The Phongola Route contains one of the oldest game reserves in Africa, the Phongola Game Reserve. Even the early conservation pioneers recognised the beauty and value of this area.
Superb Sweet Lowveld Bushveld, the only example of this in the province, supports a vast array of species, including some that are rare in other parts of Zululand. These Phongola specials include Burchell’s Starling, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Purple Roller, Magpie Shrike and Red-headed Weaver.
The area also contains eastern coastal plain endemics such as Rudd’s Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot, Lemon-breasted Canary and Neergard’s Sunbird.
Raptors are plentiful, with 10 species of eagle and 4 species of Vulture being recorded. Special raptors include Osprey, African Fish-Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Lappet-faced Vulture.
Jozini Dam offers good birding, as well as exciting Tiger Fish fishing. Interesting waterbirds recorded in the area include Pink-backed Pelican, Comb Duck, Lesser Moorhen, Painted Snipe, Caspian Tern, Black Coucal and Osprey.
The cliffs on the Lebombo Mountains support cliff-nesting species such as Black Stork, Peregrine Falcon and Rock Kestrel. This mountain range separates the coastal plain from the inland areas, and is an important flyway for migrating raptors.
Mkhuze Falls Game Reserve is situated at 300m above sea level and adds an impressive amount of specials to the route. Lowveld vegetation, hills and wetlands provide habitat for many species. Specials include raptors, waterbirds in the wetland, bush birds and a variety of game including the big five. Visitors could see Yellow-billed Stork, Martial Eagle, Bronze-winged Courser, Black Coucal, Eastern Nicator, Rudd’s Apalis, Green-winged Pytilia, Narina Trogon and Little Sparrowhawk.