We have divided the North-East Zululand Birding Route into five different birding areas. Each birding area has its own unique character and set of special bird species. Within each area there is also a variety of accommodation options and birding sites to visit.
Hluhluwe derives its name from a river named after the thorny monkey rope called umHluhluwe. The area is probably best known for the Hluhulwe-Umfolozi Park which is internationally acclaimed for its conservation efforts and is home to the big five: lions, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Hluhluwe Game Reserve is also renowned for its abundance of raptors. In addition to this several top-rated birding spots are also along the Hluhluwe route, amongst them, Bonamanzi which is arguably one of South Africa's top birding spots with a huge variety of birding habitats and over 350 species recorded on the property. The reserves on the western shores of Lake St Lucia, part of a world heritage site, offer abundant water and forest birding with great walking trails and breathtaking scenery.
The Hluhluwe area must be one of KwaZulu-Natal's busiest tourism areas and has an abundance of top quality accommodation facilities, from peaceful campsites to five-star game lodges. The roads are all in good condition and all birding spots can be accessed with a sedan car. Hluhluwe town has all the supplies that one may need when travelling including banking facilities.
The variety of bushveld and woodland birding found in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, combined with the natural wonders of the Lake St Lucia system and its central position to the rest of the Zululand Birding Route make this an excellent area for the keen birder to spend time.
Hluhluwe Game Reserve
The Hluhluwe Game Reserves were proclaimed in 1897 making this complex one of South Africa's oldest reserves, the birthplace of conservation in KwaZulu-Natal. Hluhluwe consists mainly of steep wooded hills, grass covered slopes and riverine woodland along the many rivers and streams.
Entry to the park is via Hluhluwe or Mtubatuba. The Memorial and Nyalazi Gates are both well signposted off the N2.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA SA060). For more information please see: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/201-sa060-hluhluwe-umfolozi-park
At the Siwasamakozikazi picnic site look out for:
Southern Bald Ibis, Black Duck and African Finfoot which occur around here. Lanner Falcon occasionally roost on the cliff along with Mocking Cliff-Chats, African Pied Wagtail and Red-winged Starlings. Keep an eye open for Lesser Masked-Weavers and in summer, on the drive to this site, watch for Dusky and Village Indigobirds on exposed perches.
At Muphumulo picnic site:
African Finfoot, Black Crake, African Jacana, Green-backed, Grey, Black-headed and Goliath Herons, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Violet-backed Starling. African Marsh, Sedge and Cape Reed Warblers, Thick-billed and Lesser Masked Weavers. Occasionally seen are Eastern White and Pink-backed Pelicans, and Open-billed Stork.
Night drives which can be arranged from Hilltop Camp should give you a chance of seeing Spotted and Water Thick-knee, Spotted Eagle and Verreaux's Eagle-Owls. Fiery-necked and Eurasian Nightjars are around in summer (November-April).
Around Seme a few specials such as a pair of breeding Secretary Birds, Bateleur, Tawny, Wahlberg's and Martial Eagles can be found. White-backed, White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures are also regularly seen as are Black-bellied Bustard, Crowned Lapwing, Red-throated Wryneck and African Pipit. Summer visitors include Amur Falcons and Harlequin Quails.
At the Memorial Gate wetlands look out for Wooly-necked Stork, Hadeda Ibis, Burchell's Coucal, Red-collared and Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Red Bishop, Rufous-naped Lark, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Common Waxbill. Occasionally Yellow-billed Ducks, Spurwinged Geese, African Marsh-Harrier, Cape Wagtail and Parasitic Weavers are also seen. The nearby Manzibomvu Stream has Black Duck, African Finfoot, Mountain Wagtails and Malachite Kingfisher.
Birding around the Hilltop camp area:
The Umbombo Trail in the camp is excellent for forest birds with African Goshawk, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Narina Trogon, Green Malkoha, Klaas, Red-chested and Emerald Cuckoos, Black-backed Puffback, Gorgeous, Olive and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrikes, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Cape Batis can easily be found. Chorister Robin-Chat and Starred Robin-Chat in winter. Yellow-breasted and Bar-throated Apalis occur in the forest while Rudd's Apalis can be found in thickets. Various sunbirds, barbets, bulbuls, and shrikes can be seen around the chalets as well as Eastern Nicator and Black-bellied Starling. African Crowned Eagle and White-naped Raven patrol overhead. Jackal Buzzard, Lazy Cisticola and Striped Pipit can be found on rocky hillsides near Hilltop.
Charter's Creek is situated on the western shores of Lake St. Lucia, and within the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, a World Heritage Site. The spot is a popular holiday destination for birders and fishermen, and the reserve lends itself to relaxing birding. Charter's Creek is well known for its beautiful coastal/ sand forest. The best birding is done on the main road leading to the camp, on the two walking trails in the reserve or on the lake shore itself. Over 300 species have been recorded from the reserve.
The two trails (Isikhova and Umkumbe) lead through some prime habitat. Typical forest species such as Lemon Dove, Green Pigeon, Purple-crested Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, White-eared Barbet, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-headed Oriole, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Eastern Nicator, Brown Scrub-Robin, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Gorgeous Bush Shrike and Red-backed Mannikin occur alongside rarer or shyer species such as Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Grey Waxbill, Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergard's Sunbird, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Green Twinspot.
Grassland specials are less conspicuous, but birds such as Rosy-throated Longclaw, Quailfinch, White-winged Widowbird, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Senegal Lapwing, Black-rumped Buttonquail and Black-bellied Bustard have been recorded.
Wetland specials that could be seen include the ever-present African Fish Eagle, Woolly-necked Stork, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Burchell's and Black Coucals, Collared Pratincole, Painted Snipe, Goliath Heron and a host of waders, terns, egrets, ducks, pelicans and flamingos.
Other raptors include Long-crested Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Little Sparrowhawk, Osprey and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.
To get there; take the Charter's Creek/ Fanies Island turn-off from the N2 highway between Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe. The tar road takes one straight to the reserve entrance, a further 13km from the N2 turn-off.
Bonamanzi Game Park
Bonamanzi is a self-contained wildlife and birders' paradise in close proximity to the St Lucia Wetlands Park and other world-renowned Zululand game reserves. Bonamanzi is considered to be one of South Africa's best birding spots with 350 species listed in the reserve. Lemon-breasted Canary occurs in small flocks, and is often also seen on the road as well. Look in lala palms for this special species.
The area just inside the gate is a prime spot for finding Swamp Nightjar at night time. The drive from the gate into the reserve yields many bird species like Eastern Nicator, bulbuls, flycatchers, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher. Lizard Buzzard and the uncommon Honey Buzzard have been seen. Pink-throated Twinspots also make an appearance at the hide from time to time. Scan the edges of the trees for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle that hunts along the tree line, or may be seen overhead. Also look for Brown Snake-Eagle, Black-breasted Snake-Eagle, Tawny Eagle and White-headed Vulture.Black-winged and Lesser Black-winged Lapwings in grassland. Also found in this habitat are Desert Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, African Pipit and Black-bellied Bustard.
