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Perched on a ridge overlooking a nature reserve and the Indian Ocean, the KwaZulu-Natal town of Mtunzini is historically in an area regarded as the traditional home of the Zulu nation, South Africa’s most populous people. It was here that many frontier wars were fought between the British and the Zulus and a battlefield route has been established in an attempt to recreate the events that raged on between 1879 and 1896.
The name Mtunzini means place of shadows and will be forever linked to hunter and ivory trader John Dunn who, being fluent in Zulu, became an advisor to the Zulu king Cetshwayo. Dunn rose in power and was unofficially treated as a Zulu chief. His settlements and constructions can still be seen in Mtunzini.
For those who love the outdoors, Mtunzini has a wealth of national parks, beaches, water-related activities, hiking trails and mountain bike routes. Yet Mtunzini is also a place to relax, the air is clean, traffic is missing and only the breaking of waves and occasional bird calls interrupt the quiet.
Top 6 reasons to visit Mtunzini
1. Swimming is not recommended at Mtunzini due to the lack of shark nets (there is an important Zambesi shark breeding ground nearby), but the beach is pristine, ideal for sunbathing and family beach games. Cool off in the lagoon.
2. Arrange for a local guide to take you to Moyeni, John Dunn’s kraal, to see the pool dug for his wives to swim (located in the Umlalazi Nature Reserve) and the Indaba tree where he took council and where festive events were held. The word Indaba means meeting of heads.
3. Travel through a sea of green sugar cane fields to reach the Ngoye Forest Reserve. The reserve houses a primeval forest with a high canopy, masses of birdlife and colourful orchids and bracket fungi on the forest floor. Keep an eye out for the elusive green barbet. A 4x4 vehicle is required.
4. Visit the 1028ha Umlalazi Nature Reserve, best known for the extremely rare white and rust-coloured palm-nut vulture that is dependent on the large raphia palm growing in the reserve. Hiking trails lead to possible sightings of small mammals, antelope, monkey and crocodile.
5. Enjoy a round of 9 or 18 holes at Mtunzini Country Club golf course which has stunning ocean views. The rough is thick and the course demands accuracy. The club restaurant’s signature dish is fresh salmon from the fish farm down the road.
6. The 10km, 25km and 50km Zini River Estate Buffalo MTB races take place around Mtunzini during May. The routes travel into dense forest and through the Zini River Estate where various species of antelope can be seen. The tough 50km trail cuts through the sandy Mlalazi estuary.
The nearest airport is King Shaka International Airport, 100km from Mtunzini. The airport in Richards Bay is 50km away for chartered flights. There are many car rental agencies in Durban city centre, Richards Bay and at King Shaka airport to hire a vehicle, or you could order a vehicle online. There are 3 taxi operators based in Richards Bay for transport to Mtunzini, however, fees are costly and it’s best to hire a car.
Did you know?
As an advisor to the Zulu king, John Dunn was granted land and was free to take wives through traditional Zulu customs. Although married to a white woman, he took 49 Zulu wives and sired 117 children before he passed away at age 61.
Undersea fibre cables, servicing many East African countries and the east coast of South Africa, were brought ashore at Mtunzini.
English is mostly spoken in Mtunzini. When travelling into rural areas, Zulu is the primary language.