutions showcasing audiovisual displays and offering café food and retail therapy. Try any of these:

    Talana Museum, R33, just outside Dundee, 034-2122654

    Blood River Monument and Ncome Museum, off R33, North East of Dundee, 072 988 3544

    Rorke’s Drift Battle Museum, off the R33, 46km southeast of Dundee, 034 642 1805

    Ladysmith Siege Museum, 151 Murchison Street, Ladysmith 036 637 2992


    Around 50 kilometres from Dundee is Isandlwana Lodge, a boutique hotel carved into the iNyoni rock formation, on top of which the Zulu commander stood during the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879. Soak up breathtaking views of the vast battlefield and Isandlwana Mountain from the lodge verandah and your private balcony. The Resident Guide will mesmerize you with personalized accounts of both the Battles of Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in situ.

    About 50 kilometres from Ladysmith, positioned atop a hill surrounded by the towering Drakensberg Mountains to the west and Spionkop to the east, is Three Tree Hill Lodge, a quaint and luxurious boutique hotel. Quintessentially “Out-of-Africa” and teeming with historical memorabilia, you’ll also find modern comfort and wholesome cuisine at this authentic ‘wood-and-iron” lodge. Spionkop Mountain, overlooking the Drakensburg, was the site of the most futile and bloodiest battle fought to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith during the Anglo-Boer war of 1900, and owner Simon Blackburn’s walking tour of this site is enthralling.

    Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Association offers numerous camping sites situated in and around the battlefields from where you can tour the area quite easily. Rustic, affordable accommodation can be found at Elandsheim in the Isandlwana area.


    Bingalela offers contemporary-classic dining in the charmingly rustic surrounds of a period farmhouse. For organic fare try Lennox Cottage, open to the public by appointment only. Lunch at Fugitives Drift, an award-winning luxury lodge, is by appointment only for non-residents, but worth the stopover.

    The Boer War” Pub at Buller’s Rest Lodge is filled with military memorabilia, or eat on the sun deck with views over the majestic Drakensberg mountains.


    Make sure you have your BOOXE Emergency Kit and First Aid Pack neatly stored in your BOOXE Boot Box – you never know what sudden crisis might happen along the way. Keep maps, cell phone chargers and other documents as well as your padkos for the road trip there and back stored neatly in your BOOXE Keep-it-tidy Caddy!





    Get in touch
    • Isandlwana Lodge, Isandlwana Village, R68 past Nqutu. 034 271 8301
    • Three Tree Hill Lodge, Off D564, Bergville 036 448 1171
    • Elandsheim in the Isandlwana area 034 642 1703 Rates R320 pppn incl 3 meals.
    • Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Association 033 845 1000
    • Bingalela, R74 3km from Bergville 036 448 1336
    • Lennox Cottage, ± 6km from Dundee on D108. 034 218 2201
    • Fugitives Drift, D31, West Kirby Farm, Rorke’s Drift 034 642 1843
    • Buller’s Rest Lodge, 59 Cove Crescent, Ladysmith 082 920 8782
    Braving the Mighty Orange

    Braving the Mighty Orange

    South Africa’s international borders are open for travel again! If you’re amped for an adventure, we’d recommend Canoeing the Orange River in Namibia. This action-packed venture is a great way to unwind and unplug from the so-called civilised world.

    By Lori Booth

    It was with excitement and trepidation that we set off on our journey from Durban to Namibia where we would commence our canoe trip down the Orange River. We took a four-day road trip, stopping in Kimberley to see the Big Hole, at Augrabies Falls National Park to see the world’s sixth largest waterfall and at Naries Namaqua Retreat for sublime food and relaxation, before launching into the waters of the mighty Orange.

    Before we left we made sure we had all our BOOXE Emergency Kit and First Aid Pack neatly stored in our BOOXE Boot Boxes – you never know what sudden crisis might happen along the way. We also made sure we had all our maps, cell phone chargers, passports and other documents as well as our padkos for the three-day road trip stored neatly in our BOOXE Keep-it-tidy Caddy!


