Zululand forms the north-eastern part of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa and has a warm, tropical climate. Summers (September-April) are hot with frequent rain and high humidity while winters (May-August) are milder. Malaria is a threat throughout the year and adequate precautions must be taken.
The coastline is marked by extensive estuarine and lake systems with rich sea life (including sharks, dolphins, whales, coral reefs, turtles) and birdlife. Vegetation is lush and green. This route traverses the most northern part of South Africa’s coastline, almost up to the border with Mozambique. The dominant ethnic group in the area is the Zulu - a proud and dignified people with a rich culture.
Along the coast, fishing and collection of marine resources plays an important role in how ordinary people make a living and intricate fish traps can be seen at Kosi Bay. Much of the area falls under the control of Kwazulu-Natal Nature Conservation (KZNNCS). The diverse marine and land national park, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously named Greater St Lucia Wetland Park), was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999. This route is suitable for a well-planned expedition, organised only with permission and advice from KZNNCS.
Paddling in South Africa has a fairly long history stretching back at least 50 years. Initially paddling developed a competitive edge with marathon events such as the Dusi Canoe Marathon, held in KwaZulu-Natal and the Berg River Canoe Marathon, held in the Western Cape, becoming popular endurance events. The surf life-saving community also produced its own marathon – the sea-based East London to Port Elizabeth Surfski Marathon, held in the Eastern Cape.
The commercialisation of river running using safe and user-friendly inflatable craft and Indian canoes introduced a recreational element to paddling in this country and increased its popularity, a trend which is rapidly being expanded by the advent of sea kayaking.
Sea kayaking has been popular in North America for many years but the first boats were only imported into South Africa relatively recently. Sea kayaks are stable and comfortable sea-going paddle craft designed for exploring and touring. They provide a stable platform to explore South Africa’s magnificent coastline and estuaries, as well as to indulge in related activities such as bird-watching, fishing and photography.
This stability and ease of use is also their potentially biggest danger, however, since it is easy for the inexperienced paddler to quickly find him or herself out of their depth. Southern African climatic conditions are also notoriously fickle so it is vitally important to be well trained and equipped and knowledgeable about the trip you plan to undertake.
The Recreational and Commercial Sea Kayaking Association of South Africa (RECSKASA) is a good place to start your planning. They have collected the information used in compiling the routes featured on this site and are able to give you the detailed information and training required to undertake a successful sea kayak trip. They can also put your into contact with operators offering organised excursions.
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