When we planned to explore Kwazulu Natal, we had no idea how big this region was in reality. While I had visited Howick, Drakensburg and Durban quite a few times for work, I really didn’t know anything about the North Coast so, when we were invited to stay in Empangeni, I had to ask Google Maps for some help to find out where exactly it was.
One of our readers, Spider, the owner of Dumami Lodge made contact with us, and invited us to stay when we visit Kwazulu Natal. His generous offer helped us to have a base from which to explore the North Coast, where we could catch our breath before moving onwards on our journey. I cannot tell you how much we appreciated this. Packing up and moving every 2-3 days is a killer and it is easily the most exhausting part of our road trip. To have a welcoming place to stay for almost a week was our saving grace.
Dumami Lodge: Explore Kwazulu Natal’s North Coast
In terms of location, it is centrally located in the middle of a small town and about 20 kilometres from Richard’s Bay. Since you’re that far North, it would be silly not to visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park while you’re about 40 minutes away and spend a day exploring St Lucia.
Dumami Lodge is also about an hour away from the ShakaLand Zulu Cultural experience but at R510 per person (and half price for kids under 12 years old) it was way out of our price range.
We drove into St Lucia the day after we arrived in Empangeni and were sent up the garden path by Google Maps. After stopping at a lovely shop, selling wooden toys and pretty decor items, for directions, we continued on the road to St Lucia. The owner of the store mentioned that the Eastern shore of the wetland hasn’t been as affected by the drought as the Western shores and she helpfully directed us on how to get there.
For future reference, instead of placing iSimangaliso Wetland Park into your GPS, just search for St Lucia. This small town is a hive of activity and the gate to the wetland park is a few hundred metres away from the traffic circle.
As we crossed the bridge into St Lucia, we noticed boats traversing the river and immediately went looking for a place to buy tickets. We found Advantage Tours to the right of the traffic circle and made enquiries about their 3pm cruise. There 12pm cruise had just left and we still wanted to explore the Wetland Park before we left for the day.
At R570 for 2 adults and 2 children, I quickly popped into the closest ATM, located in the liquor store next door, to secure our place. We then headed into iSimangaliso itself to spot some game and stop off at a few places.
After our Kruger National Park experience, I made sure to pack enough food and refreshments and we found a number of places where you are allowed to stop within the Park and get out of your car.
We were unfortunately very pressed for time, so we only made it as far as Mission Rock before we had to turn back, so that we wouldn’t miss the boat. Next time I would either leave Empangeni a lot earlier or I would stay in St Lucia overnight to explore the town properly.
The boat cruise was amazing. We got to see so many hippos and crocs and the kids even got to feel the weight of a hippopotamus tooth. Due to the drought, these animals are pretty hard to see just by driving around iSimangaliso, so paying for a boat trip is, pretty much, the only way.
When I saw how the other boats behaved along the tributary, I was so pleased that we chose Advantage Tours. The tour guides were very knowledgable and super respectful of the animals. They made sure to never linger too long and cause the animals stress and they knew exactly which hippos belonged to which family. We learned so much and the kids were very impressed.
For more information about Advantage tours, click here.