eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park – Explore Zulu Heritage
The Ophathe Game Reserve was established in they year 1991 along the White Mfolozi River. Situated under 10 km from the town of Ulundi, the park takes in the stunning eMakhosini valley. Now known as the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park, the area creates a unique opportunity for visitors to enjoy the area's rich natural, historical and cultural heritage. Locals and international visitors alike will enjoy the abundant beauty and fascinating past of this grand heritage site near Ulundi.
eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park takes in some 24,000 hectares of protected land extending to a height of 1200 m in the west to 300m in the east. Across this vast landscape are a variety of vegetation types such as valley bush veld, mist belt grasslands, wetland, woodland, ngongoni grassland and riparian. Combine this with temperature variations and diverse geology, the park boasts significant biodiversity. Game viewing opportunities abound. Look out for animals such as leopard, impala, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, buffalo, giraffe, nyala, blue wildebeest, buffalo, waterbuck, zebra, hyena and others. Bird life is also a great draw tot he eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park with species such as blue crane, secretary bird, vultures, black eagle and ground hornbills.
The eMakhosini valley is well known for its grand role in history. Archaeologists have discovered tools from the Stone-Age as well as evidence of the interaction between bushmen and settlers dating back some 1 500 years. The great Zulu king, Shaka was born in the valley of eMakhosini around the year 1785. It is also here that his predecessors were laid to rest. During his rule, King Shaka fought a battle at KwaGqokili Hill, right near the town of Ulundi. During this battle they are said to have defeated the Ndwandwe. Following the days of Shaka a number of conflicts took place in the eMakhosini valley between the Zulu people and the Voortrekkers. Piet Retief and his men were executed at King Dingane’s Homestead and were then buried at Kwa Matiwane in the valley. King Cetshwayo was defeated by Lord Chelmsford during the battle of Ulundi, the last battle in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. eMakhosini Valley has been a great part of Zulu history and is considered by traditionalists as a sacred place. In the region of the valley visitors can explore various historical sites and museums. In 2003 King Zwelithini kaBekuzulu unveiled the Spirit of the eMakhosini Memorial. This impressive memmorial is encircled by 7 horns to represent the Zulu kings buried in the area: Unkosinkulu, Phunga, Ndaba, Senzangakhona, Zulu, Mageba and Jama.
eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park offers a unique look at the history of the Zulu as well as South Africa’s natural wonders.