KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa - Birding Region
Sustain's KwaZulu-Natal birding combines the abundant northern Zululand game reserves and lakes, the endemic-rich grasslands and mist-belt forests of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and the lofty heights of the statuesque Drakensberg. This journey will also lead us into several big wildlife areas for superb game viewing.
Some target species include: Pel's Fishing Owl, Plain-backed Sunbird, the pretty Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Narina Trogon, elusive Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Crested Guineafowl, stately Blue and Wattled Crane, the endangered Blue Swallow, Spotted Ground Thrush, Orange Ground Thrush, Ground Woodpecker, soaring Bearded Vulture, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Southern Bald Ibis, Gurney’s Sugarbird, and Cape Parrot. Our chances of witnessing the classic ‘Big Five’ (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) are excellent, while other sought-after mammals include African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Honey Badger, Suni, Serval, Eland and the endemic Black Wildebeest.
Mkuze & St Lucia - Zululand
KwaZulu-Natal Midlands & Drakensberg
This route starts in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site, and finds its way down from the sandstones cliffs, basalt precipices and buttresses, through the foothills of the Drakensberg and into the picturesque rolling hillsides of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Birders will have the opportunity to see Wattled, Grey-crowned and Blue Crane in one outing. Other key attractions include some of the most reliable sites for Cape Parrots, Blue Swallows, Bush Blackcap, Orange Ground Thrush, Barratt's Warbler, Buff-streaked Chat, Forest Buzzard, White-bellied Korhaan and Grey-winged Francolin.
The source of the Lower Drakensberg Foothills is the majestic Sani Pass where birders get the unique opportunity to view birds in a rugged and stunningly beautiful environment, consisting of five different habitats and ranging in height from 1600m to 3200m. The heart of this route lies in the lowlands below the Sani Pass where you will find beautiful nature reserves and large tracts of pristine mist belt forest and grassland. This region is holds an amazing array of highly sought after endemic species such as Drakensberg Rockjumper, Gurney's Sugarbird, Drakensberg Siskin, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Vulture, Barratt's Warbler, Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit. It also hosts the extraordinary Bearded Vulture.
Maputaland is the name of the north-eastern corner of KwaZulu-Natal, 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 Mkuze 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.
The region 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, Green Malkoha, Neergaard's Sunbird and Rudd's Apalis. Tembe is one of the few places in South Africa where Plain-backed Sunbird, Lemon-breasted Canary and Woodward’s Batis are seen regularly. Waterbirds such as African 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.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi & St Lucia
The North Coast Birding Route stretch from Ballito to Mtunzini and comprises of a variety of habitats from coastal and wetland environments to forest, woodland and grassland. Above all it is the forest birding to be had here that is unmatched.
Specials including African Black Oystercatcher, Swamp Nightjar, Palm-nut Vulture, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Narina Trogon, Woodward's Batis, White-backed Night Heron, Creasted Guineafowl, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Brown Robin-Chat, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone's Turaco, African Emerald Cuckoo, African Crowned Eagle, African Cuckoo Hawk, Green Twinspot, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Mangrove Kingfisher, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Redheaded Quelea, Common Quail, Woolly-necked Stork and White-fronted Bee-eater.
The Mkuze 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. This area is renowned for a variety of localized birds including Pel's Fishing Owl, African Broadbill, Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard's Sunbird, Livingstone's Turaco, Green Malkoha, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Woodward's Batis and Eastern Nicator.
The popular tourist town of 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. Birding on foot trails with waterbuck and reedbuck grazing in the background and hippos snorting from the pans makes for an extra special birding experience. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a World Heritage Site and 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).