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 it's 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 recored here and several of them being at the southernmost limit of their ranges.
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.
Entering the main gate, the road to the left takes one through Sand Forest and a small wetland. Look out for Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd's Apalis, Lizard Buzzard and Neergard's Sunbird. The wetland can turn up Black Coucal in summer, especially in the area just outside the fence. Proceeding with this road, the habitat changes to become more open 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.
The thick Mahemane Bush can produce Crested Guineafowl, Pink-throated Twinspot, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Eastern Nicator and Barred Owl.
The road to the main camp passes through tall, thick woodland and can produce 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.
The camp itself can be very productive. The bird bath attracts a wide variety of species and an hour of observation can be well rewarded. Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Purple-banded Sunbird and Yellow-bellied Greenbul can all be seen here. Neergard'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. Along the river, look out for Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, Dark-backed Weaver, Collared Sunbird, Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eye and the elusive duo; Pel's Fishing Owl and African Finfoot. White-browed Robin-Chats are often seen near the pumphouse.
Nyamithi Pan is the centre of Ndumo's attraction. Highly seasonal, the 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, Water Thick-knee, Comb Duck, Goliath Heron and, in summer, Sooty Falcon, Collared Pratincole and Blue-cheecked Bee-eater. Waders are well represented in summer, look out for Green Sandpiper, Kittlitz's Plover and Pied Avocet.
Banzi Pan, which lies just north of Nyamithi Pan, holds impressive numbers of Pygmy Goose (up to 600) and White-faced Duck (>1000). Whiskered and White-winged Terns, Lesser Jacana, African Openbill and Spurwinged Goose are all regularly recorded.
Check all small pans and wetlands for elusive marsh species such as 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.
Other interesting species found throughout the reserve in suitable habitat include White-eared Barbet, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Purple-crested Turaco, Tambourine Dove, Grey Cuckooshrike, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Woodward's Batis, White-browed and Red-capped Robin-Chat, African Yellow White-eye, Grey Sunbird, Green Twinspot and Red-headed Weaver.
Ndumo also has a reputation of producing South African rarities. Exciting species that have been recorded include Long-toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Eastern Saw-wing and Ayres' Hawk-Eagle.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
A number of game species occur in Ndumo, including Black and White Rhino, Giraffe, Leopard, Suni Antelope, Nyala and Red Duiker. The pan holds Hippo and some of the largest crocodiles in South Africa. Ndumo is also famed for its plant species.