uMfolozi Game Reserve
This, the larger of the two parks in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Complex, is a well known and well visited birding destination situated in north-western Zululand. Althouggh probably better known as a "Big Five" park, the birdlife here is rich and varied.
There are two entrances to the park, one from the west and one from the east. The western gate is the main gate, situated on the R618. From Durban, take the N2 highway northbound to Mtubatuba. Turn left on the R618 and continue for about 30km. Nyalazi Gate is situated on the left hand side of the road, and the park is well signposted. From Johannesburg, travel via Piet Retief and then south on the N2. Turn right at Mtubatuba, and follow the directions above. The western gate, Cengeni, is situated 30km east of Ulundi, off the R34 Richards Bay/Vryheid road. Although the route is signposted, the last 30km is located on a dirt road and it is not a recommended route.
Mpila,the main camp provides hutted accommodation. There are also a number of bushcamps spread throughout the reserve. No camping is allowed in the reserve.
Umfolozi is home to about 45 species of raptors, and it is worth a visit for this reason alone. White-backed, Lappet-faced, White-headed and Cape Vultures are seen catching thermals or around lion kills. Martial, African Crowned, Tawny, African Fish and Brown-Snake Eagles are resident, and Wahlberg's, Steppe and Lesser-Spotted Eagles are summer migrants. Smaller raptors commonly seen include African Goshawk, Little Sparrow-Hawk, Shikra, Gabar Goshawk and Black Sparrow-Hawk.
The more open grassland areas are home to Flappet and Sabota Larks, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Ground Hornbill, Secretarybird, Bushveld Pipit, Croaking Cisticola, Red-crested and Black-bellied Korhaans and in wet summers, Harlequin Quail.
Thornveld covers most of the reserve, and many thornveld specials are therefore represented. Look out for African and Jacobin Cuckoos, Arrow-marked Babbler, White-fronted Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Grey Penduline Tit, Melba Finch, Paradise Whydah, Striped Kingfisher, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Pied Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and Brown-crowned Tchagra. Summer migrants include Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler, European Sedge Warbler and European Bee-eater.
Areas of thicker woodland, including riverine bush are home to Tambourine Dove, Purple-crested Turaco, Pygmy Kingfisher, Red-capped and White-throated Robin-Chats, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Grey-headed and Gorgeous Bush-Shrikes and Blue-billed Firefinch.
A visit in the spring and summer months is well worth it, as the Weeping Boer Bean trees will be in flower. These trees are bird magnets, and as many as five species of sunbirds can be seen in one tree. These could include Amethyst, Scarlet-chested, Collared, White-bellied and Marico Sunbirds.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Lion, elephant, black and white rhino, leopard, buffalo, cheetah, wild dog, giraffe, kudu, zebra, nyala and many other game species occur in the reserve. This park is the well documented site of the rescue of the white rhino from extinction..