About Silverglen Nature Reserve

Just thirty minutes from Durban, Chatsworth has a substantial green belt around the Umlaas river and dam. Within this green belt is the relatively unknown 220 hectare Silverglen Nature Reserve on the northern bank of the Umlazi River – there to protect the grassland, forest and riverine vegetation.

Did you know? The picnic site is still only open by arrangement for safety reasons, and hikes are not safe unless guided. Contact the reserve for guided tours. The Silverglen Trail starts at the picnic site.

Up until recently residents living in these areas did not know of the small nature reserve's existence. The natural heritage site has been closed to the public for years and has only recently re-opened its gates.

Silverglen Nature Reserve's history revolves around the Umlaas River. At the close of the 1800s Durban was dependent entirely on the Umbilo River for its water, but the rush of refugees from the Boer War, and a couple of years of drought, led engineers to explore the Umlaas River as a supplementary water source. After a storm damaged the Umbilo water scheme, the Umlaas scheme became the main source of water for the city for almost 50 years.

The dam was then popular for picnics and people used to make their way there from Durban on horseback or cart.

The reserve, possibly because it has been closed for so many years, supports 150 bird species, including the Narina trogon, and 120 tree species that include the red-stem corkwood, forest milkberry, Natal fig, forest bushwillow, red beech and flat-crown - the highest number of birds and trees of any of Durban's municipal reserves.

But the star of the reserve is the medicinal plant nursery – the Umlaas Nursery, South Africa's first and largest medicinal plant nursery. It produces thousands of specimens of 350 species of indigenous plants commonly used for traditional medicine, and holds weekly propagation courses and interesting talks in its education centre.

Much of the mystic oral knowledge on which the nursery is based comes from local Zulu herbalists, like Mkhuluwe Cele who helped start the Silverglen nursery. What was an exotic nursery up until 1962 changed direction to save certain plants, like the black stinkwood and Natal wild ginger, from extinction.

The nursery is a good place to spot the green malkoha (a cuckoo), violet-backed starling and lesser honeyguide. Evening visitors include a gang of mongooses and fiery-necked nightjars. The nursery makes its rare trees and plants available to collectors and other nurseries.

Need to Know

WhereSilverglen Nature Reserve, Lakeview Drive, Chatsworth, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

Telephone+27 (0)31 404-5628

OvernightStay in Chatsworth Accommodation, KwaZulu Natal

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