South Africa, known for their easily accessible game reserves and big animals, boasts so much more. Our trip took us to the lesser traveled regions as we searched out our artisan partners and chose sites off the tourist trails.
It's amazing we had enough energy to cruise the eastern part of the country after the 16 hour plane ride with my two very young daughters. They thankfully did great and our travels started in and around Kruger National Park and then headed south through the providence of KwaZulu-Natal with a brief stop over in Swaziland.
A main highlight was our visit to the Ilala Weavers, one of our artisans partners. The Ilala weavers work from their homes spread throughout an area as far away as 200 km from the small town of Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. Here these Zulu women make woven baskets by hand, using local grasses. It can take up to one month to produce a medium size basket. In Hluhluwe, mostly known as an entrance to the beautiful Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, and tucked away off the beaten path, the Ilala weavers have a very nice museum, cafe and market.
These bulb shaped Zulu baskets are water-tight and traditionally used to hold home-brewed beer for celebrations. See our collection of Zulu Baskets from the Ilala Weavers. We found a good home for our new baskets!
Near the Ilala Weavers is Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, a beautiful big-five state-run game reserve that has the largest population of white rhinos in the world. We drove through part of the park in our own vehicle with my family. We encountered beautiful landscapes along with elephants, rhinos, baboons, giraffes, zebras and more.
Kruger National Park did not disappoint! We could have spent nearly our entire vacation enjoying the wide open African Savannah with wildebeest, giraffes and ostrich lazily playing the the afternoon sun. I recommend going in the off peak season to avoid lots of traffic.
Another must see in this region of South Africa is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As Nelson Mandela said, “The wetland park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest land mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the Coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”
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