Weenen Nature Reserve is for nature lovers and birders. If you want the excitement of the Big 5 then maybe this is not for you. However, you cannot help falling in love with this gentle out of the way haven. And it is a mere 2 hours out of Durban.
What it lacks in exciting cats, lumbering elephants and intimidating buffalo, it boasts a wide variety of buck, from the huge Eland to the tiny Steenbuck and everything in-between. Zebras are plentiful and giraffe grace the landscape along with families of warthog strutting through the bush with attitude.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has successfully rehabilitated the area and much of the vegetation has been restored. Weenen Nature Reserve is now a little patch of African savannah, thornveld and grasslands. It’s the home to beautiful acacia trees and a wide variety of animals. About 250 birds have been recorded here.
If you want the excitement of the Big 5 then maybe Weenen is not for you.
Weenen only has one Cottage
Umkhumbi Cottage stands alone – no neighbours. That’s unless you include a pair of Lesser Stripped Swallows nesting on the balcony. They were happy to join us each time we sat outside, chirping their little hearts out.
There is about 30 km or dust roads in Weenen Nature Reserve
Early the next morning we followed the Nyandu Valley Drive which leads to a dam originally built by the Department of Agriculture. Due to the intense drought, there was little water and the only life we saw was Southern Masked Weavers and a pair of Egyptian Geese.
Before breakfast we took a slow (birding speed) stroll toward the dam not far from the cottage. Along the way we found a dung beetle rolling his treasure just as they are famous for, a few barn swallows, African Hoopoes and Grey-headed Sparrow. Sadly the dam was bone dry, not even a little puddle to offer relief to anyone visiting it. Hopefully, once the rains return, the dam will go back to its former glory.
I loved driving around the reserve. There is about 30 km or dust roads winding around the reserve with three picnic sites, viewpoints and two hides.
Weenen’s picnic sites each have their own magic.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch at my favourite – uMthombe which is protected by a huge Natal Fig tree (Ficus natalensis). Throughout our lunch, a variety of birds serenaded us including an Orange Breasted Bush Shrike who refused to expose himself.
Another picnic site worth visiting is uMtunzini. From here there’s a walk to a viewpoint overlooking Bushman’s River Valley.
What a sight awaited us. Down the valley were picturesque farmlands, across the gorge a beautiful plateau and in the far distance we could see the Drakensberg Mountains. Thanks to the cold spell we had had the previous week, the mountains were topped with light snow. Just like icing on a cake.
The third picnic site is The Sanctuary. Unfortunately, we had run out of time to explore, but we did follow the one-way circular road on the edge of the gorge. The road is steep, very narrow and only 4x4 vehicles are permitted. The views of the gorge are spectacular and once again birdlife prolific.
Weenen has some hides which are worth visiting.
We only managed to visit the uFudu Hide. The hide overlooks a dam where we watched a herd of Zebras nervously come to drink. I can well imagine had we been there earlier in the day we would have seen more.
The most fascinating was a pile (literally) of Marsh terrapins clamouring on a tiny island in the dam. These obscure creatures often go unnoticed and yet they are so interesting. They are omnivorous and will eat boring anything, from weeds to a fat frog!!
What were the highlights of my visit to Weenen Nature Reserve?
The magnificent sunset we watched on Saturday night sticks in my mind. We found a place on the hill not far from our cottage overlooking grasslands with the Drakensberg Mountains in the background.
Out came the cooler box, cocktail and nibbles. Soon the magnificent sun began it’s decent throwing the world into a glorious deep golden glow before turning the clouds pink and purple.
Glass + Lemon + Gin + Tonic + Glorious African Sunset
= A perfect end to a perfect day.
I really don’ know why I have never visited Weenen until now. I do however, know that I will be back sooner rather than later.
One negative thing is that I left both batteries for my camera at home. What a fail! As a result, all these photos were taken with my cellphone. I feel so disappointed having missed out on some great photographic opportunities.
Anyhow, there’s always a next time.
What I suggest you take when visiting Weenen Nature Reserve:
- Most importantly your binoculars and camera (don’t forget your batteries lol). You also need a hat, especially in summer.
- Drinking water and mosquito repellant
- All your foodstuffs. Once you there you don’t want to traipse to Escourt for supplies.
- Buy the Visitors Guide booklet at reception. It’s only R5 but has a wealth of information on the history of the reserve. Well worth it.
How do you book? Phone 036-3547013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org