uLundi Route

 
Ulundi is situated in the centre of Zululand, between Melmoth and Vryheid, and has been the site of battlefields, royal residences and provincial government. It is situated in the White Umfolozi valley and is bordered by rolling hills and thorn-tree plains. It is an area not well explored, as some areas are remote and one could easily get lost in rural Zululand. The Cengeni Gate entrance to the Umfolozi Game Reserve is reached by driving through Ulundi. The area is not known for specific bird specials, but a general mix of thornveld and grassland species in some lovely habitat.
 

Ondini Historical Reserve

The Ondini Historic Reserve is located just outside Ulundi. It was the site of King Cetshwayo's royal homestead, and today is the headquarters of Amafa AkwaZulu Natali, the provincial heritage conservation body.
 
The Ondini Historic Reserve comprises about 300 ha of Zululand Thornveld bisected by a permanent river. While bushveld is the predominant veld type there are pockets of densely wooded areas as well as grassland and a temporary wetland.
 
DIRECTIONS
From the R34 (Melmoth -Vryheid road) take the Ulundi turn-off. After crossing the Umfolozi River, take the second turn to the right (signposted as Umfolozi Game Reserve). You will pass the Ulundi Battlefield on your left. Continue on the dirt road. The Ondini complex is signposted 5km further along the road.
 
ACCOMMODATION
Available in the reserve in traditional Zulu beehive "rondavels".
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
A diversity of bird species have moved into the reserve because the surrounding areas are somewhat degraded. As a result 135 bird species are regular sightings at the reserve, including Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush Shrikes, Violet-backed Starling, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Crested Francolin, Bearded Woodpecker, Pied Barbet, Crowned Hornbill, Brown-crowned Tchagra, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Emerald-spotted Dove and various seed-eaters and waxbills.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Ondini was King Cetshwayo's capital and was torched by the British in 1879, after the Zulu were defeated at the Battle of Ulundi. The Royal Enclosure of Ondini has been reconstructed . A nearby Site museum interprets the life of King Cetshwayo and provides visitors with an insight into the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.
 
KwaZulu Cultural Museum is located on the reserve. It exhibits examples of the rich cultural heritage of KwaZulu Natal: from the earliest inhabitants to the great Zulu Nation. The museum focuses of the Nguni speaking peoples of South-eastern Africa, and houses one of the most representative collections of Zulu material culture in the country. Of note is the famous collection of beadwork.
 
Opening times: Daily from 9h00 - 16h00 except for Good Friday and Christmas Day. A nominal entrance fee is charged.
 

Ophate Game Reserve

A spectacular rugged reserve comprising 8 825 ha proclaimed in 1991, is located in the heartland of Zulu history, at the north-eastern end of the Valley of the Kings (eMakhosini). Ophathe falls within the immediate catchment of the White Umfolozi River, with diverse topography as a result of altitudinal variations. The reserve varies in altitude from 987 m in the south-west to 270 m in the eastern section along the White Umfolozi River. The vegetation varies from bushveld dominated by acacia species, to mistbelt and highveld, including many spectacular krantzes with orchid and cycad colonies.
 
DIRECTIONS
Off the main tar road linking Melmoth and Vryheid (the R68 which becomes the R34), take the R66 to Ulundi. The main entrance to the reserve is on the right hand side of the road approximately 1 km before crossing the White Umfolozi River to Ulundi.
 
ACCOMMODATION
Mars cottage, located on an isolated peninsula of the White Umfolozi River is only accessible to 4X4 enthusiasts. There are plans to develop visitor facilities within the reserve which will be accessible from the R66 to Ulundi. Bird and game viewing opportunities by two wheel drive vehicle from the main entrance to the reserve is good.
 
SPECIALS
A wide variety of bushveld bird species can be observed in the reserve. Raptors such as Verreaux's, Martial, Wahlberg's and Tawny Eagles, are often seen overhead and White-backed Vultures originating from Umfolozi Game Reserve are also often seen.
 
The area around the reception is good for Kurrichane and Ground-scraper Thrush, Black-crowned and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Puffback, Crested Francolin, Emerald-spotted Dove and White-crested Helmet-Shrike. Cape Rock Thrush, Familiar Chat and Jackal Buzzard can be seen in the rockier areas.
 
The thicker riverine bush provides habitat for Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Crowned Hornbill, White-throated Robin-Chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Paradise Flycatcher.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Black and White Rhinoceros, Kudu, Giraffe, Warthog, Zebra and a variety of smaller game occurs in the reserve.
 
Raptors utilise thermal updrafts to gain great heights off this rugged terrain. There are several plant species of high conservation value occurring in the reserve such as Buxus macowanii, Scilla nervosa, Encephalartos natalensis and Protea caffra. Guided horse trails take place within the reserve.
 
