After months of anxiety and lockdown, it’s time to revitalise body and mind with some well-deserved family time out in nature. The KZN South Coast, with its quality outdoor offerings, is proving to be a leading ‘safecation’ destination. And for those looking for a truly unique, nature-based excursion, the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom has many hiking trails that traverse stunning landscape and offer breathtaking views.
“There is a lot of encouragement for South Africans to enjoy the upcoming holidays at local establishments, while taking advantage of outdoor activities where possible,” explained CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT), Phelisa Mangcu. “The KZN South Coast fortunately offers visitors endless exciting excursions, both water- and land-based, all of which follow relevant Covid-19 health and safety protocols. For those who are keen for some family-friendly activities, our beautiful hiking trails are world-renowned, with many suited to even the novice adventurer!”
20 KZN South Coast Hiking Spots
Ingeli Forest – the second-largest indigenous forest in KZN – has a wide variety of walking and running trails suited to all ages and abilities. Found just 22 kilometres from Harding, there are several trails – 3km, 3.5km, 7.5km, 10km, 15km and even loop-out routes – crossing through forest streams and past waterfalls. The ANEW Resort is based just below the Ingeli Mountain Range and is a great setting off point.
Between Uvongo and Margate is this stunning nature reserve that consists of some 380 indigenous and 400 exotic tree species. Hikers are able to view a variety of resident wildlife in this 40-year-old arboretum, including blue duiker, grey duiker and bushbuck, and there are numerous indigenous bird species to look out for. Many hiking trails can be found here, about an hour in length.
3. Uvongo Parkrun
Contact: 039 682 7944
The parkrun community initiative has found a home in Uvongo where enthusiastic residents congregate on a Saturday morning at 8am, to participate in the friendly 5km walk or run. The Uvongo parkrun takes place from St Mike’s car park. There is free registration, and a post-parkrun coffee and chatting session at C-Bali Restaurant.
4. Umdoni Park Run
Contact: 039 682 7944
The second such parkrun can be found at Umdoni, following the same format as the Uvongo parkrun. Participants meet at Umdoni Park Environmental Centre for free registration before starting the 5km walk or run, followed by a coffee at Umdoni Park Restaurant.
There is an incredibly scenic hike that goes through the River Valley Nature Reserve, passing grasslands and riverine forests, home to impala, nyala, grey and blue duiker. There are also around 145 species of indigenous bird, among them the incredibly rare narina trogan and African crowned eagle. The reserve also has great spots to enjoy a picnic and take in the sights.
6. KwaXolo Caves Adventures
Facebook: KwaXolo Caves Adventures
Contact: Bookings must be made by calling Makhosazane on 076 185 3447 or contact Shaun on 074 8873 742.
For something really different, the KZN South Coast has the ancient heritage site – the KwaXolo Caves – home to centuries-old San rock art and some of the most incredible views. Earlier this year, the KwaXolo Caves Adventures was established, giving visitors a harnessed, secure, guided hiking route directly to the caves. Hikers enjoy views of the waterfall and gorge, with a picnic spot available. The one-and-a-half-hour hike is open to anyone aged eight and over.
This beautiful coastal reserve has trails varying in length, from a quick hike through to the 4-hour walk all the way to Mbizana River at Southbroom. Hikers will walk along beaches, alongside rivers and witness a range of wildlife endemic to this varying landscape. The gates open 6am to 6pm in summer.
8. KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails
Situated between Mpenjati Nature Reserve and Ezinqoleni is the KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails that fuses natural beauty with local cultural heritage. The KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trail Park, launched in 2019, gives hikers and birdwatchers the opportunity to immerse themselves in this stunning region along a 4-kilometre trail.
This key tourism destination has a wealth of outdoor activities on offer, including a number of hiking trails across both farmland and indigenous terrain. Hikes from the coffee estate range from around 45 minutes through to two hours, with stunning views of Mtamvuna River.
