Umdoni Park Challenge Trail & EventEnquire Now
2km from Pennington
14 - 22km, 1 - 4hours, Hard
+27 82 563 9174 www.bothahouse.co.za/upc
Configuration: This is a circular route
General Information: Jeep track, single-track, rocky trails and beach running. There are wooden signs indicating the trail splits. On race day, you can opt for the 14km or 22km route. The rest of the year, you are free to explore the 15km of tracks inside the park. The event takes place towards the end of July each year. Ideal months for running are from March to November.
There is one water point on race day at the 8km mark. When exploring on your own, you will find all you need in village. Cell phone reception is fair, apart from in the river gorge.
In 1918, Sir Frank Reynolds, a prominent English sugar baron of his era, established the Umdoni Park in the small coastal village of Pennington. His vision was to preserve one of a few remaining stands of lush indigenous coastal forest left untouched by the thriving sugar industry of the 19th century. The result is a 220ha conservancy, which tumbles its way onto the warm Indian Ocean and the rocky, unspoilt coastline of the Pennington-Sezela beachfront.
Tall stands of Umdoni trees and a myriad other indigenous vegetation give way to patches of open grassland and the infamous Nkhumbane River gorge. This steep sided river winds its way along the entire southern border until it reaches the sea.
Umdoni Park boasts a combination of flatter open running coupled with steep and technical sections as you navigate your way towards the Nkhumbane River. It is generally quite sandy in places due to its proximity to the beach. Rocky and harder packed trails - and the occasional dirt road - add to your running options. Finally, you can also explore the myriad of anglers’ trails along the rocky 3.5km shoreline.
To get to the trail head, follow Minerva Road until you reach the entrance to Umdoni Park. Sign the register as a visitor and proceed to Botha House (a guest house) where there is secure parking. The trail begins directly from the gate. A combination of single-track, jeep track and gravel roads await you as you explore the 15km of trail running heaven found here.
Use the central service road to link up the named trails. There is Molly's Road, an undulating stretch of well-maintained trail through indigenous vegetation. From Molly's Road, head onto more technical routes such as Meander Stream, Cottage Trail and Pan Handle.
The most exhilarating single-track descends into the Nkhumbane River gorge. Once there, you must steel yourself for the challenge of the very technical and rocky Gorge Trail. Wind your way alongside the river up towards the dam wall, from where a few public trails outside the park may be accessed.
For the adventurous, head down to the beachfront to explore the trail network along the treacherous Umdoni Point. Here you can boulder-hop to your heart’s content, or just relax while taking in the sights and sounds of this stunning coastline.
Umdoni Park lies less than an hour south of Durban in the small coastal village of Pennington. Follow the N3 towards Port Shepstone onto Exit 104/Park Rynie/Pennington, then turn left at the off-ramp onto the R612 and follow the signs to Pennington. From Pennington Drive, turn right into Minerva Road (4th right) to Umdoni Park.
Decades ago, beach holidays were simple. They were holidays of buckets and spades, sunburn, ice-creams melting on your fingers, brollies and swimming. Somehow, the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast has managed to retain this relaxed, old-school charm and escaped the ruthless modernisation of other parts of the world.
The South Coast stretches from the outskirts of Durban to the Eastern Cape border just south of Port Edward, with countless small towns dotted in between.
Some are prime holiday destinations that attract crowds by offering busy nightlife and organised activities. Others are gentler and more relaxed, relying on the natural charm of the ocean and the beach to attract a less frenetic class of people.
Whatever your preference, you will be sure to find some place that fits the bill on the South Coast.
Running down almost the length of the South Coast is the N2 highway, passing through grasslands, hills, sugar cane and over bridges that span a multitude of wide rivers bringing water from the inland mountains. It is an area of great natural beauty and the sandy beaches are numerous and beautiful, perfect for long walks in the afternoon.
Obviously the Indian Ocean is the prime reason for most tourism and it is easy to understand why. Even in winter, the water is warm and swimmable, but in spring, summer and even autumn the water hovers around 25 degrees Celsius, making it perfect for long days in the water.
Six beaches on the South Coast have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status, which means they satisfy 32 criteria, including service, safety, water quality and even environmental management. While these six beaches obviously have something to crow about, there are dozens of other beaches that are as beautiful, safe and worth visiting. In fact, in summer, when the crowds are out, many of these beaches might prove more enjoyable than those with the coveted Blue Flag status.
Beneath the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are further attractions, and the scuba-diving spots of Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks are some of the best in the country, with Aliwal often rated as one of the top-10 dive sites in the world.
The South Coast offers far more than just its top-class beaches, though, with a number of small game reserves, excellent golf courses and more.
Oribi Gorge is piece of rugged wilderness just a short drive from Port Shepstone beach. Nature is the attraction here, and all sorts of birds and animals thrive in the gorges and forests along the river banks. It has also become something of an adventure destination, so prepare yourself for adrenalin highs.
Wherever you choose to stay, and whatever you choose to do, make a point not to drift too far away from the simplicity and relaxation of a holiday on a beautiful beach.
Look out for
The Sardine Run is one of the world’s great migrations and sights of the natural world. Unfortunately, the timing is a bit hard to pinpoint, much like the Namaqualand daisies, but it generally occurs in the middle of winter. Tens of millions of sardines make their way up the coast, followed by thousands of sharks, dolphins, game fish and whales, as well as flocks of predating birds. Scuba-divers can dive alongside this natural phenomenon.
Oribi Gorge, a short drive inland from Port Shepstone, is a spectacular natural attraction formed by the Mzimkhulu and Mzimkulwana rivers. A nature reserve offers birding, game-viewing and walks, while operators in the area offer white-water rafting, mountain-biking, a gorge swing, abseiling, horse-riding, fishing and more. It is also a wonderful spot for landscape photography, or relaxing at one of the lodges or spas.
Scuba-diving is a major attraction on the South Coast, which is lucky enough to boast two world-class dive destinations in Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks.
If scuba-diving is too tame for you, or if you want to up the stakes a little, try shark-diving on for size. Specialist dive operators give you the opportunity to swim with all sorts of shark species, including the fearsome bull shark, tiger shark, hammerhead shark and ragged-tooth shark.
The coast’s Blue Flag beaches (Trafalgar beach and Marina beach near San Lameer, Ramsgate beach, Margate beach, Lucien beach near Margate and Umzumbe beach) rank amongst the best in the world and spending the day on them is a privilege that should be savoured.
The South Coast boasts some wonderful golf courses, including San Lameer, Selbourne and the Wild Coast Sun (just across the provincial border in the Eastern Cape), while almost every small town also offers a very good local course.
For something a little different, pop into the Beaver Creek Coffee Farm outside Port Edward. Here you can watch the entire process that the coffee bean makes on its way to becoming that hot cup of brew on your breakfast table. There is also a restaurant and a shop selling Beaver Creek’s excellent coffee.
The South Coast offers very good birding along most of its length, and birders can enjoy sightings of interesting birds without leaving the towns they are staying in. That said, there are a few spots that are particularly good, such as the Mtamvuna Nature Reserve and Oribi Gorge.