African Broadbill calls for a very short period in the morning, and late afternoon. In the grassy area between the Lalapanzi road and the forest, look for Grey Penduline-Tit. Look in the densely vegetated areas for Green Malkoha, Rudd's Apalis and Yellow-breasted Apalis as well as the Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike. Look out for Marsh and Grass Owls that may be flushed by your vehicle Black Coucal Tit-Flycatcher and Fiscal Flycatcher.
If driving at night, specials that may be seen are Spotted Eagle-Owl, Spotted Thick-knee, Blackbellied Bustard, and Common Ostrich. If driving this route during the day, look out for Cuckoo Hawk, Banded Harrier-Hawk, Secretarybird, Black-bellied Bustard, Various cisticolas, flycatchers and both Yellow-throated and Orange-throated Longclaws.
Head north along the N2 from Mtubatuba. Take the Bushlands off-ramp and turn right. Follow this road past Bushlands; about 10km from the off-ramp, the Bonamanzi gate is sign-posted.
Falaza Game Park
Falaza Game Park is situated close to False Bay on the western shores of Lake St. Lucia. The reserve was established in the early 1990's and comprises 800ha of sand forest, bushveld, riverine forest, grassland and a dam. Falaza has a bird list of over 300 species, and many can be seen in a short stay. Birding around the camp could produce Pink-throated Twinspot, Grey Sunbird, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Bearded Robin, Forest Weaver, Crested Guineafowl and Red-capped Robin-Chat.
Sand forest specials to look out for include African Broadbill, Rudd's Apalis, Eastern Nicator, Narina Trogon, Grey Waxbill, Gorgeous Bush Shrike and Terrestrial Brownbul. Check the small pan in the sand forest for Thick-billed and Lesser Masked Weavers.
Guided tours are led on a boat on the Mzinene River and dam. Birding is fantastic, with African Finfoot, Whiskered Tern, Kittlitz's Plover, Darter, Goliath, Squacco and Green-backed Herons, Intermediate Egret, Black Crake, Purple Gallinule, African Spoonbill, Sacred Ibis, Wattled Plover, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers and African Fish Eagles are often easily seen. At times up to 120 White Pelicans can be seen
Grassland birding can be productive as well, with Lemon-breasted Canary, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Stonechat, Grey-rumped Swallow, Shelley's Francolin and Yellow-throated Longclaw all regularly recorded.
Thornveld and bushveld areas should be checked for Burnt-necked Eremomela, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Long-billed Crombec, Purple-crested Turaco and a host of waxbills, canaries and buntings.
Take the Hluhluwe off-ramp from the N2 highway and proceed through the village to the T-junction. Turn left here and proceed to the next turn-off. Turn right here, following the signs to False Bay. After 4km, turn right again at the T-junction, and then right again at the sign Falaza Game Park. The last 2km are on a dirt road.
Luxury Safari style tents are available in the reserve.
False Bay Park
False Bay Park is situated along the western shores of Lake St Lucia and forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. Most of the 2 247 ha False Bay Park is covered with sand forest, woodland and mixed patches of open shoreline. False Bay Park also boasts one of South Africa's only Pink-backed Pelican colonies. Two main trails, the Dugandlovu and Mpophomeni trails, offer excellent opportunities to explore the fantastic birdlife in this area.
Pink-throated Longclaws can be found if flooded, and vegetation-covered inlets. A variety of waterbirds occur in the inlets, and Lesser Jacana. Goliath Heron, Black Egret and Little Bittern may be found standing quietly among the edge vegetation, while Painted Snipe prefer the muddy areas.
In the open areas look in the tops of bare trees for Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, and Broad-billed Roller in summer. Look and listen in areas with dense undergrowth for the shy Green Coucal, and look along the edges for the Maputaland endemic Pink-throated Twinspot.
Bird parties are frequently encountered, allowing a variety of species to be seen in a short time. These parties include Rudd's Apalis, White Helmetshrike, Square-tailed Drongo and Yellow-bellied Bulbul. Look carefully among the branches under the canopy for the colourful Narina Trogon and the Eastern Nicator, which may be heard calling from a long way off.
The sand forest in False Bay Park is probably one of the best places to see African Broadbill. Along the trails, find a patch of forest with a closed canopy but an open understorey.
From Mtubatuba follow the N2 north towards Mkhuze. After about 55 km take the Hluhluwe turn-off, follow this road through the town of Hluhluwe and follow the well-marked road signs from here. False Bay Park is about 15 km further east of Hluhluwe Railway Station.
There are rustic huts as well as camping/caravan sites in the park.
Birder Friendly Establishments in this area:
- Bushwillow Lodge
- Jacana Lodge
- Leopard Mountain Game Lodge
- Makhasa Game Reserve and Lodge
- Malala Lodge
- Nibela Lake Lodge
2. iSimangaliso(St Lucia)
St Lucia offers birders some of Zululand's best birdwatching. With over 420 Species recorded in the area, one can be assured of some great birding in one of South Africa's most bio-diverse areas. One of the great things about birding around St Lucia is the series of self-guided trails and hides. Birding on foot with waterbuck and reedbuck grazing in the background and hippos snorting from the pans makes for an extra special birding experience. The greater St Lucia Wetlands Reserve is a recently proclaimed World Heritage Site and one of South Africa's oldest reserves established back in 1895. It includes the conservation areas of the Eastern Shores, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Charters Creek, Fanies Island, False Bay, Phinda Resource Centre and Mkhuze Game Reserve (dealt with separately). The lake itself covers an area of about 38 000ha and is one of South Africa's most important waterbird breeding areas.
The Habitats are extremely varied from the Estuary and its Floodplains and Pans to Dune Forest, Sand Forest, Coastal thickets, Mangroves and Grassland (with flooded areas in the summer). There is also a group of excellent local guides based in St Lucia town, which if used will make finding all those specials and great trails that much easier!
The iSimangaliso wetlands reserve is a recently proclaimed world heritage site and one of South Africa's oldest reserves established back in 1895. The lake itself covers an area of about 38 000ha and is one of South Africa's most important waterbird breeding areas. The habitats are quite varied from the estuary and it's floodplains to dune forest, sand forest, coastal thickets, mangroves and grassland (with flooded areas in the summer) - all this allows for a wonderful selection of birdlife with over 420 species recorded in the area. One of the great things about birding around St Lucia are the self-guided trails and hides. Birding on foot with waterbuck and reedbuck grazing in the background and hippos snorting from the pans makes for an extra special birding experience.
The main birding areas on the Eastern shores are:
St Lucia Village and Estuary: Saddle-billed Stork is uncommon although this is the best place in KZN for this species. Yellow-billed Stork and Woolly-necked Stork, Caspian Tern, and a variety of waders including Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover, Pied Avocet and Mangrove Kingfisher in the winter months. From this same bridge also keep a lookout for Banded Martins and Wire-tailed Swallow. Yellow-billed Storks and Goliath Herons can normally be found here as well as big flocks of pelicans and terns. Birds such as White-eared Barbet, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, African Dusky Flycatcher and Black-bellied Starling are easily seen in the big trees around town as well as the usual Collared and Olive Sunbirds, Red-capped Robin-Chats etc....
