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Melmoth - Zululand Birding Route

Melmoth Route

 

At the gateway to the Zulu highlands lies the picturesque town of Melmoth. Founded in 1888 as a "gold rush" town on a portion of the farm Golden Reef owned by Reinhold Ortlepp, it was named after Sir Melmoth Osborn, the resident commissioner of Zululand at that time. The town is situated 800m above sea level with an unsurpassed climate. The area offers good forest, riverine, thornveld and grassland birding with a species count of 295.

 
Weni, to the south of Melmoth, offers numerous grassland and riverine birds. These include Grassbird, Short-tailed Pipit, White-backed Night Heron, Buff-streaked Chat and Mountain Wagtail, to name a few. To the north west lies Sappi Mooiplaas which is a timber farm. Here grassveld and bushveld birds can be seen, namely Black Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill, African Crowned Eagle, Swee Waxbill and many others. North of Melmoth lies Wintershoek Farm, which straddles the high and low veld and overlooks Emakhosini, the "Valley of the Kings". The varied terrain offers a wide variety of birds including Yellow and Orange-throated Longclaws, Groundscraper Thrush, Southern Ground Hornbill and African Crowned Eagle. Further west of Melmoth lie the Nkandla and Qudeni Forests. These forests are home to sought after forest birds including the Knysna Lourie, Orange Ground-Thrush, Bush Blackcap, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, White-starred Robin, Grey Cuckoo Shrike and Forest Canary. Ending up after a drive through the grasslands at Mangeni Falls, a place to see Verreaux's and Wahlberg's Eagles, Lanner Falcon, Common Kestrel and Spike-heeled Lark. 
 

Weni Farm

DIRECTIONS
Proceed along the R66 in the Eshowe direction for approximately six kilometres and turn left onto the D256 road. Continue along this gravel road for nine kilometres, then turn left into Weni Farm.
 
ACCOMMODATION
Nestled in the valley of a National Heritage site, lies a delightfully rustic bush camp, with an open air toilet and cold shower, for adventurous souls! For those seeking a little more comfort, Weni Cottage is a self-catering, three-bedroom cottage, close to the homestead but private.
 
SPECIALS FOR THE AREA
Please note that Permission is required from Bertus or Caroline De Waal before visiting Weni farm 
Tel: + 27 (35) 450 2314
 
For birders, numerous grassland and riverine birds can be seen, including Grassbird , Short-tailed Pipit, White-backed Night Heron, Shelley’s Francolin, Black Stork , Half-collared Kingfisher, Southern Bald Ibis, Buff-streaked Chat, Blue Crane, Yellow- and Orange-throated Longclaws, Streaky- headed Canary, Violet-backed Starling, Southern Ground Hornbill, Mountain Wagtail, African Finfoot, Green Sandpiper, African Black Duck, Lanner Falcon, African Hawk-Eagle and numerous other raptors. Southern Bald Ibis, Black Storks and Southern Ground Hornbills all breed on the property
 
ENHANCEMENTS

Horse riding, Dam and river fishing (rowboat available), firewood supplied and small game to view..

Sappi Mooiplass

Mooiplaas consists of nine farms that were bought from private farmers and exchanged with companies in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The plantation is subdivided into 5 blocks, namely A - E. The total area of the plantation covers 10 980 hectares, of which 6 500 ha are planted to eucalyptus, wattle and pine. The remaining 4 480 ha consists of the 1 140 ha natural heritage site in block C, the 1 200 ha site of conservation significance in block D, and the remainder under valley bushveld.
 
DIRECTIONS
The Mooiplaas offices are in block A which is next to the tar road running from Melmoth to Babanango. From Melmoth, take the Babanango turn-off, approximately 4 km past Melmoth. On the Babanango road continue for 20 km and the offices will be found on the left hand side.
 
ACCOMMODATION
There are several B&Bs and a hotel in Melmoth and the Ntonjaneni Lodge at Ntonjaneni.
 
SPECIALS
Tototal of 298 birds have been seen on Mooiplaas. Amongst these, are the following: Verreaux's Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Ground Hornbill, Swee Waxbill and other bushveld and grassveld birds.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Sites of conservation significance at Mooiplaas are: Stan Hope Gold Mine, Verreaux's Eagle's nest, Nomisila Wetland, Mhlatuze Waterfall and Hillside. There is also a Natural Heritage site on Mooiplaas, 1100 ha in extent.
 
CONTACTS
 
Martin Buchler
Tel/Fax: 035 450 2782

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Wintershoek farm

This well established cattle and timber farm has been in the Calverley family for four generations. It straddles the high and low veld providing access to grassland and thornveld birding. The farm has a panoramic view of Emakhosini, the "Valley of the Kings", stretching from Babanango in the west to Ulundi in the East!
 
DIRECTIONS
From Melmoth travel north on the R66 towards Vryheid for 20 kms and turn left at the "Ntonjaneni Lodge" sign. Continue for two kms and turn right onto a gravel road marked "Kataza". Proceed for six kms, turn right at the "Wintershoek Farm" sign, follow the farm road for about 2 km to the main house at farm number 22.
 
ACCOMMODATION
There is a B&B on the farm with various other B&Bs in the area and the Lodge at Ntonjaneni.
 
