Richards Bay is one of South Africa’s top waterbird areas. The habitats are as diverse as from thornveld, Papyrus swamps, open freshwater lakes, Mangroves, Dune forest to mudflats, open sea and sandbanks.
- Mzingazi/ Sharks Board Area
- Richard’s Bay Harbour
- Southern Sanctuary
- Thulasihleka Pan
- Enseleni Nature Reserve
- Empangeni – Grass for Africa and Dekker’s Dam
Richards Bay is the area for rarity sightings in Zululand with birds such as among others Crab Plover and Broadbilled Sandpiper being fairly regular every summer. Many forest birds such as Woodwards Batis and Eastern Nicator (Yellowspotted Nicator) reach their southernmost limit around here. Open lakes are home to scores of waterfowl as well as hippos and crocodiles. The entire area has been earmarked by BirdLife South Africa and BirdLife Zululand for major conservation and avi-tourism development – (link here to projects Richard Bay avitourism). Richards Bay also has the advantage of being Zululand’s biggest and wealthiest city and can offer visitors to the area a range of first world accommodation, restaurants and other facilities all within very close proximity to excellent birding.
Richards Bay is often overlooked by tourists heading up the coast to the big Zululand Reserves such as Mkhuze and Hluhluwe. Understandable as most people have a image of huge mines and industry when thinking about Richards Bay. This is not totally inaccurate, but tucked away within and around all this industry is some of the best birding to be had in Zululand Over 350 species occur in the immediate Richards Bay area, 73% of South Africa’s red data book species and 24 National Rarities have been recorded from here. Within Richards Bay is Thulasihleka Pan, probably the most reliable Lesser Jacanas in South Africa as well as enough variety of waterbirds to keep you busy for most of the morning, we are currently negotiating to erect a new hide on the pan and will keep birders informed of developments. The southern Sanctuary, (Important Bird Area SA079) and Harbour area has also long been a hotspot for rarities in South Africa such as Crab Plover and Broadbilled Sandpiper. According to Dave Allen from the Natural History Museum in Durban , this is some of the best waterbirding in Southern Africa ! Access to the harbour and Sanctuary area has up till now however always been a problem for birders coming from outside the region but now access and bird guides can be organized through the Zululand Birding Route. Less than an hours drive from Richard’s Bay is South Africa’s most exciting Forest Birding – Ongoye Forest with it’s Green Barbet, Delegorges Pigeons, Green Twinspots, Green Coucals, Yellowstreaked Bulbuls as well as it’s host of endemic plants.
Then there is Dlinza Forest and the Aerial Boardwalk, Spotted Thrush country of note ! Nseleni Nature Reserve is also a beautiful little reserve where boat trips can be arranged to see Whitebacked Night Neron and African Finfoot. Mtunzini is also only a short drive away and hosts Palmnut Vulture and in winter months Mangrove Kingfisher as well as many coastal forest species. Lake Pobane (Goedetrou Dam) between Richards Bay and Eshowe is an excellent haunt for Whitebacked Night Herons, African Finfoot, Halfcollared Kingfisher and good bushveld birds such as Gorgeous Bush Shrike. Up towards Melmoth in summer are the Short Tailed Pipit stakeouts as well as many upcountry specials and fantastic scenery. Then if you want, a short drive north takes you to the St Lucia wetlands, the big game of Hluhluwe Umfolozi, and the red hot birding of Mkhuze. In addition to all this Richards Bay and surrounding towns have fantastic selection of accommodation, from log cabins and camping sites in the dune forest to comfortable B&B’s and Hotels as well as excellent restaurants and shopping facilities. If you are in the area and need information on birding anywhere in Zululand, please feel free to pop in. We are on the R 34 (main road between Empangeni and Richards Bay) at the Crocodile Sanctuary – look for the Birding Info signs – or contact us.