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Panthera Pardus

In April 2014 we visited a few of the Kwazulu Natal Parks in search of some of the rare birds like the Pel's Fishing Owl, Green Barbet, Palmnut Vulture and Mangrove Kingfisher to name a few. Our itinerary was:


18/19/20 April - Mtunzini
21/22 - Imfolozi
23/24 - Cape Vidal in the Lake St Lucia (Isimangaliso) Wetland Park
25/26 - Mhhuze
27/28 - Ithala


This trip report will be a summary of these Parks ;)

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Looking forward to it. I'm sure you and @@Sharifa. Came back with great pictures - as you always do. :)

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Can't wait to see the pictures and hear the stories! We'll be in SA for the first time next year, Cape Town, Kruger, Victoria Falls, so I'll be happy to see any birds, even the common ones. They would all be "new" to me, most likely :)

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Oh Wow!!! did you visit the Ongoye forest? We pencilled it in for our next trip that way. We stayed with friends in Mtunzini in July and they took us for a drive into Umlalazi reserve for sundowners. It really is a magical place. Cant wait for the report.

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@@xyz99, what time of the year will you be in South Africa and where in Kruger/and outside are you staying. Can give you some tips

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@, Umalalzi is wonderful and yes we did the Ongete Forest, a must do :)

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Mtunzini means a place in the shade.


Mtunzini is a coastal town on the Indian Ocean located 140 km north of Durban. Mtunzini has so much to offer and is a perfect base to explore other hot birding spots in the area like the Ongeye forest and the Dlinza Forest in the town of Eshowe.


This part of South Africa has over 600 birds to offer, some of them not found elsewhere in South Africa. Mtunzini was declared a Conservancyin 1995. A grove of Raphia Palms beside the railway line is one of the few declared natural monuments in the country and it is the best place to spot the rare Palmnut Vulture which nests near the top of the palm.

The palms were introduced to Mtunzini about 100 years ago from the swamp forests of the Kosi Bay and it's one of only six palm species indigenous to South Africa.

There are many places to stay in Mtunzini. We stayed at Mtunzini Forest Lodge which is beautifully set in the forest and a birder friendly establishment.

You are guaranteed to see the purple crested turaco and white eared barbet from your balcony.






You will know from our trip reports that we do the self guide safari. For this trip we did get ourselves a bird guide and they do not come any better than Sakhamuzi Mhlongo, more about him later.


When we checked into the Umtunzini Forest Lodge the owner gave us a few pointers and told us to look out at the top of two ded trees jusy opposite the reception area as a palmnut vulture sometimes roost there for the night and dusk would be a nice time to look out for this special bird.Other specials in the area are the Mangrove Kingfisher, Green Barbet, African Finfoot, Spotted Ground Thrush, Narina Trogan, Green Twinspot and Grey Waxbill.


Our log cabin at the Mtunzini Forest Lodge






After we had unpacked and relaxed for a while we decided to take a walk to the reception area which was about half a kilometer away and we were rewarded with one of the rarities on our list, perched exactly where the manager said it would be. It was dark so not the best photos but what a thrill for us.







The next morning we met our bird guide at 6.00am and were going to bird the Umlalalazi Nature Reserve and the Ongeye Forest.


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@@xyz99, what time of the year will you be in South Africa and where in Kruger/and outside are you staying. Can give you some tips


We're going in late Aug, early Sept, because I really want to see the wildflowers in the Western Cape NP. We'll spend a few days there, a couple of days in Hermanus (whales and sharks, although we will not dive, I am more interested in photographing them), 4-5 days in Cape Town, 3 nights in Nottens and 3 in Simbavati, then a couple of nights at Victoria Falls. Can't wait!

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@@xyz99 looks good. The cape is beautiful. You will be too early for the migratory birds that come to SA during our summer but will still be able to notch up plenty.