The nearby Clearwater Farm also has a number of incredible hiking trails that extend from the farmland through indigenous landscape all the way to Umtamvuna River Gorge. Those looking to reconnect with nature and enjoy a feeling of peaceful tranquillity will find it here.
Just 8 kilometres from Port Edward is this stunning nature reserve, home to the Red Desert, which happens to be the world’s smallest desert. The three trails found in this reserve include the Kingfisher Trail (30 minutes), the Loerie Trail (2 hours) and the Fish Eagle Trail (4-hour circular route) which give hikers the chance to view an array of birdlife and resident wildlife.
12. TC Robertson Nature Reserve in Scottburgh
This is a stunning 60-hectare nature reserve, home to some 200 bird species including the African fish eagle, rush warbler and African goshawk. There are also many indigenous wildlife that can be spotted along the 12 kilometres of self-guided nature trails that cross forests, grasslands, veld, wetlands and estuaries.
In 2014, the Rocky Bay Resorts Running Trails were established, all of which are clearly marked – orange for cyclists and green for hikers or runners – suited to everyone from novice to experienced.
The trails cross through this beautiful resort which forms part of the annual Sani2C and joberg2C competitions.
The 210-hectare park invites hikers to stop in at the Environmental Centre or Pro Shop for maps and information before embarking on one of the many trails, ranging from 15 minutes through to 2 hours. The reserve has excellent birdwatching and, along the trails, hikers can visit Umdoni Park Golf Course and the on-site restaurant with ocean views.
Another well-known KZN South Coast nature reserve, Vernon Crookes has a vast selection of hiking trails within the 2 189-hectare expanse, ranging from a gentle one-hour stroll through to the more advanced six-hour hikes.
16. Bushbuck Trail in Southbroom
Contact: 082 896 7814
Active environmentalist and founder chairman of the Southbroom Conservancy, David Hallé created this hour-long trail which meanders behind the local tennis club through dense coastal vegetation. There are great bird and bushbuck sightings (as the name suggests!), with benches, bridges and signage making this an easily-navigable trail.
This is a beautiful 2 500-ha game reserve which gives visitors the chance to get close to some of Africa’s wildlife. There are several hiking trails within the reserve, as well as the fantastic Wild 5 Adventures – ziplining, the gorge swing, suspension bridge, paintball and scooter tours.
Just 25 kilometres inland of Port Shepstone is this unique space. Within the 1 917-hectare reserve is the iconic gorge where the Umzimkulwana River has carved through sandstone over millions of years. There are some great trails in the reserve; the Hoopoe Falls Trail (7km), the Nkonka Trail (5km), Baboob View Trail (1km), Samango River Trail (1,5km), View Trail (9km), and Horseman’s Point (4,5 km).
19. Ramsgate Marine Ramble
Contact: 071 351 9958
This is a scenic, organised 6km walk along Ramsgate Beach where walkers can enjoy sightings of local birdlife and marine life, including dolphins and migrating whales.
20. Wild Coast Trails / Voli Travels
Contact: Mzolisi Madikizela on 078 182 0483 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For those looking to experience the incredible Wild Coast on the KZN South Coast border, Voli Travels offers package hiking trails and beach walks which include exploring the caves, waterfalls, and canoeing.
USCT encourages all visitors to practice the following personal safety measures when embarking on a hike along the beautiful KZN South Coast.
• Do not feed, disturb or interact with the wildlife
• Drink plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated
• Don’t forget to apply and reapply sunscreen as the sun can be particularly strong
• Check whether the trails are self-guided or require a qualified guide
• Avoiding bringing cash and valuables on hikes.
• Keep your phone charged and have the area’s emergency numbers at hand
To find out more about the KZN South Coast, simply download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za. You can also follow the KZN South Coast on social media – ‘South Coast Tourism’ on Facebook and YouTube, or @infosouthcoast on Twitter and Instagram.