birding sites

Marutswa Forest
skznbs 6.1

IBA–SA071

Categories: roadside attraction; community project; picnic; hide; guide

The Marutswa Forest Trail & Boardwalk, located close to the quaint country village of Bulwer is a joint initiative between the Bulwer Biosphere and the SappiWWF TreeRoutes Partnership. BirdLife South Africa and the Southern KZN Birding Route have incorporated the site into the route.

The site currently comprises a network of arterial trails leading into the indigenous forest. The current development of this site is taking place within the forest where there will soon be a number of lookout jetties, decks and view points, allowing visitors to view the various layers of the forest, including the canopy.

The trail incorporates the logging route to an early sawmill. Before the sawmill even existed yellowwood trees were planked manually using two-man saws, over sawpits which can still be seen. A diamond engagement ring, discarded during a lover's tiff, remains to be found at the sawmill site.

The expected KwaZulu-Natal mist-belt forest bird species occur in the forest. Cape Parrot has been symbolic of Marutswa since the early days when they were known as "Bulwer Parrots", and they once raided farmer's orchards as far afield as Himeville.

Orange Ground-Thrush and Green Twinspot are other highly sought after birds here. Marutswa Forest has been described by some of the South Africa's top birding tour operators as one of the most active mist-belt forests in KwaZulu-Natal.

Specials to look out for are Cape Parrot, Orange Ground-Thrush, African Crowned Eagle, Bush Blackcap, White- starred Robin, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Crowned and Southern Ground Hornbill.

Directions

From Howick

Take the R617 to Underberg. Travel through the village of Bulwer. Just past the Police Station on your left hand side you will see the Marutswa Forest Boardwalk sign. Turn left here and travel down the road for a few hundred metres. You will then see another sign on your right hand side. Turn right here and proceed to the parking area.

From Underberg

Take the R617 to Bulwer. Just passed the Engen Garage you will see the Boardwalk signs on your right. Turn right here and travel down the road for a few hundred metres. You will then see another sign on your right hand side. Turn right here and proceed to the parking area.

GPS Coordinates (decimals)
Lat: S 29°48.465'
Lon: E 29°47.053'

Additional Info

Opening Times: 6am – 4pm (7 days a week including public holidays)

Entrance fee:

Accredited birding and cultural tour guides available on request R120 per hour.

Large parties catered for with pleasure. Tel: +27 (0)72 372 1500 for your advance booking

NB! It is advisable to contact the Site Manager before visiting Marutswa.

Origins

In 1990 a band of local volunteers came together to tackle conservation problems in Bulwer on behalf of the Ingwe community, and they became known as ‘The Bulwer Biosphere'. Their work initially began with tackling rampant Alien vegetation that was fast invading the lower slopes of the Mountain and has proved to be a great success.

Encouraged by the ongoing success of these early projects, in 2004 the concept of the Marustwa Forest Boarldwalk was born.

The generous funding and helpful advice and guidance from SappiWWF TreeRoutes Partnership and the Wildlands Conservation Trust turned this concept into a realisation. With Design and management of the project by the experienced and very creative Mike Exelby, and with the additional support and encouragement from Ezemvelo Wildlife and the Southern KZN Birding Route, this beautiful conservation project was completed in 2008. It is a wonderful testament to the power of local people in co-operation with both the business and wildlife communities in their combined determination to conserve and encourage more interest in our eco – heritage.

Objective

Our intentions are that the Marutswa Forest Boardwalk will profile and promote the conservation of Bulwer's unique biodiversity by supporting eco-tourism initiatives that will in turn lead to the conservation of threatened forest habitats.

Within this we look to uplift our rural community and the project has so far provided 5 full time jobs for local community members as custodians of the project, as well as a welcome platform for local crafters to sell their original and unusual handicrafts from.

Biodiversity

Birds
The forest is home to a vast number of rare and interesting birds. Cape Parrots, sadly endangered and dwindling in numbers in South Africa are attracted by the seeds, and the nesting potential of the plentiful yellow wood trees and are often found in flocks of up to 100 birds in the forest. They have also been seen as a flock harrying a Long Crested Eagle for up to a kilometre at a time out of the forest. Bush Black Caps have been spotted, shyly foraging in the dense forest undergrowth. The Knysna Turaco with it's restless bouncing and bounding and The Orange Ground-Thrush with its melodious whistling phrases are often sighted here, as well as the Southern Black Tit, and in the last few weeks five gloriously booming Ground Hornbills have also been spotted nearby.

Mammals
Attracted to the pristine forest habitat Bush Buck and Reed Buck are frequent visitors to the forest, as are a herd of Bush Pig that freely forage on the forest floor. Rock Dassies have been seen and the call of the Tree Dassie has been heard in the forest announcing it's tenancy of this beautiful place. Very recently Mongooses were also seen around the forest boardwalk.

Trees
Within the forest there are also many species of trees. There are a number of very large and old Yellowwoods of about the same age and size, surviving simultaneously because they were too small to harvest for logging during the late 1800s. These are the main attraction for our Cape Parrots who nest in the hollows and eat the seeds with great relish. On the upper contour of the walk you will also be enchanted by the very ancient vines that twine and spread through the tree canopies for miles on end.

You will also encounter amongst many other species:

Plants
The forest hosts a rich selection of wild plants and grasses, and the eager botanist will be delighted with amongst many others:

History of the Forest
The Marutswa Forest Boardwalk is built on an old logging site used in the late 1800s and is named after a local Zulu Man ‘Mahustjwa' who harvested Sneezewood trees to sell as railway sleepers. The lower walk of the contour trail is part of the old logging route which was used by oxen and mules to drag timber for sale in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Some traces of the old saw pits can still be seen.

Contact