Iphiva Campsite and trail: On the road in, look on the telephone lines for Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters which are common in summer as well as Grey Waxbill which is often found foraging on the roadside. The grassland areas are normally good all year round for Croaking Cisticolas, Yellow-throated Longclaws, Red-breasted Swallows and Grey-rumped Swallows. In the more moist summer months Rosy-throated Longclaws can be flushed from the shallow grassy edges of pans. Swamp Nightjar calls as well as African Wood-Owls which are fairly common around the campsite. Southern Banded Snake-Eagle perching in one of the bigger trees, (this is probably one of the best areas in South Africa to see this bird).look for African Pygmy-Goose, White-backed Ducks and Lesser Jacana, often with big mixed flocks of herons, egrets, storks and lapwings. Narina Trogon, Green Malkoha, Rudd's Apalis, Woodward's Batis, Square-tailed Drongo, Dark-backed Weavers, Livingstone's Turaco, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Black-Throated Wattle-eye, Eastern Nicator, Crested Guineafowl and Green Twinspots.
The road to Cape Vidal: Look out for Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagles, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle , Narina Trogon, Rudd's Apalis, White-starred Robin, Olive Bush-Shrike and Rosy-throated and African Broadbill.
iGwala Gwala Trail: Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Trumpeter Hornbill, Scalythroated Honeyguide (listen out for it calling at the first T-junction of the trail as it has a calling perch nearby) Yellow-breasted Apalis, Rudds Apalis, Livingstone's Turaco, Dark-backed and Yellow Weaver, Narina Trogon, Grey, Olive and Collared Sunbirds, Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Emerald Cuckoo, Woodwards Batis and Southern Boubou. Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub Robin, Buff-spotted Flufftail, redbacked Mannikin, Grey Waxbill, Green Twinspot and Terrestrial Brownbul can be spotted on or near the ground.
Access to St Lucia is only via Mtubatuba just off the N2. Follow the R618 for approx. 30km. After crossing the Estuary, follow the signs left to Cape Vidal. Just before the Cape Vidal gate, apposite the crocodile farm is a small road to the right, head down here for about 1km for the access road to the Iphiva Trail. Alternatively to reach the estuary and Gwalagwala Trail, make a left turn at the traffic circle and head through town following the signboards to Sugarloaf Campsite and KZN Wildlife offices.
Monzi - Futululu Park
Futululu Park is situated in coastal forest near Monzi, between Mtubatuba and St. Lucia. It is situated within the 1800ha Futululu Section of the Dukuduku Forest - and within the Greater St. Lucia World Heritage Site. Osprey, White-backed Duck, African Jacana and Pygmy Goose can be seen. Look out for Grey Waxbill, Ashy Flycatcher, Forest Weaver, Green Pigeon, White-eared Barbet, Narina Trogon, Green Coucal, Tambourine Dove, Green Twinspot, Black-bellied Starling and Red-fronted Tinkerbird. Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Whiskered Tern, Goliath Heron, Pygmy Goose and Woolly-necked Stork
Livingstone's Turaco, Narina Trogon, Green Pigeon, Black-bellied Starling and Grey Sunbird. Red-capped Robin-Chats vie with Brown Robins for the loudest dawn chorus, and the shy Green Twinspots and Grey Waxbills feed on seeding grasses on the edge of the path. Olive and Collared Sunbirds, Purple-crested Turaco, Ashy Flycatcher, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-bellied Greenbul and even Narina Trogon are all regularly seen in the grounds. Red-backed Mannikin and Crested Guineafowl search for seeds and small insects on the camp ground verges.
From Durban or Johannesburg (via Pongola), take the N2 highway to Mtubatuba, which is situated about 100km south of the Hluhluwe offramp. Follow the St. Lucia signs. From Mtubatuba, drive for 16km and turn right at the Monzi/ Futululu signs. Travel for 7km and turn right into the park entrance.
Chalets and camping are available in the park.
The Mavuya Estate was purchased by Sappi in 1989, and at that stage the entire lake was planted to sugar cane. This was achieved by the use very large pumps that pumped water out of the wetland and into a canal on the southern side, which effectively drained all water away from the wetland in an easterly direction into the Umsinduzi River. With the inception of the Sappi Environmental Policy in 1990, the canal wall was broken in two places, allowing for water to fill the lake once again.
The catchment of Lake Mavuya consists of two rivers, namely the Mavuya and Ntenja Rivers. Lake Mavuya comprises a wetland of approximately 200 hectares in size, and a catchment of approximately 95 hectares. Lake Mavuya and the catchment was recognised as a Site of Conservation Significance in 1994, and due to its bio-diversity and importance of the wetland as a refuge for waterfowl, it was awarded Natural Heritage status on the 29th. November 1999. Identified as a birding haven with no less than 243 species, the table below indicates the importance of the site by being home to an array of Red Data bird species. Included in this list are endangered mammals and reptiles.
Specials Birds: Pygmy Goose, Martial Eagle, Woollynecked Stork, Marabou Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Lesser Jacana and Cuckoos
Birder Friendly Establishments in this area:
The Mkhuze area is a place of great beauty and high contrasts. World-renowned as a mecca for bird lovers (more than 400 species have been recorded here) the junction of the moderate and tropical climate zones creates a habitat suitable for an extraordinary variety of plants and animals. The Mkhuze area is renowned for a variety of localised birds including Pink-throated Twinspot, Eastern Nicators, Pel's Fishing Owls and Neergaard's Sunbird.
The Mkhuze route also offers visitors a wide choice of accommodation with many private game farms and lodges in the area. The roads are all in a decent condition and can be negotiated with a sedan. Another drawcard for the Mkhuze area is its close proximity to the other large Zululand reserves. Also home to black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, hippo and crocodile, this area is predominantly flat and dry, with sandy red ridges which are ancient dunes. An astonishing diversity of natural habitats occur here, ranging from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountain range to the broad stretches of gently rolling acacia savannah, swamps and a variety of woodlands, sand forest and riverine forest. Mkhuze is also renowned for its seasonal and permanent pans with their attendant hippo, crocodiles and abundant birdlife.
The Birding spots along the Mkhuze Route Include Mkhuze Game Reserve, Leopard Mountain Game Lodge and Lebombo Game Reserve. Phinda is renowned for the game (Big Five) and bird viewing opportunities. With a bird list exceeding 300, who would argue?
Lebombo Game Reserve
This relatively unknown reserve lies between the impressive Lebombo Mountains and the Mkhuze River and covers a variety of habitats including riverine bush, thornveld, grassland and cliffs. The reserve is administered by KZN Wildlife, and was proclaimed in the 1980's to protect the many rare plants that grow around the mountain. The reserve lies from 90m to 595m above sea level, and stretches to the top of the Lebombo Mountains.
