Durban - I love a quick getaway. Somewhere quiet, restful. The Berg is great, but not so very quick.
Gooderson Mtunzini Forest Lodge, however, ticks all my boxes. It’s just over an hour from Durban, it’s green, peaceful and laid-back.
Casual self-catering in dreamy green surroundings, with the sea crashing on the other side of high dunes (not so close that you can’t sleep) floats my boat. So did the warm welcome from resort manager Garth Green and his team - and they didn’t know who I was.
Mtunzini Forest Lodge is timeshare but also available for rental. Accommodation is in 22 rustic, serviced (except Sundays) wooden cabins, set fairly discreetly apart amid the greenery.
If you are a screamer, bear in mind wooden walls don’t contain sound all that much.
There was nothing fancy in our six-sleeper - two downstairs bedrooms with comfy double beds and a twin bedded loft room for the teenagers. There’s a nice deck with seating, a brick braai, a sorted kitchen area, small lounge and flatscreen with enough DStv to keep you entertained if the weather isn’t great.
A short stroll away is a games room with pool tables, table tennis, foosball, darts and TV with a DVD player, plus a large swimming pool and kiddies pool with a communal braai area, and the Forest Sundowner Restaurant with bar, big screen TV and live music most Friday nights.
Charles and Janine Stafford recently took over the relaxed restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, which offers an extensive menu. At night curious bush babies come out to see what’s happening.
How the Staffords came to be here is interesting. Janine, in tears at the prospect of a move from upcountry to Richards Bay, perked up as they drove down the quiet, leafy road to the resort, declaring that this was where they would live.
I was pleased to see that Mtunzini - The Village as locals call it - remains as it was when last I visited, with one noticeable change: the Saturday market which used to be at a church is now at the restaurant, lending a festive feel. Take spending money for anything from produce to clothing and collectables.
Mtunzini Forest Lodge lies within a reserve, with its own beach access (others have to pay to go through the reserve). The whole town is a conservancy, offering something for everyone in a wonderful natural playground.
It lies in the middle of a wide open sandy bay and you might walk a long while on the beach or along the forest trails without seeing a soul. There are no shark nets or lifeguards so swim with care.
The pristine coastal dune forest adjacent to the beach has paths leading every which way. Birders perched on bridges over the waterways with humungous lenses on expensive cameras, mountain bike trails and red duiker were everywhere during our walks - the most notable being to the natural Raphia palm monument.
Messy, those Raphias, but impressive, especially the leaves which are among the world’s largest. We craned our necks, gazing up through the cathedral like assembly, hoping to see rare palmnut vultures that call them home. No luck.
The Zulu word emthunzini means “a place in the shade” but in this town refers specifically to the place under the milkwood trees near the Mlalazi River where the white Zulu chief, John Dunn, would meet with the tribal elders of the area.
Boaters can launch from the slipway into the river estuary with its protected lagoon at the uMlalazi Nature Reserve. Kids of all ages can explore the mangroves which are alive with red-clawed fiddler crabs sitting patiently in muddy trenches, waiting to wage war against each other over falling leaves.
Ogling this spectacle are the mudskippers - miniature ETs on steroids. Easy going, but muddy, trails in the reserve range from about 15 minutes to an hour or so, depending on how curious you are.
There’s a golf course if you simply must, but you may find yourself missing tee-off time as the forest definitely has a lulling effect and few folk (apart from the birders) got up early. But, with rates from just R995 a night for a four-sleeper, don’t snooze and lose out on a booking.
Call 031 337 4222 or visit www.goodersonleisure.co.za