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KwaZulu-Natal 5-Day Zululand Bird Tour

Zululand – Maputaland – North Coast

Scheduled Date:

  • 22 − 26 May 2023

  • 21 − 25 March 2024

  • 23 − 27 April 2024

Or alternate dates on request.

Introduction:

This 5-day tour is a moderately-paced birding focussed safari available as a set departure (or on request). We will expect to see around 320 species of birds, including five endemics and approximately 35 mammal speceis. This tour explores several abundant and premier game reserves in the famed Zululand and Maputaland (Elephant Coast) region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Each reserve offers unique attributes, breath-taking beauty, and captivating experiences.

Habitat types vary greatly from savannah to woodlands, sand forests to coastal forests and riverine forests, lakes to flooded grasslands, estuaries to seashores. This variety ensures tremendous species richness and an experience of great intrigue and appeal.

The region is a birding mecca and mammal playground, with many specials and endemic species on offer − from Pel's Fishing Owls, Southern Banded Snake-Eagles and African Broadbills to Leopards and Black Rhinos − the possibilities are mouth-watering.

On the birding front, we set a sightings goal of 250+ species in the summer months and 200+ species in winter. On the mammal front, we hope to see upwards of 30 species, with an array of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies also to be found across the greatly varied habitats. iSimangaliso Wetland Park offers the ‘Big 5’ mammals, and we have a good chance of spotting these.

We visit a multitude of areas, beginning with the renowned estuary town of St Lucia for our first night, where we explore the ‘Miracle and Wonder’ of South Africa’s first World Heritage Site − iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We then push on to Bonamanzi Game Reserve, and stop at Muzi Pan en-route, before entering the ‘Holy Grail’ of Southern African birding hotspots – Mkuze Game Reserve, where we spend 2 nights.

Daily Itinerary

 

Our tour both commences and ends at Umhlanga or King Shaka International Airport.

Day 1: Durban to St Lucia and iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Eastern Shores)

On Day 1 we embark up the north coast to spend our first day and night in the famous estuary town of St Lucia, where we explore the ‘Miracle and Wonder’ of iSimangaliso Wetland Park − South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. We have many targets on the Eastern Shores of the lake, and we will also explore the dune forest trails. These targets include Sooty FalconAfrican Cuckoo HawkAfrican Pygmy GooseBrown Scrub-RobinBlack-bellied Korhaan, White-backed DuckLesser JacanaRufous-bellied HeronOrange-breasted WaxbillCape LongclawGrey SunbirdBlue-cheeked Bee-eater and Trumpeter Hornbill. Mammals here are plentiful, and we will also keep a keen look out for LeopardBlack Rhino, White RhinoSpotted HyenaAfrican ElephantAfrican BuffaloHippopotamusGiraffeGreater Kudu, Blue WildebeestWaterbuckBurchell's ZebraWarthogBushpig, Red DuikerSamango (Blue) Monkey and Nile Crocodile. That evening we search for Swamp NightjarAfrican Wood Owl and Thick-tailed Galago (Bushbaby), amongst others.

AccommodationAmaZulu Lodge (or similar), St Lucia

               Mkuze Fig Forest                   Mkuze Sand Forest sunrise                  Lake wonderland

Day 2: St Lucia, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Western Shores) to Mkuze Game Reserve

On Day 2 we first explore the forest trails along the estuary bank for specials and endemics that include Black-throated Wattle-eyeSouthern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Crowned EagleLivingstone's TuracoAfrican Fish EagleNarina TrogonWoodward's Batis, Green MalkohaAfrican Emerald CuckooCrested GuineafowlGreen TwinspotSouthern Brown-throated Weaver, Rudd's ApalisEastern Nicator, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Thereafter we head for the shoreline and estuary mouth as we search for African SkimmerPalm-nut Vulture, Western OspreyYellow-billed StorkGoliath HeronSooty TernLittle Tern, many other waders and shorebirds, as well as many migrant specials and rarities in summer.

After a late breakfast we then head through the Western Shores of the Park to add the species which we may have missed on Day 1. This region is also good for Black-chested Snake Eagle, in addition to many of those birds mentioned above, and on the mammal front it is good for Side-striped Jackal and Tsessebe. and most of the species present on the Eastern Shores. 