On entering the gate, you travel past and then through a grove of Fever Trees that adjoin the Mkhuze River. Scan this area for Pink-throated Twinspot, Purple-banded, Scarlet-chested and Collared Sunbirds, Rudd's and Yellow-breasted Apalis, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Southern Black Tit, Southern Boubou, Long-billed Crombec, Pygmy Kingfisher, Grey Tit and Ashy Flycatchers, Forest and Spectacled Weavers and Emerald-spotted Dove. Listen for White-throated and White-browed Robin-Chats calling from the thickets.
The broad-leaved woodland on the slopes of the mountain is good for Blue Waxbill, Violet-backed Starling, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Brown-crowned and Southern Tchagras, Crowned Hornbill, Kurrichane Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Purple-crested Turaco, Lilac-breasted Roller, Little and White-fronted Bee-eaters, Emerald-spotted Dove, Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Green Pigeon and Red-fronted Tinkerbird.
Raptors can often be seen circling around the cliffs, and these include Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Lappet-faced Vulture and African White-backed Vulture.
Traveling from Durban or Johannesburg, drive the N2 highway and take the Mkhuze turn-off (about 60km south of Pongola and 50km north of the Hluhluwe turn-off). Drive through the village till the T-junction. Here one turns right to Mkhuze Game Reserve, but turn left to Ubombo. Travel past Ghost Mountain Inn and turn right about 3km later (after crossing the Mkhuze River Bridge). Continue up this dirt road for about 7km. The reserve turn-off is situated on the right hand side of the road, and is displayed by a large wall with the name on it.
There is a rustic chalet in the reserve, sleeping 4. There are many lodges and hotels in the village of Mkhuze.
Leopard Mountain Game Reserve
Leopard Mountain Game Reserve, winner of the 'Game and Nature Reserves' category in the AA Accommodation Awards 2001, is a 3500 ha natural heritage site of pristine bushveld, centrally situated in Maputaland between the Hluhluwe and Mkhuze Game Reserves. Their position puts them in the middle of South Africa's birding hotspot and within one hour of all the major Maputaland attractions including Sodwana Bay, Lake Sibaya and Ndumo Game Reserve. Within this area over 472 bird species have been recorded which makes Leopard Mountain one of the top birding spots in the country. Leopard Mountain has a diverse variety of habitats including the following: riverine forest, montane, grassland, dense thickets, broadleaf woodland, acacia bushveld. Added to this 16km of the Umsunduze River runs through the center of the reserve.
Leopard Mountain has a number of habitats to attract a vast number of bird species. Start looking out for interesting species as you drive through Zululand on your way to the Lodge. Bateleurs are often spotted doing aerial displays in the skies above the grasslands on the left-hand side of the D464 (the road leading to the Lodge).
The telephone line to the Lodge is a favourite perching place for European and Lilac-breasted Rollers. Once through the gate, between the 'fieldstaff' sign and the Lodge there is a waterhole just off the road where in the morning and afternoon a number of Purple-Crested Turacos and Grey Go-away-birds congregate with Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves. Eastern Nicators, Green-winged Pytilla, Jameson's Firefinch and Yellow-throated Longclaws fly to and from this waterpoint all day long.
In the lawn around the parking lot at the Lodge you will see Striped Pipits mingling with Bronze Mannikins and Yellow-fronted Canaries. Each chalet has its own birdbath, and bird feeders are dotted around the garden attracting Natal Francolin, Crested Francolin, Blackheaded Orioles, White-crested Helmet-Shrikes and a variety of other bushveld birds right to your private veranda.
The Lodge is situated on a clifftop overlooking the Umsunduze River and vast bushveld plains. The thermals from the rockface in front of the Lodge are ideal for viewing Wahlberg's, Crowned and Martial Eagles, Black Stork and various vultures and goshawks, herons, Striped Kingfishers and a number of Cuckoos
From the N2 north bound, approximately 34 km after Hluhluwe, take the road D464 - sign posted "Leopard Mountain Game Lodge". Follow the sign posts for 13 kilometres of dirt road - suitable for sedan type cars. Leopard Mountain is approximately 3 hours' drive from Durban international airport, 1 hour from Richards Bay, and approximately 6 hours from Johannesburg.
Being an award winning lodge in the AA Accommodation Awards 2001, Leopard Mountain truly lives up to luxurious living in the wild with seven stone and thatch chalets nestled on the cliff top.
Mkhuze Game Reserve
Mkhuze Game Reserve was proclaimed in 1912 and covers some 40 000 ha. This section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park rates as one of South Africa's favourite birding destinations and is one of Zululand's top 3 birding spots. Mkhuze also boasts one of South Africa's highest checklists for a protected area with over 400 species being recorded here. The main reason for this is the diversity of habitats included in the protected area. These include pans, swamps, acacia thornveld, sand forest, riverine forest and open woodland.
The camp site near the entrance of the reserve is good for Jameson's Firefinch, Green-winged Pytilia, Marico Sunbird and Black Stork is often seen flying overhead. The road between the campsite and the main camp can produce Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Striped Kingfisher, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike. The skies at the picnic site near the Kwamalibali hide should be scanned for Bateleur and Lappet-faced Vulture.
The Sand Forest includes Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Barred Owlet and Yellow-bellied Greenbul. In late winter and early spring, flowers of the Weeping Boer Bean tree (Schotia brachypetla) act as powerful magnets to Neergard's, Purple-banded, Collared, Eastern Olive, Grey, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds. Purple-crested Turaco, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Woolly-necked Stork, Comb Duck, Lesser Moorhen, Dwarf Bittern, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Red-backed Mannikin, Grey Waxbill and Crested Guineafowl can all be recorded from the two hides. Dwarf Bittern and Greater Painted Snipe occur in the wetter summer months.
Mantuma camp is a great place to observe Bearded Robin at close quarters, as well as Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Collared Sunbird and in summer, Violet-backed Starling. A small hide next to a waterhole in the camp can provide close-up views of birds, including Purple-crested Turaco. The Riverview Walk, (which leaves from opposite the camp office), offers a good opportunity to look out for Pinkthroated Twinspots and Grey Waxbills, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Yellowspotted Nicator frequently haunts the tangles around the safari camp.
The Loop Road area consists of open thornveld, and the birder could see Burnt-necked Eremomela, Grey Penduline Tit, Bushveld Pipit, Flappet Lark, Grey Go-away Bird, Brownheaded Parrot and a number of raptors including Tawny, Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles. Nsumo Pan is a wonderland for waterbirds, an extensive wetland fed by the Mkhuze and Umsunduze Rivers. This pan is home to South Africa's only breeding colony of Pink-backed Pelicans. Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill and various egret species also breed in the fever trees (Acacia xanthophloea) on the southern side of the pan. Interesting birds found around the picnic spot at the pan include Red-capped and White-browed Robin-Chat, Green-capped Eremomela, Woodland Kingfisher, African Broadbill and Tambourine Dove. Waterbird numbers are dependent on the water level of the pan. Goliath Heron, Open-billed Stork, Pygmy Goose and Lesser Jacana are also found at the pan. The Fig Forest, situated adjacent to the pan, is a magical, enchanting place filled with birds, but do enquire about accessibility before going there. Species to be found in this forest include Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Narina Trogon, Broad-billed Roller, Green Malkoha, Southern-banded Snake Eagle, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Black-bellied Starling, Green Twinspot.... the list just goes on and on.
