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KwaZulu-Natal February 2019: sea, mountains, and birds in between


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they might just be very friendly frogs keeping warm @Atravelynn  although assuming you are right the male on top does seem to be overly ambitious . @xelas how big were they?Ii did discover, in an idle moment a website about Kwa zulu frogs and toads 




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not like a lion @xelas as they do not have any teeth!!!

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7 hours ago, xelas said:


Mating frogs?! They looked like a sleeping frogs to me :P.


It can also happen to humans :lol::lol:.

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This hide was where we spent more time of the 4 hides. It was large, and airy, and almost all the time we were the only occupants. It was also closest to the camp.




Looks like frogs do love to hang on the doors:huh:. Or was she (he?) waiting for her (his) mate ^_^.




Almost twice the size of Malibala, its waterhole attracted wider range of animals, and in larger numbers. Birds were seen at some distance but there were a couple of great finds here.






Elephants were regular visitors at any time of the day, always a joy to watch them.












Thirsty birds joined them.


Hadeda Ibis



Red-billed Oxpecker



Those Oxpeckers do love to hang on the bigger mammals; they have established a sort of community with them.








Burchell’s zebras and Nyalas comes often in groups, and here we have seen Warthogs and Baboons. They all have offspring with them so it was interesting to observe the family life of animal kingdom.

















The most attractive bird on this hide was without any doubt Dwarf Bittern.




But most funny one was Crested Guineafowl.




Nothing common in Common Waxbill, it is a lovely bird.



Edited by xelas
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On 11/22/2019 at 10:39 AM, xelas said:


In the same building is also a small shop, yet as those inside Etosha camps, also this one only has had bare necessities like ice cream and beer.


Wine?  Glad to see your priorities are similar to mine, @xelas. Looking forward to the rest. 

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Pan looked like a large lake.  Views were nice, and large body of water cooled down the air, so we liked to stay at this hide. It was only us as visitors there. 









Water birds were main highlights. Both near the water as on the water.


Green-backed Heron



African Jacana



African Pygmy Goose




In the grass, and on the trees, a few colorful birds were spotted:


Malachite Kingfisher



Southern Red Bishop



Chinspot Batis 




There was a picnic site close to the second hide, but also here signs were not allowing us to be careless enough and have a brunch. Not many yet there were hippos in the pan.









So we concentrated on birds, also those in the air.


Blue-cheeked Bee-eater



Whiskered Tern



I would love to add more stories from Mkhuze game Reserve. There were none such, the visit was all relaxed and easy and with good weather. Drives were short and roads, as said, well maintained.  Even elephants have behaved. So, probably the most exciting thing was to start the braai in the evening. Not that bad as it sounds, as not every safari needs to be filled with adrenaline rush.


Our next destination:



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Some excellent birds from the hide @xelas. The Pygmy Goose and the Malachite Kingfisher are particularly beautiful.

The Nyala are stunning 

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You saw some really excellent birds in Mkhuze @xelas!


Lovely sightings of mammals too.

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On 11/25/2019 at 2:44 AM, xelas said:


Mating frogs?! They looked like a sleeping frogs to me :P. I wonder, does the male frog also bite the female at the end, like the lion? Hmm, probably not, due to the size difference :D such a move might not get well for him.

Maybe the frogs are sleeping, but do they sleep on top of each other when there is enough room not to? 


Great birds from the hide.



Edited by Atravelynn
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Dave Williams

The hides look good and the Dwarf Bittern sighting would be very welcome indeed! Some great photos so far.

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Lovely photos from a beautiful part of the world.

Looking at your itinerary I reckon you could easily visit KZN again  - there are plenty of great spots you haven't been to yet.



Tembe elephant park

Sani Pass

Isimangaliso Wetlands / Kosi Bay

to name just a few


a short detour into Eswantini is also worthwhile 

Edited by Soukous
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Thanks, @TonyQ and @Peter Connan. Best bird photos were published on BY already, but also the second choices are not bad.


@Atravelynn and @Dave Williams, all hides in South Africa are very well constructed, and offers good birding. With enough patience and some luck, great sightings are guaranteed.


@Soukous, thanks for your ideas. Isimangaliso will be covered in next instalment (sin Kosi Bay), other locations maybe in next trip.