    After stocking up on snacks, water and alcoholic beverages in Springbok, we arrived at the Felix Unite River Adventures’ Provenance base camp situated on the banks of the Orange River. A thriving oasis amidst the stark semi-desert; the shady trees and swimming pool were a welcome relief following the hot drive from Vioolspoort border post. There are 20 en-suite cabanas perched on grassy banks overlooking the river and our group of eight adults quickly settled ourselves in while the six teenagers explored their surroundings.

    Before relaxing with sundowners we met our lead guide, Stevie B, for a briefing and everyone was given two 20 litre buckets to transfer all their gear into. These two buckets must fit your sleeping bags, clothing and toiletries – basically everything you are taking – as they are waterproof and buoyant so, if you capsize, can be easily retrieved. Each canoe has one cooler box for beverages. Finally we were done repacking and ready for those sundowners at the rustic poolside pub, where pizzas were ordered for supper.


    Day one of our four-day canoe trip dawned to hot sunshine. We couldn’t wait to hit the water! Stevie and his four guides provided sizzling bacon and egg rolls for breakfast and after packing our two-man Indian Mohawk canoes we slipped into the river and began learning to paddle. The guides advised that the stronger person steer the boat from the back and the smaller person sit in front to paddle, which didn’t seem fair to the fairer sex, but we obeyed – at first.

    The river is wide and flat where we started and the current made paddling easy going, but as it meanders the current changes and there are periods of intense paddling, resulting in some stiff shoulders and arms at night. Everyone was anxious about negotiating the numerous sets of rapids Stevie had warned us of but we survived our first “Dead Mans Rapid” and semi-relaxed. We were in for a surprise the next day when we hit the legendary “Sjamboek Rapid” and four canoes capsized! Nothing of great value was lost, except our pride, as the buckets were captured by our guides further down the river and my husband hung onto our cooler box for dear life.


    After a couple of hours of paddling, swimming and watching the boys jumping off cliffs into the deep river we followed our guides as they steered towards the shore of a grassy plain where we would have lunch. The unyielding sun beat down from a clear sky so the men hurriedly erected beach umbrellas while the women handed out beers and cold drinks and the teens cooled off in the river. Lunch was a tantalizing platter of cold cuts and cheese with rolls and salads artfully arranged by Stevie and the guides. We tucked in like ravenous sailors. Satiated, we paddled off to find camp for our first night on the riverbank. Stevie has been a Felix Unite river guide for over 15 years so has an intimate knowledge of the river and its surrounds and anticipates the best campsite to aim for according to the group’s progress. The current was strong, allowing us to steer without strenuous paddling and we were able to contemplate the magnificence of the Richtersveld scenery; rosy-hued cliffs on either side of the river rising to gigantic heights, scrub bush with patches of grass where sheep and goats graze, Darters and Cormorants swooping down over the clear waters of the Orange River. Without cellphones we were able to unplug from the rest of the world and tune into the vast silence of this valley that was our home for a few days, the splashing of paddles in the water our only reminder of human life.


