The Dlinza Forest Nature Reserve is a 319-hectare pocket of indigenous forest, rich in a stunning variety of trees, other plants, birds and other wildlife – several species of which is rare or endangered.
The Aerial Boardwalk is Dlinza’s main attraction, extending a distance of 125m and allowing easy access to the lower, middle and upper stories of the forest, thereby providing visitors with a glimpse into a world they’d seldom be able to experience otherwise. The boardwalk ends at an observation tower 20m high that emerges above the treetops.
Two walking trails, the iMpunzi (1.3km) and uNkonka (1.8km), lead through the forest – be warned though that there are some steep sections along the way and sturdy footwear would be an advantage. Along the way you’ll be enchanted by the sights, sounds and smells of the forest and you really do not want to be rushed while hiking at Dlinza, so be sure to allow yourself enough time! Roughly half-way along the uNkonka trail you’ll reach a lovely clearing in the forest called Bishop’s seat as it was a favourite spot for a local clergyman in years gone by.
Expert local bird guides can escort visitors through the forest – best to arrange this before your visit. Aside from the boardwalk and trails, visitors can enjoy a leisurely picnic in the grounds at the visitor centre. A rough and narrow road, the Royal Drive, passes through the forest but attempting it in a vehicle with low ground clearance would not be advisable.
Situated in the town of Eshowe in northern Kwazulu-Natal, the Dlinza Forest must be one of the most accessible of its kind in the country, although being entirely surrounded by the town does bring with it several management problems, not least of which is feral pets straying into the forest and killing wildlife, and exotic garden plants establishing themselves within the reserve. There’s no accommodation in the reserve, but the town has a number of lovely bed-and-breakfast establishments or you could drive through from nearby towns, as we did from Mtunzini while staying in the Umlalazi Nature Reserve half an hour’s drive away.