By Myrtle Ryan
Durban - Mtunzini is still one of the prettiest villages in KwaZulu-Natal. Huge trees shade the winding roads, vegetation flourishes, and the locals are helpful.
Two children on bicycles offered to show me the way, when I asked for directions to the rafia palm forest. They pedalled, I followed. On arrival, we came across a woman about to walk her basset puppy, which was eagerly straining at its leash. “Be careful with your dog,” advised the young boy who had so gallantly escorted me there. “I have seen two gaboon vipers, on that walk.”
She thanked him, but assured him her dog had been unfazed at spotting a python on a walk in the opposite direction.
The walk along the boardwalk through the forest was magical. It was dense enough for me to imagine a pterodactyl rising from a treetop, screeching loudly, as it spotted a dinosaur headed heavy-footed its way.
Eventually the walk opens on to grasslands and the raffia palm monument – a short palm-tree lined road. The raffia palm is much sought after by the highly endangered palmnut vulture. Some tourists in a bakkie with Free State number plates, splashed their way through some of the pools on the road, created by recent rain. Their whoops of delight, showed just how much they were enjoying themselves.
There are so many walks in the town’s Umlalazi Nature Reserve, which is administered by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.Take a stroll along the beach to the Umlalazi River mouth; through the mangrove swamps; or through the dune forest where bushpig, bushbuck and red, grey and blue duiker may occasionally be seen. Wildflowers, a variety of birds, fiddler crabs, or mud-skippers could be your companions. There are also cruises on the river and lagoon.
When it comes to accommodation, the prime location is the wildlife body’s chalets, positioned to extract the greatest pleasure from all that nature has on offer. These, which sleep four, do not come cheap – R340 pp, but hey, what price do you put on location.
However, for those looking for something more affordable, there’s a whole array of self-catering and B&B establishments in the village.
Twinstreams, the oldest environmental education centre in KwaZulu-Natal, set at the confluence of the Siyaya and Amanzimnyama streams, in a forest adjoining the vast Siyaya Coastal Park in Zululand, sounded appealing, but I had time to look at just two: Aquaberry, in a pretty garden, with a sliver of seaview in the distance (R500 for a fully-equipped unit sleeping two or R350 if taken by just one person) and Waterbessie, also with minimal sea view (R800 for a fully-equipped unit sleeping four. If taken by two people, R700 and R350 for a person travelling alone. B&B costs R405pp out of season.
Aquaberry 035 340 2425; Waterbessie 035 340 2042; Tradewinds 035 340 2266; Twinstreams 035 340 7017; Lavenderlane 083 682 2584. - Sunday Tribune