    Reaching our destination on the first evening was a challenge as there was no slope to the shore and we were forced to jump out of our canoes and climb up the steep bank. After hauling the canoes onto shore we were soon unpacking our buckets and arranging our sleeping quarters under the stars. No roof required. The guides quickly erected a Bedouin tent providing much-needed shade, before starting a fire over which they cooked our dinner. Bathing was the next test for us city folk but necessity being the mother of invention; we discovered secluded spots on the riverbanks and managed a wash-up behind the reeds. Refreshed and dressed in comfy clobber we all chilled out under the Bedouin tent with well-deserved sundowners and snacks before dinner. Within an hour or so of landing Stevie and his team had produced a gourmet meal of chicken casserole and rice, salad and rolls. The meals produced by our five guides were extraordinary considering they were concocted from scratch over a wood fire. Hot, tasty and plentiful, we enjoyed spaghetti bolognaise and lamb casserole the following nights, and a full English breakfast every morning. After telling stories around the fire, it was time to try our outdoor beds. We’d brought a blow up mattress, so, snug in our sleeping bags, there was just time to marvel at the diamond-studded sky before we slid easily into dreamland, a place filled with the raw beauty and adventure of the magnificent Orange River.
    How to do it:
    • Felix Unite offer 4 and 6-day trips down the Orange River between August and May which include experienced guides, river and safety equipment, gourmet food, portaloos, transfer back to base camp etc. See website for Tel +27 87 354 0578
    • Namibian visas are not required for SA passport holders but a valid passport and ZA vehicle sticker are.
    • It’s recommended staying in the cabanas the nights before and after the trip to prepare and recharge.
    • Don’t take children under 12, as the canoeing can be strenuous and lengthy.
    • Necessities: Sleeping bag, blow-up mattress, beach umbrella, camping chairs, dry bags for camera & toiletries, torch, juice bottle, hat, gym/cycling gloves, scarf/buff, sunglasses, towels, swimming togs, shoes suitable for water/rocks, rash vest or waterproof windbreaker for paddling in, shorts, T-shirts, track pants, fleece, slops, walking shoes, sunscreen, biodegradable soap and shampoo, toilet rolls, insect repellant, 2 litres water per person/day, juice and alcohol in tins, plastic cartons or sachets, biltong, nuts, crisps, energy bars, dried fruit.
    Tip from the expert

    Stevie B, Experienced River Guide

    “When negotiating the rapids, keep paddling in the white water as this adds momentum and gives you more stability and control. Lean in towards the rocks when you hit them, not outwards as you will capsize!”

    Wild Coast Hideaways

    Wild Coast Hideaways

    The Wild Coast is where you’ll meet your soul, emerging from the urban debris, awakening to the bounty of unspoilt nature. Go there and find peace.

    If you love being in nature, surrounded by ocean waves, isolated beaches, secluded forests and rolling hills, the Wild Coast is your kind of destination. There are hundreds of accommodation options on the Wild Coast, which stretches along the Eastern Cape Coastline, from the border of KZN in the north to East London in the south. Two choice spots that lie off the beaten track, just south of Port St Johns, are Mngazana and Hluleka.

    It’s quite a trek from anywhere to the Wild Coast so we recommend you get yourself prepared for your road trip with a BOOXE Boot Box in which you can store your emergency kit or everyday essentials. Keep your interior carpets clean with BOOXE anti-slip rubber Floor and Boot Mats tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly.


    We spent a week in July at a private cottage (there are several available on Airbnb) on the top of a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean on one side and the Mngazana River estuary on the other, with easy access to both on foot.

    Early mornings are reserved for fishing at one of the nearby points, Mpande, Brazen Head and others renowned for their plentiful catches, so the drill consists of freshening up, grabbing a flask of coffee and a bag of rusks and heading out before sunrise, usually in a 4×4, but sometimes on foot to the nearby points along the beach. Watching the horizon as the sun rises, seemingly from below the ocean, is a celebration of the new day, so distinctly different from the next, yet each a masterpiece in itself. A mug of steaming coffee and a rusk in hand, there’s no moment more perfect than this. Thereafter comes the waiting game, though it’s not long before fish such as Shad, Garrick, Silver Salmon, or Bronze Bream are plucked from the waves, and for the more adventurous anglers, big sharks – Hammerhead, Spinner, Grey and Bull to name a few. Arriving ravenous back at the cottage to the delicious aroma of bacon and eggs, cooked by the teenagers, is a treat and we all sit down to eat and talk about the morning’s marine action and plans for the rest of the day.

    One morning I happened to take my coffee to a bench on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea about 100 metres below. As I sat down I noticed there was unusual activity in the waves and as I focussed I realised this was caused by a pod of about 1000 dolphins swimming past. With tears of joy, I summoned the others and we all watched, incredulous at this extraordinary sighting (not uncommon in July when the annual sardine migration makes its way up the east coast), so stirring it will live in my memory forever.