After collecting lunch in Hluhluwe we will push on to the Nibela Peninsula, Mpempe Pan and Muzi Pan, before heading into Mkuze Game Reserve, where we also spend 2 nights. Our targets in these areas are all birds and include Rosy-throated LongclawLemon-breasted CanaryLizard BuzzardCollared PratincoleWestern Yellow Wagtail, African Pygmy GooseSenegal LapwingBlack-winged LapwingTemminck's CourserGreat White PelicanPink-backed PelicanWooly-necked StorkSaddle-billed StorkLesser FlamingoGreater FlamingoBlack HeronBurnt-necked EremomelaAfrican RailAfrican SnipeBlue-billed TealRufous-winged CisticolaRed-faced Cisticola and in summer Caspian PloverLesser Moorhen, Allen's GallinuleAfrican Openbill and the odd vagrant and rarity.

AccommodationMantuma Rest Camp​ (or similar), Mkuze Game Reserve

Day 3: Mkuze Game Reserve

On Day 3 we get to savour Mkuze Game Reserve, considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of Southern African birding hotspots, and a 'Big Five' reserve that offers tremendous interest on the mammal side. On our first morning we undertake a fig forest walk in search of Pel’s Fishing-OwlAfrican BroadbillNarina TrogonPurple-crested TuracoAfrican Green PigeonGrey Tit-Flycatcher and more.

On our way there and back, mammals we will keep our eyes peeled for are Leopard, Cheetah, Black RhinoWhite RhinoAfrican ElephantSpotted HyenaHippopotamusAfrican BuffaloGiraffeWhite-tailed MongooseHoney BadgerCape Porcupine, Burchell's ZebraBlue WildebeestGreater KuduWaterbuckNyalaBushbuck and Hippo. At the same time we concentrate on locating the multitude of other great birds, some of which include Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Bateleur, Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle and many other eagle, accipiter and other raptor species, Eastern Nicator, Pink-throated Twinspot, Secretarybird, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Bearded Woodpecker, Rudd’s Apalis, African Pygmy Goose, Common Ostrich, Lappet-faced Vulture, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Neergard’s Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Broad-billed Roller, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Half-collared Kingfisher, Greater Honeyguide, Dwarf Bittern, Grey Penduline-Tit, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Green-winged Pytilia, Jameson's Firefinch and African Firefinch. 

AccommodationMantuma Rest Camp (or similar), Mkuze Game Reserve

Day 4: Mkuze Game Reserve, Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Ongoye Forest to Eshowe

We spend the whole morning of Day 4 exploring new habitats in Mkuze Game Reserve and visiting its numerous viewing hides, and just before lunchtime we depart this haven and head back southwards. We first stop at Umlalazi Nature Reserve and then the enchanting scarp forests of Ongoye Forest Reserve, before overnighting in Eshowe. Our targets in these areas include African Finfoot, Black Coucal, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Green Malkoha, Livingstone's Turaco, Mangrove Kingfisher (winter), Palm-nut Vulture, Trumpeter Hornbill, Green Barbet, Striped Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Southern Ground Hornbill, Croaking Cisticola and Black-rumped Buttonquail.

Accommodation: Birds of Paradise B&B (or similar), Eshowe

    Black Imfolozi River sunset       Teeming hygrophilous grassland    Rolling grass and scarp forest

Day 5: Eshowe and Dlinza Forest, Mbozambo Wetland to Durban

 

On Day 5 our last morning sees us exploring the towering Dlinza Forest Reserve and Aerial Boardwalk in search of treats such as Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, African Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Cuckooshrike, Red-backed Mannikin, African Olive Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Green Twinspot, Narina Trogon, Knysna Turaco, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Bush-Shrike, Southern Bald Ibis and Blue Duiker. Should time still allow, our final stop will be the Sappi Stanger Mbozambo wetlands where we will try fill in any missed waders and riverine species, including Black-crowned Night-Heron, Greater Painted-Snipe, Little Bittern, Lesser Moorhen, Great White Pelican, Baillon’s Crake, African Rail, Purple Heron, Western Yellow Wagtail, Rufous-winged Cisticola and White-fronted Bee-eater. We then end our fantastic tour with a return to Umhlanga or King Shaka International Airport.

