Why Zululand?

The Elephant Coast, combining both Maputaland and Zululand, situated in the north eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal, is a largely undiscovered tourist gem. The area has a rich culture as the birthplace of the Zulu and Thonga nations, has a fascinating history of battles and legends – but best of all perhaps – it is home to some of the country’s most beautiful game reserves including the famous Hluhluwe-Imfolozi as well as uMkhuze, Pongola, Ndumu and Tembe Elephant Park – all of which are also incredible birding hotspots! KwaZulu-Natal is also proud to have the iSimangaliso Wetland Park – South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, as one of its crowning attractions.

A Birding Paradise

Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal
Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal

Over 650 species of birds have been recorded in KwaZulu-Natal – making it one of the best birding meccas on the African continent. Of these, a whopping 605 of them can be spotted in Zululand with over 50 of the country’s endemic and near endemic birds nesting in its grasslands and wetlands.

Earlier this year, an area of 130,735 hectares, linking numerous game reserves, was declared as the “Zululand IBA” (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) by BirdLife SA in what has been described as “the single largest private sector conservation initiative in KwaZulu-Natal ever”.

There is also an official “Zululand Birding Route”, a BirdLife South Africa avitourism project which highlights the best locations to tick off a treasure trove of specials.

Special Birds to look out for in the Zululand IBA for your Life List include:

• African Broadbill
• Bateleur Eagle
• Bearded Robin
• Bennett’s Woodpecker
• Blue Billed Fire Finch
• Brown Robin
• Buffspotted Flufftail
• Burchell’s Starling
• Caspian Tern
• Crested Guineafowl
• Gorgeous Bush Shrike
• Greater Flamingo
• Green Barbet
• Green Coucal
• Green Twinspot
• Grey Waxbill
• Ground Hornbill
• Lesser Flamingo
• Lesser Jacana
• Livingstone’s Turaco
• Mangrove King fisher
• Mangrove Kingfisher
• Martial Eagle
• Narina trogon
• Neergaard’s Sunbird
• Palmnut Vulture
• Pel’s Fishing Owl
• Pink backed Pelican
• Pink-Throated Twinspot
• Pink-Throated Longclaw
• Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
• Red-headed Weaver
• Rudd’s Apalis
• Rufousbellied Heron
• Saddlebilled Stork
• Shorttailed Pipit
• Southern Banded Snake Eagle
• White Pelican
• Whitethroated Robin
• Woodward’s Batis
• Yellowbilled Stork
• Yellowspotted Nicator

Need to “Nest” for a few days?

Makakatana Bay Lodge

Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal
Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal

In April 1897 St Lucia was first declared a game reserve. The conservation area slowly expanded over the years until the 328,000-hectare reserve, with its 5 five major ecological zones, was renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and declared South Africa’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. More recently, on 1 August 2019 iSimangaliso officially quadrupled in size to include its 220km of coastline and the surrounding ocean – now protecting around 1-million hectares of South Africa’s ocean, lakes and coastal dune forests from harm. It is now the second largest protected area in South Africa after the Kruger National Park – with an impressive list of 526 bird species.

Makakatana Bay Lodge, which comprises just 8 spacious rooms on raised wooden decks, remains the only privately-owned lodge situated within this World Heritage Site. Specialist birding guides must be booked in advance for any morning or full day tours which will be charged as an extra.

Ghost Mountain Inn

Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal
Twitching in KwaZulu-Natal

The Mkuze area is home to 420 recorded bird species – many of which can be spotted around the indigenous gardens surrounding this beautiful 4-star family-run hotel. The flourishing old trees and succulent fruit attract many species and guests can happily while away the hours in the bird hide or down on the jetty overlooking the lake, which is a favourite spot for the Pygmy Goose and Allen’s Gallinule amongst the reeds. Some of the specials one might spot from your private patio include the Striped Kingfisher, Purple Crested Turaco, Green Pigeon and White-Eared Barbet.

Ghost Mountain Inn offers boating safaris on Lake Jozini and game drives to nearby reserves including uMkhuze Game Reserve with its incredible guided forest canopy walk – with sections of boardwalk meandering its way through the ancient forest of Sycamore figs, some of which are 900 years old with a circumference of 12m! Ghost Mountain also now offers brand-new walking tours for up to 4 people at a time in the game and bird rich Manyoni Game Reserve with a specialised bird guide.

** Birding figures as per the Zululand Birding Route


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