The Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve serves as the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, KwaZulu-Natal’s nature conservation service.
Situated in Hilton on the northern slopes of Pietermaritzburg, the nature reserve is home to numerous indigenous and exotic plants as well as impala, blesbok, zebra, bushbuck, dassies, grey and blue duiker. Several cycad species and endangered Hilton daisies can also be found naturally in the grasslands. It contains a variety of habitats including forest patches, thickets, open woodland and grassland.
The iDube, meaning zebra, self-guided circular trail is worth while with beautiful views over the city. Small indigenous mammals like monkeys and rock hyrax and reptiles can be seen when hiking as well as a variety of birds. There are regular sightings of crowned eagle, African Emerald Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker, both Tawny-flanked Prinia and Drakensberg Prinia, four species of canaries, an assortment of weavers, Common Waxbill and Zitting Cisticola to mention a few.
The trail starts across the road from the education centre and immediately drops down into an indigenous forest. All the rough sections are paved, so it’s easy walking the whole way. As you enter the forest, you’ll spot large cabbage trees and a variety of other indigenous species, such as yellowwoods and the Rauvolfia Caffra, commonly known as the quinine tree. The path then crosses a small stream before coming out onto a patch of open grassland with a few bracken ferns. It is in these open patches that you will most likely see the grassland species, such as blesbok, bushbuck and impala. The smaller creatures, such as rock hyrax, vervet monkeys and the duikers stay under cover of the bush as they are a favourite of the crowned eagles living in the area. Listen as you walk for for the haunting call of the fish eagle.
Dropping down further, you re-enter the bush, cross a stone bridge and then turn right past an ablution block, where you’ll find a picnic spot. The path runs briefly on the left-hand side of the road that feeds into the picnic area before it cuts off and heads uphill, passing a giant fig tree and then another picnic area that is tucked away under various trees, including a large stinkwood.
You continue gently uphill and cross a rickety wooden bridge before you, once again, exit the bush onto another patch of grassland. The trail then takes you past a small dam with a beautiful stone wall, across another wooden bridge and back to the start.
Visitors can make use of three picnic areas with barbecue and ablution facilities.