About Umgeni Valley Reserve
In the heart of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands lies a valley created by the Umgeni River, after cascading over the majestic Howick Falls. In 1973 members of WESSA conducted a massive fundraising effort to purchase a portion of a farm belonging to Mr Eric Humphries. WESSA members in KwaZulu Natal decided that the aim for the reserve was "to manage and maintain the reserve in as natural a state as possible so as to provide for the needs of Environmental Education". Over thirty five years later we are still providing a diversity of quality Environmental Education (EE) fieldwork courses!
The greater part of the nature reserve lies in the spectacular gorge below the Howick Falls, while the upper part is the fringe of a rolling plateau which has an average altitude of about 1 000m. The land falls away abruptly at the edge of the plateau for about 60m to form rock faces in places. The valley sides below 860m altitude slope away gently towards the Umgeni River, 7km of which falls within the reserve. The lowest point is 737m above sea level.
The reserve is home to giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope. There is an indigenous tree trail surrounding the main Education Centre and self-guided walks mingling with the game animals in the beautiful Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. A bird watchers paradise, with over 270 bird species to view throughout the year - see if you can spot the elusive Nerina Trogon or the Crowned Eagle. Butterflies abound in the reserve.
Self Catering Accommodation
There are 10 semi detached chalets that can accommodate two to four people per chalet. They are self contained and have electricity, a kitchenette, ablutions, and single beds with linen. Situated near the reserve entrance, they make an ideal stopover site. The Zebra are regular visitors to your verandahs.
Three cottages situated 5km on a dirt road from the office, they over-look the spectacular Umgeni Valley. They have no electricity, but have gas appliances and solar lighting. They are an ideal getaway with convenient access to walking trails.
Is a secluded two room cottage with four single beds, nestled between two streams. It looks across the escarpment onto the Dwarfs Dawdle trail where Zebra and Blesbuck are common. There are two separate bedrooms with a bathroom and toilet and kitchenette. A braai area is available.
Is a family cottage with large living room and fireplace. It has three bedrooms, sleeping six people in total. A shower, toilet and kitchenette are provided. The cottage is perched on the edge of the cliff line looking east over the Umgeni River towards Albert Falls Dam. In the summer, the sunrise is a sight to see, and in the winter the fireplace is most welcome. A braai area is available.
Is a small comfortable double bed cottage situated close to the Hepburn Cottage. This cottage boasts a wonderful view. Its proximity to Hepburn Cottage allows larger family groups to flow over into Anniversary Cottage, whilst retaining its privacy.
All cottages are provided with:
Gas fridge with small freezer compartment
Solar lighting - candles for dull days
Crockery and cutlery
Linen and towels
Outside braai area - own firewood required.
Cottages are not serviced during ones stay.
Self Catering Cottages
In addition to the Chalets and the Cottages above, Umgeni Valley can offer guests two self-catering units, namely:
The Baumann Cottage:
A single bedroom (double bed) thatch cottage situated fairly close to the Main Office.
The Garden Cottage:
A two bedroom family unit situated adjacent to the Chalets and Goldfields Centre. The main bedroom has a double bed and the second bedroom has two single beds. Excited visiting school children and Zebra are often close-by.
The Bush Camps are suitable for:
Large groups of school children
Church groups and
There is a large camp housing 60 people (Indulo) and a smaller camp for 30 people (Cycad). There is no vehicular access to either of the camps; parking is provided at the top of the hill. Enjoy the steep downhill walk to the camps with all your camping equipment and food. All camps have wooden bungalows raised off the ground, with no doors or windows. Hiking mattresses, a gas stove, showers and flushing toilets are provided.
Is nestled on the side of the valley slope at the end of a steep road. The position of its bungalows lends itself to being used by two separate family groups without any imposition. Dombeya trees dot the wooded slopes above the camp. Sunrise Rock which is situated below the camp, is an ideal spot from which to greet the mornings. This camp is centrally placed allowing easy accesss to five trails.
Is a small camp sleeping a maximum of 30 people. It has communal showers and toilets and a basic kitchen. A walk of about 3km past Indulo Camp and eastwards toward the grasslands gets you to Cycad Camp where Antelope and Giraffe may be seen. Large boulders covered by sprawling Fig trees surround the camp, and numerous old Cycads can be found at the back of the buildings.
Visitors are required to bring the following:
sleeping bags and blankets
pots, pans and crockery
gas lamps candles and matches
rubbish bags and toilet paper
collect hiking mattresses at the office
Back-packers accommodation consists of four single rooms in a Swiss-style cabin with communal kitchen and toilets in close proximity. Bedding and towels are provided.
GOLDFIELDS EDUCATION / CONFERENCE CENTRE
This is an affordable education / conference facility near the office with dormitory accommodation sleeping 56 people. It is essential to bring your own sleeping bags / blankets. There is a dining room where wholesome meals are provided and are good value for money. A hall and small meeting room are also available. The Chalets are close to the Education Centre and are suitable for occupation by teachers and facilitators.
Two conference rooms are available, one larger venue seating 60 - 80 and a smaller more intimate venue seating 15 - 20. A fully staffed and equipped kitchen nearby with both indoor and outdoor dining facilities is available for meals and teas if desired.
White board with pens
Onsite accommodation available for multi-day conferences.
It is central to the well known Midlands Meander - country treasures of arts, crafts, shops and restaurants. Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve has spectacular views of the Howick Falls, with Shelter Falls situated in a secluded valley within the nature reserve. Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve is close to Midmar Dam for power boating and sailing and the reserve is easily accessible being only 1km from Howick. Howick is on the main N3 route from Durban to Johannesburg - 30km from Pietermaritzburg, 120km from Durban and 500km from Johannesburg.
There are six walking trails at Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve - Shelter Falls Trail, Inkonka Trail, Black Eagle Trail, Grasslands Trail, Rietspruit Trail and Dwarf's Dawdle Trail. There is also an Auto trail - there are 11 numbered markers dotted along the road into the nature reserve. Each point has a corresponding number in the Auto trail booklet which will offer some interpretation / information about that particular point. The drive is about 6km each way.
Flora and Fauna
There are plenty of tree, mamals and birds that can be found in the nature reserve. An Indigenous Tree Trail is located around the offices and is for people who cannot manage the demands of the valley trails. A booklet to guide and inform you can be purchased at a nominal price.