Hluhluwe Route

 

The variety of bushveld and woodland birding found in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, combined with the natural wonders of the  Isimangaliso Wetland Park system and it's central position to the rest of the Zululand Birding Route make this an excellent area for some excellent bushveld birdwatching, the birding attractions include Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve and western shores reserves. Nibela Lake Lodge also falls under this route and a must visit for any birdwatching trip in Zululand. 

 
Hluhluwe derives it's 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 it's conservation efforts and is home to the big five: lions, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Hluhluwe Game Reserve is also renowned for it's abundance of raptors. In additon to this several top-rated birding spots are also along the Hluhluwe route, amongst them, Bonamanzi which is arguably on of South Africa's top birding spots with a huge variety of birding habitats and over 350 species recored on the property. The reserves on the western shores of Lake Isimangaliso Wetland Park, 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.
 

Hluhluwe Game Reserve

The Hluhluwe Game Reserves were procalimed 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.
 
DIRECTIONS
Entry to the park is via Hluhluwe or Mtubatuba. The Memorial and Nyalazi Gates are both well signposted off the N2.
 
ACCOMMODATION
There are a variety of self catering or catered facilities available within the reserve but no provision is made for camping in Hluhluwe. Outside the park there is a host of various luxury or basic accommodation in Hluhluwe, Isimangaliso Wetland Park and Mtubatuba.
 
SPECIALS
At the Siwasamakozikazi picnic site look out for:
Southern Bald Ibis, (up to four birds roost irregularly on the cliffs), 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 and 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:
A pair of African Finfoot frequent the area opposite the launch site along with Black Crake, African Jacana, Green-backed Heron, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Violet-backed Starling. African Marsh, Sedge and Cape Reed Warblers, Thick-billed and Lesser Masked Weavers can be found in the reedbeds.
 
A boat cruise on the dam (when available) is worthwhile to see African Darter, African Finfoot, Green-backed, Grey, Black-headed and Goliath Herons. African Fish-Eagle, Water Thick-knee, African Jacana, Black Crake, Moorhen, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers also occur here. 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). After heavy rains when the streams flow, Whitebacked Night-herons can be found. African Wood-Owl, African Scops-Owl and Marsh Owls are also occasionally observed.
 
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 (northwest of the gate) 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. The hills of Mangangeni have Jackal Buzzard, Cuckoo Hawk, Flappet Lark and Croaking Cisticola.
 
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 are winter visitors to the forests. 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. Listen for the AfricanWood-Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl calling at night and on summer evenings the call of Buff-spotted Flufftail can be heard at many localities around the camp. Jackal Buzzard, Lazy Cisticola and Striped Pipit can be found on rocky hillsides near Hilltop.
 

Charters Creek

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.
The reserve is controlled by KZN Wildlife.
 
DIRECTIONS
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.
 
ACCOMMODATION
Various types of accommodation are available in the reserve, including chalets, huts and camping facilities.
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
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. Both trails are between 5 and 7km long, and it is best to start them early in the morning when the birds are most active. 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 that could be seen include Long-crested Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Little Sparrowhawk, Osprey and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Guided boat cruises are available on the lake. An information booklet is available for the two trails. Mammals include the shy Red Duiker, Suni, Bushbuck, Samango Monkey and plenty of hippos and crocs in the lake.
 

Bonamanzi Game Park

Bonamanzi is a self-contained wildlife and birders' paradise in close proximity to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park 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.
 
DIRECTIONS
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.
 
SPECIALS
After turning onto the entrance road, and before crossing the cattle grate, stop and scan the trees, fences, and telephone lines for one of the Bonamanzi specials, the Lemon-breasted Canary. It 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. It can be heard calling in this area, especially in the wetter periods. Its "chop chop chop chop " call is heard on moonlit nights, and it can be seen flying overhead. This species sometimes sits in the road, and can be spotted in the headlights of vehicles.
 
The drive from the gate into the reserve yields many bird species. Drive slowly with the windows down, and listen for Eastern Nicator, bulbuls, flycatchers, etc. Be especially on the lookout for Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher. In forest interior look for Crested Guineafowl and Crested Francolin.
 
From the reception area, drive towards Lalapanzi Camp, keeping a lookout on the drive for Lizard Buzzard, and the uncommon Honey Buzzard that is being seen more and more on this section. Shortly after exiting the forested part of the drive you will reach a parking spot from where you can walk to a hide. Park your vehicle, and make the 850 metre walk to the hide, keeping your ears open, and eyes peeled for a major special, the Pink-throated Twinspot, that frequents the dense stands of Sickle Bush which occurs on the walking trail. Listen carefully for its thin, quiet call.
 
Walk to the hide, and sit quietly, you might be rewarded with Pygmy Goose on the water. Pink-throated Twinspots also make an appearance at the hide from time to time. As you exit the hide, turn left onto the grassland. 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.
 
On the grasslands during wet periods, a walk in the grasslands can yield Black-winged and Lesser Black-winged Lapwings, usually in the late afternoon, or very early morning. These species are not common, but do occur if conditions are favourable. Also found in this habitat are Desert Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, African Pipit and Black-bellied Bustard.
 
