Bulwer is a small town in the KwaZulu-Natal's Midlands region, South Africa. It is situated on the R617 regional road between the towns of Boston and Underberg. The village is nestled in the shadow of the Magwaqa Mountain, which means "frowning one" in the Zulu language. Bulwer is the centre of a large forestry industry, with the tourism industry a close second and towards Underberg there are dairy and agricultural farms.
The Village was named after Sir Henry Bulwer who was the lieutenant governor of Natal from 1875 to 1880.
Eskom electricity reached Bulwer in mid 1978 and by the end of 1979 there were approximately 315 consumers over the area of Bulwer, Himeville and Underberg. April 1987, 10 years later there were 754 consumers covering a distance of 533 kilometers of supply line.
Today Bulwer is a quaint country village with old style buildings, shops, a service station, a library, a police station and a home affairs office.
The areas surrounding Bulwer village and the conservancy are largely traditional Zulu tribal land.
Bulwer is a prominent tourist destination for various reasons. It's a popular birding spot, a beautiful place to just relax, but mainly it's a flying destination for paragliders. Both local and international pilots flock to Bulwer for flying around the year.
The slopes of the Magwaqa Mountain are rated as one of the best paragliding sites in South Africa.
For nature lovers there is the nearby Impendle Nature Reserve with it's deep gorges, waterfalls, rocky pools, and peaceful forest. Birding in the reserve is rich and there are many bird species in the area.
Various species of lilies, irises and orchids can be seen on the rocky hills and grasslands, as well as along the banks of the stream. There are also nine small perennial earth dams and a number of springs in the reserve.
The Marutswa Forest Boardwalk is built on an old logging area harvested in the late 19th century and is named after a local Zulu man called ‘Mahustjwa’ who harvested Sneezewood trees which he sold and were used to build railway sleepers.
The lower walk of the contour trail is part of the old logging route which was used in the early days by oxen and mules to drag timber to sell in Pietermaritzburg.
The mountain forms part of the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg and the area around here is particularly beautiful - lush, rolling hills, forests, lakes, dams and almost immediate access to a peace and quiet claimed in very few parts of the world.
Around Bulwer you'll find beautiful farms set in restored farmhouses, rustic cottages, lodges, campsites and quaint country hotels that serve as peaceful retreats and havens away from it all. Bird life here is prolific and sightings of the endangered Cape parrot, surprisingly, are not unusual.
Magwaqa Mountain, "the frowning one"
Brookes Trading Store and house - Bulwer 1883
Bulwer is the home of the Yellowwood Church, built in 1885 along the old Wagon Road which was the main road from Pietermaritzburg to Himeville.
This beautiful church was built entirely of hand sawn Yellowwood and it has a corrugated iron roof. The yellowwood was cut from the farm of Rev. Benjamin Markham of Ashtonvale. The Church is still in use and services take place on the first Sunday of every month - all visitors are welcome.
The Marutswa Forest Trail & Boardwalk is a joint initiative between the Sappi/WWF Tree Routes Partnership, the Bulwer Biosphere group, the BirdLife South Africa, the Southern KZN Birding Route and local conservation groups. They have incorporated the site into the route. 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.
The intentions are that the Marutswa Forest Boardwalk will profile and promote the conservation of Bulwer’s unique biodiversity by supporting eco-tourism and eco education initiatives that will in turn lead to the conservation of threatened forest habitats.
The project has so far provided 3 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 handicrafts from.
The site comprises a network of arterial trails leading into the indigenous forest, where there are a number of lookout jetties boardwalk sections, picnic sites decks and view points, allowing visitors to view the various layers of the forest, including the canopy Biodiversity.
Marutswa Forest has been described by some of the South Africa’s top birding tour operators as one of the most active cloud forests in KwaZulu-Natal.
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.
Specials to look out for are Cape Parrot, Orange Ground-Thrush, African Crowned Eagle, Bush Blackcap, White-starred Robin, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Narina Trogon, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Crowned and Southern Ground Hornbill.
© Southern Drakensberg Information - 2014