    As the weather at this time of year is calm and warm, the conditions are ideal for hiking the coastline on foot paths that hug the hillsides, or on the beaches and over rocks, and filling our pockets with cowrie shells or smooth pebbles in myriad shades of grey. We always carry water, fruit and snacks so an impromptu picnic on the beach and a swim in the warm Indian ocean is mandatory; and afterwards, a lovely laze on the beach in the winter sun, watching the surf action before heading home. Although there are no shark nets in the waters along the Wild Coast, some of the braver, devoted surfers cannot resist the exhilaration of catching  waves at the superb points found on this stretch of coastline, be it at their own peril.

    We relished a quiet, relaxing hour or two canoeing on the Mngazana estuary, which is host to a large Red Mangrove forest and thus abundant with birdlife. Slowly sculling this magnificent stretch of water, discovering hidden creeks, spying on African Fish Eagles and other rare birds, and simply being quiet in nature, brings pure peace of mind.

    Late afternoons back at the cottage mean gathering on the deck with sundowners, soaking up the last rays of sun before it sinks behind the estuary, hearing the calls of eagles punctuating the twilight silence, and tucking into the first course of a seafood feast – shad sashimi and freshly shucked oysters. Thereafter platters of crayfish and freshly cooked salmon, accompanied by crispy potato wedges and salads, are soon demolished appreciably by the hungry mob. There’s something gratifying about feasting off the ocean, of being responsible for catching our own sustenance.


    In October we visited Hluleka Nature Reserve, a pristinely maintained resort consisting of several comfy 4-sleeper chalets, offering sea views and almost-tame zebras as neighbours.

    Our days kept a similar rhythm to those spent at Mngazana, early morning fishing expeditions and hearty breakfasts, followed by hikes along the coast to Strachan’s Bay and Banana Bay, picnicking, swimming and sunbathing on the beach and early dinners featuring seafood aplenty.

    The difference at Hluleka is the 770ha reserve, comprising the Congwane Mtombo and Ndabeni Hluleka Forests, which adds to the diversity of natural inhabitants and we came across several species of buck, zebra and a rich bird-life. For the mountain-biking adventurers, there’s a plethora of cattle tracks by which to explore the area. Hiking up one of the numerous high bluffs south of Hluleka we were in awe of the large number of passing Humpback whales breaching out to sea, another memorable sight to treasure.

    The Wild Coast is one of the last unspoilt regions in South Africa – don’t miss out!

    Local Secrets

    • There are six nature reserves spread along the Wild Coast all offering accommodation options.
    • The Wild Coast has approximately 50 000 ha of indigenous forest, much of which is under threat from over-utilization.
    • The Wild Coast encompasses two of a small handful of the earth’s waterfalls that spill directly into the sea.
    • The Wild Coast derives its name partly from its wilderness character but primarily from the wild, stormy conditions of the sea that have been the cause of many shipwrecks over the centuries.
    • Don’t miss Hole-in-the-wall – a natural archway in an island formed by waves piercing a wall of shale and sandstone.
    • A must for families – Canoeing through the Mangrove forests on the Mngazana and Mgazi Rivers.
    • Treats for everyone – Feasting on the plethora of seafood available in these waters.
    • For the energetic – Hiking the coastline for spectacular views of this untamed area.

    Imfolozi Wilderness Trail

    Imfolozi Wilderness Trail

    Take a Walk on the Wildside

    Thinking of taking a road trip to see the Big 5 in close-up? An adrenalin-charged wilderness trail in iMfolozi is no walk in the park!

    By Lori Booth

    “Walk in single file and run only if I say run!” This was the first instruction our Wilderness Trail Officer and leader for the next three days, Mark Gibbs, gave our group as we prepared to leave on our Wilderness trail in iMfolozi Game Reserve. We had signed up for adventure and were expecting nothing less.