The thornveld around the airstrip is famous as the region's "hot spot" for Olive-tree Warbler, but other species to look out for include Senegal Lapwing, African Pipit, Icterine Warbler, Lizard Buzzard and Desert Cisticola.Greater Painted-snipe, Pygmy Goose, African Hawk-Eagle, Dwarf Bittern, Allen's Gallinule, White-browed Robin-Chat, Squacco Heron and Green-backed Heron are all recorded around the pan and the small dam next to the road just north of Ediza.
From Hluhluwe town, take the N2 north. Signposted approximately 50km's north, is the town of Mkhuze. Follow the road through town to the T-junction, (avoiding the left hand fork to the business centre). Here take a right turn and follow the fairly good gravel road, (suitable for sedan cars), for about 10km. Look out for the signboard which indicates the left turn leading into Mkhuze Game Reserve. If coming from the north, Mkhuze village is about 60km from Phongola Town.
New Entrance Gate to Mkhuze Game Reserve
A new bridge and all-weather road is now linking the Sodwana Bay and Mkhuze sections of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The Ophansi Bridge, built over the Mkhuze River, provides an eastern access to Mkhuze for the first time. This new route allows visitors to the Wetland Park to enjoy diving activities, birding and canoeing on the Muzi Pan, which is situated between Sodwana Bay and Mkhuze, and excellent game viewing - all within a 70 kilometre radius.
The D820 access road on which the bridge is built, can be reached via the Lubombo Road which connects Hluhluwe with Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay further to the north. The traveling time from Sodwana Bay to the new entrance is a comfortable 40 minutes.
Previously Mkhuze only had one entrance on its western border near the town of Mkhuze, making it virtually impossible to visit Sodwana Bay and this section of the Wetland Park in one day.
Accommodation in Mkhuze Game Reserve is mainly situated at Mantuma Camp (about 10km's from gate)
Mkhuze Game Reserve is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (SA057). For more information please see: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/198-sa057-mkuzi-game-reserve
Lower Mkhuze is a wetland floodplain system situated down-stream of Mkhuze Game Reserve, and includes Muzi Swamps (see Sodwana Bay Route). The area is controlled by KZN Wildlife, and forms part of the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mkhuze River crosses the main Hluhluwe- Sodwana road and heads into the Yengweni and Muzi Swamps area and ultimately filters into the northern end of Lake St. Lucia. Riverine forest (with leaning towards Fever Trees and Sycomore Figs), acacia thornveld and grassy wetlands typify the habitats and it is one of the few places where one regularly views Brown-headed Parrot and to a lesser extent – the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl in the region. The combination of habitats makes for excellent birding throughout the year.
The area is predominantly flat, dry and grassy in winter but is transformed in summer to flooded grassland with lush forest. Groves of Fever Trees flank the wetland. This spot write-up covers the area to the south west of the Mkhuze River bridge.
Lower Mkhuze Bridge
This area can produce African Finfoot, Pel's Fishing Owl, Brown-headed Parrot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, White-eared Barbet, African Emerald Cuckoo, Trumpeter Hornbill, African Green Pigeon, Mountain Wagtail, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush Shrike and Grey Waxbill.
Lower Mkhuze Wetland and Thornveld
Black Coucal display from low perches and can be seen alongside Burchell's Coucal. Other grassland associated specials include Grey-rumped Swallow, Blue-cheecked Bee-eater, Lemon-breasted Canary and Yellow-throated Longclaw.
Rudd's Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot, Purple-banded Sunbird, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Little Bee-eater and a host of warblers can be found in the surrounding thornveld.
The riverine forest along the Mkhuze River is home to the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl.
To the bridge:
From the N2 highway, take the Hluhluwe off-ramp 50km north of Mtubatuba. Turn right back over the freeway and drive into town. Take a left turn at the T-junction, proceed for about 2km, and then take a right hand turn to False Bay. Proceed up the R22 tar road for about 50km, taking care over the frequent speed control bumps. The bridge is not sign-posted, but the riverine forest will make it quite visible. Stop just before or after the bridge and walk back onto it.
To the wetland and thornveld:
Turn left onto a gravel road just before the bridge and follow this road for about 1km. The wetland lies either side of the road, and is flanked by fever trees.
Phinda Resource Reserve
Phinda Resource Reserve is a private game reserve of about 14 000ha. It borders Mkhuze Game Reserve on the west and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east. The main attraction is the diversity of seven distinct ecosystems within the reserve that provide ample opportunity for great birding and also prime big game viewing. Game drives and walks turn up much more than birds with lion, leopard, elephant, cheetah, rhino and fantastic flowers, butterflies and frogs to be seen. Over 350 bird species have been recorded on the reserve.
Southern Banded Snake Eagle, African Finfoot, Whitebacked Night Heron, Narina Trogon, Rudd's Apalis, Yellowspotted Nicator, African Broadbill, Green Twinspot, Pinkthroated Twinspot, Neergaard's Sunbird, Lemonbreasted Canary, Redwinged Pratincole, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, and Cuckoo Hawk. Rarities are Pel's Fishing Owl, Palmnut Vulture, Natal Nightjar, Black Coucal and Dwarf Bittern.
1. River cruise/canoe trip on Mzinene River
Good viewing of Purple Heron, Little Bittern, breeding Goliath Heron, Squacco Heron and Blackcrowned Night Heron can be had, especially in the evenings at the large heronries in the reedbeds. Pel's Fishing Owl can be seen in dry years when the smaller rivers in the area dry up. African Finfoot is a regular and must be looked for near the overhanging vegetation. Redbilled Queleas roost in the reedbeds and Redheaded Queleas, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Cuckoo Hawk, Longcrested Eagle and Osprey (usually year round). Crocodiles are common, hippos less so and other game like elephant can also be spotted.
2. Drive/walk on Inkwazi Floodplain
Black Coucals possibly breed here and African Crakes are common. Redchested Flufftails and African Rails are resident, but elusive in the taller reeds. This is also the best area for Broadtailed Warbler, Blackbacked and Redfaced Cisticolas. African Marsh Harriers patrol regularly. In summer, Redwinged Pratincoles and Bluecheeked Bee-eaters are common. It is also good for swallows like Greyrumped, Redbreasted and Wiretailed as well as Banded and Sand Martins.
3. Ntabankosi Mountain
Stierling's Barred Warbler occurs on sparse gravely sections of the mountain. The drainage lines have Narina Trogon and in summer Emerald and other cuckoos are found. Pinkthroated Twinspots and Yellowspotted Nicators are common throughout. Check the candelabra trees here for Brown Snake Eagle. Greater and Scalythroated Honeyguides are found at many perches throughout. Bateleur and Wahlberg's Eagle nest on the mountain. In winter the flowering Mountain Aloes are brilliant for sunbirds, weavers and Blackheaded Oriole. Rock Buntings have been seen in recent months and Lemonbreasted Canaries are found at the foothill near Main Gate.
