The nature reserves of KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast offer the visitor a wealth of day trips from which to choose. Explore diverse habitats, from wetlands to forests to grasslands, and discover the many fascinating bird and mammal species that live in the area.

Did you know?

Empisini, a Zulu word, means 'the place of the hyena'.

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, near Umzinto on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, is a mix of rolling hills, grassland and wooded valleys where wild flowers burst into colour in spring. The more than 50 mammal species here include eland, zebra, blue wildebeest and bushbuck, while the 2 dams attract many of the reserve's 300 bird species.

The Empisini Nature Reserve at Umkomaas is a lovely spot for a picnic next to a scenic dam. Vervet monkeys, large-spotted genets and blue duiker may put in an appearance while hiking several excellent trails. Birdwatching is excellent here.

A network of trails takes nature lovers through the TC Robertson Nature Reserve in Scottburgh where various birds, the slender mongoose and the black-backed jackal may be spotted. Birding at Umdoni Nature Reserve, past Pennington, is spectacular. Use the well-worn trails to see forest birds, bushbuck and blue duiker.

Lining the scenic Oribi Gorge is a nature reserve of the same name where long walking trails are the main attraction. This vast region is home to aardwolf, leopard and Chacma baboon, along with numerous bird species.

Tree lovers should make a beeline straight for the arboretum at Skyline Nature Reserve in Uvongo, where nearly 400 indigenous trees and over 400 exotics grow along the self-guided trails.

Mpenjati Nature Reserve, 20km south of Margate, features a river lagoon and wetlands. The habitat sustains various birds and the Cape clawless otter. Observation platforms along the trails maximise the experience.

A breeding colony of threatened Cape vultures is the main drawcard at Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve where small mammals and various bird species may be seen in their natural habitat.

Inland, between Harding and Kokstad, lies the Weza-Ngele Forest, a prime bird watching location. Discover colourful forest birds, secret lagoons and rugged wooded gorges.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0)33 845 1000
Fax: +27 (0)33 845 1001

How to get here

Take the N2 south from Durban until you reach Scottburgh, about 45 minutes' drive away. The first of many South Coast nature reserves is on the inland side of the freeway.

Best time to visit

All year round, but summer is best for birdwatching.

Get around

If you wish to explore a number of reserves then hiring a car would be best.

What will it cost

Entrance to many of the nature reserves are free, while some charge nominal entry fees.

Length of stay

Most of these reserves are small, so a day trip will usually suffice. Larger places such as Oribi Gorge require at least a couple of days to explore properly.

Best buys

Support local artists and crafters at the Umnini Community Stalls that flank the N2 between Amanzimtoti and Umkomaas.