Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Feature

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Seeing Shaka Zulu

If you're interested in learning more about the fierce warrior Shaka Zulu or the Zulu culture, there are a few places of note that will give you a glimpse into this amazing culture.

Shakaland, a living museum of Zulu culture, is one of the most popular tourist stops in the region. Originally the movie set for Shaka Zulu (1987), Shakaland consists of a traditional Zulu kraal, with thatch beehive huts arranged in a circle around a central cattle enclosure. The emphasis here is on Zulu culture as it existed under King Shaka in the 19th century. You can watch Zulus dressed in animal skins or beaded aprons engaged in everyday tasks: making beer, forging spears, and crafting beadwork. Opt for a three-hour day tour or spend the night. A Zulu cultural adviser leads you through the kraal, explaining the significance of the layout and the roles played by men and women in traditional Zulu society. A highlight is a half-hour performance of traditional Zulu and other dances. Some critics have labeled this a Zulu Disneyland, but it's fun and you learn a great deal about Zulu culture. A buffet lunch is included in the tour. Off R66, 13 km (8 mi) north of Eshowe, Isandlwana, 3816. 035/460-0912. www.shakaland.com. R265. Tours daily at 11 and noon.

Where to Stay

For a more in-depth exploration of the site, stay the night at the 55-room Protea Shakaland ($$). Overnight guests have access to additional cultural events and stay in a quasi-traditional Zulu dwelling. Rooms are attractive and luxurious Africa-inspired accommodations: enormous thatch beehive huts supported by rope-wrapped struts, decorated with African bedspreads, reed matting, and African art. All have modern bathrooms and superb views. Meals are included in the price: Western-style dishes and some Zulu specialties are served. Off R66, 13 km (8 mi) north of Eshowe, Isandlwana. 035/460–0912. www.proteahotels.com..

If Shakaland is too commercial for your tastes, consider Simunye Zulu Lodge ($), a small settlement in a remote valley of Zululand. Simunye's introduction to traditional Zulu culture extends to contemporary Zulu lifestyles, too. Leave your luggage, labels, and bling in Depart Point and just take an overnight bag for your trip to camp via ox wagon, horseback, or 4x4β€”the views are breathtaking. While here you'll watch Zulu dancing and visit a working kraal, where you'll meet the residents. Rooms, built of stone and thatch, are a classy mix of Zulu and pioneer cultures, with locally handmade wooden beds and chairs and decorated with Zulu cooking pots and cow-skin rugs. All the rooms have electricity and hot water. Try to book for two nights over a weekend and arrange to attend a wedding or coming-of-age ceremony in a neighboring village. These ceremonies are purely local affairs, and you won't experience a more authentic celebration of rural Zulu culture elsewhere. R68, 60 km (37 mi) from Babanango, Isandlwana. 035/450–0101 or 035/450–0103.

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