Tongaland is the name of the north-eastern corner of Zululand, flanked by the Lebombo Mountains on the west, the Indian Ocean on the east and the Mozambique border in the north.
Most of the region is drained by the Phongolo and Mkhuze Rivers, and is characteristically flat. The Phongolo floodplain runs from Jozini to the confluence with the Usutu River , and is dominated by pans, Lala palm savannah and bush clumps. Riverine forest lines some pans and streams. Coastal dune forest hugs the Indian Ocean, and numerous pans and lakes are scattered along the coast.
Tongaland is situated on the southern end of the sub-tropical coastal plain of the east coast of Africa, and therefore provides habitat for many species not found anywhere else in South Africa. Tropical stragglers, both marine and inland, are found every year, and include specials such as Crab Plover, Plain-backed Sunbird, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Livingstone’s Turaco.
Ndumo and Tembe are world renowned birding destinations and are among the better places to view the shy Sand Forest specials such as Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Neergard’s Sunbird and Rudd’s Apalis. Tembe is the only place in South Africa where Plain-backed Sunbird is seen regularly. Waterbirds such as Pygmy Goose and Lesser Jacana abound in the floodplain pans.
Kosi Bay, and the road to there, is an off-the-beaten-track spot with lots to offer. Mangroves, lala palm savannah, coastal dune forest and wetlands are the major habitats here, and birds such as Pel’s Fishing Owl, Lemon-breasted Canary, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Black-throated Wattle-eye can be viewed.