The village of Umhlali, inland from Salt Rock, was established by British and Scottish Byrne settlers in 1850 and was originally Fort William.
It was renamed Umhlali – the Zulu name for the Monkey Orange tree, which grew abundantly along the banks of the Umhlali River but locals also referred to it as the “place of waiting” because settlers and locals would have to wait on the banks before crossing the river on a northward journey.
While Ballito consisted of a few beach shacks at this time Umhlali was the hub of the farming community with the heart of the village being the bustling main road sporting a bank, post office, supermarket, hairdresser, car dealership, farmers’ co-op and of course the Lali Hotel. Until the new retail developments began in Ballito, Umhlali was initially one of the only places locally to buy groceries, collect post, go to the bank, fill up with petrol and go to school.
Umhlali Preparatory School, which opened its doors on 11 February 1918 is steeped in history, is still a highly respected and popular school today. These shops have since all closed, being replaced by the more modern centres but, quite excitingly, an up and coming developer group is currently redeveloping this old hub.