My experience walking through the Raphia Palm Forest in KZN, South Africa, was a humbling one. My mind went to several places as our group walked through the forest, on the boardwalk. When you first arrive, at the start of the boardwalk, it looks like any other type of nature walk. Lots of beautiful green trees and plants, with an easy access boardwalk and the sounds of birds and leaves rustling.
Let’s look at a few facts about this incredible environment. The fact alone that it has been declared a National Monument since the year 1942 is quite something. My mom was born in 1942. You know what else happened in 1942?
Well, car manufacturers in the US stopped making car parts and started making War materials.
The Women’s Coast Guard Auxiliary was established.
26 Countries agreed to create, what is now known as the United Nations.
Humprey Bogart was on the screens as Casablanca was released in New York City and Calvin Klein was born.
So quite a few notable things were happening when this hidden gem in the small town of Mtunzini was given its title. And when you are standing in the middle of this great beauty of nature, you can see why it is just as historical as all of the above.
Within a short walk, you are suddenly confronted by these absolute giants. I am short to start with, a fact that I am often unaware of, but let me tell you. I was well aware of my height the moment we stepped into the clearing. I think this will be the closest I will ever be to understanding the mythical mystery an awe of Tolkiens Ent’s.
The entire environment around us changed, we were engulfed by forest, thick bundling of trees, ground covered in moss, and leaves. Birdlife high above us, and the eerie feeling of wildlife that we couldn’t see, walking with us.
It reminded me of a story I read a few months ago, this guy was on a mission to rescue this billionaire heirs daughter from some captures. He was hired because he was “the best of the best”. Military training this, secret agent work, that. All round, super fly guy.
Anyway, he had also learned to do animal tracking among his set of skills, and had, had to fight and find his way out of dense jungles. He talked about the key hunting skills of a puma in such an environment and how he had to move as it did, while actually hoping he didn’t come across one during his mission. I felt like I was in the same jungle for a moment. It was brilliant.
You are not worrying about cell signal or anyone around you. You just suddenly have this moment, of realization. You are human. Just human. Which is amazing but when you are human among a forest of giants. It is quite something.
We had an amazing guide, in Bruce Hopwood. Who is a nature lover, and was able to give us an educational and informative tour of the forest and of the area, that we as a group were traveling through.
Oh, and if you have a love for birds and feathered friends, you will be interested to know that this forest is home to the Palm-nut Vulture.
And if you are wondering how the palms are used, in other means. Note that palm leaves, also known as umVuma, are often used, for building huts and in making canoes and rafts. I would suggest making this experience part of a road trip or even a day trip when visiting KZN. This was just one of our stops as we toured the area, and it was well worth it. I look forward to visiting the area again, with a smaller group and simply breathing in the energy.
Thank you to the uMhlathuze Tourism Board for hosting us and providing such an amazing travel find, hidden in our great province of Kwa – Zulu Natal, South Africa.
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And As Always