An Ark on land – Maphelane, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Across the St Lucia Estuary but 100 km by road lies Maphelane nature reserve, it is literally alive from the micro to the mighty, from the ants that made tracks across my campsite, the vervet monkeys that sacked my tent to the crocodiles that were my fishing companions.
Maphelane Nature Reserve is the southern most point of the greater iSimangaliso Wetland Park squeezed on a narrow point made pretty much from sand between the Umfolozi River and the Sea.
The road in, first through the gum plantations, then past the mines and the local “lalies”, becomes a tunnel of trees, vines and mangroves. Check with the Park about its condition before arriving in an ordinary car, its sandy, muddy and bendy and some clearance is necessary.
The Reserve offers chalets that sit in the shadow of the massive dune and camping that is spacious, has no electricity and water straight from the Umfolozi River.
The campsite is home to all manner of bird life, gangs of marauding monkeys and duiker that graze in the mornings.
Maphelane appears to be a destination for folks of the fish and after not joining the clan in Tugela Mouth, I manned up and bought a fishing rig. My first attempts at surf casting were I suspect woeful and my attempts to glean some information from the serious folk didn’t really improve my performance.
Huge surf eventually ended my quest to become an ace surf caster. I rather spent my mornings and evenings casting a line into the river with a little more success in that i actually caught something, but nothing that could have fed me. Teach a man to fish and he’ll get irritated by it.
The mornings were blessed with views of crocodiles making their way onto the banks to sun themselves and hippo’s drifting past, making it seem like a game of who’s catching who. It also seems to make the seemingly dullness of waiting for something to take the bait a little more exciting as you cast your eyes about before casting your line from the banks.
But lets not pigeonhole Maphelane, there is plenty to do for the non fisher folk. Hikes that make there way up the dune for a panoramic view of the beach and mouth, stretching way beyond St Lucia, another through a wetland slash mangrove that had me jumping at every sound for fear of crocodiles i was warned to watch out for.
The Bantu’Bahle look out point is a perfect place to sit and watch the sunset over the river, gin and tonic in hand. The ocean is safe to swim in at low tide but watch out for the currents and the beach goes on for miles for those that enjoy a good walk, before it is rudely interrupted by the mining operations along the coast.
And of course for those like me the pleasure is just being able to take in the panoramic views, uninterrupted by buildings and masses of people, although a local i gave a ride to mentioned that during December its permanently full and a little manic. Yoh Yoh Yohing accompanied by a waving of arms to underline his point.
Maphelane is isolated, alive and a little rough around the edges, what more could you ask for? Miles of pristine beaches? Its got that too.