    Day 1

    Setting off on a hot Friday in October, Sue and I, the two women among eight men, bravely positioned ourselves behind Mark. Within a hundred metres we met the White iMfolozi riverbed, stricken by drought, sidestepping a trickle of water and some muddy patches. The iMfolozi River is the lifeblood of the park, zigzagging through 65 kilometres of park. Using a clicking sound to alert us, Ayanda Nzuza, Mark’s second in command, pointed out three buffalo bulls fifty metres away, camouflaged against long grass, and motioned for us to move on. Awestruck by our first Big 5 sighting, we obeyed, humbly acknowledging our vulnerability. Feeling the heat of the blazing sun, Mark and Ayanda pointed to a Wild Fig tree overlooking the river and suggested we take a rest. Having checked the surrounds for any lurking predators, they joined us in the shade, rifles at the ready. Deep in the bush now, we began adapting to the heady smells and curious sounds of our wild habitat, so removed from urban environs. What struck me was the evidence of animal activity before us – mounds of elephant and rhino dung and other droppings, trees smashed, their branches strewn everywhere, and a myriad animal tracks. Preparing to leave our shady tree we sighted a white rhino bull, which picked up our scent and trundled off. Another tick on our Big 5 list. Intermittently Mark or Ayanda would point out some Nyala or Impala grazing and we spied on them until they too caught our scent and skipped off. Finally, hot and weary, we reached the satellite camp situated 150 metres from the river. Thomas, the cook, welcomed us and we revived ourselves with mugs of tea and freshly-baked bush bread and jam. The camp is a temporary base with four spacious tents for guests and three tents for the trail officers, cook and kitchen. Unfenced and deep in the wilderness, it is completely disconnected from civilization. Ablutions are adventures in themselves, with showers comprising a bucket of warm water rigged up in a tree outside camp. The toilet is anywhere private with a spade, paper and matches; husbands are handy as watchguards! After a hasty shower, we carried our drinks down to the riverbank, where we chilled to the sounds of Fiery-necked Night Jars, Hadedas and Egyptian geese. Positioned downwind we could observe the animal kingdom in disguise, as the sun sunk lower. Lying in the long grass on the opposite riverbank was an injured bull rhino, clearly distressed. Mark explained that it had been gored by another bull in a territorial dispute. Suddenly a female rhino and her calf appeared behind some bulrushes and Sue and I, accompanied by Mark, ventured up and took some close-ups of them, careful not to disturb the equilibrium. Exhilarated after our close call, we hurried back to camp and gathered around the fireside, feasting on spaghetti bolognaise a’ la Thomas. The evening passed amidst much hilarity as we got to know the other members of our group, becoming easy friends before bedtime called. Lying in our tent, the snoring of my husband and several men nearby was comforting as I listened to lions and hyenas calling in the early hours.

    Day 2

    We awoke to the dawn chorus of the bush: Green Pigeons, Whitebowed Robins, Scaly-throated Honeyguides and Goldentail Woodpeckers. After wolfing down a hearty English breakfast, we set off to explore the wilderness in single file, Mark up front and Ayanda behind. Both fonts of bush knowledge, they regularly explained the fascinations of nature as we passed them; a rhino midden, a Shepherd tree, a Trapdoor spider’s web, the Indaba and Mphafu trees and many others; each anecdote contributing to our appreciation of the environment we encroached on. Following a rhino track we meandered up a hill before reaching Nqabaneni cliff, 200 metres above the iMfolozi River. Awestruck by the view from this fortress, we learned it was one of King Shaka’s favourite outlooks, from where he surveyed his kingdom. Tucking into sandwiches, fruit and biscuits, we were treated to the spectacle of a breeding herd of elephant emerging from the bush. We counted more than 100 elephant as they wandered down the riverbed, ignoring several buffalo that lay cooling off in the mud. Later we almost encountered them heading in the same direction, but began a stealthy retreat as the elephant threatened to surround us. Following Mark’s lead, we exhaled only as he turned and grinned; all was safe. Returning to camp, we were last in line for the shower. As we dried off, a distinctive grunt and shuffle arose from the bushes close by. Dressing hastily we returned to camp and, mimicking the sound we described, Mark said, “Sounds like a lion you disturbed”! We stayed up later that night, devouring a lamb stew by the fireside, exaggerating the day’s incidents until our cheeks ached. Just hours later, no humour remained as we awoke to the “shick-shick” of a rifle cocking. Then, Mark’s torch and warning, “Male lion in the camp – stay in your tents guys,” caused everyone to bolt upright in their beds! The lion we’d heard earlier had entered the camp and was lying three metres from Ayanda. Snatching his rifle he’d awoken Mark but thankfully the lion sauntered off with a few grunts.

