The Louwsberg Route is situated at medium to high altitude (300m – 1400m above sea level) in far northern KwaZulu-Natal. This range of altitude supports many plant species, and their accompanying birds. In fact, Ithala Game Reserve has the most species of trees of all the reserves in the province.
Three important Zululand rivers transect this route: the Bivane, Phongola and the Mkhuze. All three rivers are flanked by lush, sub-tropical vegetation and have cut impressive gorges and valleys through the predominantly dolerite and granite rock. The rivers act as corridors to birds, leading them up into the numerous smaller streams and valleys.
Up near the top of the route lies Bivane Dam. The area is well known for its plant diversity, which is unrivalled in Zululand. Many botanists visit this area annually to enjoy the number of endemic or rare plants. The birding is fantastic too. White-backed Night Heron, Mountain Wagtail and Half-collared Kingfisher occur on the dam edges, and are joined above by cliff-nesters such as Bald Ibis and Lanner Falcon. The woodland areas hold Jameson’s Firefinch, Red-headed Weaver, African Hawk Eagle and Grey Penduline Tit. The grasslands support Short-tailed Pipit, Broad-tailed Warbler and Secretarybird.
Ithala Game Reserve is one of the flagship reserves of the KZN Wildlife. Ithala is the Zulu word for “a high place”, and at 1400m, Ngotshe mountain towers over the reserve. Bordered in the north by the Phongola River, this 30 000ha reserve is home to Bald Ibis, Barrow’s Korhaan, Long-tailed Widowbird and Secretarybird in the extensive grassland areas. Specials in the wooded valleys include Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Mountain Wagtail and a host of raptors including African Crowned, Martial, African Hawk and Verreaux’s Eagle.
Mocking Cliff-Chat, Mountain Wheatear, Alpine Swift and Freckled Nightjar grace the rocks and cliffs around the main camp. Other endemic species include Jackal Buzzard, Cape Rock Thrush, White-throated Robin-Chat, Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Longclaw.