This beautiful forest is run by KZN Wildlife, and no permit is required to visit it. Nkandla forest is situated about 30km south-west of Qudeni Forest, as the crow flies, and about 56km north-west of the town of Eshowe and 68km from Melmoth.
The Nkandla Forest comprises 1600ha of climax mistbelt forest and is one of the most outstanding examples in South Africa. The forest covers the crown and southwestern slopes of the ridge, which lie above the Umhlathuze and Thukela rivers at a height of between 1100 and 1300 m above sea level. Streams rising in the forest form deep gorges leading into the Nsuze River (500m), which runs southeast along the base of the ridge.
It is strongly recommended that you take a guide with you, as some paths are inconspicuous.
Throughout Zulu history the Nkandla forest has been a place of mystery, the home of supernatural beings, and a formidable stronghold and place of retreat. The Chube are the ironworkers associated with the Nkandla area and Shaka never conquered them. It has always been the last retreat of the Zulu from Shaka’s time to that of Bhambatha.
Apart from being an area of great, often pristine, natural beauty, the Nkandla Forest represents a rare relict type of high wet rain forest, of which very few examples survive. They are relics of times in the distant past when the climate was wetter, and even colder. The forest has exceptionally high species diversity with many species that are associated with scarp forest occurring. This indicates that Nkandla may be positioned in a transitional zone between mist and scarp forest. The many rare plants, and the rarity of the habitat type as a whole, are in themselves sufficient reasons for conserving this rare forest type.
The Nkandla forest area is home to some 147 species. Species more typical of cooler forests include Knysna Turaco, Orange Ground Thrush, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike and Forest Canary. These birds are present throughout the forest, although the thrush is best seen along “Thrush Alley”
Birds more typical of warmer forests include Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (often seen along the main road), Purple-crested Turaco, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Grey Sunbird.
Other forest specials that can be seen include Olive Bush Shrike, Collared and Olive Sunbirds, Swee Waxbill, Emerald and Black Cuckoos, African Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Chorister Robin-Chat, Trumpeter Hornbill and Dark-backed Weaver.
The open grassland patches above the forest are not as productive as those above Qudeni or Ngome Forests, but Buff-streaked Chat, Wing-snapping and Wailing Cisticolas, Common Quail and Broad-tailed Warbler can be seen.
Directions from Melmoth or Vryheid:
At the Melmoth Total garage on the R66/R34 through town, zero your trip meter. Proceed north on the R66/R34 to Vryheid/Ulundi. At 4.5km turn left onto the R68 signposted Babanango and Nkandla.
Some features to note along the way:
At 17km you will see on the left a gravel road to KwaMagwaza Mission Hospital at 26.5km a gravel road to your right going to Mtonjaneni the Babanango turn off is at 28.3km on your right at 32km you will pass a signpost for Fort Prospect the bridge over the Umhlathuze is at 40km.
After 50km you will reach the Nkandla/Vryheid T-junction. Turn left and proceed into the village of Nkandla.
Look out for the “No-entry” sign on your right at about 69km. Proceed down to the grassland and park there.
Directions from Empangeni, Gingindlovu or Eshowe:
- From the R66 traveling up from Gingindlovu or Empangeni, turn west at the traffic lights into Kangela Street (which takes you into the town of Eshowe). The traffic lights on the R66 are about 70km from Empangeni or 26km north of Gingindlovu.
- Proceed down Kangella Street and at the Dlinza Forest turn-off on your left, zero your trip meter. Continue west towards Entumeni (still Kangela Street).
- At 10.4km you will see the Entumeni Forest Reserve turn-off on your left.
- At 24.7km take the right-hand fork in the road to Nkandla.
- At 27km the tar road ends and the gravel road starts.
- At 38.5km there is a left hand turn-off to Kranskop. PROCEED STRAIGHT.
- At 55.6km you arrive at the turn-off to the Nkandla Forest Reserve offices, on your left.
- “Thrush Alley” pathway is at 57.7km, 150m after the “Nkandla 20km” sign on the right hand side of the road. (north)
- At 59.3km you will see a “No Entry” sign on the left. Turn in here and park your vehicle in the grassland at the end of the road.
Shy forest mammals present include Bushbuck, Samango Monkey, Bushpig, Blue Duiker and Leopard