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Anyway we met the guide at 6.00am and we were going to do the Umlalazi Reserve first. Driving through Mtunzini Village you wiill see zebra






On entering the Reserve we saw a red duiker and the guide said we could get a photo later as it is best we get to the Mangrove Swamps quickly




We were on foot now when the guide signaled us to be quiet and pointed out the mangrove kingfisher perched in a tree







It was magic to find another bird on our wish list. The engine of a motor boat broke the silence and suddenly our guide was running and asked us to follow. He xplained that the boat will disturb the finfoots that are in the area and they will head for the island. Sure enough we saw three African Finfoots - another lifer for us and pure magic. There were two together, followed by a third one






We then headed to the Ongeye Forest. The almost velvet-like grassy hills appear intermittently amongst the dense forest, occupied by tall trees that achieve 30 metres in height, and all 3903 hectares of the reserve lie on a ridge of hills overlooking the Indian Ocean. So it is good for forest and grassland birds.




Ongoye is regarded as one of the 'gems' along the Zululand Birding Route for its rather impressive 605 bird species, particularly the rare Woodward's barbet or green barbet, which is reputedly only found in one place in South Africa – Ongoye Forest. The Ongeye subspecies of the red bush squirrel, a green butterfly species and the Woody Cycad are also unique to Ongeye. The Woody Cycad is now extinct in the wild. Below is a photo of a Woody Cycad. Cycads are collected from the wild and many are now endangered. The specimen below was selling for ZAR400 000. We hear about the rhino and elephant but much of our fauna and flora are under threat





Bird specials for Ongeye are green barbet, olive woodpecker, eastern bronze naped pigeon,spotted groud thrush, yellow sreaked greenbul, green malkoha, and the striped pipit and broad tailed warbler in the grasslands. Finding the green barbet is no easy task and we would have struggled without our guide Sakhamuzi Mhlongo. If you want to see the rare birds of this area look no further than Sakhamuzi. Watch him and some of his colleagues at work in the video below




Pay attention to Dlinza forest too, we going to the Aerial Board Walk next.


@@Sharifa with Shakamuzi in the Ongeye Forest





Sakhamuzi did find us the gree barbet. Again not a very good photo as the bird kept moving in the foliage in the canopy but we had a good sighting of another lifer for us




We also ticked off the following in the forest:


Red Backed Mannikin

White Eared Barbet

Black Bellied Starlings

Terrestial Brownbulbul

Yellow Streaked Greenbul

Purple Crested Turaco

Bronze Mannikin

Yellow Rumped Timkerbird

Red Fronted Tinkerbird

Broad Tailed Warbler

Striped Pipit



and the red squirrel.


Striped Pipit





Yellow Rumped Tinkerbird




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Beautiful accomodations and environs with a great variety of birds, too! Looking forward to the rest.

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You will be too early for the migratory birds that come to SA during our summer but will still be able to notch up plenty.


That's ok....most of the SA bird will be new to me, so that will be a treat anyway. Looking forward to birds, flowers and animals, big and small.

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After Ongeye we headed back to Mtunzini and did a walk through the Raphia Palm Monument. These palms were not originally in Mtunzini but brought from Kosi Bay about 100 years ago. Looks like the Palm Nut Vultures found them ;)





We got a juvenile Palm Nut Vulture but it flew off





The Next morning we met with Sakhazumi at 6.00am and headed for the Dlinza Forest in Eshowe. Probably best known for providing birders with the opportunity to view the Spotted Ground-Thrush, the forest also offers Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Green Malkoha, Olive Woodpecker and Green Twinspot and Green Malkoha. Other species such as African Crowned Eagle, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Chorister Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul and Lemon Dove are also seen.

The forest has two trials and a beautiful boardwalk





The boardwalk leads to a viewing platform right above the canopy







We saw the green malkoha but could not get a photo. Sakhamuzi located the bird by its call and we tracked the source of the sound and found it but it flew off before we could get a photo. We also saw the green twinspot, a pretty little bird but it runs around the forest floor. Picture a rodent running on the forest floor. We followed one for about 5 minutes but it scurried around too quickly. Also a brief sighting of a Crowned Eagle as it flew across a break in the trees. Did not even get to hear a Narina Trogan. Sakhamuzi found a Eastern Bronze naped Pigeon but it flew off beofre Sharifa and I could see it.


