Stainbank Nature Reserve
Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is an extraordinary mass of vivid green vegetation, made up of flourishing grasslands and thick coastal forests with yellowwood trees. Present in the country for over 100 million years, yellowwood is South Africa’s national tree. The Reserve provides an ideal habitat for indigenous plants and animals. Even insects like grasshoppers, millipedes, centipedes, dragonflies, damselfies, and caterpillars thrive there.
The reserve is near my accommodation in Amanzimtoti, aka Toti. I spent the afternoon hiking in the 600-acre park sighting zebra, red duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey, mongoose, and birds, including a majestic Fish Eagle. Cute Southern Masked Weavers are a favorite, and hundreds of them had built their nests dangling from trees near the dam.
Hiking and Coedmore Castle
The park has hiking paths, a cycling trail, picnic areas, creeks, a dam, and the remains of Coedmore Castle. Kenneth Stainbank’s father built the Scottish Baronial style castle in 1885 with the help of stonemasons using stones from the Umhlauzana River.
“When Stainbank built Coedmore Castle, he wanted to create a little piece of Europe on grounds filled with African antelope and monkeys.”
You can arrange advance tours of the castle’s interior. Descriptions of the steel-pressed ceilings, wooden paneling, and iron staircase into the tower sound impressive. The castle’s exterior is wrapped in peaceful gardens.
Scottish Stainbank married Ethel Lyne, a South African from Pietermaritzburg. They had seven children, and their eldest daughter, Mary, was an artist. Rooms throughout the castle contain sculptings she produced from her garden studio. Stainbank’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Keith, and her family live on the property.
“Mary Stainbank introduced the modern school of sculpture to South Africa. Her sculpting is displayed in the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery which also hosts other artists’ exhibitions. The Coedmore gallery houses the largest, intact collective body of work by any one sculptor in South Africa.”
The weather was warm but overcast with a slight breeze – a good hiking day. I took the “red path” which encircles the reserve and involves creek crossings. It’s a gentle hike with a few mildly challenging areas. I met several people along the path. It’s school break, when South African families spend time together.
Doonside and Warner (Baggies) Beach
Heavy storms in October 2017 damaged the coastline and beach below my accommodation. Repairs are in process. It’s possible to walk on the beach, but until they finish rebuilding parts of the hillside, getting up and down is dangerous and tricky. I’ve enjoyed beach time at Warner and Doonside – two popular, entertaining beaches!
First visit at Doonside was windy, and my beach umbrella kept blowing away. A local watched as I chased it down the beach and showed me how to anchor it by burying part of the umbrella canopy in sand. Amazingly, it held for hours despite heavy wind!
Even after applying what seemed ample SPF sunscreen protection, I still got sunburned while swimming, snorkeling, and walking on the beach. Later, I purchased a UV protection surf tee. The stinging wind-blown sand against my sunburned skin eventually forced a retreat – but not before I enjoyed hours of therapeutic beach time!
Durban beaches are not as pristine as Seychelles, but the long sandy stretches are pleasant and usually filled with happy people having fun. Surfers frequent areas of Warner Beach (also known as Baggies Beach) with powerful waves.
The beach is a surfing hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal. Baggies Beach “hosts the Baggies Surf Pro, and welcomes international legends who crave the exciting waves”. It’s also a favorite spot for nimble kite surfers – love watching their moves as they seem to fly from wave to wave!