Stainbank Reserve, Toti Beaches Durban South Africa

Yellowwood Tree
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.

Masked Weaver Nests
Southern Masked Weaver by John Caddick

The reserve is near my accommodation in Amanzimtoti, aka Toti. I spent the afternoon hiking in the 600-acre park and saw zebra, red duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey, mongoose, and birds, including a majestic Fish Eagle. Southern Masked Weavers are a favorite bird, and hundreds of them had built their nests dangling from trees near the dam.

Hiking Trail
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.

Dawn Amanzimtoti
Same Amanzimtoti Sky 8 Hours Later


“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 tours of the castle 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.

Coedmore Castle
Coedmore Castle Durban

Scottish Stainbank married Ethel Lyne, a South African from Pietermaritzburg. They had seven children, and their eldest daughter, Mary, was an artist. Rooms in the castle contain sculptings she produced from her garden studio. Stainbank’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Keith, and her family live on the property.

Doonside Beach
Surfer Baggies Beach

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.”

Grazing Zebras
Red Duiker

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.

Mary Stainbank Sculpting
Mary Stainbank
Mary Stainbank Sculpting
Mary Stainbank Gallery Coedmore Castle
Mary Stainbank Sculpting
Fate Mary Stainbank –
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. I’ve enjoyed beach time at Warner and Doonside – two nearby popular beaches!

Zebra at Coedmore Castle –
Stainbank Water Lily

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!

Buried Beach Umbrella
Southern Masked Weaver

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!

Creek Crossing
Indigenous Grasses

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.

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn
Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn
Warner Beach – magicseed

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!

Dancing Jewel Damselflie
Stainbank Reserve Dam
Caterpillar – SAPhotographs
Lone Grassland Tree

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