    Day 3

    After packing our belongings, we departed camp early the last morning. Following another rhino track, we reached Momfu, or ‘surprise’ Rock; an impressive view 100 metres above the river. From here we spotted giraffe, buffalo, elephant and zebra, as well as a Ground Hornbill and a Woollyneck Stork flying as high as the cliffs. An upwind allowed our group a safe, close encounter with a rhino grazing on open grassland. About to cross the Mphafa Swamp, Mark stopped us. A lone buffalo was lurking just below and he was loathe to lead us into its line of sight. Suddenly it turned and fled, opening the way for us. For the first time, Mark said, “Follow me and RUN!” so run we did, through several corridors of long grass and bush, anticipating the charge of a buffalo at any moment. Reaching the far edge of the swamp intact, our group whistled with relief. The last leg back to base camp was spent reflecting on the privilege we’d all experienced; of entering another dimension, observing a kingdom of animals and plants where humans are superfluous. What a lesson it was.

    Good to know

    We undertook the Short Wilderness Trail, from noon on Friday to Sunday lunchtime, starting at Mpila Resort, in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal. Trailists need a fair level of fitness and stamina as you walk up to 15km a day and the route can be challenging. Two trail officers accompany the trail group of eight (maximum). Pack dark-coloured clothes that camouflage with the natural surroundings. Comfortable hiking boots or shoes and a hat are essential, as are sunglasses, sun block, insect repellant and biodegradable soap/shampoo.

    Mark Gibbs: iMfolozi Wilderness Trail Officer

    Go where no other man is
    Go into the wilderness where once you dwelled
    Pay your respects to that which has remained – has had no choice but to remain
    Let what surrounds you become part of you
    Feel the earth beneath, smell the air around, hear the vibrancy of survival.
    Open your every sense, become part of nature, not an onlooker, nor an uninterested bystander
    And nature will become part of you, a part that can never be removed
    Go where no other man is,
    Go into the wilderness and you will never again be the same.

    (Credited to Cindy Bradburn)

    Get your vehicle prepared for the road trip there and back by fitting it with BOOXE Interior Floor and Boot Mats which you can easily lift out and shake clean or hose down. They’re made of anti-slip rubber and are tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly!

    Visit or call 033 8451067.

    KZN South Coast Nostalgia

    KZN South Coast Nostalgia

    Year-round sunshine, golden beaches and adventure activities aplenty, the KZN South Coast is still the best value holiday for South Africans!

    Take a road trip to the Hibiscus Coast! It’s summer all year round along these 150 kilometers of golden beaches. From Amanzimtoti to Port Edward, this pristine coastline has given many generations of South Africans childhood holiday memories to last a lifetime. And now it’s packed with even more things to do and places to see. If animals are your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Adventure and extreme sports abound here and you can try anything from abseiling and bungee jumping to shark diving and white-water rafting. If you’re a foodie, you’ll find a smorgasbord of tempting eateries to sample the best of the South Coast cuisine.

    Get your vehicle kitted out with a BOOXE Boot Box for storing your emergency gear before you go!

