Having grown up in one of the drier regions of South Africa, I am still endlessly fascinated by the natural bodies of water in KwaZulu-Natal, where we have been living for the past two years. I am also captivated by the history of this region, previously known as the Zulu Kingdom and formed during the reign of King Shaka Zulu (1816-1828).
The Zulus are known for carefully considering and allocating names to their prized objects and valued places in keeping with the history and specific characteristics thereof. The following are examples of aptly named towns, rivers and beaches in our area:
The small town of Umkomaas rests beside the mouth of the navigable uMkhomazi River, where a large number of whales once used the estuary as a nursery, giving birth in the shallows. The Zulus named the river after this spectacle – uMkhomazi means the place of cow whales.
The photos below were captured in a small nature reserve just outside the town of Scottburgh on the banks of the Mpambanyoni River. The name of this river means confuser of birds because the huge reed beds and meandering course make it hard for the birds to find their nests.
Sezela is a small town with a big sugar mill on the mouth of iSezela River. According to legend, this is the place where King Shaka Zulu hunted down a man-eating crocodile named iSezela. This name means the one who smells out, for it was said that the crocodile hunted its prey like a wild dog following a trail.
The pictures below are of the Fafa River mouth next to the beautiful town of Ifafa. The name is derived from the Zulu word “iFafa” which means sparkling, referring to the sparkling water of the river and the ocean.
Umzumbe is a seaside resort situated at the mouth of the Mzumbe River (bad kraal/place). The river was named for a band of Hlongwa cannibals (bad people!) who occupied the river valley. This tribe was almost wiped out by King Shaka Zulu in 1828.
Then, of course, there is the incredibly beautiful Mtwalume River, winding its way to the ocean between Mtwalume Beach and Elysium Beach (which we now call home). The river was named for the tall upright trees growing on the banks of the river, the bark of which was traditionally used by the Zulus for medicinal purposes.