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Nature Reserve

As Hiltonians we are delighted with the advent of the Hilton College Nature Reserve. It is a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to preserve and to develop appropriately the conservation areas on the Estate. Probably more importantly, however, the Reserve’s promulgation enables continuing generations of Hilton boys to share the experience of the pristine Estate with their predecessors. It is a remarkable fact that while the Hilton College campus of 2011 would be unrecognizable to early Hilton boys, the Estate remains fundamentally unchanged.

There are 4 waterfalls, a line of cliffs, a couple of kilometres of river frontage, and numerous trails that take you around the nature reserve. Routes vary from half-hour strolls to hikes that can take a couple of days.

A weekend in the Hilton College Nature Reserve

It is quiet. Early Sunday morning. The liquid music of a nearby river gentles you into wakefulness. The sung presence of an orchestra of birds fills your awareness before your eyes are open. Your friends are still asleep around the campfire that made a focus for the wildest stories last night. You climb out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and take a slow walk to watch a giraffe enjoy a breakfast of leaves. Your friends wake up and join you, and someone starts the fire and gets the bacon and eggs cooking. After breakfast and a swim in the river, you take a walk to a fishing spot that only you and some other guys know about, and spend a few hours chilling, climbing trees, watching Wildebeest on the next-door game reserve, laughing as one of the guys catches a fish and falls into the river. After taking on the traditional challenges of climbing Pinnacles and swimming under a waterfall, you head back to the campsite, have a bit of lunch, take a nap under a tree, and go back home in the afternoon

You have just spent a weekend in the Hilton College Nature Reserve.

Spending time in the Nature Reserve

This school has a sense of place, a wildness about it, which every Hilton boy, since 1872, has experienced. Some spend a little time in the Nature Reserve (about 600 ha), some roam the whole Estate (all 1600 hectares of it) more widely, some delve into the beauty and magic of the place so deeply that it changes their entire lives and gives them a whole new direction.

The place oozes beauty, from views of the distant Karkloof hills to close-up experiences of birds at one of our hides. Wherever you go, you will find beauty, significant biodiversity, and a pervasive sense of space and timelessness. This is a place to grow up in. This is a place to find your identity. This is a place where the great trees, red cliffs, bold Eagles and shy Duiker witness the process of boys becoming men.

As the guardians of this special place, the Conservation staff’s role at Hilton College is to make nature come alive for our boys, in as many ways as possible. All the Grade 8’s do two Estate activities in their first 2 terms, and we offer a range of wildlife and conservation based courses – Bush Survival, tracking, medicinal plants (they particularly like to learn about the poisonous ones…), creepy crawlies, birding and more. We are happiest when mentoring boys who have an interest in wildlife and conservation, and our first prize is to see boys encounter the wonder and mystery of nature and be changed by the experience.

Boys can spend time on the Estate by themselves, as many do, or join us in the Conservation department. Boys can get involved in a range of projects, from fixing paths to counting animals and compiling checklists of birds of prey. Having this facility as part of our school means that boys with a particular interest in wildlife can really take it as far as they want to, and be well-prepared for a career in that direction after they leave.

There are 4 waterfalls, a line of cliffs, a couple of kilometres of river frontage, and numerous trails that take you around the nature reserve. Routes vary from half-hour strolls to hikes that can take a couple of days.



The Estate is very diverse in terms of ecosystem types, ranging from higher altitude Mist-belt grassland, through riverine bush, to valley bushveld and Acacia savannah. This range of habitats is home to about 120 tree species, around 270 bird species, a range of mammals including Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Bushbuck, Nyala, Reedbuck, Warthog, and many reptiles and invertebrates. Notable recent discoveries include a species of spider new to science, described in 2015, and another which awaits description. Researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal are involved in detailed studies of Cycads and Orchids; boys get involved in this research when possible.


Key Contacts

Bookings and General Enquiries

Trail Running

Mountain Biking

Facilities and Use

Booking arrangements

Parents, Old Boys and Fleur de Lys club members who wish to make use of the Nature Reserve and Estate (particularly over weekends) must make prior arrangements - DURING THE WEEK - through the Estate office to do so. Access (even on Sundays) without prior booking is no longer accepted.

