Hike the Siyaya Trail in the Umlalazi Nature Reserve

Explore the beaches and pristine coastal forests of southern Zululand.

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike banner

Follow the path through the coastal forests and open beaches of the Umlalazi Nature Reserve and discover a place rich in biodiversity, history and natural beauty.

Mtunzini and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve

The coastal town of Mtunzini is 140 km north of Durban, in southern Zululand. Bordering the Umlalazi Nature Reserve, the town is rich in unique natural treasures. The Raphia Palm Monument with its wheelchair friendly boardwalk is one of the few natural monuments in South Africa, and well worth a visit to marvel at the cathedral-like grove of trees as well as for the chance to see a rare Palm-nut vulture in the wild. Mtunzini is also very close to spectacular natural forest areas that include the Ongoye,Dlinza and Entumeni Nature Reserves, and is on the Zululand Birding Route.

This coastal town also has a rich history, taking its name from the Zulu word “emthunzini” which means “place in the shade” in reference to the Milkwood trees along the Mlalazi estuary where the White Zulu chief John Dunn would meet with the area’s tribal elders in the late 1800s. Dunn was a hunter/trader of Scottish descent who became the foreign advisor to the Zulu king Cetshwayo, and over his time in Zululand accumulated vast wealth and land, and took on 48 Zulu wives. The Mlalazi River that runs through the Umlalazi Nature Reserve enters the sea at Port Durnford, which is where Cetshwayo departed for his exile in the Cape in 1879 following his defeat in the Anglo-Zulu War.

The Umlalazi Nature Reserve was established in 1948 and is 1028 ha in extent. Within the Umlalazi reserve, the Mlalazi and Siyaya estuaries and their associated varied swamp, mangrove and dune areas provide varied habitats for a range of bird and animal life including the endangered Pickersgill’s reed frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli) which is endemic to this area. This area is also habitat for a number of special birds that include the African finfoot, Bat hawk, Palm-nut vulture and Grey sunbird, and animals including zebra, red, grey and blue duiker, bushbuck or otters and water mongoose around the lagoon. The reserve has picnic facilities with serviced ablutions. Visitors to the Umlalazi reserve can enjoy a vast range of activities including paddling or fishing in the Mlalazi estuary or the nearby beach, as well as hiking, mountain biking and birding along the well-marked trails through the forested dunes of this beautiful reserve.

Adventure Highlights

  • Enjoy pristine coastal forest habitat.
  • Cross the footbridge over the Siyaya River for an aerial perspective on the reed beds and mangroves lining its banks.
  • Spend some time on the expansive, unspoilt beach.
  • Take in the white and black mangroves and their unique fauna along the Mlalazi estuary.
  • The incredible bird life.

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Sign

Route Description

The Siyaya Trail is a circular trail that starts and ends at the well-signposted markers off the lower beach road. The path is well maintained and clearly marked, so navigating the route is very easy.

The start loop takes you through the forested dunes towards the Siyaya River and is gently undulating and relatively easy. Before setting out on the return loop there is the option of following a leg of the trail across a footbridge over the Siyaya River and onto the beach. One can then either walk back along the beach or rejoin the return loop of the Siyaya Trail. The return loop is a bit more strenuous than the first, with some steep up- and down-sections.

A printed map is available from the reserve reception, and is also posted on a sign-board at the beginning of the hike.

Important information for hikers

The Umlalazi Nature Reserve:
The Umlalazi Nature Reserve is accessible from Mtunzini town, and is managed by EKZN Wildlife. There is a small entrance fee, payable at the gate.

Trail Type:

Entrance Fee:
R25 per person

Fitness level required:

Permit details:
There are no permits required to do this hike.

When to go

The Umlalazi Nature Reserve is open from 05h00 to 22h00 year-round.

The summer months (November to February) in KwaZulu-Natal can be very hot and humid while the winter is mild and dry.

Hikers can visit the reserve at any time however, it is best to try and get there as early as possible to hear the owls and other nocturnal birds.

What to Pack

  • The Siyaya Trail is not very strenuous, but comfortable clothes and shoes are recommended for hiking.
  • The hike is relatively short but there are no water points along the way so make sure you take sufficient water with you.
  • Remember to pack your swimming things if you choose to go down to the beach.
  • Binoculars for birding.
  • Camera.
  • Sunblock, a hat and sunglasses
  • Trail snacks.

Details to keep on hand

Umlalazi Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)35 340 1836
Email: webmail@kznwildlife.com Website: www.kznwildlife.com

Zululand Birding Route
Tel: +27 (0)83 225 5960
Email: guides@zululandbirdingroute.co.za


If you have food, beware of the brazen monkeys that hang around the picnic sites, especially if you have children with you.

The beach has no shark nets or lifeguards so exercise caution if you choose to swim.

Getting to the Umlalazi Nature Reserve

Mtunzini is 140 km from Durban, on the N2 highway. There are tollroads along this route.

Umlalazi Nature Reserve is accessed from Mtunzini town and is approximately 1km outside of the town.

Accommodation nearby

Zululand Country Lodge
Tel: +27 (0) 61 388 0921 or +27 (0)72 348 2560
Email: humphreyglass@gmail.com
Website: www.zululandcountrylodge.co.za

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Bridge

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Beach

Images of the Siyaya Hiking Trail

Siyaya River Umlalazi Hike

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Beach View

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Beavn on the Beach

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Bridge Lookout

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Image

Siyaya Umlalazi Hike Beach image

Accommodation nearby