African Broadbill, Rudd's Apalis, Black Cuckooshrikes and Grey Penduline Tits are common in bird parties, especially in winter. The endemic Fiscal Flycatcher and the Dusky both visit Phinda more in the winter months. Drainage lines and the Munywana River which is enclosed by riverine forest are excellent habitat for Eastern Bearded Robin, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, African Broadbill, Green Coucal, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Green Pigeon, Crested Guinea-fowl and White-eared Barbets. Night drives can also produce Bronzewinged Courser, Scops, Barn or Spotted Eagle Owls and also Fierynecked and in summer European Nightjars. In summer, flocks of up to 15 Broadbilled Rollers can be seen at all times of the day in the dead trees between all the main dams. In the pans and depressions, African Crake, Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Lesser Gallinule can be found and the dams must be checked carefully for Green Sandpiper. Pygmy Geese and Whitefaced Duck are to be found at Ximongwe Dam. In the open grassland, Corncrake, Black Coucal, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Croaking Cisticola and Blackbellied Korhaan are evident. In the late summer, the thicket/tangles areas are good for Willow, Icterine and Garden Warblers. In the dry season, Eastern White Pelicans and Ethiopian Snipe are regularly seen at Mvubu Dam.Bird parties in the Acacia thornveld must be checked for Twinspots, Grey Waxbills, Yellowbellied and Burntnecked Eremomelas, Melba Finches, Redbilled, Bluebilled and Jameson's Firefinches.
Phinda Resource Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)35 562 0271
Fax: +27 (0)35 562 0399
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mountain & Rock)
Birder Friendly Establishments in this area:
Situated between St. Lucia in the south and Kosi Bay in the north, the Sodwana route encompasses a wide range of habitats. From the Sand Forest and thornveld of Phinda to the lush, subtropical forests of Lake Sibaya; from the wetlands of Muzi to the palm savannah of Ozabeni, this region has a large number of Zululand specials on offer.
The Muzi Swamps area is a birders' paradise, with large numbers of waterbirds. It is here that many, herons, waders and ducks are recorded. Ozabeni's Palm Savannah offers some exciting birding in unusual habitat. Mbazwana and Sibaya offer coastal forest and grassland birding, and Sibaya have the addition of having open water, being South Africa's largest freshwater lake.
Specials recorded in the Sodwana Route include East Coast endemics such as Neergard's Sunbird, Rudd's Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot and Lemon-breasted Canary. Also found are African Broadbill, Swamp Nightjar, Pel's Fishing Owl, Collared Pratincole, Black Coucal and Saddle-billed Stork.
Surrounded by rural villages and forest, the swamp is a typical coastal plain wetland with patches of sedge-marsh, open water, bare shores and some floating vegetation. It is situated on the Mkhuze River floodplain, between Mkhuze Game Reserve and Lake St. Lucia. The pan system becomes a major summer residence for Palaearctic waders and some afro-tropical species. The densities and diversity of birds heightens dramatically during summer and regular birding trips here can produce in excess of 120 species in a summer's day.
A wide variety of waterbirds can be seen in a short time period. The list of specials is impressive, with Pink-backed Pelican, Black Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Woolly-necked and Saddle-billed Storks, African Openbill, Comb Duck, White-backed and Fulvous Ducks, African Pgymy-goose, African Marsh-harrier, Lesser Moorhen, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Jacana, Senegal Lapwing, Greater Painted-snipe, Collared Pratincole, Caspian Tern and Black Coucal all being recorded annually.
Long-toed Lapwing and Rufous-bellied Heron are recorded occasionally. Swamp Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Grey-rumped Swallow, Eastern Nicator, Bearded Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin (winter), Rudd's Apalis, Rufous-winged and Red-faced Cisticolas, Burnt-necked Eremomela, African Yellow White-eye, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Pink-throated Twinspot and Lemon-breasted Canary. Red-billed Oxpeckers are often seen feeding on the cattle next to the pan.
R22 towards Sodwana Bay and Mbazwana. About 50km north of Hluhluwe you cross the Mkhuze River bridge, and two kilometres on one finds the D820 turn-off to the left. Take the turn-off and continue on for 2-3 kilometres when you come out on to a large wetland area. The roads are tarred and accessible in sedans, no 4x4's needed.
Another way of reaching it would be along the dirt road that runs between Mkhuze Game Reserve and Phinda Resource Reserve. This road is accessed from the N2 highway, about 10km north of the Hluhluwe turn-off. A drive along this road, which reaches the main Hluhluwe-Sodwana tar road just before the Mkhuze River bridge, can be productive for Lemon-breasted Canary and Pink-throated Twinspot.
Sodwana Bay National Park
Controlled by KZN Wildlife, this spot on the coast is very popular for holidaymakers. Good fishing and snorkelling/ diving have made this place a household name in South Africa. The reserve part is dominated by coastal forest, with the beach and ocean being additional habitats.
The best birding areas at Sodwana lie along the Ngoboseleni Trail, which starts and ends at the reception office. The trail takes approximately 3 hours to do, and is over easy terrain. Forest species to look and listen for include Livingstone's and Purple-crested Turacos, Brown Scrub-Robin, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Green Twinspot, Woodward's Batis, Green Coucal, Black-bellied Starling, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Grey Waxbill and Eastern Nicator.
Ngoboseleni Lake could produce a few waterbirds such as Pygmy Goose, Woolly-necked Stork, Goliath Heron, African Jacana and White-faced Duck. The area around the camp is good for a variety of coastal scrub birds, such as Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Collared, Grey and Olive Sunbirds, Southern Boubou, Green-backed Cameroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-backed Manikin, Tambourine Dove and African Pied Wagtail.
Sodwana Bay is best accessed via Hluhluwe. From the N2 north of Durban, take the Hluhluwe turn-off and drive through the village. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the tar road to Mbazwana village. The reserve is signposted along the way, and is situated about 100km from Hluhluwe. From the north (Johannesburg, Pongola) "Soddies" can be reached by taking the Jozini/ Ndumo/ Kosi turn-off 50km south of Pongola. The turn-off to Sodwana is situated in the village of Jozini, which is reached 20km after turning off the N2. The turn-off is signposted, but be sure not to travel over the Jozini Dam wall, as you have then gone too far. Follow this road, which becomes a dirt/ sand raod for about 38km, and take the right hand turn-off to Mbazwana. It is then another 23km to Mbazwana, and a further 20km on tar road to Sodwana.
Chalets and campsites are available in the reserve.
Lake Sibaya is the largest freshwater lake in South Africa and is separated from the sea by high forest covered dunes. Lake Sibaya is a drowned river valley lake with a maximum depth of over 40m. Many smaller pans typical of those elsewhere in the area surround the lake. In years of poor rainfall many of these smaller pans dry up leaving Lake Sibaya as the only permanent water in the area where flocks of up to 20 000 waterfowl can congregate. The eastern shores of the lake have very rich dune forest habitat which harbours many of the Zululand "east coast" specials.