    Animal Antics

    Some of the deadliest animals make their habitat on the South Coast! At Croc World near Scottburgh live the Nile crocodile and its cousins – alligators, African dwarf crocodiles and African snout crocodiles – or get face-to-face with the most lethal of Africa’s snakes in the snake tunnel. Another great place to take the kids to see reptiles is Pure Venom Reptile Farm at Izotsha, just inland from Shelley Beach. They offer daily educational snake demonstrations, an animal farm and for sustenance there’s the Viper restaurant. For a daring adventure try a shark dive! Experienced divers from Blue Wilderness Expeditions, based at Rocky Bay, near the famous Aliwal Shoal, take guided underwater expeditions, introducing you to packs of Tiger and Blacktip sharks. Snorkelers, swimmers, free divers and certified scuba divers can swim safely with these fluid, agile creatures, but if you don’t fancy a personal encounter, learn all about sharks and other marine animals from the safety of the boat. Whale shark expeditions and Dolphin safaris are also available.  Available to persons 13 years old and above, and you don’t need a scuba diving license. Near Oribi Gorge is Lake Eland Game Reserve, a paradise for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Spot giraffe and antelope in self-drives or from the reserve’s open vehicles or take a trip to the caves typical of those inhabited by the San people. Ever dreamed of fulfilling a movie-moment and riding a horse along the beach? Selsdon Park Estate at Marina Beach and Ocean Trails Equestrian Centre at the Wild Coast Sun will match you to a suitable horse and you’ll soon be cantering along the sand with the wind in your hair!  

    Adventures for Africa

    Rocky Bay Resorts mountain biking trail is a 10 kilometre combination of jeep tracks and single track through cane fields and indigenous bush, and the last five kilometres is downhill with fantastic views of the ocean as you descend down to Rocky Bay. Mountain bikers and runners alike will find well marked and exciting trails at Clearwater Trails at Port Edward, winding through picturesque farmlands and mixed terrain. Bikes and gear are available for hire. Experience the ultimate rush of the Wild Swing at Oribi Gorge, the world’s highest gorge swing at 100 metres. Launch yourself off Lehr’s Falls into the abyss, free fall for 75 metres and then swing out across the dramatic gorge and back. Guaranteed to make your adrenalin pump. Or try the wild slide across a cable to the centre of the gorge and back. For the energetic type there’s the wild abseil down to the bottom of the gorge and 170 metre hike back up. Adventurers can take a one or two day wild water-rafting trip, offered all year depending on river levels. A surfing lesson is a must when you’re on the Hibiscus Coast where the waves are warm and manageable. Surf Action based in Margate offers people of all ages the chance to experience the thrill of being at one with the ocean.  An affiliate of the Learn to Surf Association of South Africa, their instructors are all ISA and SSA accredited. Don’t miss all the action at Port Edward or “The Pont” as it’s affectionately known. The Umtamvuna River is the big attraction for canoeing, waterskiing, fishing and swimming. Protect your vehicle’s interior carpets from sand, mud, coffee spillages or any other damage with BOOXE Floor Mats and Boot Mats. Choose the 20mm Raised Lip for containing spillages inside the mat and the Bumper Guard to protect your bumper when loading and offloading.

    Coffee Addicts Destination!

    The World’s Southernmost Coffee Estate is on the KZN South Coast!

    If you thought the world’s best coffee originated in Colombia, Indonesia or Ethiopia, think again. Beaver Creek Coffee Estate in Port Edward boasts world-class coffee beans from a farm of 60,000 trees. Starting in 1984 with just four trees, this family run estate is fast gaining a reputation for supplying top South African restaurants with their 100% locally grown, harvested and roasted Arabica coffee. They pick and harvest by varietal, giving the coffee a distinctive touch. Their 100% Estate Reserve range includes Izolwana, SL28 Bourbon and Cataui, available in beans or capsules. The ‘Crop to Cup’ tour is essential for coffee aficionados; revealing the characteristic flavours of the world’s coffee regions and the various ways of creating the perfect cup of coffee. Afterwards there is a bottomless cup of coffee for you to sample all the Beaver Creek varieties. The Estate Café is open every day for breakfast and lunch.

