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Ongoye Forest is an exceptionally rare and diverse habitat. It is probably the most famous example of the extremely rare scarp forests.
The Ongoye range is well-drained by numerous fast-flowing streams such as the Umlalazi and its tributaries the Thondo and the Intuze arising from valley-head springs and is of great importance as a water catchment area.
It has large array of rare and endemic tree and plant species that make
it "a must" for the more discerning nature lover.
The many tree rarities include magnificent giant umzimbeet, Millettia sutherlundii, forest mangosteen Garcinia gerrardii, forest water berry, Syzygium gerrardii and pondoland fig Ficus bizanae amongst others. The cycads Encephalartos ngoyanus and Encephalartos villosus are also found here.
Birding and hiking are also very popular all year round. There are about 130 bird species found on the reserve. The green barbet is endemic to the forest. Bushbuck, red duiker and red squirrel are also found. The giant Wood's cycad, Encephalartos woodii, now extinct in the wild, but surviving at the botanic gardens in Durban only occurred here.
In the past, Ongoye forest was protected by the Zulu Royal household because of the medicinal value of the plants found there. During the period that the Zulus were under the rule of King Mpande, (Cetshwayo's
father) , Cetshwayo's kraal was at Ongoye in the hills overlooking the Empangeni and Mhlatuze areas, with a view over the Mhlatuze and out to sea. It was healthy there and the grazing was good. After his father's death he moved to the Emakoseni and built his great Ulundi kraal.
Even after giving the land to John Dunn in return for Dunn's insight into dealing with the Europeans in Natal, Cetshhwayo prevented him hunting within the bounds of the forest.
Cetshwayo also controlled the planting and harvesting periods of his people by noting products coming out of the forest. Only when the first fruits were harvested from the forest, would the Zulu people be allowed to harvest fruits within the region.
The Officer in Charge of Ongoye is resident on station but does not have a phone due to the remoteness of the area.
People wishing to visit Ongoye for the day, or to camp must contact this official on arrival.
Gate opening and closing times winter and summer 06h00 - 18h00
There are no visitor facilities at Ongoye so people wishing to camp must be fully self contained.
A 4x4 vehicle is required to visit Ongoye due to the condition of the roads.
How to get there.
Ongoye Forest is situated in the Ngoye range of hills, located approximately 15 km from the coast due west of Mtunzini town. The Forest can be reached from the Durban-Empangeni road (N2) and although only approxametly 10 km long, these roads from the N2 are in poor condition.
The Amanzimnyama road to the east of the reserve is steep, crosses three streams and is muddy. During heavy rain the road is impassable due to flooding and mud. The KwaGugugushe road provides better access from the southeast but is less scenic. Richards Bay/Empangeni is about 50km to the north and Durban 130 km to the south of the reserve.
Ongoye Forest lies at an altitude between 305 and 455 meters and tends to be less humid than the nearby coastal areas. The annual rainfall ranges from 800 m to 1100mm.
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