The Nature Reserve and Estate is unfortunately not open to the general public, but if you are a recognized school, church, scout, birding or environmental club or group etc. and would like to visit, use of the property can be arranged through the Estate offices:

Trail running in the plantations with valid access card

Mountain biking in the plantations with valid bike board

The Henley Lapa – an overnight and day-use facility next to the uMgeni River.

Derek’s – A picnic site and overnight campsite in the bush.

River campsites.

River picnic sites.

The Henley Lapa, Derek’s and any overnight camping require prior booking. Please contact the Estate Offices to make enquires. (

Beacons – A popular picnic spot with a superb view
Point – A great viewpoint over the valley


The Hilton College Estate, refers to areas outside of the School campus and the Valley Village


The Estate and Nature Reserve are not open to the public except for recognized environmental groups, schools and church groups. Hilton College staff, parents, Gates residents (Fleur-de-lys (FDL) club members) and school-boys, have, within reason, unhindered use of the Estate. Old Boys are encouraged to visit the Estate and are required to obtain a permit from the Estate Office during weekdays and at the Main Gate on weekends.

The booking of, or use of any facilities on the Estate and Nature Reserve must be done in advance through the Estate offices. The nature of the planned function must be disclosed when making a request for a booking.


Pets are not permitted in the Nature Reserve or on the Hathorn and Henderson properties. Staff, Gates residents (FDL members) dogs may be walked in the plantations ONLY, but must be on a leash.


Motor cycles and quad bikes, unless authorized for work purposes, are not permitted on the Estate.  Vehicles may only be driven on Estate roads.  A speed limit of 25kph in the Nature Reserve and 40kph for the rest of the Estate, must be observed.  Unlicensed drivers may not drive on the Hilton Estate.  Learner drivers must be accompanied by a licensed driver.


No unauthorized horse riding is permitted on the Estate.

All persons wishing to cycle on the Estate must obtain an annual cycling board from Estate Management.  This board must be displayed on the bicycle at all times when on the property. Cyclists may only ride on Estate roads, paths and designated cycle tracks within the timber plantations. Cyclists must enter the property through the main gates. Cycling is not permitted on the Nature Reserve unless Derek’s or the Lapa camps have been booked.

All persons wishing to run on the Estate or Nature Reserve must obtain an annual running permit from Estate Management.

Fishing is only permitted at designated dams and rivers and at certain times with a valid fishing permit issued by Estate management. All Fishing is at the discretion of management.

Camping is permitted at designated areas in the Nature Reserve. Permission must be obtained from Estate management.  Camping fees are applicable.

Shooting and/or trapping of animals and birds is not permitted.  No plants may be removed, felled or destroyed, other than in respect of normal clearance authorized by management. Gathering of plant and animal material for medicinal purposes is at the discretion of Estate Management and a permit must be obtained.  Unauthorized feeding of wildlife is not permitted.  Littering is an offence and offenders may be prosecuted.  The lighting of fires is only permitted in constructed fire places, and must be extinguished after use.

Any unauthorized action which might cause damage, injury or annoyance to others, or to the flora and fauna of the Estate, will not be tolerated. In particular, no loud music may be played in the Nature Reserve.


  1. Persons entering onto or using the Estate do so entirely at their own risk. Neither the Hiltonian Society nor any of its employees, servants, Hilton College parents, school boys or representatives will be liable for any loss or damage to any property, pets, injury to or death of any person or any direct and/or consequential damage of any kind suffered by any person entering onto or using the Estate at any time irrespective of whether such loss, injury, death or damage of whatsoever nature was caused by the negligent act or omission of the Hiltonian Society nor any of its employees, servants, Hilton College parents, school boys or representatives.
  2. Should any loss or damage to any Society property or injury to or death of any Society employee, Hilton College parent, schoolboy, or any direct and/or consequential damage of any kind suffered occur, such visitor who causes (whether directly or indirectly) such loss, damage, injury, death or consequential damage shall be liable and held accountable for such loss, damage, injury, death or consequential damage.



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