As the passenger jet touched down in the land of the Zulu people, I wonder if King Shaka stirred in his grave at Dukuza, not far away. He forged a nation in this rugged land, crossed by multiple rivers from the Ukhahlamba Mountains to the Indian Ocean.
One hundred and eighty four years later, his mannerly and courteous people welcome yet another group of long-haul travellers who have come to explore this beautiful kingdom in Southern Africa.
By the late afternoon we are settled in our thatched huts under the dappled shade at the wilderness camp of Bonamanzi, the exotic Jakanas trotting across the lily pads on the glistening lake.
Four days of safari encounters with animals in the wild follow, then we move on to the battlefields still haunted by the dead warriors and soldiers who clashed in bitter combat during the reigns of Dingane and Cetswayo.
The silent blood-soaked soil at Rorke’s Drift behind us soon gives way to pastel lilac-brown landscape under a pale blue sky: a great panorama with little details of human habitation.
This is the land of the Sacred Ibis in tranquil seasons, but also the setting for the drama of towering cumulus clouds, forked lightening, thunder and crashing rain, often followed by arching rainbows in glorious technicolour. Our driver proudly points out his village, a distant smudge in this intoxicating scene.
The Drakensberg Mountains await us, with adventurous walks from two distinct hotels each set in fine extensive gardens, populated by exotic birds swooping over mown grass lawns and feeding in flowering trees.
Challenging paths through the mountains are taken between enormous luxury breakfasts and fabulous dinners, all too good to go on forever. Eventually we must make our farewells in the baggage claim at Heathrow. Don’t miss this tour! Sala Gahle!