A Zulu name for a settlement in the heart of a region ruled by Zulu kings for
centuries, Empangeni was named for the Mpange trees which lined the banks of the
Mpangeni stream running through the valley in which the town is located.
Initially a mission station for the Norwegian Missionary Society in 1851,
Empangeni now serves as the commercial, industrial and communications centre for
a large sugar cane and timber industry. Easily accessed via the N2 highway,
Empangeni lies 170 kilometres north of Durban and 30 kilometres inland from the
Port of Richards Bay on KwaZulu-Natal's North Coast.
The two hundred and ninety five hectare Enseleni Nature Reserve, whose name is isiZulu for 'lair of the badger' is situated 14 kilometres north east of Empangeni. The reserve consists mainly of coastal grasslands and forest, with the Nseleni river running through it. For bird watching enthusiasts the reserve boasts a variety of rare species which include African finfoot, purple crested lourie, Pels fishing owl, white-eared barbet and three species of elusive nightjars, Mozambique, fiery necked and European. Enseleni Nature Reserve is also home to an interesting array of wildlife which includes giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, impala, reedbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck, bushpig, red, blue and grey duiker, hippopotamus, crocodile, large spotted genet and bushbaby. The reserve has two trails running through it, the seven kilometer long Nkonkoni trail and the Mvubu trail which takes one over a shorter distance of two kilometeres. Both of these trails provide visitors with magnificent scenery and excellent opportunities for viewing the wildlife of the reserve.
Popular among visitors to the area is the Empangeni Art and Crafts Centre located in the Empangeni CBD, where one can view and purchase a variety of arts and crafts made by the local communities. The centre also hosts exciting street theatre, enthralling Zulu storytelling and lively jazz sessions. Nearby, Jabulani Crafts offers an excellent variety of Zulu curios and artifacts, ideal for gifts and souvenirs made by physically handicapped persons.
Empangeni Art & Cultural Museum located in Turnbull Street is housed in an old building which was built by local sugar farmers in 1916. The hall was originally used for various meetings, weddings, church services, as a library and later as a gym before being decided upon that the building be used as a museum. The hall was once used as a movie theatre and patrons would make bookings by placing a stone on their seat. The museum has permanent displays of traditional Zulu heritage art, and the developments of the local sugar farming industry, not to mention a large collection of oil paintings and regular temporary exhibits of local art. Highlights of the museum include old photographs of early sugar farms and displays of traditional Zulu clothing and crafts.
For keen golfers, there is the Empangeni Country Club with its 18 hole Golf Course which was established in the early 1900's.
The club also offers tennis, golf, bowls, squash and conference facilities. Enjoying all the usual amenities expected of a centre this size and with the added attraction of South Africa's largest port close by, visitors can indulge in a range of other outdoor activities which include spear fishing, skydiving and speedboat racing.