To celebrate World Tourism Day, Tourism Update spent a few days last week exploring KwaZulu Natal with Tourism KZN, experiencing the province and seeing cultural, natural and adventure sites.

Our first stop was the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, about 45 minutes from King Shaka International Airport. Once the home of Chief Albert Luthuli, the museum tells the story of the former president of the African National Congress and Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner. Guided by an on-site guide, the group was taken through the house to see his old writing desk, telephone and book collection.

Wall panels explain his journey and the role he played in South Africa’s liberation from oppression, complete with photos of the man and his life.

Outside, guests are invited to sit on a bench in the garden, once the site of a meeting between Luthuli and Robert F. Kennedy. At the meeting, Kennedy played excerpts to Luthuli from John F. Kennedy’s more famous addresses on the US civil rights movement which Luthuli reputedly listened to in silence, shaking his head in response.

The precinct is currently a hive of building activity. The Nokukhanya Luthuli Peace and Development Institute, named after Luthuli’s wife, will be home to research and development facilities, focusing on education, development and historical research.

Our next stop was the Ohlange Institute in Stanger, about 30 minutes from Durban’s city centre. Here, the founding president of the ANC, John Langalibalele Dube lived and established the Ohlange High School in 1900. After being inspired by his travels in the US, Dube sought to educate young black people in the region and opened the boarding school for young black men. Dube instilled in the students his philosophy, ‘The Three Hs – head, heart, hands’. As such, the children were taught practical skills, philosophical theories and traditional education. In 1917, a girl’s dormitory was added. Today, Ohlange High School continues.

The property is also the site of Dube’s original home, as well as the gravesite of the family.

Our guide, Mandla Nxumalo, a former student at the school and now staff member, related the story of the country’s first democratic election in 1994. “Nelson Mandela, despite living in Johannesburg and having grown up in the Eastern Cape, chose this location to cast his first vote. Upon arriving, he walked up the small hill to this gravesite and addressed Dube’s gravestone: ‘Mr President, I have come to inform you that today your people are free.’ He then walked down the hill to the school hall, where, in front of hundreds of journalists, he cast his first ever vote.”

The Inanda Cultural Precinct offers tourists a glimpse into the country’s history, at the exact spot where some of the country’s most influential leaders met to discuss a way forward in the early 1900s. It is well worth a visit, and even better if Nxumalo is available to take you on a tour.

Our next stop was the Tala Game Reserve, outside Pietermaritzburg, where we spent the night. Although Tala does not have any large predators, visitors are not disappointed by the wide array of animals to be seen. The following morning, on a dawn game drive, we spotted three White rhino including a young juvenile, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, zebra, impala, kudu, nyala, warthog and hippo, as well as a range of birdlife.

Next stop was the Nelson Mandela Capture Site outside Howick in the KZN Midlands. Here, in August 1962, on his way back to Johannesburg after meeting with Luthuli, Mandela – wearing a disguise – was captured by the apartheid security police. Thereafter, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

The site is home to a temporary exhibition, explaining his life and the role he played in the country’s history as well as a sculpture made out of 50 metal stakes that together make up Mandela’s face.

Currently under construction, the new museum will house interactive displays for tourists to learn about the man, at the spot where he saw his last glimpse of freedom before 27 years in prison.

The visit was rounded off with a visit to Karkloof Canopy Tours, operated by SA Canopy Tours. Here, we put on brave faces as we were kitted in harnesses and helmets before heading up the side of a mountain, ready to throw ourselves off.

The canopy tour involves ten ziplines ranging from 40 to 200 metres that zigzag their way down the mountain, through an indigenous forest and alongside waterfalls. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth it for those looking for an adrenaline rush coupled with spectacular scenery.

TKZN showed us that the province is about a lot more than just beaches and Durban. In just two days, we experienced culture, nature and adventure, all only a few hours from King Shaka International Airport. The province really does have something for everyone, with wonderful people completing the experience.