Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Usually when meeting a South African, most people who have never been in Africa, can’t resist asking whether there are wild animals walking around on the streets. For most places in South Africa the answer will be” No”, but not for a place called Weenen. Situated only 8km from the game reserve, Weenen has both historical as well as natural appeal.

Why visit the Weenen

Weenen is the Dutch name for “Place of Weeping”. The town of Weenen originated two months after the Voortrekkers suffered a devastating attack by Dingane’s Zulu impis. During the attack 41 men, 56 women and 185 children lost their lives. 250 Basutos and Khoikhois who accompanied the Voortrekkers were also killed in the attack. The attack is known as the Weenen Massacre and it took place on the 17th of February, 1838. The attack came after Dingane killed Piet Retief and his delegation of 101 Voortrekkers due to failed land negotiations. He then decided to send his impis to get rid of the rest of the Voortrekkers camped at Doringkop, Bloukrans, Moordspruit, Rensburgspruit and further along the Bushman River. Only the Voortrekkers at Rensburgspruit defended themselves successfully under the leadership of Hans van Rensburg and Andries Pretorius (after whom Pretoria was named).

That was the year 1838. Today Weenen is referred to as a town inside of a game reserve and it provides a good example of how a desolate area can be rehabilitated into a thriving nature park. Fortunately for the residents there are no dangerous predators, beside a leopard or two. Other game that have been reintroduced into this 5000ha reserve is white and black rhino, zebra, hyena, giraffe, ostrich, kudu, the black back jackals, red hartebeest, eland and a great number of smaller antelope. 250 different bird species make Weenen a birdwatchers paradise. Weenen is also located in the Natal Midlands, an area that is becoming more and more popular as a prime hunting destination. The largest South African Kudu, to date, has been hunted in this area, making it a trophy collector’s ideal destination.

How to get there

King Shaka International Airport is the closest international airport. The roads in Weenen are well maintained, not requiring the services of a 4×4 vehicle, therefore if it is the only destination you will be visiting, a sedan will do just fine. Travel time between Durban and Weenen is approximately three hours. Take the N2 highway from the airport towards Durban. From the N2 take the 161 exit for M7 towards Durban. Make a left turn onto the M7 motorway, and after 10.4km take exit 20 and merge onto the N3, direction Pietermaritzburg. The longest stretch of 148km is from here to the 168 exit towards Estcourt, after which you should make a right turn, direction N6. Travel on the N6 which will become the R103. Turn right toward the R74 exit and travel for approximately 24km before turning right onto the R74. Weenen is 7km onwards on you left.

When to visit

Weenen is located in a summer rainfall area. Summer stretches from November to February during which the area experiences the most rain. Average temperatures during summer range between 12°C and 28°C in summer and 4°C to 21°C during winter.  The best time for a hunting Safari is between March and October.

Where to stay

The Weenen Game Reserve (☼☼☼☼) offers accommodation in the form of a cottage, a tented camp and camping/ caravan sites. The cottage is self contained with 5 beds and barbeque facilities. One of the advantages of renting the cottage is that you get exclusive use of a picnic site looking out over a waterhole, sure to attract animals when they come to drink. The Nyandu Tented Camp can accommodate 50 children or 20 adults. Cooking facilities, hot and cold showers and flush toilets are available in the camp. Guests however need to bring their own crockery, cutlery, pots, cooking utensils, linen and towels. 12 Camping or caravan sites are located near the entrance gate to the reserve. An ablution block with hot and cold water is shared by the campers. The ladies ablution block has a bath too, but the men’s block has only showers. Each campsite has its own braai area, but no charcoal or firewood is available so guests should bring their own or purchase some at reception or in the town of Weenen.

