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VERNON CROOKES NATURE RESERVE
This 2,189 ha nature reserve is definitely the jewel in the KwaZulu-Natal south coast protected areas crown. The reserve conserves a representative and well managed example of the coastal grasslands and coastal forest habitats of the southern KwaZulu-Natal, and the biodiversity that these habitat types support.
The reserve boasts a wide variety of different habitats, including scarp forest, extensive grasslands, rivers, wetlands, cliff faces, and dams which provide a haven and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife which exist in the reserve.
Game animals that occur in the reserve include : zebra, blue wildebeest, bushbuck, blesbuck, impala, blue duiker, black backed jackal, dassies, mountain and common reedbuck and many more.
Due to its wide variety of habitats over 300 bird species have been recorded in the reserve, and it is especially renowned for its wide variety of grass land species. Some of the birds seen on a regular basis are grey crowned cranes, crowned eagles, martial eagles, ground hornbills, trumpeter hornbills, secretary bird and black duck.
The visitor facilities are stunning, and include 19 km of tourist roads, a nature trail network of 15 km [ one can walk portions of the trail system, depending on time available, or fitness of participants ] a excellent picnic site with braai and ablution facilities. In addition to this the is also the Nyengelezi hutted camp, which provides 20 beds, and tucked away in the forest is a self contained 7 bed tree house.
The 15km of trails can be accessed at different points within the reserve, but most visitors start their walks either from the hutted camp, picnic site or reception office. Visitors can choose trails which can vary from one hours to six hours. The trails traverse a wide variety of habitats in the reserve, from open grassland, parkland and forest. The manner in which the trails have been designed is to provide visitors with a wide variety of habitats during each walk, so that no matter how long or short the walk is, a varied experience is always experienced.
All of the trails are clearly signposted, and are maintained on a regular basis.
To find the reserve, turn off the N2 highway at the Park Rynie / Umzinto fly-over and take the Highflats / Ixopo road. The reserve turn off is approximately 3 km past the town of Umzinto, 12.5 km from the freeway, and the entrance gate is 6 km from the turn off. A small entrance fee of R 20.00 per adult and R 10.00 per child is charged at the entrance gate.