The 97m high Howick Falls is one of the best known attractions on the uMngeni river and a popular stop for tourists. At present it is magnificent, with a large volume of water pouring over at great speed. Nkululeko Mdladla took this photo:
All the water unfortunately means that masses of litter is washed down the river. Mike Farley’s ingenious litter trap just below the bridge makes a significant impact in reducing the amount of rubbish which flows over the falls and into Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.
DUCT teams regularly collect all the rubbish trapped. Just before Christmas they picked up 75 bags and 10 vehicle tyres in the pool below the Howick Falls. Mike Farley comments: “Although the trash boom is quite effective, we will be collecting again soon.”
Despite the volume of water, the intrepid women from Shiyabazali bravely do their washing on the rocks – adding a colourful cameo of African life. Visitors are constantly astonished at their bravery.
The Friends of the Falls is a volunteer organisation which cares about the area and spends time welcoming visitors and telling them about the falls and other local attractions. A truly wonderful local initiative. During December 2012 they reported that more than double the number of people visited than during December 2011! The falls were (and still are) in flood – as good as we have seen in maybe 10 years – which undoubtedly attracted a lot of visitors. Stan Goodenough compiled this report on their December activities:
A new record total for ONE DAY of 2228. Do the sums: we operate from 08h30 to 16h00 = 7,5 hours = 450 minutes. Divide 2228 by 450 = an average of 5 visitors every minute.
Think about this: over the summer months, there are many visitors at the falls before 08h30 and after 16h00 every day. It could be that between 100 and 200 visitors that are not counted, per day. Maybe as many as 5000 for the month. And think about this: even though we had two Tourism Trainees on certain busy days, plus a Volunteer, there is NO WAY we can count everyone who arrives at the falls. It is just too hectic!
We had the following overseas groups: 1 group from each of Dubai, England, France, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland and the USA; 2 groups from Australia; 11 from Germany and 15 groups from Holland Total: 36 groups (November had 71 groups, October had 68, September had 31, August had 19.) Stan Goodenough took this photo:
Let’s look at the month in more detail:
- The total number of visitors recorded was a massive 28676 which is 122% up on November (12924) and more than double December last year (14274).
- The average daily count works out at 925 – that is HUGE.
- The total number of foreign visitors was 2270, down 15% on November (2673) which is our best-ever foreign visitor number since FOTF started in June 2010; and 55% up on December last year (1462). That is impressive.
- Foreign visitors made up 7,9% of the total. Last month, it was 20,7%. Last December, it was 10,2%.
- The number of different foreign countries represented was 61. November was 44. Last December was 63.
- There was 1 ‘new’ country in December – Panama – so the running total increases to 150 countries.
- The top 4 foreign countries were Holland (459), Germany (448), England (377) and Australia (210).
- The total number of South African visitors recorded was an incredible 26406. November was 10251. December last year was 12812.
- We saw huge numbers of visitors from Durbs, plus ‘n groot klomp Vaalies!
- On Christmas Day a year ago, our volunteers took a break so we did not record visitor details. This year we had 2 of our Tourism Trainees on duty on 25th – this contributed to the hugely increased numbers this December.
Some interesting snippets:
• The uMngeni Municipality is making a greater effort at cleaning up around the falls area and Goddard Park. We are grateful to Joyce Pope for co-ordinating this activity.
• Mike Farley – what a man! – assisted by Michael Uzzell – and a group of workers have now removed dozens of bags of rubbish from the pool area at the base of the falls.
• Many visitors express interest in the birds one sees at the falls. A visitor from Noord Kaap asked for the Afrikaans name for the Red-winged starling! Dis die Rooivlerkspreeu.
• Talking birds, we commented 2 months back about falcons. American birders who visited in October were convinced that they were looking at a Peregrine falcon. However, a local bird enthusiast says: “I think they are more likely to be Lanners as the ones I’ve seen have the rufous crown that is diagnostic of the Lanner and they are described in Roberts as a fairly common resident whereas the Peregrine is a rare non-breeding Palaearctic migrant. I think what the Americans saw was an immature Lanner”.
• We had church groups of 36 from Pretoria, another from Durban, another 105 from Pretoria. Plus a group of Baha’i Faith followers.
• A couple from Parys were particularly interested in our Friends of the Falls volunteer programme. She works in the museum at Parys.
• Schools that visited included Tree Tops Primary from Durban, Emafakatini Primary from North West Province, a school from Qwa Qwa and Elandskop Primary.
• We had a wedding group of 15 from Howick West.
We continue to receive positive comments and thanks from visitors who are impressed with the cleanliness of the view-site, and the work done by the Friends of the Falls. Our 5 Tourism Trainees play a major role and do an excellent job. Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, including Harvard House, we now have funding for them through to the end of 2013.
Why not join this band of happy volunteers to share one of the treasures of our river with those not lucky enough to live alongside it? Even during Winter it is a spectacular spot. Contact Stan at firstname.lastname@example.org 082 493 0808