About the town
The town of Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal nestles in the foothills of Balele Mountains. A unique feature of the town is that it lies within the confines of the Balele Community Game Park and the Utrecht Community Game Farm, and it is not unusual to find animals frequenting the outskirts of the town, parks and garden.
The mountains form part of the park which has been stocked with no less than 11 species of game including Impala, Blesbuck, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Nyala, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Kudu, Burchell’s Zebra, Warthog and Giraffe.
The long-term plan is to open the whole area to the town, so that game will be seen frequenting the outskirts of town, parks and gardens as is already happening with species such as Grey Duiker, Genet and the odd Impala. This initiative by the local Town Council in conjunction with Balele Conservancy and motivated by individual residents in the district, has brought about a shift in the town’s focus from industry to tourism.
Utrecht is mainly the farming and mining community, providing work to the close by townships of Madadeni and Osizweni. in addition to eco-tourism Utrecht is an agricultural area and themost important wool-producing area in KwaZulu-Natal. It is also a major cattle and mixed-farming region, and farm holidays are available.
The Utrecht district is the tribal domain of five Amakhosi (Zulu chiefs), who today play an active role in the development of the area. The Mangosuthu Arts and Crafts village (with accommodations for backpackers) has a craft shop with a variety of traditional Zuly artiles.
Utrecht was prominent during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, when, for several weeks, it served as British HQ for both Commander-in-Chief Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Evelyn Woods’ famous ‘Flying Column’. The house in which Prince Louis Napoleon is said to have visited the daughter of Swart Dirk Uys is today an important tourist attraction.
Established in 1854, the town is steeped in history which is reflected in beautiful historical buildings like the old Parsonage Museum, the Dutch Reform sandstone church, the unique old military cemetery and stately colonial houses and other buildings. British troops occupied the Utrecht during South African War 1899 – 1902 and used it as their headquarters.
Activities and attraction
Utrecht is an outdoor lover’s paradise and activities include hiking, horse riding, trout fishing, water sports, cycling, bike tails and camping. The Balele Mountains, with it’s waterfalls and ecological diversity, is home to a wealth of fauna and flora – especially in the Balele Game Park, and offers excellent bird-watching opportunities, with over 280 recorded bird species making their homes in this area.
Historical outings to sites such as Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift, and Talana are all within an easy day’s outing. Ithala Game Reserve is also close-by and offers a unique game viewing experience.