In the early morning walk from the hide parking area towards the reception area. At the entrance road to treehouses 5 and 6, listen for the African Broadbill. It calls for a very short peiod in the morning, and late afternoon. Please respect the privacy of the treehouse residents. In the grassy area between the Lalapanzi road and the forest, look for Grey Penduline-Tit.
 
Walking from the office/reception area towards the swimming pool, continue down the road to the campsite. Look in the densely vegetated areas for Green Malkoha, Rudd's Apalis and Yellow-breasted Apalis as well as the Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike.
 
From the office/reception area, take the C driving trail that heads towards the Hluhluwe river. Drive carefully, and as the road drops down to run next to the river, look out for Marsh and Grass Owls that may be flushed by your vehicle. Also keep a lookout for Black Coucal that occurs here from time to time. On the C drive, look out for Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Fiscal Flycatcher. On the forested parts of the drive look for Green Pigeon, Crowned Hornbill, and Olive Bush-Shrike.
 
The B-drive from the office/reception area offers all of the birds mentioned in the C-drive section, with the exception of the Owls.
 
Driving towards the Lalapanzi camp will lead you to the A-driving trail. This trail will take you through grasslands and acacia scrub. 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.
 
The drive through the Fever Tree Forest may yield sightings of a Yellow-bellied Eremomela.
 

False Bay Park

False Bay Park is situated along the western shores of Lake Isimangaliso Wetland Park and forms part of the Greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park Wetlands Park (a world heritage site). 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.
 
DIRECTIONS
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.
 
ACCOMMODATION
There are rustic huts as well as camping/caravan sites in the park. In Hluhluwe and surrounds there is a range of accommodation from camping to luxury.
 
BIRDING
The edge of the lake consists of grassy lawns, where Pink-throated Longclaws can be found if flooded, and vegetation-covered inlets. A variety of waterbirds occur in the inlets, and Lesser Jacana should be looked for where there are water lilies. Goliath Heron, Black Egret and Little Bittern may be found standing quietly among the edge vegetation, while Painted Snipe prefer the muddy areas. Visitors should be aware that crocodiles frequently bask along the shoreline as well.
 
Away from the water, the two trails lead through open woodland and closed sand forest, allowing a variety of birds to be seen. 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. These clearings are also good places to find Neergaard's Sunbird when nectar producing trees such as the Weeping Boer-bean Schotia brachypetala and the coast coral tree Erythrina caffra are in flower. Look carefully, as the similar, but longer-billed, Purple-banded Sunbird also occurs here. Keep an ear open for the staccato "tik-tak-tirr" of Crested Guineafowl, which are plentiful here, but keep to the forested areas.
 
The most exciting birding is to be had in the closed canopy sand forest, dominated by trees such as the Lebombo wattle Newtonia hildebrandti, Zulu podberry Dialium schlechteri and black monkey thorn Acacia burkei. 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 (Yellow-spotted) 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. The Broadbill may be found sitting quietly on a branch a couple of metres above the ground, but patient searching is required as the bird is cryptically coloured. If you are fortunate to visit the area in breeding season, its distinctive and far-carrying "purr-rupp" call may guide you to its location.
 
Other than birds, the area is good for common and red duiker, and the rare and diminutive suni antelope can be seen in the sand forest if you are quiet and patient. Visitors should also be aware that hippos come ashore to graze at night, and those camping or staying in the hutted accommodation should always carry torches when walking around at night.Your text...

Nibela Lake Lodge

Nibela Lake Lodge, (www.nibelalakelodge.co.za) located on the northern shores of Lake St Lucia, blends almost magically into the rare sand forest surrounds. Eleven luxurious thatched chalets are situated high up in the cool forest beneath a magnificent canopy of trees, where guests can enjoy the solitude and tranquility of Africa at its best.

The Lodge and surrounds is one of the highest diversity areas for birds in South Africa.  The area supports well over 400 species of birds, including numerous rare and endemic species. The Nibela Lake Lodge property does not have any dangerous game, making it one of the few reserves in Zululand where birders can still walk freely and explore the area without being confined to your car. 
 
Aside from the luxurious chalets overlooking the lake, the lodge also boasts several private self-catering chalets, known as Sobhengu Lodge, an ideal private escape for larger groups and bird clubs.
 
Knowledgeable bird guides are available to take you exploring the sand forest trails where Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Pink-throated Twinspot and Neergard’s Sunbirds abound. Or take a trip to explore the surrounding floodplains and pan systems where Rosy-throated Longclaws are a common sight as are flock of Pelican, Flamingos and other water birds….and there is always a great chance of turning up something more unusual such as Rufous-bellied Heron, Caspian Plovers and Lesser Jacana. 
 
And if that isn’t enough birding to keep you busy, Nibela Lake lodge is just 30 minutes from Muzi Pans and the world famous uMkhuze Game Reserve, what more could a birder want? 
 
Reservations
Tel: +27 11 267 8300
Fax: +27 11 706 1044
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.nibelalakelodge.co.za 
 

 

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