Southern Zululand, a premier forest birding route, is home to a great diversity of bird species. Starting on the warm coast of Zululand between Mtunzini, “place of shade,” and Richards Bay, the route moves inland through estuarine swamp forest up to coastal scarp forest in the foothills of Eshowe.
Surrounding Eshowe are a number of forested regions where the endemic Green Barbet of Ngoye Forest is just one of many forest specials which inhabit this region. Further inland are the towns of Melmoth and Nkandla, which, although are in the mistbelt, drop sharply down to dry thornveld habitat providing a range of cliff faces where Lanner Falcons, Rock Kestrels and Bald Ibis breed annually.
This area is also rich in Zulu history and culture. Along with the birding routes are self-guided hiking trails and many historical monuments. For the wildlife enthusiast, this region doesn’t host the big five, but on foot, encounters with the diminutive Blue Duiker on the forest floor, and in the canopy, Samango and Vervet Monkeys sharing their meal with Delegorgue’s Pigeons and Trumpeter Hornbills, are not uncommon.
This region, which includes swamp forest, dune forest, coastal scarp forest, and the mistbelt forests of Nkandla (at 1200m), are joined by a network of river valleys and rolling grasslands which make for some breathtaking scenery. Whether you’re a birding enthusiast or simply enjoy the outdoors, the Southern Zululand birding route is a gold mine of diversity. There are deserted gold mines too, so whatever your quest, prospect here and you’re bound to be rewarded!
by Gareth Chittenden