Lake Sibaya hosts an impressive array of species, especially waterbirds. Goliath, Purple, Great White, Squacco, Green-backed and occasionally Rufous-bellied Herons are all recorded in and around the lake edges. Five stork species (Woolly-necked, Saddle-billed, Open-bill, Black and Yellow-bellied) can be seen in one day, as well as other specials such as African Marsh Harrier, Caspian Tern, Collared Pratincole and White Pelican. Check the water's edge for Lesser Jacana, Greater Painted Snipe and Allen's Gallinule. Pygmy Goose should be looked for amongst the waterlilies. Sibaya is also the best locality in Zululand to observe Great Crested Grebe.
Grassland specials recorded regularly include Denham's Bustard, Swamp Nightjar, Pink-throated Longclaw, Grey-rumped Swallow and Secretarybird. The coastal forest surrounding the lake can turn up African Broadbill, Woodward's Batis, African Crowned Eagle, Livingstone's Turaco, Rudd's Apalis, Brown Scrub-Robin, African Yellow White-eye, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Grey Sunbird, Green Twinspot and Black-bellied Starling.
From Mkhuze take the R69 towards Candover, after 2km's turn right towards Ubombo. Follow this road to Mbazwana and follow the signposts to Lake Sibaya from here.
Lake Sibaya is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (SA054). For more information see: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/195-sa054-lake-sibaya
Birder Friendly Establishments in this area:
Tongaland is the name of the north-eastern corner of Zululand, flanked by the Lebombo Mountains on the west, the Indian Ocean on the east and the Mozambique border in the north. Most of the region is drained by the Phongolo and Mkhuze Rivers, and is characteristically flat. The Phongolo floodplain runs from Jozini to the confluence with the Usutu River, and is dominated by pans, Lala palm savannah and bush clumps. Riverine forest lines some pans and streams. Coastal dune forest hugs the Indian Ocean, and numerous pans and lakes are scattered along the coast.
Tongaland is situated on the southern end of the sub-tropical coastal plain of the east coast of Africa, and therefore provides habitat for many species not found anywhere else in South Africa. Tropical stragglers, both marine and inland, are found every year, and include specials such as Crab Plover, Plain-backed Sunbird, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Livingstone's Turaco.
Ndumo and Tembe are world renowned birding destinations and are among the better places to view the shy Sand Forest specials such as Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Neergaard's Sunbird and Rudd's Apalis. Tembe is the only place in South Africa where Plain-backed Sunbird is seen regularly. Waterbirds such as Pygmy Goose and Lesser Jacana abound in the floodplain pans.
Kosi Bay, and the road to there, is an off-the-beaten-track spot with lots to offer. Mangroves, lala palm savannah, coastal dune forest and wetlands are the major habitats here, and birds such as Pel's Fishing Owl, Lemon-breasted Canary, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Black-throated Wattle-eye can be viewed.
Ndumo Game Reserve
Ndumo Game Reserve is situated on the banks of the Phongola and Usutu rivers and lies adjacent to Mozambique on the northern coastal plain. Despite its relatively small size (about 9000 ha), Ndumo Game Reserve is one of the most attractive reserves in southern Africa. Although there are no big herds of game to be seen, the fever tree and fig tree woodland, the many large pans and amazing birdlife well make up for this. Ndumo is arguably one of South Africa's most productive birding areas with well over 400 species being recorded here and several of them being at the southernmost limit of their ranges.
Specials that can be spotted here are Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd's Apalis, Lizard Buzzard and Neergaard's Sunbird. The wetland can turn up Black Coucal in summer. Woodland Species to look out for here are Flappet Lark, Lilac-breasted Roller, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Jameson's Firefinch, Grey Hornbill, White-faced Owl, Grey Go-away-bird, Bearded Woodpecker and Green-winged Pytilia. Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Eastern Nicator, Barred Owl, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Stierling's Wren-Warbler and African Pygmy-Kingfisher. Striped Kingfishers are common, as well as Golden-breasted Bunting and Crowned Hornbill. Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Purple-banded Sunbird and Yellow-bellied Greenbul can all be seen here. Neergaard's Sunbird can sometimes be seen around flowering trees. A guided walk to the Phongola River also passes through patches of Sand Forest, grasslands and riverine forest. African Broadbill, Broad-billed Roller, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Lemon-breasted Canary, Brown-headed Parrot and Eastern Nicator can be seen on the way to the river.
Nyamithi Pan attracts numbers of specials including Great White and Pink-backed Pelican, Woolly-necked, Saddle-billed, African Openbill and Yellow-billed Stork, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Lesser Jacana, Black Heron, Fulvous Duck, Pygmy Goose in summer, Sooty Falcon, Collared Pratincole, Blue-cheecked Bee-eater and Dwarf Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron, African and Baillon's Crake, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen and Greater Painted-snipe.
Raptors are common, with at least 40 species recorded. Bateleur, Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Martial, African Crowned, African Hawk and Wahlberg's Eagle, African Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby, Bat Hawk and Osprey are some of the specials found in Ndumo.
From Mkhuze follow the N2 northwards towards Candover and after approximately 10km's turn right to Jozini. Drive through Jozini and follow the signposts to Ndumo. The last 14km stretch of road is quite rough. From Jozini, Ndumo camp is about 80km's.
There are seven small fully equipped cottages at Ndumo camp as well as upmarket private camps in the area.
Ndumo Game Reserve is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (SA052). For more information see: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/193-sa052-ndumo-game-reserve
Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park, under the custodianship of KZN Wildlife, is situated within Tongaland, in the extreme northern part of Zululand. Tembe borders on Mozambique in the north, and is named after one of the late local Tonga tribal leaders. The reserve is 30 000ha in size, and was proclaimed in 1983 to protect the elephants, sand forest and suni antelope. Tembe protects a number of habitats, including sand forest, open and closed woodland, grassland, swamps and pan-edge. Tembe Elephant Lodge is the only private concession holder to offer accommodation in the reserve.
Over 350 species have been recorded, including many South East Africa endemics, wetland and sand forest specials as well as occasional vagrants from the more tropical areas north of Zululand. Tembe is probably most famous for being the only locality in South Africa where one has a reasonable chance of seeing Plain-backed (Blue-throated) Sunbird. All the usual sand forest specials such as Neergaard's Sunbird, African Broadbill, Pink-throated Twinspot and eastern Nicator occur.
The many small, seasonal wetlands (of which Muzi Pan is the largest) may hold Rufous-bellied Heron, Little Bittern, Saddle-billed, Woolly-necked and Yellow-billed Stork, African and European Marsh Harriers, Osprey, African Crake, Lesser Jacana, Collared Pratincole, Southern Brown-throated Weaver and Red-headed Quelea.
The grasslands species like Lemon-breasted Canary, Senegal Plover, Black-bellied Bustard and Rosy-throated Longclaw. Tall woodland species include Yellow White-eye, Grey Cuckooshrike, Retz's Helmet Shrike and Emerald Cuckoo.Grey Waxbill and Green Twinspot can be seen in thicker tangles near seeding grasses. Bat Hawk, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Cuckoo Hawk and Palm-nut Vulture have all been recorded.
