Lebombo Cliffs

The Lebombo Mountain range stretches from about Phinda in the south to the Kruger National Park in the north and divides the coastal plain from the higher inland areas of the region. The mountains rise about 800m above the surrounding area, and are a well known landmark. Dry bushveld and grassland covers most of the mountains, but forest patches occur in ravines where they are protected from fire and receive more moisture. The easiest place to view birds on these cliffs is on the main tar road leading up into Tongaland.

The lower sections of the road (traveling up) are good for a number of dry bushveld species such as Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Long-billed Crombec, Jameson’s Firefinch, Bearded Woodpecker, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Familiar Chat, Striped Kingfisher, Jacobin Cuckoo, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Orange-breasted Bush Shrike.

As you climb in altitude, the vegetation becomes thicker and taller. Some typical species found in the moister patches include Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Black-backed Puffback, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-throated Robin-Chat, Spectacled Weaver and Sombre Greenbul. Seeding roadside grasses could provide Swee Waxbill, Blue-billed Firefinch and Streaky-headed Seed-eater.Locally scarce species such as Red-winged Starling, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Cape Rock Thrush and Jackal Buzzard can be seen from the higher sections of the road where you are closer to the cliffs. Look out for the resident Peregrine Falcon which breed on the cliffs. Black Stork also breed in the rocky gorges, and can be seen circling overhead.

A careful watch in early and late summer could produce Lesser-Spotted, Steppe and Wahlberg’s Eagles, while Booted Eagle can be seen in winter. Rock Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, African Harrier Hawk, Gabar Goshawk, Black-chested Snake Eagle, African Hawk Eagle and Martial Eagle can all be seen around with some patience.

Directions

Situated off the N2 highway, about 12km north of the village of Mkuze turn right onto the Ndumo/ Tembe/ Kosi road as well as the village of Jozini. The road up the mountain is visible from the highway. Follow this tar road up, stopping at any of the 5 or so spots where it is safe off the road.