WHETHER YOU’RE AFTER AN ADVENTURE WEEKEND OR QUIET TIME WITH THE FAMILY, HERE’S A SPOT THAT TICKS ALL THE BOXES, WRITES MELANIE ROSETTENSTEIN
On a winding stretch of road between Port Shepstone and Kokstad lies a hidden gem that offers families and adventure lovers the chance to connect in one of KwaZulu-Natal’s last remaining strips of indigenous forest. Just two-and-a-half hours from Durban, this part of the N2 links the traveller to Cape Town, but if you take your time to stop, there is much to be discovered.
The Ngeli Forest – one of South Africa’s Afromontane mist belt forests – is located near Harding, 80km inland from the coast. The drive passes sugar and macadamia nut farms, and as you climb towards the timber plantations you know it’s near. This high-altitude forest which grows much taller than the coastal forests, features ancient and enormous yellowwood trees, the rarely seen cape parrot and various other animal and bird species.
Overlooking the mist and trees, the ANEW Resort Ingeli Forest is the perfect place to explore this part of KZN. It’s also an ideal spot for energetic children to stretch their legs – from jungle gym to mini golf to animal farm, there’s much to keep little people busy. For adults, if you’re into outdoor activities, a steep 9km trail through the forest is all you need to get that heart rate up.
Up for the challenge, we left the kids for a bit of creative fun in the Kid Zone, and after a quick trot through the resort grounds we crossed the main road, picked up the trail and disappeared into the bush. The track gets steep quickly – and our pace slowed down to a walk.
Beneath the lush canopy, the powerful earthy smell of damp soil was overwhelming. Looking up, we noticed several huge moss-covered yellowwood trees and looking down, newly rooted porcupine holes.
Climbing onwards and upwards, the forest was quiet with shards of light slicing through its canopy. The trail emerges from the bush beneath a fire lookout and continues along the crest of the hill before descending on a path where forest meets farmland. There was slipping, sliding and the occasional tumble – but we arrived back in one piece, ready for breakfast.
Meals are simple, yet delicious home-cooked fare, served in the dining-room which opens on to an open-air terrace. Meals can also be taken in the bar. During the winter fires are lit in all the public spaces, a welcome retreat from the misty, chilly days the area is known for.
Besides the forest trails, guests can also enjoy challenging mountain bike routes, bird watching and a spa. The two pools (one heated), provide a great space to relax and unwind especially during summer. After breakfast we treated ourselves to a well-deserved back and shoulder massage before retreating to the cosy Foresters Arms pub for a competitive game of darts and board games in front of a roaring fire.
If you’re in the area a visit to the fabulous Oribi Gorge with its natural attractions and Africa’s longest zip line tour, is only an hour away. Whether you’re looking for hair-raising adventure, some quiet family time, or both, it’s there for the taking at the ANEW Resort Ingeli Forest.
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