From the N2 highway linking Durban to Pongola, travel up to the Jozini/ Ndumo/ Kosi bay turn-off (situated 50km south of Pongola). Drive up through the village of Jozini, and over the Jozini Dam Wall. Continue with this tar road for about 76km, following the signs to Kosi Bay and Manguzi. The park's turn-off is situated on the left had side of the road, and is signposted. The roads in the reserve are very sandy, and a 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Tshanini Community Nature Reserve
This section of road from Tembe Elephant Park to Kosi Bay has three good birding spots on it.
1. Nyanyani Pan
This large seasonal pan is situated 8km before the village of Manguzi, and about 17km from the Tembe turn-off. It covers both sides of the tar road, but the southern side is more extensive. This pan regularly holds thousands of waterbirds, especially the dry winter months (if there is water). Many egrets and herons such as Goliath, Purple, Great White, Little and occasionally Rufous-bellied occur and are very visible. Pink-backed Pelicans wander in after food, and one can normally spot at least two African Fish Eagles sitting on poles. African and Lesser Jacana are fairly common, Lesser Moorhen and Allen's Gallinule skulking in the sedges. Red-billed Teal, Hottentot Teal, Pygmy Goose, Cape Shoveller, Fulvous Duck, White-backed Duck and Spur-winged Goose, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Caspian Plover, Common Waxbill and Grey-rumped Swallow.
2. Manguzi Forest
This dry forest is a fine example of a sand forest which covered much of the area in the past. Traveling west from Manguzi, turn right exactly 1km from the main tar road/ police station turn-off. A sand track leads up through rural settlements. Follow a fence (on your left) for 500m and take the left split in the track. 600m later the track splits again - take the left fork. After 400m the track splits again, and again turn left. This leads straight into the KZN Wildlife Ranger's outpost, where permission must be obtained to enter. The reserve is accessible with a two-wheel drive vehicle in winter, but a vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended for summer.
Once parked, exit the gate on foot, turn left and follow the fence for about 15m. A track leads off into the forest where the Ranger's outpost fence ends. Follow this path through the forest, till you exit on the other side. On exiting, turn right and follow the fence back to the Ranger's outpost. Mixed parties, including Blue-mantled Crested and Paradise Flycatcher, Woodward's Batis, Forest Weaver, Eastern Nicator, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Robin, Green-backed Cameroptera, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Collared Sunbird, Square-tailed Drongo, Eastern Olive Sunbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Lesser Honeyguide, Red-billed Firefinch, Green Twinspot and Yellow-breasted Apalis.
3. Kosi Forest Lodge.
Access is by 4x4, although a pick-up with high ground clearance will make it - the track is just sandy. To get there, turn off to the police station in Manguzi (25km after the Tembe turn-off). Drive around to the station, turning left just before it. There are signs to follow "Kosi Forest Lodge". Follow the dirt road for a few km and turn left at the sign "Kosi Forest Lodge". The camp grounds are great for selected sand forest and coastal bush specials. Purple-crested Turaco, Green Twinspot, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Red-capped Robin Chat, Brown Scrub-Robin, African Broadbill, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Grey Penduline Tit, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Nicator and Collared Sunbird can all be seen around the lodge. Wood Owl, Spotted Thick-knee and Fiery-necked Nightjar can be heard at night. African Finfoot, Green Pigeon, White-eared Barbet, Woodward's Batis, Livingstone's Turaco, Green Coucal, Crowned Hornbill, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Narina Trogon, Lemon Dove, Southern-banded Snake Eagle and Narina Trogon.
Kosi Bay Nature Reserve
Situated in the extreme north-eastern corner of the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa, Kosi Bay offers some of the most exciting birding opportunities in southern Africa to both local and foreign visitors. Kosi Bay comprises an estuarine lake system consisting of four inter-linked lakes holding varying levels of fresh and brackish water. The four lakes, Makhawulani, Mpugwini, Nhlange and aManzimnyama are fed by the Siyadla and Nswamanzi Rivers from the south and west respectively. At the northern end of the lake system, the estuary opens into the sea providing a relatively large area of open sandbanks, mudflats and some of the most diverse Mangrove swamps in South Africa.
The attraction of Kosi, is however not restricted to the aquatic environment, and the surrounding tropical East Coast littoral vegetation supports mature coastal forest, thicket and grassland. The fringes of the lakes and in particular, the southern lakes hold relatively large areas of swamp and Rafia Palm Forest. Within this vegetation mosaic a number of endemic species as well as species at the southern end of their afrotropical range can be found.
The summer months are best for waders, and the estuary attracts a good diversity of waders including the usual Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and relatively large numbers of Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit amongst others. Small numbers of Sand and Mongolian Plover are also present at times, and if one is lucky the odd Crab Plover may reveal itself from the Mangroves. Other birds include Black Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Little and Lesser Crested Tern, Giant Kingfisher, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Saddle-billed Stork and Mangrove Kingfisher in winter.
The Lakes are best explored by boat. Fish Eagle, Osprey and Palmnut Vulture can be seen patrolling the shoreline or lakeside fringes, while reedy channels holds small numbers of Rufous-winged Cisticola, African Sedge Warbler, Cape Reed Warbler and ever present African Marsh Harriers. Quiet backwaters attract Malachite Kingfisher, Pygmy Geese and White-backed Duck.
The coastline sightings include Greater Frigatebird and Shearwater. The Coastal forests species include Square-tailed Drongo, Black-bellied Starling, Woodwards' Batis, Narina Trogon, Green Coucal, African Broadbill, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, Golden-rumped Tinkerbarbet, Chorister Robin, Olive Bush Shrike and Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher. The Rafia Forests support relatively large numbers of Palmnut Vulture. A canoe trip into the Swamp Forest up the Siyadla River at the southern end of the fourth lake regularly produces African Finfoot, Osprey, Pygmy Geese, Brown-throated Weaver, Purple Heron and Heuglins Robin. The Siyadla River is also home to one of southern Africa's most enigmatic birds, the Pel's Fishing Owl. Rudd's and Yellow-breatsed Apalis, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Terrestrial, Yellow-bellied and Sombre Bulbul, Purple-banded, Olive and Grey Sunbird, Trumpeter Hornbill, Livingstone's Turaco, Ashy Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Spectacled Weaver, Natal, White-browed ,Tonga Brown Robin, Cuckoo Hawk and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.
The larger patches of grassland within the woodland support Black-bellied Korhaan, Flappet and Rufous-naped Lark, Croaking Cisticola, European Roller, Shelley's Francolin and Stonechat in winter. Moist grasslands and swamp to the south and west of Kosi Bay hold Pink-throated, Yellow-throated and Orange-throated Longclaw, Lesser Jacana, Hottentot Teal, as well as a variety of typical moist grassland species including Pale-crowned Cisticola, African Wattled, Senegal and Black-winged Lapwing.
Kosi Bay Nature Reserve is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (SA053). For more information see: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/194-sa053-kosi-bay-sytem