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Forest areas tend to be few and far between in South Africa, covering a total area estimated at less than 0.25% of it’s surface area. The forest ecosystem consists not only of the natural woodland, but also the plants, animals and microorganisms that occur. It is the interaction of these elements that maintains a healthy forest and maintaining a balance is critical to the long terms survival of these areas.
The Dlinza, Entumeni, Ncandu, Ongoye and Nkandla reserves offer the opportunity to see some patches of this rare habitat.
Home to the Zulu nation, Kwazulu Natal is a diverse province offering everything from the metropolis of Durban, the Anglo Zulu and Anglo Boer battlefields, coastal towns and beaches as well as a profusion of flora and fauna.
South Africas third city has a cosmopolitan feel, with many activities to suit all tastes, including shopping, cultural attractions and sporting events. The Natural Science Museum and the KwaMuhle Museum both make interesting excursions. The latter providing the visitor with a more in depth understanding of South Africa. The Botanic Gardens are also a fun day out and offer the chance to see one of the rarest cycads.
The Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve encompasses a number of walking and hiking trails which allow visitors to experience the breathtaking scenery along the gorge. There are a number of antelope species within the reserve as well as nearly 300 bird species.
Both Reserves are situated in easy reach of Durban and give the visitor the opportunity to picnic or walk in and amongst a variety of birdlife and wildlife.
Located in the Southern part of the province, the reserve is a botanical eden, made up of riverine forest and rocky cliffs on the borders of the Umtamvuna river. Whilst it’s not possible to stay within the reserve itself, the walking and hiking trails can keep you occupied for a number of days.
Lake Eland Game Reserve houses the Oribi Sanctuary, which is working to save the endangered Oribi antelope. In addition the reserve has a number of activities on offer ranging from mountain biking, canoeing and horse riding to night time game drives and fishing.
The Phinda Private Nature Reserve has a number of notable conservation success stories already under it’s belt. These include the successful reintroduction of cheetahs to the reserve after an absence of over 50 years as well as bringing back the black and white rhino from the brink of extinction. Today wildlife viewing in Phinda is striking, with the possibility of seeing all the big 5 set amongst the seven distinct habitats which make up the reserve.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a National Heritage and RAMSAR site combines more than 300,000 hectares of lakes, islands and estuaries. iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, both words which befit this amazing area.
There are a number of nature reserves located within and around the park including Amatigulu, Cape Vidal, Kosi Bay, Maphelana, Mpenjati, Sodwana, St Lucia, Umlalazi, Mfabeni, Beechwood Mangroves and Umhlanga Lagoon.
These all offer a variety of activities which include diving, fishing, snorkelling, mammal viewing and over 500 bird species to spot. In Sodwana Bay, Cape Vidal and the St Lucia Estuary it’s sometimes possible to see the leatherhead and loggerhead turtles breeding in the summer months.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, consisting of more than 15 different nature reserves, is one of South Africa’s leading ecotourist destinations and is also a World Heritage Site. Throughout the park is a huge assortment of scenery, ranging from the lofty heights of the amphitheatre at the Royal Natal National Park to the scenic beauty of the southern end of the range at Cobham and Lotheni.
Hiking is the order of the day in the park and there are a huge variety of trails which suit the most inexperienced walker to the most experienced hiker. All of the major nature reserves have well laid out walk routes which are easily followed.
A wealth of other activities are also on offer including birdwatching, swimming, horseriding, rock art viewing or just taking it easy and enjoying the mountain air.
KwaZulu Natal is home to a number of different wildlife parks managed by Ezemvelo KZN, ranging from the very oldest wildlife park in South Africa, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, home to the big 5 and a well established rhino relocation programme to smaller parks such as Weenan. The parks offer a wide variety of flora and fauna, with habitats varying from mountains and forests to savannah interspersed with lakes and rivers.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, other wildlife parks in KwaZulu Natal include Ithala, Mkhuze, Ndumo, Phongolo, Spionkop and Tembe.
Accommodation within these parks range from basic campsits through to luxury lodges.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011