South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal)
This unique coastal reserve stretches along the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, just outside Mtunzini. Established in 1948 as a protected area, Umlalazi Nature Reserve covers 1028 hectares.
Offering several forms of relaxation, Umlalazi is home to one of the rarest birds of prey in South Africa, the Palmnut Vulture.
Along the river banks, African Fish Eagles are a common sight, and easily observed at the same time as a variety of Kingfisher species.
Though sharks and crocodiles may be present, great fishing and limited water-skiing are enjoyed in the lagoon. The beach is popular for angling, surfing, windsurfing, swimming and other water sports. Facilities include a tennis wall, swings, trampolines, and other playground equipment.
Three interesting walking trails can be enjoyed, such as an easy walk through one of the best examples of mangrove swamps in South Africa, boasting a variety of mangrove species. Another option meanders through the dune forest where bushbuck, red, grey and blue duiker and bushpig can be found. The third trail cuts across the dune forest and mangrove swamps along the river’s edge. Endemic wildflowers and abundant bird life are the reward, but you can also encounter colonies of fiddler crabs and fascinating mud-skippers.
The Zulu word emthunzini means “a place in the shade”, but historically, it refers specifically to the place under the milkwood trees near the Mlalazi River, where the White Zulu chief, John Dunn, would meet with the tribal elders of the area.
Enjoying high annual rainfall and a sub-tropical climate of mild winters and humid summers, Mtunzini is a tranquil village offering breathtaking panoramas over the Umlalazi Nature Reserve and the Indian Ocean beaches.
Declared a Conservancy in 1995, Mtunzini is reknowned for its natural heritage preservation efforts. One of only a few South African official natural monuments can be found along the railway line: the grove of raphia palms is home to the rare Palmnut Vulture.
Only a half-hour drive into the hills of Zululand outside of Mtunzini, Ongoye Forest Reserve covers 3903 ha of remnant coastal forest overlooking the Indian Ocean. Interspersed with patches of rolling grasslands between granite outcrops, Ongoye is the only place in southern Africa to find Woodwards’ Barbet. Though easily found off the R102, make sure you have a 4×4 to go around inside the reserve. Stop at the rangers camp to get a local guide to take you around. Steep inclines wind their way through shady forest and open grass, offering peaks into steep ravines hiding their own endemic mammal, the Ngoye Red Squirrel. Baboons, mongooses, Samango monkeys, thick-tailed bushbaby and reclusive blue duiker can be seen. Euryphene achlys, the forest green butterfly, is unique to this forest, and a local KwaZulu-Natal endemic, the Zululand dwarf chameleon, is abundant at Ongoye.
Visited by birdwatchers from all over the world, Dlinza Forest, near flowery Eshowe, offers a fun alternative to walking the forest trails (of which there are a number, well sign-posted, too). A wooden aerial walk leads to various viewing platforms up to 30m above ground. Providing a rare insight to Zulu cultural heritage, numerous tree markers along the trails provide interesting information, describing medicinal uses of various trees.
Location (from 28° 55′ 9.20″ S, 31° 44′ 36.29″ E
to 28° 56′ 39.13″ S, 31° 49′ 5.71″ E)
View Mlalazi River in a larger map
Thirteen log cabins at Umlalazi Nature Reserve each offer a combined lounge / diningroom, two bedrooms, kitchenette and bathroom with shower or bath. Cabins are fully equipped for self-catering, only provisions must be brought, available at the local supermarket. Cabins are serviced daily, guests are responsible for cooking and washing up. Campsites are Indaba and Inkwazi camp, only five to ten minutes walk from the beach.
Comprised of 22 self-catering wooden chalets, Mtunzini Forest Lodge occupies an idyllic strip of coastal forest between the Village and the dunes. Fully equipped for 3 to 5 people, some with a loft for children, all chalets offer a private sundeck with a barbeque area. Cool & shady amongst the lush vegetation, the rumbling of the Indian Ocean is heard in the distance. Situated on the property, Twitches Restaurant provides an a la carte dining menu. Reserved to residents, a large sparkling swimming pool allows cooling off during the day’s heat. Nature trails through the dune forest and mangrove swamps uncover natural attractions of the area, with its diverse vegetation and abundant bird life. Magnificent Raffia Palms, home to the rare Palmnut Vulture, are unique to the Mtunzini area. An easy stroll across the wooden bridge over the Siyayi River takes one directly to the unspoilt beaches. Mtunzini Forest Lodge is recognized as a Birder Friendly Establishment.
Ongoye Forest Reserve
A joint project between a wide group of stakeholders including The Mzimela Tribal Authority, Uthungulu District Municipality, BirdLife South Africa, The SAPPI WWF Tree Routes Partnership, The Mtunzini Conservancy and Umalazi Municipality, the Ongoye Forest Birders Camp facilitates access to one of the provinces most precious bio-diversity areas. Intended to make a positive difference to the long-term conservation of this asset, it directly involves the forests neighboring communities, the Mzimela Tribal Authority, in the area’s management.
Facilities consist of a permanent structure with 3 twin-bedded rooms, 1 bathroom with bath, shower and toilet. Linen and towels are provided. Gas stove and fridge, cutlery and crockery are provided for up to 6 people; additional camping is subject to prior arrangement. The camp is NOT electrified but gas is provided for the stove and geyser, and paraffin lamps for lighting. Cell phone coverage is limited. Open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen as well as outside veranda and braai area are available.