The trail





The Eastern Spotted Ground Thrush is another one that runs around on the forest floor and it is so well camouflaged but we did get a picture or two






A chorister robin chat also sat around long enough for us to get a photo




and a lemon dove




Other birds seen were the trumpeter hornbill



brown hooded kingfisher



crowned hornbill


Edited by Panthera Pardus
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Great. Never heard of these places before and really good to read about them and see the pictures. Really look like great places to stay,

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I'm really enjoying this TR where the emphasis is on birds rather than mammals.

Thanks @@Panthera Pardus

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iMfolozi Game Reserve


From Mtunzini we went to iMfolozi which is claimed to be the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa. It is a big 5 park and also has cheetah and wild dogs. The area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu kingdom, but was established as a park in 1895.The Umfolozi and Hluhluwe reserves were established primarily to protect the white rhinoceros, then on the endangered species list.


We owe the survival of the rhino to the work of Ian Player in iMfolozi and the translocation of the rhino to Kruger. Now the rhinois under great threat again.


We were staying at Mpila camp. On the drive from the gate to the camp we saw the usual suspects








The accommodation at Mpila








The camp is not fenced and spotted hyenas have stolen meet right off the braai













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You've informed me about Ongeye. From the lists and photos it appears you had much success with the birds.

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You've informed me about Ongeye. From the lists and photos it appears you had much success with the birds.


@@Atravelynn, we found the specials of Ongeye, thanks to the great guide we had

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I have already mentioned that we owe the survival of the rhion to Dr. Ian Player and iMfolozi. Still we were surprised to see a herd of 10 white rhino -plus a calf. Could not get tehm all in the frame










The rhinos crossed the road. Something seem to be bothering them so we moved round the bend to get a better view and were surprised again. Surely she was not thinking rhino for breakfast














Then in the distance behind the rhino we could see what she was really after




but the impala were aware of her and were gone in a flash

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Some raptors we saw in iMfolozi


Jackal Buzzard








White Headed Vulture that was tagged







Tawny Eagle building a nest







African Goshawk









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In college I did some work at a wildlife rehab center, and I remember being fascinated by the stare of a great horned owl that was there...the intensity of that stare is replicated by that goshawk. Great capture!

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Later that day we were driving the Sontuli Loop and stopped for a rhino




It was then that we noticed the white fronted bee eaters








Close to where we had seen the lioness that morning we found her again but this time with another lioness and also a male. We were at a lookout point looking down into the riverbed. So we are on foot and we can see the lions, also a herd of buffalo, and on our side of the river there is a white rhino. A wonderful experience to see 3 of the big 5 like this.














The lions were eyeing impala again and one of the lionesses had another unsuccessful attempt at catching an impala















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Cape Vidal


Cape Vidal is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as Lake St. Lucia) and is a World Heritage Site. Cape Vidal is the main coastal resort and there are camps to the west bordering the lake. St Lucia Town is the entry point to this section of the reserve and it is about 30km from the gate to Cape Vidal Camp. We found the drive on the main road to the camp, the Amazibu Pan and the Amazibu Hide to be very good.


Birds we saw on the drive to the camp


Blue Cheeked Bee-eatere








Scarlet Chested Sunbird







Little Bee-eater





Hippo and that is an Osprey in the tree













Brown Snake Eagle





Long Crested Eagle




African Fish Eagle




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  • 4 weeks later...
Panthera Pardus

More Images from Cape Vidal and St. Lucia



Bronze Mannikin




Scaly Throated Honeyguide




Yellow Rumped Tinkerbird




Livingstone's Turaco




Common Reedbuck




African Jacana




Grey Heron




Crested Guinefowl








Sacred Ibis


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