KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsXumeni Forest
Where? 2 km west of Donnybrook in the Underberg, KwaZulu Natal
The mistbelt forest known as Gqumeni, or Xumeni Forest, is a patch of afromontane forest 2 km west of Donnybrook in the Underberg.
Gqumeni is exceptional not only for its beauty but also because it has withstood the plundering of yellowoods that is the fate of so many other forests in southern KZN. As a result it has survived the threat of invading exotics like pine and spruce.
The 380 hectare reserve is one of the largest forests in the area and it is also easily accessible, bisected by a contoured road that takes one right in amongst yellowwoods, huge white stinkwoods, and a sizeable collection of forest fruiters that attract frugivores like the Knysna turaco.
The star of the show at Gqumeni is the Cape parrot who uses the forest to roost. Cape parrots are seldom sighted and classified as rare. Head to the tallest trees that jut out above the canopy as these are favourite perches of the Cape parrot, although they usually let you know they are in the vicinity with their squawking.
Barratt's warblers too are easy to hear in the forest, but not always easy to spot. The orange ground thrush might just make an appearance for the odd photograph.
To spot the bush blackcap head to the car park. They have been known to respond to calls. But if it is Narina torgons, Knysna turacos and white-starred robins you are after, then head along the forest trail.
The good news is that even after a couple of days' rain Xumeni Forest's dirt roads are possible with an ordinary two-wheel drive, provided you do not mind mud on your car, or splashing through puddles.
Best time of day to visit Gqumeni is the early morning for the birds tend to leave once the mists lift. It is also a good time of day for sighting African goshawks above the tree canopy.
Gqumeni is a state forest and is best avoided during logging.