    South Coast Cuisine

    Choose from an endless selection of restaurants, pubs and cafes all the way along the Hibiscus Coast; here are just a few recommended by locals:

    The Cellar is an intimate dining venue in Sea Park with a regularly changing menu of contemporary fusion style cuisine. Captains Anchor Pub and restaurant in South Port is value for money and great for both kids and adults; with seven different burgers, great steaks, fresh seafood and four brands of draught beer. Trattoria Casa Mia in Umtentweni will have pizza lovers relishing the camembert and cranberry super thin-based pizza, or Alfonso will create a pizza with your own choice of topping. Book a table on the deck overlooking the river for a relaxing vibe. Long Fen Chinese Restaurant in Shelly Beach offers an authentic Chinese cuisine at affordable prices. Customise your own menu from a wide selection and the sushi is rated the best on the South Coast. Watch the sunset while sipping on a colourful cocktail at C-Bali in St Michaels-on-Sea. Seafood is a speciality and there’s a touch of Thai spice to the rest of the menu. Ramsgates’s Burlesque Café is a “little French Café” offering diners a decadent gourmet experience complete with saucy descriptions and the décor is a fantastic treat! Perched on the edge of the Ramsgate Lagoon, The Waffle House is a South Coast institution famous for its spectacular selection of sweet and savoury Belgian waffles. Modern Italian cuisine is served up at Trattoria La Terrazza in Southbroom, a popular eatery overlooking the Umkobi Estuary. Savour fresh baby squid or west coast mussels, innovative pastas and fresh fish. Fish on the Pond is situated in a wooden A-frame structure overlooking the fishpond at Marina Beach. Fresh fish from the owner’s commercial fishing boat is served and regular seafood specials pull in the crowds, especially for Sunday lunch when it is imperative to book. You can’t leave the South Coast without trying one of the pancakes from Mac Banana Farm Stall and Pancake House near Munster. Then stock up on fresh farm goods and the biggest selection of jams, preserves, pickles, chutneys and other yummy delicacies, this side of New York!


    Cutty Sark Hotel
    Scottburgh, South Coast, off the N2 60km from Durban
    039 976 1230

    Rocky Bay Lodge & Caravan Park
    039 976 0336

    Pumula Beach Hotel and Resort
    039 684 6717

    Lake Eland Game Reserve, Near Oribi Gorge, near Port Shepstone.
    039 687 0395

    Old Pont Holiday Resort, Camping, Caravan and Waterpark Resort
    039 311 2211


    Croc World, Scottburgh

    Pure Venom, Izotsha
    039 685 0704

    Blue Wilderness Expeditions
    083 303 1515

    Horse and Quad Trails, Selsdon Park Estate
    083-301 2941

    Ocean Trails Equestrian Centre
    083 334 771

    Clearwater Mountain Biking and Trail Running & Café,
    083 549 6710

    Rocky Bay Resorts Mountain Bike Trail
    039 976 0336

    Wild Five Adventures at Oribi Gorge Hotel
    039 687 0253/082 566 7424

    Surf Action, Margate
    039 317 3604

    Beaver Creek Coffee Estate
    039 311 2347


    The Cellar Boutique Restaurant
    039 695 1036

    Captains Anchor Pub and Restaurant
    039 681 3584   

    Trattoria Casa Mia
    039 695 1391

    Long Fen Chinese Restaurant
    039 315 0355

    C-Bali Restaurant and Beach Bar
    039 315 0473,

    Burlesque Café
    039 314 9886

    The Waffle House
    039 314 9424

    Trattoria La Terrazza
    039 316 6162

    Fish on the Pond
    039 313 0907

    Mac Banana Farm Stall, Cafe & Pancake House
    039 319 1454

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