Durban – Whether sipping champagne watching the sun set over a spectacular view, or sharing a burger in a crocodile pit, plan an unforgettable weekend or a special day out in the Valley of 1000 Hills for Valentine's Day.
Just 20 minutes from central Durban, the Valley of 1000 Hills covers a wide area west of the city, and includes a number of nature reserves which are right on our doorstep.
Vice-chair for The 1000 Hills Community Tourism Organisation and tour operator Shelldon Wells said there was a huge range of activities available, as well as accommodation.
“The Valley of 1000 Hills is easily accessible for a day's outing, for overnight or a couple of nights away; there's lots to do,” said Wells this week, highlighting that all Covid protocols were in place to ensure visitors’ safety.
There are a number of nature reserves with great trails and some “hot birding spots”, including the Springside Nature Reserve just outside Hillcrest, which is enjoyed by twitchers, as well as the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve and the Kloof Falls picnic site nestled in Kloof.
There's also the ever-popular Umgeni Steam Train, which winds its way slowly through the valley, and for which bookings are essential.
There are horse-riding trails in places such as isiThumba, where you can picnic under the shade of giant fig trees, or, for the thrill seekers, the High Stakes Venue offers a range of activities for the adventurous, from zip-lining to quad-biking, while there's go-karting in Waterfall.
Phezulu Safari Park in Botha's Hill offers game drives, as well as their famous Fear Factor experience where you can eat in the junior crocodiles’ pen.
The area is also known for its arts and crafts, starting with the Shongweni Farmers’ Market, which is a favourite outing for Durbanites and home to the Independent on Saturday’s Covid-suspended CraftFest, as well as Embo Crafts, the oldest crafts venue in Botha's Hill and Woza Moya, next to the Hillcrest Aids Centre.
There is also Zulu culture and heritage to learn about, from storytellers and a rural shebeen in places such as isiThumba, to a Zulu village at Phezulu.
Wells also suggested water sports, particularly at Inanda Dam for swimming and boating, and including canoeing, waterskiing and fishing, saying the bass was good right now. There are also four golf courses, along with spas for a little luxury pampering.
With lockdown regulations being eased this week, getting away for Valentine's Day can include a chilled glass of wine with a meal or cocktails at sundown. There is also loads of choice when it comes to coffee and croissants for early morning risers, or a full brunch for a lazy, late Sunday morning.
“There are lots of places to stay, as well as eating out,” said Wells, adding that there could be some good specials on offer for the Valentine's weekend.
Valentine's Day is celebrated around the world on February 14, with history recording different origins for this day of romance.
The date is in line with an ancient Pagan holiday, Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture. At the end of the fifth century, the pope declared the holiday “unChristian” and replaced it with St Valentine. History recorded Saint Valentine of Rome being persecuted for ministering to Christians. But it was in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the date was associated with the “lovebirds” of early spring, that romance became linked to the day.
By the 18th century, courting couples expressed their love for each other with flowers, sweet treats and greetings cards – which became known as Valentine's cards – and symbols included hearts, doves and a winged Cupid. In Italy, St Valentine's Keys are given to lovers as a “romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver's heart“.
The Valley of 1000 Hills has the perfect setting for creating some unforgettable Valentine’s Day memories. The valley is named for the majestic scenery of its magnificent, rolling hills, from the distant Drakensberg mountains on the far horizon touching the blue sky, to the picturesque valley and gorge created by the Mngeni river and its tributaries
For more information on what to do, where to eat and where to stay, go to https://www.1000hillstourism.co.za
Win one of these spectacular prizes
February is the month of love. Three lucky couples can each win a bespoke one-night luxury Valentine’s pamper package valued at R2 600 each. Included in the package is dinner at a participating restaurant, and accommodation for two people sharing and breakfast.
There are three participating lodges:
- Kangelani Lodge: A 4-star lodge in Hillcrest offering self-catering luxury “glamping” tents, cottages and African style, themed rooms.
- AmmaZulu African Palace: A five-star guest house on the edge of Kloof Gorge, overlooking Krantzkloof Nature Reserve celebrating KZN’s cultural heritage.
- Eagle’s View: Cosy B&B in a residential area, overlooking Kloof Gorge and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve – with a pool.
There are also three massage packages for two:
- Willow Way Manor, Tree Spa: In Hillcrest, Willow Way offers a memorable experience for their guests on their magical estate.
- Brigit Filmer Spa: Personalised approach to health and beauty for men and women offering a haven of sensory delight, in Gillitts.
- Pink Petals: An upmarket beauty salon in Kloof catering for men and women, young and old – perfect to unwind, relax and be pampered.
And then there are love letters from Woza Moya. As an extra romantic treat, the Woza Moya shop at the Hillcrest Aids Centre will give every couple a little card of Zulu love letters.
Prize can be redeemed over Valentine’s weekend, or may be enjoyed within two months of issue, subject to availability.
To Win: SMS TIOSValentines with your full name and email address to 33258. SMSes are charged at R1.50. competition ends on February 10 at 9am. Winners will be informed telephonically. Terms and conditions apply.