Discovering Zululand Dlinza Forest in Eshowe MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Exploring Zululand: Dlinza Forest in Eshowe

Hey there, fellow adventurers! Like you, I’ve got a never-ending list of mind-blowing places to visit in Africa. I’m itching to tick off each enchanting destination one by one! First on my list? A second trip to Mozambique to soak up its irresistible southern coastline. Then, I’ll hop in my trusty Suzuki Jimny and roam the awe-inspiring national parks of Zambia. And of course, I can’t forget to whisk my wife away to witness the breathtaking desert landscapes in Namibia. Oh, I’ve got big dreams. But with a little bit of good fortune, I might even make it to East Africa and capture the glorious sight of the great migration while photographing those magnificent gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. The possibilities are simply mesmerizing!

But like many other people who love to travel, sometimes I forget to explore the places close to home. Last year, my wife and I moved to a small town called Mtunzini on the coast of KwaZulu Natal. Since I’m starting the new year in a new home, I’ve decided to make a resolution: I’m going to spend my weekends exploring the Zululand and KZN North Coast areas, which I’ve nicknamed “Discovering Zululand.”

Explore Dlinza Forest in Eshowe

Discovering Zululand Dlinza Forest in Eshowe MzansiBride

When my sister and her fiancé came to visit from Johannesburg, we made it a point to explore the Dlinza Forest & Boardwalk in Eshowe as our first adventure in Zululand. We all share a passion for bird-watching, and I had heard that this forest is a haven for unique bird species, some of which can only be found along the KZN North Coast. Of course, the Eastern-Bronze Naped Pigeon was at the top of our list, but there were other remarkable birds to discover as well, such as the Spotted Ground Thrush, Green Coucal, and Scaly-Throated Honeyguide.

Upon talking to some locals in Mtunzini, I decided it would be best to hire a birding guide to accompany us through the forest. It can be quite challenging to spot birds in such a vast forest like Dlinza, but having a knowledgeable guide by your side significantly increases your chances of finding the birds you’re seeking.

The alarm woke me up at the absurd time of 5am on Saturday morning. Our guide, Spho, insisted that we meet as early as possible to make the most of our time in the forest before it became too hot. The temperature rises quickly and the air gets humid under the forest’s thick canopy, so starting early allowed us to fully appreciate the forest before it became uncomfortable.

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As we pulled up to the Dlinza Forest gate, Spho was already waiting for us with excitement. After a quick introduction, Spho asked us about our knowledge of birds and what we were hoping to encounter on our walk. I enthusiastically shared my goal of spotting as many new bird species as possible, but in reality, we just wanted to enjoy the peacefulness of the forest.

With binoculars in hand, my trusty iPhone’s Sasol birds app, and a camera at the ready, I set off on an adventure with Spho. We left the information center behind and followed him into the heart of the forest. Our journey began on the Dlinza aerial boardwalk, which stretches an impressive 125 meters into the lush foliage.

As we continued along the boardwalk, the forest floor seemed to vanish beneath us, revealing a breathtaking view of the valley below. Step by step, we ascended higher and higher, until we found ourselves walking amidst the towering canopies of the majestic trees.

As I reached the end of the boardwalk, I felt compelled to climb up the towering lookout tower. With every step up its spiraling staircase, my anticipation grew. Finally, I reached the top and was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the forest stretching out before me. The trees seemed to go on forever, their canopies blending seamlessly with the valley below. It was a sight that left me in awe.

As I took in the beauty of the scenery, I noticed my companion, Spho, was not as captivated as I was. Instead, he was focused and determined, his binoculars pressed against his face. Curiosity getting the better of me, I asked him what he was doing.

“This is the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the elusive Eastern-Bronze Naped Pigeon,” Spho replied. His words piqued my curiosity even more. I had never heard of this bird before, and the idea of spotting it high up in the treetops seemed like a thrilling challenge.

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Spho explained that these pigeons prefer to perch atop the tallest trees, making them difficult to spot from the ground. With his binoculars, he was attempting to overcome this challenge and revel in the glory of setting eyes on this rare species. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement rise within me. Who knows, maybe I’d be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Eastern-Bronze Naped Pigeon too.

Discovering Zululand Dlinza Forest in Eshowe MzansiBride

So there we were, ready for an adventure. Spho, a seasoned bird enthusiast, whipped out his trusty old bird book. Its worn-out pages were a testament to the countless expeditions they had embarked on together. Fingers gliding effortlessly across the book’s familiar passages, Spho showed me the picture of the elusive pigeon we were desperately seeking.

With determination in our hearts, we abandoned our cameras and ignored the breathtaking scenery. Our eyes were fixed on the treetops as we scanned the skies with our trusty binoculars. But alas, no sign of the pigeon. Yet despite the disappointment, Spho remained optimistic. He assured us that we would return to the lookout tower later, undeterred by our initial setback.

Leaving the boardwalk behind, we ventured onto a narrow path that took us deeper into the woods. As I stepped onto the soft earth, my eyes were immediately drawn to the majestic trees that loomed overhead. The forest, with all its enchanting beauty, captivated my attention. I felt a surge of curiosity welling up within me, yearning to learn more about this extraordinary place. Yet, at the same time, I felt a profound sense of contentment in the quietude of our walk, simply savoring the forest’s essence without the need for words.

As I walked through the forest, a sudden sound caught my attention and I paused in my tracks. “Did you hear that?” I asked my companion, Spho. His eyes lit up with excitement as he replied, “That’s the call of a Scaly-Throated Honeyguide!” We looked up into the trees, following the bird’s call as it flitted from branch to branch. It was elusive, but its persistent calling eventually led us right to it. “We always hear it around here, but rarely get to see it,” Spho remarked, barely able to contain his excitement. It was a special moment for both of us, as it was my first time seeing the honeyguide.

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For the next few hours, we wandered through the Dlinza Forest, exploring its winding trails. Every now and then, we would stop to marvel at the beautiful birds we encountered and add them to our growing list. By the end of the day, we had sighted several lifers, including:

– Square-Tailed Drongo

– Black-Bellied Starling

– Purple-Crested Turaco

– Spotted Ground Thrush

As I reached the end of the walk, I once again climbed up the lookout tower, hoping to catch a glimpse of that Pigeon. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Despite not finding what we were looking for, we were content with what we had already seen. So, we decided to give up the search and settled onto one of the viewing decks to savor our coffee and breakfast. It was the perfect way to end a peaceful morning walk.

The Dlinza Forest is situated in the town of Eshowe, and it’s easily accessible if you live in the Durban or KZN North Coast areas. While most people only walk along the Boardwalk to reach the lookout tower, there is so much more to explore. Put on your walking shoes and follow one of the well-marked trails that wind through the forest. And if you’re an avid birdwatcher, I highly recommend booking a birding guide. Trust me, you won’t regret it. You can arrange for a guide by calling the Dlinza Boardwalk information centre.

Hey there! Let me tell you about the Ongoye Forest, another incredible spot that you should definitely check out in Zululand. I’ve been hearing great things about it, and I’m eager to experience it myself. With its small 4×4 trail, I can’t wait to explore it in my trusty Suzuki Jimny!

Speaking of which, if you’re familiar with the KZN North Coast or have any other hidden gems to share in the area, I’d be thrilled to hear about them. My list of must-visit places keeps getting longer, and I’m always up for new adventures!

Discovering Zululand Dlinza Forest in Eshowe MzansiBride

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