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Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, Umdoni Coast, KwaZulu-Natal

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve KwaZulu Natal

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is a secluded 2 189ha natural treasure trove, found along the South Coast, 12 km inland from Umzinto.  Set high upon a plateau, overlooking the beautiful rondavel-dotted hillsides of the nearby Zulu villages, clear views of the ocean to the east, rolling grasslands and wooded slopes makes an ideal setting for trails, bird watching, picnics and game drives.

Birding at Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

More than 300 species of birds confirmed, specials include, African Crowned Eagle and Martial Eagle and as they are nesting within the Reserve, visitors have a great opportunity spotting them. There is also a nesting colony of one hundred Cape Vultures.

Flora and Fauna

The interesting variety wild flowers are a delight in the spring, as the reserve comes alive with colour, rare and exquisite butterflies can been seen during this time. There are 56 animals species in the reserve including eland, zebra, blue wildebeest and bushbuck.

The world’s largest earthworm, Microchaetus vernoni, can be found only at Vernon Crookes. According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust website adults can grow up to 2.6m and about 10mm in diameter.  Don’t confused their mud-hills with mammal dung heaps, be careful around these earthworms as they are among the growing list of endangered species.

Hiking and MTB Trails

Four hiking trails are currently available from a easy 1 km stroll to the longest, at 4km, provide routes through the coastal forest and flower filled fields.

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is a secure, rare piece of coastal mountain biking paradise, with two routes available, the Kwamzukwa Gate Ride, a 10km scenic single track circuit, that will not only test you but your bike too, crossing streams and leg-crunching climbs. The Viewpoints and 4 x 4 Track, a 20km circuit (out and back track) offers the most outstanding panoramic views over the Mzinto River, Indian Ocean and the heart of Zululand

Take insect repellent as horse flies and ticks can be a problem when you’re hiking near the river.  Take Sunscreen, binoculars and your wildflower & birding handbooks too.

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve’s Gate Opening and Closing Times: Summer (October to March 06h00 to 18h00, Winter (April to September) 06h00 to 17h00.


Nyengelezi Camp consists of a 7-bed tree hut and 5 two-bedded rondavels. The camp is fully self-contained, equipped with crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils, fridges and stoves. Bookings: Telephone +27 (0) 33 845 1000: Email: For enquiries or further information contact the Officer-in-Charge on telephone (039) 974 2222 or Camp Manager: +27(0)73 911 8200.

Find: Near Umzinto. Turn off the south coast freeway at Park Rynie/Umzimto flyover and take the Highflats/Ixopo road. The reserve turnoff is about 3km past Umzinto. The entrance gate is 6km from this turn-off.

More info on the town of Umzinto More info on the Umdoni Coast area

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