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This was “the beach” location I have promised to Zvezda. Not that any of us is a beachgoer, or that we need to swim each day. But being close to the ocean, on golden sand and under the hot sun, is what an average European is dreaming about when looking out of the window into the cold and usually grey winter day.


Of course, I have had no interest to waste much or our time on the beach. There is iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and I have also contacted a local birder to show us around one morning.


Arriving early we have found our home for next 3 nights easily. St.Lucia is a small town, and very much different to an average South African town we have seen before. It looks like one big resort, with nice gardens and green parks and very clean and tidy.  Small lodges, guesthouses and b&b are everywhere, and they all look nice, and have a pool, at least that is what I remember.


Town itself is easily walkable, has several markets along the main drag, and many restaurants. Only thing is, walking after the sunset is strongly advised against, as hippos are a regular users of those streets also.  There are signs at every corner to remind us of their presence. And we all know how dangerous they can be.




St.Lucia Wetlands Guest House and Bed and Breakfast - http://www.stluciawetlands.com-, as is the long name of this establishment, was warmly recommended, and it did fulfill all the expectations. Friendly owners, large room, great food, nice pool … indeed a place to be recommended also by us.













For wildlife, closer to the town is a wooded area, with a few trails on it. It is accessible by a road next to the Kingfisher Lodge. It was safe to walk it on our own during the daylight, only danger were mosquitos.  Birds were more heard than seen, though.  In the late afternoon, light was scarce under the dense foliage which reminded us of the conditions found in Costa Rica. As we are one lucky couple, a Natal Red Duiker jumped across the trail. From the birds kingdom I have selected a Red-capped Robin-Chat.






A short drive away (or a longer walk ) north is where the Estuary boardwalk begins. Several parking lots where local artisans were displaying their products. None of which was of our interest, this time.






Once outside the dense foliage, sun was strong and sky was blue! Proper beach resort style of weather. The boardwalk ends at the long sandy beach. Not for swimming, though.










The estuary is closed by a wide sand bank. Every so often they try to open the passage to the ocean but such is of short life. Ocean on one side and standing water on another creates a viable environment for birds; birding, as we have learnt ourselves, is tougher than it should be.








Close to the Estuary boardwalk, and with excellent views, is St.Lucia Ski Boat Club, a local hotspot. While in the season you do have to book in advance, there was plenty of seatings free on both evenings we stopped there to have light dinners. Food was good and beer was cold and views were great. What more one can ask for?










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I have good memories of St. Lucia and of the Ski Boat Club where we had lunch a couple of times, I could use one of the pelicans I watched while eating there for my BY :D.

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Our first full day at St.Lucia we got up early, as our day was to explore the eastern part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We have asked for a box lunch (breakfast), and lodge gave us a cooler, as there are no eating options once inside the park.


The good tar road started with Mfabeni entrance, and soon we were greeted by a family of warthogs.









First side track is named Pan Loop. While it is a loop road, the short section to the pan is one way, where the rhinos have established their right of way. These are White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum).













While rhino is a formidable force of the nature, I believe a dung beetle is stronger, gram per gram.





Next we have done a detour to Mission Rock. The road goes up a hill so down to the (rocky) beach is a short hike. Place is stunning for its natural beauty but surely no place for swimming. 








Near the parking lot is a large shady picnic place where we have opted to have our brunch.





Where the road is wedged between the ocean and St.Lucia lake is another place to stop, Catalina Bay Lookout Point. The lake was full but still at some distance so not much to photograph there.





Next turn left was to a Loop Road yet we have decided to leave it for return. A short drive towards Cape Vidal is another, unnamed loop road. Not much was seen along it.


Cape Vidalis a popular holiday destination for who is staying at St.Lucia. Plenty of shade in the parking lot, where local mechanics do regular inspections of your vehicle. Keep your doors and your windows closed!







The beach is large, sandy, and as long as one can see, and more. No shade there so BYO. Even when the season is in full swing there is plenty of space for visitors. While sun is relentless, it is always wind there, so with a shade above you, one can stay for longer. Swimming is not an option if not in the tidal pools.











On our way back we drove the Loop Road. It goes down to the grassy plains but wildlife was really scarce. 





