Planning Your Time
2 Days: If you have just two days, spend it in Durban. Start with an early morning walk along the Golden Mile to watch the surfers. Always leave jewelry and valuables in your hotel safe. Spend three or four hours on a guided walking tour of the Indian District or downtown Durban. Tours (reservations are a must) leave from the Tourist Junction (Old Station Building). Wilson's Wharf, which overlooks the Durban harbor, and Morningside's trendy Florida Road offer great options for lunch or dinner. If you dine on Florida Road, make sure you stop by the African Arts Market for beautiful Zulu beadwork, baskets, prints, and other crafts and curios. You can also spend the afternoon strolling around Mitchell Park, which is known for its colorful flower beds at the top of Florida Road (also be sure to visit the small zoo here). On your second day, visit the aquarium at uShaka Marine World, one of the largest and best in the world, perhaps lunching on seafood at Cargo Hold, adjacent to the shark tank. In the afternoon, visit the Natal Sharks Board for a show and fascinating shark dissection—yes, they actually do a dissection (Tuesday–Thursday only). You could also visit the Umgeni River Bird Park, whose live bird shows are a must-see (11 and 2 daily, except Monday).
5 Days: Spend at least one day in Durban before or after you explore KwaZulu-Natal following the Zululand and the more northern section option, which takes in the coastal strip and some of the northern game parks and private lodges. Start out with a tour of the battlefield sites of Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift, and the Talana Museum at Dundee. Afterward, travel north and take the R103 to pick up the Midlands Meander, which stretches north all the way to Mooi River, through the tranquil KZN Midlands.
If you decide to head up the north coast, spend a night at Shakaland or Simunye Zulu Lodge to get the total Zulu cultural experience. Then schedule at least two days in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park or Phinda Private Game Reserve to see the wildlife for which these reserves are known. A trip to iSimangaliso Wetland Park to see hippos and crocodiles in the wild is another great experience.
7–10 Days: Spend a day or two exploring Durban and Umhlanga and then head up to Zululand to start your grand loop. Visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park on your way to the incredible wildlife of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park or Phinda Private Game Reserve. A three-day trek in the wilderness of iMfolozi could be the high point of your trip. For something more sedate, spend three days at Rocktail Beach Camp in the Maputaland Coastal Reserve, close to the Mozambique border; it's especially interesting during turtle-breeding season, November through early March. Another distant park near the edge of the province is the delightful, less-visited Ithala Game Reserve. On the way back to Durban, drive through the battlefields.