Mtunzini is a coastal town that has a stunning landscape of dunes, forests, palm groves, beaches and lagoons. The magnificent Raphia Palm Forest adjacent to the town, has been a National Monument since 1942 due to its diversity and unique botanical value. It is one of only 18 such botanical places in the country.
The palms were originally cultivated here from seeds and in 1918 there were just 14 plants growing. From 1948 they started to spread naturally, via the vultures and vervet monkeys that feed on their fruit. The palms that grow here live for two to three decades, which is a relatively short life span for this kind of plant. The palms flower once after 20 years or much later, then die. The raffia palms reach impressive heights of about 25 metres with leaves that are about two-thirds as long as the total height of the tree. This means that they have some of the largest leaves in the entire plant kingdom. The Raffia Palm is the largest palm in the world. They exist alongside other interesting plants such as mangroves and a wooden walkway through the forest is well worthwhile. Looking up, it feels cathedral like, with the swampy silence and distant sound of waves.
Immerse yourself in the serenity and untouched natural beauty of the palm grove, smell the clear air and feel the warm sunshine as it dapples your pathway. The river winds its way through the forest and mangroves, ending at a lovely wide unspoiled beach with good backdrops and views.
The forest has wonderful bird life, including the Palm Nut Vultures, one of the Old World vultures and one of the rarest birds of prey in South Africa, that feed on the date palm fruit. This is one of just 7 nesting sites and it is estimated that there are a total of 40 of these vultures in the country. So seeing them is very special. As they also eat crabs, turtle eggs, molluscs and sometimes carrion, you can see them in the palms or on the ground and they seem to be very typical KZN residents, and quite layed back about being viewed.