The greater road network within the game reserve is challenging 4X4 country which offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.
 

Mgungungdlovu Cultural Site

Situated in the Makhosini Valley (Valley of the Kings), this spot is well worth a visit for picking up good bushveld species. The Cultural Site provides a centre for visits to uMgungundlovu, the historical residency of the Zulu King Dingane. Typical vegetation consists of Acacia and Aloe species, with scattered Coral Trees and Corkwoods.
 
DIRECTIONS
Situated off the R34, north of Melmoth travel for about 25km , past the Ulundi turn-off, and turn left at the sign "Mgungundlovu". Proceed with this road for about 5km to the Cultural Site, where you can park your vehicle and walk around. The road surface is gravel, but easily reached with sedan vehicles.
 
ACCOMMODATION
None, but all types are available in Melmoth or Babanango, which are close by.
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
The woodlands are home to about 200 species of birds, including Natal Francolin, Golden-tailed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Greater Honeyguide, Crested Barbet, Crowned Hornbill, Green Woodhoopoe, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Black-headed Oriole, Brubru, Black-crowned and Brown-crowned Tchagras, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Ground-scraper Thrush, Emerald-spotted Dove, White-browed Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub Robin, Cape Glossy Starling, Grey Penduline Tit, Rattling Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Arrow-marked Babbler, Yellow-throated Petronia, Bushveld Pipit and Southern Boubou. In June and July many species of birds can be seen feeding off the flowering Mountain Aloes. Look out for Scarlet-chested, Amethyst and White-bellied Sunbirds as well as drongos, orioles and weavers with orange-stained heads.
 
Raptors that can be seen include the numerous Yellow-billed Kites in summer, Wahlberg's Eagle, Little-banded Goshawk and African Hawk Eagle.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
The Cultural Museum portrays interesting insights into the lives of the Zulus, and guided tours are available to the old traditional homestead.
 

Babanango Valley

Situated on 3100ha of prime bushveld, this Private Nature Reserve offers many activities and birds to the visitor. The Nsubeni River valley, a tributary of the White Umfolozi, cuts through the reserve and it is surrounded on both sides by steep hills, cliffs grassland and bushveld. The reserve is also registered as a Natural Heritage Site, and is part of the Babanango Valley Conservancy. The reserve is predominantly covered in bushveld in the valley, with well-vegetated granite koppies, quartzite ridges and sandstone cliffs. The mountain tops are covered in grassland.
 
DIRECTIONS
From Babanango, travel west towards Dundee on the R68. Turn right after about 5km onto a dirt road. The Lodge is signposted from the turn-off. Continue with this road for about 1km and then take the left-hand split in the road. Follow this road for another 11km. The road to the lodge is in kept in good condition, and is signposted all the way down
 
ACCOMMODATION
Available in chalets, bushcamps, cottages and communal safari tents at the lodge.
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
Babanango Valley Lodge is a well known birding locality and has a birdlist of over 250 species.
 
There are a number of self-guided or guided walking trails which cover all of the habitats. The area around the Rock Pools Bush Camp and Nsubeni River is an excellent spot for Half-collared Kingfisher, Mountain Wagtail, Blue-billed Firefinch, Tambourine Dove, Wood Owl, Pygmy Kingfisher, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, White-throated Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou and in the fruiting fig trees Green Pigeon.
 
The bushveld areas around the lodge should be searched for Blue Waxbill, Shelley's Francolin, Purple-crested Turaco, Little Bee-eater, Crowned Hornbill, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Brown-backed Honeybird, Bushveld Pipit, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Plum-coloured Starling, Brimstone Canary and in summer, African and Jacobin Cuckoos. Flowering Aloes attract sunbirds such as Scarlet-chested, Amethyst, White-bellied, Greater Double-collared and the occasional Malachite.
 
The extensive grassland areas on the top of the Valley are home to Barrow's Korhaan, Grassbird, Croaking Cisticola, Malachite Sunbird, Black-winged Lapwing, Bald Ibis, Quailfinch and Grass Owl. Closer to Babanango, among the rocky outcrops, look out for Buff-streaked Chat, Ground Woodpecker, Yellow Bishop, Plain-backed Pipit and Cape Crow.
 
Rocky hillsides and cliffs abound with species such as Striped Pipit, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Buff-streaked Chat, Bokmakierie, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting and at least one pair of Black Stork. Ground Hornbill have also nested on a rocky ledge.
 
