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Exploring the forests of southern Zululand and Mtunzini

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Hi everyone and welcome to stop number 2 on the Ultimate South African Road Trip: This week we're visiting Mtunzini.

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Mtunzini and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve

Mtunzini is a small coastal village about 130 km north of Durban. I've lived in Durban my whole life and this is the first time I've ever been to Mtunzi. The more time I spend out here the more I'm asking myself why I haven't done this before?

Mtunzini is such a gem! It's one of those places that seems to take a while to get to know, but is well worth the time and effort you put in to exploring it.

The town itself is in the centre of an incredibly beautiful region. The Umlalazi Nature Reserve on the coast is home to some amazing hikes. We spent a day doing the Siyaya Trail and visiting the Raphia Palm Monument which is basically a palm tree cathedral. There is also an incredible section of mangroves on the lagoon. So just in this little section there is already so much that you can do from hiking to mountain biking to trail running; Mtunzini has it all!

Read more about hiking the Siyaya Trail in the Umlalazi Nature Reserve.

bevan on the siyaya trail in mtunzini
Bevan on the Siyaya Trail in Mtunzini.
Exploring the mangrove forest on the banks of the Umlalazi River
Exploring the mangrove forest on the banks of the Mlalazi River.
Mtunzini beach view
Mtunzini beach view.

As well as its pristine natural environment this coastal town also has a rich history. Mtunzini derives its name from the Zulu word “emthunzini” which means “place in the shade.” This is in reference to the many Milkwood trees scattered along the Mlalazi estuary and where the White Zulu chief John Dunn would meet with the area’s tribal elders in the late 1800s. Dunn was a hunter and trader of Scottish descent who became the foreign advisor to the Zulu king Cetshwayo, and over his time in Zululand accumulated vast wealth and land, and took on 48 Zulu wives. The Mlalazi River that runs through the Umlalazi Nature Reserve enters the sea at Port Durnford, which is where Cetshwayo departed for his exile in the Cape in 1879 following his defeat in the Anglo-Zulu War.

Find a place to stay in Mtunzini

Entumeni Nature Reserve

Mtunzini is situated close to some other amazing places in the southern Zululand region. We spent some time outside the town, trekking inland towards Eshowe and the Entumeni Nature Reserve. This 750ha scarp forest is home to some incredible Wild Plum, Flatcrown and Giant Umzimbeet trees. We were lucky enough to have hiked in spring, so the Clivias were flowering as well as some of the ground orchids and ferns.

Read more about hiking the uKhozi Trail in the Entumeni Nature Reserve.

Jill in the Entumeni Nature Reserve
Jill in the Entumeni Nature Reserve.
The Entumeni Nature Reserve
The Entumeni Nature Reserve.

If you're in Durban and you're stuck for something to do this weekend, then I strongly recommend visiting Mtunzini. Make sure you pack for a weekend outdoors, because only the rain will keep you inside!

What to pack

  • Layered clothing
  • Good hiking boots
  • Sun cream
  • Water (there are no water points along the way)
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Binoculars (for birding)
  • Cell phone with saved emergency numbers and power bank.

If you're looking for great hiking and trail gear then we can highly recommend Salomon. We only promote the brands we use and love - and we love Salomon! If you live in South Africa then check out their online store and get quality gear delivered to your door.

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