Mtunzini, meaning ‘Place in the Shade’, is an unspoilt coastal town with much to offer the birding or wildlife enthusiast. The town, situated on a hill overlooking the coastline, has pristine dune forest and an estuary lined with mangrove swamp forest.
The Umlalazi Nature Reserve in Mtunzini offers visitors wonderful opportunities to experience both land and water… canoe and fish in the estuary, take romantic walks on the beach, swim in the ocean and spot wonderful birdlife and a variety of small game in the coastal forest.
The Mtunzini beach is wild and wonderful, with sand dunes that appear to stretch on forever – there are no lifeguards and the sea here can be treacherous, so swimming is at one’s own risk.
Take an easy walk through the mangrove swamp near the main parking area of the Umlalazi Nature Reserve and besides great examples of black and white mangrove, you get to walk past Dunn’s Pool – a man-made ‘bathing area’ dug out of the banks of the Mlalazi River safe from crocodiles and hippos. John Dunn was a legendary hunter, trader and the white chief of Zululand, and played a significant part in the history of the Zululand region.
A highlight of this area is the striking Raphia Palm (Raphia australis) forest. This grove of Raphia Palms is one of the few declared natural monuments in the country and is the best place to spot the rare Palmnut Vulture which nests close to the top of the palm whose fruits form an essential part of their diet.
Birding enthusiasts will enjoy spending time in the lush mangrove swamps and forests of Mtunzini and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve where, in the company of a local birding guide you’ll be able to tick some specials of the region, from the Palmnut vulture that feeds on the fruit of the Kosi palms to the little-known mangrove kingfisher, African finfoot and Green Malkoha.
And resident vervet monkys always add to the entertainment.