SPECIALS FOR THE AREA
Grassland and thornveld birds can be seen here, including Yellow and Orange-throated Longclaws, Violet-backed Starling, Groundscraper Thrush, various weavers, Secretarybird, Southern Ground-
Hornbill, Crowned Eagle and numerous others.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
The farm is within easy access of the Battlefields Route, Itala, Ophathe and Umfolozi Game Reserves, Ulundi, Eshowe and other attractions.

Gavon and Sandi Calverley Tel/Fax: 035 450 7042.

Nkandla Forest

This beautiful forest is run by KZN Wildlife, and no permit is required to visit it. Nkandla forest is situated about 30km south-west of Qudeni Forest, as the crow flies, and about 56km north-west of the town of Eshowe and 68km from Melmoth.
 
The Nkandla Forest comprises 1600ha of climax mistbelt forest and is one of the most outstanding examples in South Africa. The forest covers the crown and southwestern slopes of the ridge, which lie above the Umhlathuze and Thukela rivers at a height of between 1100 and 1300 m above sea level. Streams rising in the forest form deep gorges leading into the Nsuze River (500m), which runs southeast along the base of the ridge.
 
It is strongly recommended that you take a guide with you, as some paths are inconspicuous. There are currently no visitor facilities at Nkandla Forest Reserve, though people who wish to hike or camp may do so with the prior permission of the Officer in Charge (Edward Khanyile 082 214 2998
 
Throughout Zulu history the Nkandla forest has been a place of mystery, the home of supernatural beings, and a formidable stronghold and place of retreat. The Chube are the ironworkers associated with the Nkandla area and Shaka never conquered them. It has always been the last retreat of the Zulu from Shaka's time to that of Bhambatha.
 
Apart from being an area of great, often pristine, natural beauty, the Nkandla Forest represents a rare relict type of high wet rain forest, of which very few examples survive. They are relics of times in the distant past when the climate was wetter, and even colder. The forest has exceptionally high species diversity with many species that are associated with scarp forest occurring. This indicates that Nkandla may be positioned in a transitional zone between mist and scarp forest. The many rare plants, and the rarity of the habitat type as a whole, are in themselves sufficient reasons for conserving this rare forest type.
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Directions from Melmoth or Vryheid:
 
    * At the Melmoth Total garage on the R66/R34 through town, zero your trip meter.
    * Proceed north on the R66/R34 to Vryheid/Ulundi.
    * At 4.5km turn left onto the R68 signposted Babanango and Nkandla.
      Some features to note along the way:
      at 17km you will see on the left a gravel road to KwaMagwaza Mission Hospital at 26.5km a gravel road to your right going to Mtonjaneni
      the Babanango turn off is at 28.3km on your right
      at 32km you will pass a signpost for Fort Prospect
      the bridge over the Umhlathuze is at 40km
    * After 50km you will reach the Nkandla/Vryheid T-junction. Turn left and proceed into the village of Nkandla.
    * Look out for the “No-entry” sign on your right at about 69km. Proceed down to the grassland and park there.
 
Directions from Empangeni, Gingindlovu or Eshowe:
 
    * From the R66 traveling up from Gingindlovu or Empangeni, turn west at the traffic lights into Kangela Street (which takes you into the town of Eshowe). The traffic lights on the R66 are about 70km from Empangeni or 26km north of Gingindlovu.
    * Proceed down Kangella Street and at the Dlinza Forest turn-off on your left, zero your trip meter. Continue west towards Entumeni (still Kangela Street).
    * At 10.4km you will see the Entumeni Forest Reserve turn-off on your left.
    * At 24.7km take the right-hand fork in the road to Nkandla.
    * At 38.5km there is a left hand turn-off to Kranskop. PROCEED STRAIGHT.
    * At 55.6km you arrive at the turn-off to the Nkandla Forest Reserve offices, on your left.
    * "Thrush Alley" pathway is at 57.7km, 150m after the "Nkandla 20km" sign on the right hand side of the road. (north)
    * At 59.3km you will see a "No Entry" sign on the left. Turn in here and park your vehicle in the grassland at the end of the road.
 
BIRDING SPECIALS
The Nkandla forest area is home to some 147 species. Species more typical of cooler forests include Knysna Turaco, Orange Ground Thrush, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike and Forest Canary. These birds are present throughout the forest, although the thrush is best seen along “Thrush Alley”
 
Birds more typical of warmer forests include Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (often seen along the main road), Purple-crested Turaco, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Grey Sunbird.
 
Other forest specials that can be seen include Olive Bush Shrike, Collared and Olive Sunbirds, Swee Waxbill, Emerald and Black Cuckoos, African Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Chorister Robin-Chat, Trumpeter Hornbill and Dark-backed Weaver.
 
The open grassland patches above the forest are not as productive as those above Qudeni or Ngome Forests, but Buff-streaked Chat, Wing-snapping and Wailing Cisticolas, Common Quail and Broad-tailed Warbler can be seen.
 
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Shy forest mammals present include Bushbuck, Samango Monkey, Bushpig, Blue Duiker and Leopard.
 

Birding Elephant Coast

Birding South Zululand

Birding (Inland) Zululand

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