Zinkwazi Beach, edged by forested coastal dunes, spills from the car park into an enthralling collection of tidal rock pools of life; from coral and kelp to urchins and a myriad multi-coloured fish. Golden sands, only occasionally interspersed by black , sedimentary rocks, stretch endlessly to the North and South.
The sea off the swimming beach is equipped with shark nets and life savers are on duty during busy seasons, making swimming completely safe. Alternatively you can also float lazily in the calm waters of the lagoon, which is the preferred area of the smaller kids. The free Ferry Boat ride 500m across the lagoon (subject to water level) will also take care of all those umbrellas and cooler boxes. With a light northeasterly prevailing, there are long rideable waves – usually breaking left, across the crescent shaped sand spit in front of the lagoon mouth. The beach is habitually deserted and, apart from a few fishermen, there is little to disturb the serenity as the sea spray touches the unique stands of subtropical vegetation that nestle between the vast sugar estates and the blue of the sea.
Whale and dolphin watching is another leisurely pastime on the beach, or you can arrange to see them up close by ski-boat. A ski-boat launch site provides deep sea fishermen with easy ocean access.
Klaus Achtzehn, one of your hosts at Zinkwazi, has compiled a SPOTTING GUIDE TO THE BIRDS of the area, to facilitate finding those specials and endemics amongst the more than 250 species identified. For those from up-country it’s a great place to add a feather to your cap, so to speak. On site this can be achieved with little effort on the elevated sundeck over a cool drink , or during similar non strenuous activities on offer.
The camp is set in lush riverine forest, constantly ringing with a chorus of song from a multitude of species. Further species are found along the extensive lagoon, with its extensive reed beds and estuarine trees, the dune- and rare coastal lowland forests and the pristine beaches. The Zinkwazi Conservancy also includes the subtropical woodland and moist thorn-veld of the Harold Johnson Nature Reserve. This diversity offers prime habitat for many bird specials, unique to the North Coast.
Specials to be seen include: Wattle-eyed Flycatcher, Grey- and Olive Sunbirds, Crested Guinea Fowl, African Finfoot, White-eared Barbet, Goldenrumped Tinkerbarbet, Scalythroated and Lesser Honeyguides, Squaretail Drongo, Spotted Thrush, Bluemantled Flycatcher, Yellow- Forest- and Brownthroated Weavers, Green Twinspot.
With very little encouragement, the cruise raft can be equipped with a few jars of wine and tasties. You bring the binoculars, kids, and a warm sweater, a memorable bird watching late evening up the lagoon. The wine, of course, is only to encourage good eyesight and in the unlikely event that the birdlife is unco-operative, then sufficient wine will ensure that you won’t feel disappointed or discouraged.
For the more brave there are canoes, to explore the quiet backwaters of the lagoon for those skulkers and L.B.J’s. Should you feel the need to get fit, there are also many trails and walks beckoning with rich rewards. Then treat yourself to a leisurely drive to one of the many well known birding venues in the vicinity.
Back in camp the Purple Crested Lourie, one of Natal’s favourite species can be heard and seen bounding along the overhead branches, accompanied by the haunting call of Trumpeter Hornbills. Beware of the mimicry of the tame Natal Robins, which are known to imitate the call of the African Fish Eagle. Do not confuse the Pygmy Kingfisher with a Malachite, when seen bobbing on low branches overhanging the riverside.
Other Bird Spotting opportunities (guides are available for some areas):
Zinkwazi is ideally situated for birders wanting to visit some of the top birding destinations in southern Africa. The Zululand Birding Route is to the north with prime forest habitats around Eshowe and Ngoye (all approx. 70 km) hosting bird specials such as Green Barbet, Delegorgue’s Pigeon, Green Coucal, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Emerald Cuckoo and Narina Trogon.
- In the wetlands and thornveld around Eshowe and the Goedetrow dam, Red-chested Flufftails, White-backed Night Herons and the most southern Rudd’s Apalis population occur.
- At Mtunzini (60 km) and Richards Bay (100 km), unique eastern subtropical estuarine habitats support massive wader populations, wetland birds and specials such as Palmnut Vulture and Mangrove Kingfisher.
- To the south there is the well known Jex Estate (Umvoti mouth 30 km) with Redwinged Pratincole and many unusual wader sightings.