Babanango Valley Lodge is probably most famous for its diversity of raptors. Many breed in the reserve, including Tawny, Wahlberg's, Verreaux's, Martial, Crowned and African Hawk Eagles, African and Gabar Goshawks, Lanner Falcon, Brown Snake Eagle, Giant Eagle Owl and Secretarybird. Visiting raptors include Amur Falcons, Bateleur and Black-breasted Snake Eagle.
 
The gardens around the lodge are alive with birds. Kurrichane and Ground-scraper Thrushes, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Green Pigeon and Bronze Manikins can all be seen with relative ease.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST

The reserve is also home to a number of antelope species such as Kudu, Impala, Burchell's Zebra, Blesbuck, Red Hartebeest and Mountain Reedbuck. Warthog, Aardwolf, Caracal, Leopard and Serval are shyer species that can be encountered..

Ntinini Nature Reserve

A unique reserve which dominates the surrounding area with the majestic presence of Zungeni hill towering some 1 306 m a.s.l. The north facing slopes of Zungeni hill are characterised by open woodland dispersed between scenic sandstone boulder outcrops. Moist Midland Mistbelt and Lowveld occur within the reserve. The reserve is drained by tributaries of the Ntinini River to the west which form part of the greater White Umfolozi River catchment area. The annual rainfall ranges from 800 mm to 1280 mm. An unpredictable climate where heavy mists are common, hail, frost and the occasional drought, usually of short duration are know to occur.
 
DIRECTIONS
Travelling from Babanango along the R68 towards Nqutu, turn right approximately 20 km outside of Babanango onto the gravel road to Vryheid. (Approximately 1 ½ km prior to reaching this point you would have passed a gravel road on the left hand side of the tar road leading to Nkandla). Driving along the gravel road to Vryheid you cross the Ntinini River and continue to travel along the western bank of the river. Approximately 13 km along this road is Ntinini hamlet, turn right at the store and travel towards Zungeni hill in an easternly direction for approximately 3 km before reaching Ntinini Game Reserve.
 
ACCOMMODATION
No visitor accommodation is available. Accommodation is available in the surrounding area see accommodation information page for details.
 
SPECIALS
A pair of resident Black eagles have a nesting site established on the north western cliff face of Zungeni hill. The nesting site although not always in the same position is utilised on an annual basis. The pair of Black eagles have been successful in raising chicks over the past several years.
 
Birders to add..... e.g Rock pigeons, red billed woodhoopoe, Yellowthroated longclaw etc...
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
An extensive donga system several hundred years old occurs within the reserve. This formation has creating opportunities for nesting sites to be burrowed into these steep banks.
Enhancements
 
The reserve is centrally located to other birding spots along the Zululand Birding Route, namely Ophathe Game Reserve, Emakhosini Valley, Babanango, Nkandla and Qudeni Forest Reserves. The famous historical battlefields are located in the vicinity.
 

Mangeni Falls

Mangeni Falls are situated on a tributary of the White Umfolozi River, west of Babanango. The waterfall has eroded back through soft sandstone and formed an impressive gorge which is wooded in places. The waterfall is surrounded by open grassland and rural settlements.
 
DIRECTIONS
The waterfall is quite difficult to get to, and is best accessed with a vehicle with high ground clearance. From Babanango, drive west on the R68 towards Dundee. Turn left after 31.5km at the sign marked "Qudeni". Follow this gravel road for 14.7km, and turn right at the sign "Mangeni". Travel a further 6.5km and turn left towards a few distant buildings. Cross the concrete bridge and then turn right onto a track immediately after crossing. Proceed with this track for about 500m, and park the vehicle at one of the side-tracks that lead towards the valley on the right (which is visible from far away). It might be a good idea to pop in at the police station and inform them of your visit before parking at the falls. To reach it, carry on with the road after crossing the low-level concrete bridge, and take the right had split in the road that leads to the station. Luckily the area is all open grassland and all these landmarks can be seen from a distance.
 
ACCOMMODATION
None, but available in Babanango or Melmoth.
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
The waterfall and gorge are home to a number of rock associated species. Bald Ibis roost near the falls, look out for them on any burnt areas in winter. Verreaux's Eagle breed on the cliffs just below the falls, as do Common Kestrel and Lanner Falcon. Mocking Cliff-Chat, Cape Rock Thrush, Mountain Wheatear and Familiar Chat can all be seen on the rocks. Alpine and Black Swifts breed here in summer, their loud piercing calls echoing in the gorge. Scan the surrounding grasslands for Quailfinch, Spike-heeled Lark, Cape Crow, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird and White Stork. The river, when high enough, can be searched for African Black Duck.
 
The bushes on the slopes are home to Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Bar-throated Apalis and provide food for Red-winged Starlings.
 

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