UMkhanyakude District Municipality is located in the far Northern region of KwaZuluNatal Province in South Africa (32,014489; -27,622242). At 12 818 km2 and with a population totalling 625,846, the District is the 2nd largest District in KwaZulu-Natal, in terms of size, behind its neighbouring District, Zululand District Municipality. UMkhanyakude District also has the World Heritage Site known as Isimangaliso Wetland Park which encompasses the entire coastline of more than 200 km.
The District extends from Mtubatuba (St Lucia) in the south to Kosi Bay in the north, across to the Lubombo Mountains in the west. The District is strategically linked to the provincial markets of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga and to the neighbouring market of Swaziland, via the N2 route. The District consists of the local municipalities of: Jozini, Mtubatuba, uMhlabuyalingana and the soon to be amalgamated Hlabisa and The Big 5 False Bay local municipalities.
A high proportion of this rural district is under thicket, grassland and wetland, while remaining areas are cultivated land and settlement. Large areas of land are under communal tenure, located in the traditional authority areas under the jurisdiction of the Ingonyama Trust. The remaining areas are under state conservation or private ownership with limited formal urban areas. The Umkhanyakude District is home to the Big Five animals and offers year-round tourism experiences with mild winters and hot summers. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park stretches along the Zululand coast from Mapelane in the south to Kosi Bay in the north.
The Big 5 Hlabisa False Bay and Hlabisa municipalities are located in one of the world's richest and diverse tourism areas. World renowned game and nature reserves such as St Lucia, Hluhluwe/Umfolozi and Mkuze are located here. The municipality is also strategically located along the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, which is important for driving the local economy.
Jozini Municipality is a small business centre situated close to the impressive Pongolapoort Dam, known as the Jozini Dam, one of the largest in South Africa. Tourism has been prioritised as the major economic development opportunity and its success is dependent on local community initiatives as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Mtubatuba Local Municipality is situated along the northern coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal. Mtubatuba is the most urbanized local municipality, as Mtubatuba Town and St Lucia are the main towns within the District. Mtubatuba town has developed from a humble railway siding into a strong sub regional commercial, service, transport and administrative centre for the entire north eastern Zululand region. Umkhanyakude District Municipality is currently experiencing a serious drought especially in the Mtubatuba area. Umkhanyakude is in the process of a long term intervention in which there will be agreement between Umkhanyakude District Municipality and uThungulu District Municipality to connect a Bulk Water Pipe Line from Nsezi River to cover Mtubatuba.
The Umhlabuyalingana Municipality consists of a number of District Management Areas (DMAs) that fall under the municipal jurisdiction of the District as well as the urban settlements of Manguzi, Mbazwana, Mseleni, Sikhamelele and Mboza. Umhlabuyalingana like many other municipalities in the country, has a huge service backlog. It remains a challenge for the municipality to deliver quality services to the community within a short period of time.