Our December holidays kicked off with a five night stay at Umlalazi Nature Reserve on the north coast of Kwazulu-Natal Province and conveniently right on the outskirts of the small holiday town of Mtunzini. It is quite a drive from Pretoria, and by the time we arrived in stifling heat and humidity we were thankful for being allowed to check in a bit earlier than the “official” 14:00 time.
Of course we can’t sit still for long and with the relative coolness of the evening setting in we decided to go for a walk through the mangrove swamp and then through the forest to the beach before returning to our cottage.
After the previous day’s long drive Marilize and Joubert were a little late to wake for my liking, so I set off on a hike while they lay in. Upon returning to the cottage they were thankfully already up and ready, so we could set about exploring Umlalazi and surrounds as a family for the remainder of the day.
Early on Sunday morning we set off inland to Eshowe and the Dlinza Forest – we’ll tell you more about Dlinza in our next post. Just after returning to Umlalazi and a quick lunch, I set off on the longest trail in the reserve – the one leading to the mouth of the Mlalazi River where it meets the Indian Ocean. In retrospect starting the trail in the heat of the day was probably not the best idea, but the further I walked the more intrigued I became by what scenes were still waiting around the next corner, and by the time I started questioning my sanity it was too late to turn around anyway. This particular trail leads through the forested dunes and along the river course to the mouth and one can then choose to return to the camp along the same way or along the beach – all in all a round trip of around 9km or so. I chose to return along the flat beach with the cool waves lapping my overheated feet… 😀
With Monday the 17th of December being a public holiday, we expected that the beach would soon be packed with throngs of sun-seekers, and with sunrise coming so early in summer, we were out the door by 04:20 to first enjoy the emergence of the sun over the horizon of the Indian Ocean and then have a bit of beach fun-and-games. By the time the day started heating up around 08:00, with a steady stream of people heading for the beach, we had our fill of seaside-fun and headed back to the cottage. In the afternoon the mangrove swamp and Mlalazi river begged further exploration.
Joubert and I got an early start to our final full day at Umlalazi to go looking for interesting birds, and we were certainly not disappointed. A rain shower in the afternoon cancelled any plans we had of spending more time in Umlalazi’s forests, but brought welcome respite from the oppressive heat and humidity. The next morning we were moving to Mpila in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and of course we’re going to tell you about that part of our trip soon!
This was our second visit to the Umlalazi Nature Reserve. After our first visit in 2016, we blogged about the reserve, the mangrove swamps, the beach, the forests and the Mlalazi River – follow the links if you’d like to learn more about this beautiful and underrated destination.