The Entumeni Nature Reserve is a quiet patch of indigenous forest just outside the small town of Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal. The altitude of the reserve puts it further into the mist belt than other forests in the region like the Dlinza Forest and Ongoye Forest Reserve. Hikers and visitors are treated to a truly unique setting and a veritable Eden of forest ravines on paths carpeted with fallen leaves and flanked by ancient indigenous trees.
The Entumeni Nature Reserve
The Entumeni Nature Reserve is a 750 ha expanse situated at an altitude range of 570 – 780 metres above sea level (slightly higher than the more popular Dlinza Forest in Eshowe). The reserve consists of a large coastal scarp forest as well as a few sections of grassland with the Ngoje river running through.
The reserve was established in 1970 and despite increased development in the surrounding region, this pristine forest has been largely untouched and remains off the beaten path.
The canopy of the forest is made up of Wild Plums, Giant Umzimbeets and Flatcrowns, while on the forest floor one can find delicate ferns, ground orchids, cycads and Clivias.
Bird-lovers will find the Entumeni Nature Reserve particularly attractive as it is home to a number of species including the brown robin, grey cuckoo shrike, olive woodpecker, yellow-streaked bulbul, Knysna turaco, green twinspot, croaking cisticola and a pair of crowned eagles.
The reserve is also home to a number of animals including zebras, vervet monkeys, duiker, bushbuck, Cape clawless otter as well as a rare moth called the Miller’s Tiger which was discovered in the grasslands of the Entumeni Nature Reserve.
The reserve is roughly 160 km from Durban making it a convenient day-away destination for visitors to KwaZulu-Natal.
Entumeni Nature Reserve Highlights
- The peace and serenity of the forest.
- Feeling totally immersed in nature.
- The sound of the birds and the wind through the leaves.
The uKhozi and iPiti Hiking Trails
There are two main hiking trails through the Entumeni Nature Reserve: The iPiti and uKhozi trails.
The iPiti Trail is a circular route that takes approximately 2 hours to complete, while the uKhozi Trail takes around 4 hours. Both trails start at a picnic site a few hundred meters from the Information Lapa at the main entrance.
The signage at the picnic site is quite old and dilapidated which makes it hard to know which path to take. Once you enter the picnic site, look out for the path to your right. This is the start of both trails. Once you’ve followed this trail for a few hundred metres you’ll get to a split in the path. Left follows the iPiti Trail and right the uKhozi.
The uKhozi Trail is quite strenuous in sections and does require a fair deal of fitness to complete. After the path splits the trail descends quite steeply into the ravine below. At the time of this writing a few branches had been pulled into the pathway making it appear to be closed, however, we continued on past these without any problems.
Once at the bottom of the gorge, the path crosses the stream and continues on until you reach the Ngoje Waterfall at the halfway mark. This is a great spot for a rest before following the path to the left and climbing back out of the ravine and into the grasslands. The last part of the hike exits the grassland and joins the main gravel road back to the picnic site where you started.
There are no facilities in the reserve so be sure to prepare accordingly before heading out.
Map of the Entumeni Nature Reserve
Important information for hikers
Approximate Hike Time:
iPiti: 2 hours
uKhozi: 4 hours
Both trails are circular routes – beginning and ending at the picnic site.
Fitness level required:
The terrain of the iPiti Trail is not as strenuous as that of the uKhozi Trail, however, both require a decent level of fitness.
There are no permits required to do this hike.
When to go
The Entumeni Nature Reserve is open all year round. Hikers can visit the reserve at any time however, it is best to try and get there as early as possible to hear the owls and other nocturnal birds.
What to Pack
- Sun cream.
- Hat and sunglasses.
- Comfortable closed walking shoes or strap-up hiking sandals.
- Mobile Phone (in case of emergencies).
- Binoculars for birding.
- Layered warm clothes.
- Trail snacks.
Details to keep on hand
The uKhozi Trail descends very steeply in sections so be sure to take it slowly and keep a sure footing.
These tiny arachnids are common in the bush and often end up on hikers’ shoes, socks and legs as they walk along grassy paths. Be sure to check yourself thoroughly after your hike to avoid getting bitten and potentially contracting tick-bite fever.
Getting to the Entumeni Nature Reserve
Directions from Durban.
Take the N2 north and follow the highway out of Durban. Take exit 277 the Gingindlovu/Eshowe/Ulundi sign. Turn left onto the R66 and follow the road for approximately 27km. Turn left onto Kangela St and follow the road for 8km.
Turn left at the Brooklee Farm Stall onto the gravel road. Follow the road for 900m and then keep right. At the next T-junction turn left and follow the gravel road up the hill. Continue on this road for approximately 3 km and look out for the brown Zululand Birding Route sign and turn right into the Entumeni Nature Reserve.
Once in the reserve, keep left and drive around the Information Lapa and follow the vehicle tracks to the picnic site and the start of the two hiking trails.