A hike doesn’t have to be an arduous trek up a steep hillside; there are so many different kinds of terrains suited to almost any hiker, just within our beautiful province. KwaZulu-Natal’s amazing year-round weather means you can enjoy nature trails and hikes whenever you like, and with a plethora of hiking trails just on our doorstep, there is no reason not to get out and explore the province. Avid birders who are not necessarily ardent hikers will also be pleased to know that there are many easy trails, like the Umhlanga Lagoon trail, which are ideal for birdwatching.
These are some of our recommendations:
Located just between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Shongweni Dam is home to a 1700-hectare game reserve. The reserve has a healthy zebra population and is home to over 250 species of birds including the White-backed Night Heron, Martial Eagle, European Honey Buzzard, African Broadbill and African Finfoot. Guided walks are offered with the costs covered in the reserve entrance fee.
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
Krantzkloof’s popularity is owed to the variety of trails found within the reserve and caters for both casual and seasoned hikers. The reserves best-known trail is the 6-kilometre Molweni Trail which takes you through some hair-raising moments with breath-taking vistas which eventually culminate at the base of the gorge. This is a fairly strenuous trail, so it is not recommended for nervous or unfit hikers. Keep a look out for the Crowned Eagles, several pairs have been seen nesting within the reserve.
Giba Gorge Nature Reserve
Located just past Marianhill Toll Plaza, Giba Gorge is home to the famous McIntosh Falls. The hike to the falls is fairly difficult and takes about 3 hours, and the trek takes you through the indigenous forest where you may spot an eagle or two. This is also a popular spot for mountain bikers with trails which vary in intensity.
Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve
Nestled between Umhlanga and Umdloti, this is an easy and popular trail walk. Birders will be excited to spot the Crested Guineafowl and Spotted Ground Thrush during winter, as well as the Green Malkoha hiding in the tree canopy. A further walk down will take you across the lagoon bridge from where you can survey the birdlife in the reed beds. You’ll see the Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver and the more commonly known Yellow Weaver breeding in the summer months.
Sibaya Coastal Forest
The Sibaya Coastal Forest is a newcomer to the Durban hiking and birding scene. This forest has remained largely inaccessible for a long time, but now with the development happening within Sibaya, the forest is actively being rehabilitated and cleared of alien species. The forest forms part of Sibaya’s no-development zone which makes up 60% of the precinct in total. Ultimately, residents and visitors will be able to explore this vast forest safely and easily either via the elevated boardwalk and by making use of one of the many bird hides within the forest.