- Stanger Tranquila Hide (20 km) also regularly makes birding news.
- Harold Johnson Nature reserve (woodland and thorn veld -15km)
- South bank of the Tugela river (waders and waterfowl -15km)
- Dhlokweni coastal lowland forest (forest specials) – 15km)
- Tugela Gorge at Kranskop (Raptor specials – 80km)
- Amatikulu Game reserve (Palm veld and forest 30km)
Boating & Fishing
In addition to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Zinkwazi also boasts a unique lagoon. Separated from the sea by an impressive sandbank are 7 kilometers of flat water, ideal for boating. Being calm and shallow it also offers a safe alternative for children. It is a natural ecosystem, unpolluted and without any health hazards. For its healthy functioning it depends on regular interaction with the sea, which happens a few times of the year, when heavy rains cause the sandbank to burst and the water level drops drastically, making it too shallow for power boats.
There are quite a few gentle activities that visitors can take part in. Fishing does however require a license for both lagoon and sea, which is available at local Post Offices. Mussel, Oyster, Crayfish and bait licenses are available from Durban.The Fish Eagle Ferry has regular trips to the beach and back. The ferry is also used for upriver bird spotting, ‘wine tasting’ and just pleasant cruising.(subject to water level) If you feel energetic, there are 7kms of lagoon to explore by pedal boat or canoe.Launching permits and moorings are available for your own boat so that you can experience that perfect early morning ski or your own sundowner cruise.(jetskis not welcome)
For the more serious fishermen (and women) Ski boat trips through the surf out to sea can be arranged. Or you can launch your own by arrangement with the Deep-Sea Angling Club. Diving or dolphin watching excursions can also be arranged.
Hluhluwe Game Reserve (Big Five)
Established in 1895, wildlife viewing has always been the prime attraction at Hluhluwe, close range sightings made all the more exciting with viewing hides conveniently overlooking waterholes.
Today the reserve is part of the greater Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park covering 96 000 hectares and containing an immense diversity of animals, birds and plant life.
Home once more to the Big Five, Hluhluwe Game Reserve is also the headquarters of Operation Rhino and is internationally renowned for its white rhino conservation.
Hluhluwe makes up the northern section of the park, characterised by undulating hills of savannah vegetation and woodlands. Along with game-viewing drives, there are two self-guided drive routes which give insight into the management and natural history of the park. Highly recommended are the early morning and late afternoon guided walks.
Amatikulu Nature Reserve (No Big Five)
The small reserve is situated on the coast between the Tugela and Amatikulu Rivers. It is one of the few places in Southern Africa where wildlife can be seen grazing on forested dunes overlooking the sea.
Explore the reserve in a canoe, 4X4 vehicle or on foot. The coastal forest grasslands and rivers attract numerous birds, including the rare African fin foot. Keen birders can hire trained bird guides from the local community. Giraffe, zebra, waterbuck and smaller antelope are frequently seen. The beach offers good surf angling.
Canoes are available for hire at R50 per day. An entrance fee is payable at the gates, open from 07:00 to 17:00.
The famous Golf Coast:
- Darnall Country Club – 8km – 9 hole course – Local village green only for the very fit)
- Princes Grant Estate – 16km – World class ‘Links’ course within half an hours drive
- Mtunzini Country Club – Prawn Farm
- Umhlali Country Club – Zebra hazards
- Simbithi Estate – Waterbird Slalom
- Port Zimbali Estate – Celebrity Playground
- Maidstone Country Club
- Mount Edgecombe Country Club
Within an hours reach are Eshowe, Empangeni, Richards Bay and Durban . For something different why not try the various 9 hole courses for an interesting local flavour at Mandini, Amatikulu or Stanger.
For the seriously energetic there are a number of challenging hikes.
Here is a selection:
- Tugela Hike (7km) – from Tugela river mouth, amble back to the resort along the empty beaches, pick up a ferry ride home.
- Nkonka Trail (4km) – first half dune forest and back along the beach
- Nonoti beach walk (6km) – there and back to Nonoti lagoon
- Harold Johnson Nature Reserve trails, through grass- and woodlands, amongst zebra and buck
- Unique elevated board walk in the forest canopy of Eshowe
- Many more interesting options within an hours drive (forest, mountain, palm grove, mangrove etc.)