About Ntendeka Wilderness Area

South Africa's smallest and arguably most beautiful wilderness area is Ntendeka, consisting of 5 250 ha of undulating grasslands, verdant forests and dramatic cliffs with breathtaking waterfalls. Rivers and streams have formed deep valleys and the varied topography has resulted in great variations of temperature, rainfall and vegetation in this relatively small area.

Did you know? East of the Ntendeka Cliff is an exquisite waterfall. There are numerous other beautiful cascades, streams and fresh, clear pools, many of them bounded by smooth boulders, softened by moss and framed with foliage.

Lying within the Ngome State Forest, Ntendeka remains relatively isolated. Because it is small it is one of Southern Africa's more accessible wilderness areas and can easily be explored on foot from one end to another. Over 45 km of footpaths exist, most passing deep beneath the forest canopy on a carpet of leaves.

Despite the ravages of 20 years of uncontrolled logging, the area has been protected since 1905, and remains a majestic, lush forest with a rare combination of both coastal and inland tropical forest that is not found in any other conservation area in KwaZulu Natal. The vegetation is thick and richly textured, from delicate, lacy fern fronds to the giant-leafed Streptocarpus.

More than 180 species of trees and shrubs have been recorded here, and rare species include the bastard stinkwood, the Natal hard pear, green witch hazel and the terblanz beech which is also found in Tanzania and Madagascar. Both terrestrial and tree orchids thrive in the green heart of the forest, and in season, Ngome lilies and clivias create a showy display.

The tallest, most prolific trees are the forest waterwood, some growing as tall as 30m. Other common trees are the bushwillow, silver oak, tree fuchsia and knobwood.

Out in the open grasslands, umbrella shaped tree ferns line the watercourses, and in the spring, delicate wildflowers including coral candelabras, watsonias and white Erica's, speckle the landscape among the grass.

Birdlife is prolific in the Ntendeka Wilderness Area with nearly 200 species having been recorded, including some endangered birds such as white stork, martial eagle, house martin and blue swallow. Visitors might also see the bald ibis, secretary bird, purple-crested Loerie, crowned eagle and trumpeter hornbill.

A variety of animals live unobtrusively in the wilderness area, including baboon, Samango monkey, Vervet monkey, grey, blue and red duiker, bushbuck, bushpig, dassies, porcupine, caracal, and many other smaller creatures such as snakes, beetles, butterflies and frogs.

Some well trodden routes were established by the area's earliest inhabitants, such as the 'Zulu Highway' a traditional route leading from the plains to the highlands. This ancient way starts from the police station on the northern boundary and leads hikers past an isiVavine or stone cairn, where it is customary for passers-by to add another stone for good luck.

Need to Know

WhereNtendeka Wilderness Area, Vryheid, Zululand, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Vryheid Accommodation, KwaZulu Natal


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