Richards Bay is South Africa’s largest harbour. It is situated on a large lagoon off the Mhlatuze River on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Originally it was a make-shift harbour during the Boer War of 1879 (used by Commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards). The first sanctuary was created here in 1935 to protect the ecology around the lagoon but by 1943 it was expanded into the Richards Bay Park. In 1954 a plan for a community was laid out and a formally recognized town was proclaimed in 1969.
The harbour is linked to Johannesburg by railway and an oil/gas pipeline. Both an aluminum smelter and a fertilizer plant were constructed at the lagoon and titanium is mined from the nearby sand dunes. Diamonds and gold were discovered in South Africa in the 19th century and mining became the foundation for rapid economic development. By the 1990s services contributed almost 60% of the GDP, with industry providing 35% and the final 5% comes from agriculture.
Despite the hot temperatures we were welcomed by Zulu Dancers – with bare feet. They were extremely agile and did not appear to be bothered by the hot pavement or temperatures. The April 16th day in Richards Bay was an add-on due to itinerary changes with the cancellation of another port-of-call, French Comoros – so we were able to schedule another game drive to Zulu Nyala, a private reserve 90-minutes drive from the port. Upon our arrival we were served a delicious lunch (HAL definitely makes sure you are fed, and fed well, on these shore excursions) before climbing into the back of open-sided trucks. At the lunch stop we saw the nests of Weaver Birds in the trees. These clever birds build numerous hanging nests to disguise which nest holds the eggs as a way to trick predators. Also on the grounds were a couple of nice, gentle crocodiles. Probably not. A few Plains Zebra (pronounced like the British zed, not the American zee) roamed freely on the grounds. I guess they liked the lawn grass. Each of the open sided trucks could carry 10 passengers. We were on the last one be to loaded (a good strategy for avoiding full buses or vehicles) so there were only 6 of us. Friends James and Cherie and I had the upper front seat and John was on his own in the seat behind. We were on different sides of the truck so any animal photos I might miss, John could get. Our driver was named William and he, like Patrick in Kenya, asked us which animals we most wanted to see and did his best to locate them within the park grounds. He did well too. We saw giraffes, hippos, rhinos, wildebeest, antelope, and many other animals and birds. I don’t think there is another animal more stately than a giraffe. They just have such great posture and presence. Even when they walk they look regal.
Of course, giraffe are also quite comical and very ungainly when they bend down to eat grass or drink water. Personally, I think this injures their pride so they try to stick to eating leaves from the trees. Blue Wildebeest Impala – the McDonalds of the Savannah – notice the M symbol.
There are six white rhinos and one black rhino at Zulu-Nyala. We did not see the black but we did see all six of the white. The name difference has nothing to do with the animals colour; they are all pretty much the same, from grey to brown. White Rhinos have a wide, square upper lip, which the Afrikaans (Dutch origin) people called Wyd – anglicized to White. The Black Rhino has a narrow, hooked lip. Black Rhinos are extremely endangered and several of the sub-species are already extinct. The Northern White Rhino is also severly threatened.
Poachers are very sophisticated these days and use social media to read the geo-tags on photos that people post. This gives them the date, time and location in various parks and open plains where they know rhinos have been and makes it easy for the poachers to locate and kill them. Rhinos like to wallow in mud to keep cool.Much of the movie “Out of Africa” starring Kate Bassinger was filmed at Zulu-Nyala. Part of the agreement was that the house ‘set’ that was built for the film was to be left standing after shooting was completed.
William tried very hard to find the elephants for us without success, but that was okay as we had seen them in Kenya. It was 6 pm by the time we returned to the parking lot. All of the buses were loaded and waiting since one person from each bus was on our truck. Oops. That was a great, great day!