Experiences include:

  • Visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa's first World Heritage Site.

  • Explore the ‘Holy Grail’ of Southern African birding hotspots, also home to the ‘Big 5’ mammals – Mkuze Game Reserve.

  • Undertake the Fig Forest walk near Nsumo Pan, Mkuze Game Reserve.

  • Explore the aerial boardwalk and canopy tower in Dlinza Forest, Eshowe.

Accommodation: We typically use the affordable and comfortable private guesthouses and park accommodation (public rest camps), but should you prefer something more luxurious, at an added cost, several superb private lodge options are also on offer in world-class private reserves.

Tour tempo: The tempo of this tour is typically medium-paced, with optional mid-day breaks (advisable on hot days), and some walking, but nothing too serious. If you are keen on photography, well so are we, and we can offer many opportunities to capture the moments that will make you the envy of your wildlife-watching friends.

Expected weather conditions: Subtropical with occasional rain, hot most of the time. Rain is possible, usually in the form of summer convection thunderstorms, and cool wet weather is possible in the event of a cold front moving up from the south.

Add-ons: this tour can be combined with extensions to the Drakensberg and Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as Wakkerstroom and the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga.

 

Please note:

  • Minimum of 3 participants per vehicle required to undertake the trip. If fewer, the price will be slightly more.

  • Tour starts and ends either from King Shaka International Airport or Umhlanga.

  • This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.

  • The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of those we may possibly view on the tour, however, none of these can be guaranteed even though every effort will be made where possible to locate them. A full list of possible species appears on your checklist, although vagrants and rarities may also surprise us.

Tour Summary

  • Dates:  

    • 22 − 26 May 2023

    • 21 − 25 March 2024

    • 23 − 27 April 2024

  • Duration:  5 days, 4 nights.

  • Price

    • 2023 = ZAR 20,450 per person sharing, with  ZAR 2,650 single supplement. 

    • 2024 = ZAR 21,950 per person sharing, with  ZAR 2,900 single supplement. 

  • Price may be subject to change based on factors beyond our control.

  • Distance:  Total driving distance (including around sites) = 870km.

 

Includes:

  • Accommodation (may change subject to availability, in which case similar will be found);

  • All breakfasts, lunches, dinners, tea and coffee;

  • Ground transport – max 7 participants and 1 guide per minibus vehicle;

  • Bottled water in vehicles whilst travelling – 2 per person per day;

  • Entrance fees;

  • Conservation levies;

  • Personalized checklists;

  • Specialist guide fees – 1 morning fig forest walk in Mkuze Game Reserve.

 

Excludes:

  • All airfares;

  • Travel and medical insurance;

  • All drinks;

  • Optional excursions where applicable;

  • Gratuities;

  • Items of a personal nature;

  • Anything not in "Includes".

 

Note:

  • Terms and Conditions apply;

  • Minimum of 3 participants per vehicle required to undertake the trip. Should the number of guests change, the cost of the tour and the per person cost will change accordingly;

  • The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of those we may possibly view on the tour, however, none can be guaranteed;

  • This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control;

  • Tour group is responsible for paying for all guide meals;

  • All images taken on tour with Sustain Safaris.

Birding signed.jpg
Mkuze Fig Forest Walk
Tembe Rises WBS signed.jpg
Nyamithi.jpg
Black uMfolozi River - small (2).jpg
MSR Teeming.jpg
Sherlock Game Farm
African Broadbill1 signed.jpg
Giant Kingfisher
Bearded Scrub-Robin
Juv Brown Scrub-Robin1 signed.jpg
African Cuckoo Hawk2b signed.jpg
Brown-throated Weaver
Black-throated Wattle-eye
African Yellow White-eye
Greater Painted-Snipe
African Pygmy Kingfisher
European Nightjar1 signed.jpg
Mangrove Kingfisher
Redfronted Tinkerbird5.jpg
Bronze-winged Courser
Goliath Heron
Russians in George signed.jpg
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