Zingela Safari and River Company promises you a stay that you will not forget. Outdoor living does not get better than this. Forget about staying in a rondavel, a chalet or a tent. Each “unit” at Zingela incorporates its natural environment and was built from materials found naturally in the area, such as reed, canvas and river stone. Larney lane is ideal for couples, while bigger families or close friends can stay in the Hotel and Aloes.  J.camp is an extension of the main camp with a bush kitchen and a dining area. Guests can choose either to stay on a bed and breakfast or on a self catering option. The original Zingela farmhouse has been refurbished into the House on Hill overlooking the river. Activities at Zingela include guided game walks, birding or fishing and for the more adventurous there is river rafting, kayaking and zip sliding. 4×4 trails and mountain biking trails add to the adventure at Zingela. Guests can choose from either a self-catering (☼☼☼☼) or a catered (☼☼☼☼☼) stay.

Thyme and Again (☼☼☼☼) is a Bed and Breakfast Guesthouse situated approximately 30km from Weenen on the main road into the town of Estcourt. Double and single en-suite bedrooms are all elegantly decorated and lunch or dinner is available on request. Alternatively you can enjoy a cup of coffee and something sweet at the coffee shop next door.

Umzolozolo Private Safari Lodge (☼☼☼☼☼) is a luxury Safari lodge, situated 38km from Weenen. It caters for the distinguished guest, who wants to be spoiled by more than just what nature has to offer. There are 5 luxurious rooms, each with its own private viewing deck and the large windows invite the surrounding bushveld into the room. For those wanting nothing but the best, a 7 star presidential suite is available. The outside viewing deck has its own Jacuzzi from where you can relax while watching zebra, wildebeest and impala graze below. A secluded honeymoon suite is available for those wanting absolute privacy, and for families there is a luxurious family chalet. On checking into the lodge, you are appointed your own private tracker and guide. His duties include taking you on two game drives daily in an open top 4×4 vehicle. You can relax and unwind next to the pool on the deck overlooking the valley below, or have a massage by a qualified therapist. Enjoy delicious African meals prepared by the chef, or gaze at the stars next to the boma fire. Activities on offer include game drives, cheetah interaction programme, fishing and more.

Other places to stay

Price per night (pn) per person (pp) sharing

R0 – R499                             (☼☼☼☼)

R500 – R1 499                     (☼☼☼☼☼)

R1 500 – R2 499                 (☼☼☼☼☼)

R2 500 – R3 999                 (☼☼☼☼☼)

R4 000 +                               (☼☼☼☼☼)

Places of interest

Weenen is an interesting place on its own. Due to the fact that the town has been isolated for a long time, much of the Voortrekker style of living can still be seen in the town. Weenen was laid out in 1838 with canals running to each plot on each street. The canals are still there today. You can visit the Voortrekker Homestead museum to learn about how people lived in the area during the 1800’s. At the museum is an old watermill, a replica of the one which stood on the farm Grootte Mielietuin (literally translated to Big Corn Garden). There is an old Voortrekker style Dutch Reformed Church and the primary school, the second oldest in KwaZulu-Natal, also built in the same style.

What to do

Regardless of your interest, whether it is hunting, photography, history or sports, you will find something that interests you in and around Weenen.  The Weenen Game Reserve offers visitors the option of either exploring the reserve by foot or by car, and for those looking for more action, there is mountain biking trails laid out in the reserve, allowing you to enjoy game viewing while getting a workout. Visit the vulture feeding site or look for game at the many waterholes or the game viewing hide. A guided walk of 8km is available in the reserve for those wanting to learn more about conservation and wildlife. The Weenen Game Reserve offers rhino tracking, a very popular activity amongst locals and foreigners alike, under guidance of qualified rangers. If you like doing things on your own you can choose between three self guided walks each passing dams in the reserve. Abseiling is another adventurous activity to keep you occupied. For the water fanatics why not spend a day river rafting or kayaking at the Zingela Safari and River Company. Birdwatchers can pass the time by looking for the over 230 bird species found in the Weenen Game Reserve. Stoney Ridge is a game farm offering 4×4 off road training for those wanting to take the African roads less travelled. Are you a hunter looking for the biggest buck in South Africa to hang above your fireplace back home? Then the Natal Midlands is exactly where you should be heading, since the Weenen holds the record for the biggest hunted Kudu in South Africa to date.

Hunting Safari Companies

Zulu Afrika Safaris (http://www.zuluafrikasafaris.co.za/hunting/map-hunting/hunt-kwazulu-natal.htm)

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