THE KING’S EXPERIENCE – PART 3

by | Nov 21, 2017 | Travel Stories | 0 comments

CONNECTING WITH NATURE…

The King’s Experience would not be complete without exploring the stunning natural resources that abound throughout this region:

One of KwaZulu-Natal’s most unspoilt, coastal hideaways is at Mtunzini – kilometres of uncrowded beaches and an inviting river lagoon provide a perfect destination for outdoor relaxation and water sport fun. A common interpretation of the town’s name is “place in the shade” but the Milkwood tree (Mthunzi) is where the infamous John Dunn used to sit underneath and have his meetings (izindaba). Thus, the more accurate meaning of the name is “under the Milkwood tree”.

Uncrowded beaches at Mtunzini complete the King's Experience when connecting with nature in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Uncrowded beaches at Mtunzini complete the King’s Experience.

We were met at the main lagoon carpark, in the uMlalazi Nature Reserve by Gondaleo ll, a stable, private barge that is equipped with comfortable seats, sound system and a braai facility. Although the aim was to connect with nature and listen to the haunting sound of a fish eagle calling and watch a pied kingfisher hover for its prey, the sound system provided a cheerful vibe once we were out on the water and a festive atmosphere prevailed. The barge costs R1600 to hire for 12 people and you can customise your own private tour. Bookings can be made via their Face book page, ZiniTown .

The King's Experience where Zinitown barge cruises gently along the uMlalazi river lagoon in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

A Zinitown barge cruises gently along the uMlalazi river lagoon.

The uMlalazi Nature Reserve is a popular coastal park where holidaymakers either camp or stay in log cabin accommodation. Fishing, water-skiing, paddling and birdwatching are common and the village of Mtunzini further offers golf, tennis, bowls, squash and horse riding with a charming host of bed and breakfast accommodation. Check out the town’s website for details and see how central this town is to combine the outdoors, culture and game reserve visits. We meandered along the wooden walkway, through the mangrove swamps in the reserve, and were fascinated with the crustaceans walking up the tree trunks and gentle mudskippers that flipped across the edge of the water. We kept a watchful lookout for the legendary Palmnut Vulture but were rewarded instead with an aerobatic fight between a Fish eagle and a Yellow-billed kite. A Trumpeter Hornbill eyed us cautiously as it feasted on fruit overlooking the main picnic site. Dainty red duiker timidly grazed nearby and a family of Vervet monkeys played a game of “hide and seek” with us.

Red duiker, mudskipper and Trumpeter Hornbill seen at uMlalazi Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Red duiker, Mudskipper and Trumpeter Hornbill seen at uMlalazi Nature Reserve.

One of the other main natural features in Mtunzini is the Raphia Palm Forest which was proclaimed a National Monument in 1942. The palms (Raphia australis) were originally planted in 1916 by the local magistrate CC Foxon as a project for prisoners to make brooms and brushes. However, it turned out these large palms that can reach a height of up to 25m were unsuitable for this use. Instead they provided a source of food supply for the rare bird species, the Palm-Nut Vulture. The regular sightings of this species proves to be a magnet for bird watchers from around the globe.

Strolling through the Raphia Palm Monument where the world's longest leaved palms die off and then re-generate in Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Strolling through the Raphia Palm Monument where the world’s longest-leaved palms re-generate.

In Eshowe, the Dlinza Forest and aerial boardwalk provides a calm solace from the busy pace of life and it is quite humbling to stand beneath giant fig trees and listen to the resonating trill of cycada beetles. Bird watchers from afar visit this area for rare species such as the Spotted Ground Thrush or Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon. Sadly, it was raining when we arrived and all the birds were tucked away from the steady rain drops but even walking along this wet boardwalk, there was a sense of peace and serenity that can only be gleaned from walking in nature. It is also here that one can hope to see the tiny Blue Duiker.

Connecting with nature at a different level in Dhlinza Forest, Eshowe is part of the King's Experience in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Connecting with nature at a different level in Dhlinza Forest, Eshowe.

Not far from the forest, is the Eshowe Butterfly Dome which is an eco-tourist attraction that displays indigenous, live butterflies situated in the Museum Village. It is popular with schools and tour groups regarding education of these delicate creatures.

A Layman's Butterfly in the Eshowe Butterfly Dome forms part of the King's Experience tour in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

A Layman’s Butterfly in the Eshowe Butterfly Dome.

North of Richards Bay, in the uMfolozi District, there are both educational and natural outlets: The Umfolozi River Lodge and Bird Park and Reptile City are perfect for those who prefer to take family/school outings and a gentle stroll up close to animals in captivity. Enseleni Nature Reserve is a pocket of coastal and forest bush not far from Richards Bay. It offers a community picnic spot, conference/meeting centre and short self-guided walks.

Connecting with nature in the uMfolozi District adds a different dimension to the King's Experience in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The uMfolozi District adds a different dimension to the King’s Experience.

The City of uMhlatuze also helps people connect with nature…The residential area is interspersed with green belts and waterways and it is not uncommon to see hippo grazing at night not far from residences. A popular choice by tourists is taking sunset cruises around the harbour. When we set off abroad Nomad we didn’t realise how close we could get to the sea birds and even had a fish eagle hover directly above the yacht’s mast!

There is something free and soulful whilst relaxing abroad Nomad on a sunset cruise exploring Richards Bay harbour in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

There is something free and soulful whilst relaxing abroad Nomad on a sunset cruise exploring Richards Bay harbour.

The King’s Experience culminated with a guided tour at the exclusive Thula Thula, private game reserve and safari lodge. There is nothing quite like sitting in an open-backed, land cruiser listening to the melodious call of a Gorgeous Bush Shrike competing with a Red Chested Cuckoo whilst watching a gentle, giant of an elephant walk purposefully up the road towards you. Indeed, this is a close encounter with nature. The luxury tented accommodation and upmarket presidential suite, at the lodge, caters for guests with varied purpose. One can be assured of fine, gourmet cuisine and take time to relax in camp on one of the comfortable lounge suites in between safari drives.

Elephant encounter at Thula Thula in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Elephant encounter at Thula Thula Private Game Reserve.

To summarise the last three blogs: The King’s Experience, of the King Cetshwayo District of KwaZulu-Natal, is proud of its cultural heritage and aims to combine the tourist’s encounter with history, community and nature. I, for one, feel enriched and inspired to re-visit and experience more of what this exciting region offers.

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