Dlinza Forest – Indigenous KZN Haven
Dlinza Forest is a 250-hectare indigenous haven located in Eshowe, KwaZulu Natal, around an hour and a half by car from Durban. Consisting of coastal scarp forest, typically found between the coastline and mist-belt along the KwaZulu Natal coast, Dlinza is home to a multitude of birds, beautiful butterflies and a host of insects, as well as vervet monkeys, porcupines, bushbuck, caracal, frogs, chameleons, and red and blue duikers.
The reserve was established in 1947 and has a network of walking trails allowing visitors to explore the entire area with relative ease. The Timber Wagon Trail follows the trail made by wagons in the early 1900s when the demand for timber resulted in large numbers of trees, notably ancient yellow-woods, were cut down and removed from the forest. Other trails are the 1.3 km Impunzi Trail and the 1.8 km Unkonka Trail. In 2004 the Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk was built in the reserve, opening up access to visitors in wheelchairs and those with limited mobility. The boardwalk stretches over a distance of 127 meters, at around ten meters from the ground, ending at a steel observation tower that stands around 20 meters from the ground. Looking out at the canopy of trees below from the observation tower, visitors may find it hard to imagine that elephants roamed freely in this forest in days gone by.
The forest is a fascinating wonderland of trees, intertwined with vines, roots and other vegetation, creating habitats for more than 65 species of birds, and countless butterflies and insects. There are a number of marked routes to choose from, depending on fitness levels. Birding enthusiasts will want to start early as this is when the forest’s feathered inhabitants are most active. Birds to look out for include the Spotted Ground-thrush, Purple-crested Turaco, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, and Narina Trogon. Majestic African Crowned Eagles may be seen from the viewing tower as they swoop over the forest canopy.
In addition to the tourism appeal of the reserve, up to 2,400 learners visit Dlinza each year and ongoing research and conservation projects study the botanical diversity of the forest. As a popular birding destination, Dlinza Forest features on the Zululand Birding Route. Facilities include a visitors’ center, refreshment kiosk and curio shop, as well as an educational boma with displays and trained guides to answer questions and offer interesting insight into some of the Zulu myths associated with the flora, fauna and history of Dlinza Forest.