Back on the main road, and about midway between Cape Vidal and entrance is a side track to kuMfazana hide. This is a large hide, with a viewing rooms on ground and on first floor. Really nice bathroom, but unfortunately at the time of our visit the wildlife was just not there.









This was a full day trip, we came back to St.Lucia at around 17:00. Bringing your cooler with food and drinks is essential. While the park itself does not offer a true “safari” experience it still have a fair amount of mammals and birds, and some really great views on the ocean side. Speaking of birds,  here are some we took inside the park.


Common Buzzard



European Roller



Yellow-breasted Apalis


Edited by xelas
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Well, first of all, there are some great bird photos here. I really love your shot of the Malachite Kingfisher. 


The photo of the white rhinos with the view of the white car in the foreground is impressive. I know which of the two I would choose to win in a showdown!


And the photo of the vervet monkey “mechanic” is hilarious. Definitely one to keep!



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6 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Well, first of all, there are some great bird photos here. I really love your shot of the Malachite Kingfisher. 


The photo of the white rhinos with the view of the white car in the foreground is impressive. I know which of the two I would choose to win in a showdown!


And the photo of the vervet monkey “mechanic” is hilarious. Definitely one to keep!




Thanks, Peter! 


A short story about a "showdown with rhino": the two rhinos on last photo were walking on the one-way road towards the pool, and all I could do is to drive slowly in reverse. Almost at the end they have finally decided to go off the road ... I was already half way in the grass, and no extra space behind the vehicle. Thinking if the extra insurance covers the damage done by a rhino :wacko:; at least they have had their horns removed so I could claim a truck on the parking lot did it :rolleyes:.

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To enhance our Big Year number we have contacted a local birder,  Paul van de Wall, first through the guesthouse then directly to his email (alohaspirit@telkomsa.net). He charged us a very reasonable rate, and picked us up at the guesthouse at around 6:00 in the morning (so much about my promise to Zvezda about easy birdin’).


First part we have walked to the Estuary. It was a lovely sunny day out, and Paul was a great person to chat with, plenty of stories to share. Birding, on the other side, slowly slipped to the back seat. The waders and the water birds were just too far away for taking decent photos so what we did is to enjoy the great day in the good company.



Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters



Green-backed Camaroptera



Egyptian Goose



A flock of Swift Terns with a Sandiwch Tern mixed-in




Sand bank between the ocean (left) and the estuary (right)







Happy birders: Pail (right) and Alex (left)




Second part we have browsed through the wooded area near Kingfisher Lodge. More birds here, and since it was sunny and bright, also better photos were taken.


Blue-cheeked Bee-eater close-up



Livingstone’s Turaco



A butterfly



Trumpeter Hornbill



Brown-hooded Kingfisher



Red-chested Cuckoo



Purple-banded Sunbird



It was almost midday when we finished with birding and talking.

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gorgeous shots of the birds!

enjoying this ride alongside you and Zvezda. 

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Thanks @Kitsafari! Birds are nice but those in SE Asia are even more gorgeous! One day we will fly also in that direction!

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You'll definitely have a hot welcome! 

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Boat trip is probably the biggest attraction in St.Lucia. Several companies are offering trips; we have decided to use Shakabarker Tours - http://www.shakabarker.co.za- and were happy with our decision. It was a last minute booking. They have picked us, as other participants, at our accommodation. A short drive to where the boat was moored, a quick description of what we (might) see, and off we go.




First sights were of reed birds; unfortunately not many birders were on our boat so when we stopped to watch the tail of a crocodile Zvezda gets lucky with a couple of bird shots.


Thick-billed Weaver



Yellow Weaver





When the rest of the passengers were happy with taking photos of that crocodile’s tail we continued our journey.  This is the proof that there are crocodiles in the river.





The main attraction are Hippopotamus Amphibius.A territorial bull presides over a particular stretch of the river, having control over a group of females.

While one such group can be as large as 30 individuals, we have encounter only smaller groups, up to 10 animals in each.  Boat approaches the group carefully, then it stops at a safe distance.




Hippos seemed to enjoy the coolness of the river, and by the look on their faces one would suggest they have very amicable personalities. 










Some gossip was shared among them :)






Only that at a blink of an eye the mood can change, and the formidable weapons in their mouths can sustain a severe damage.









No boat ride in Africa can be called a successful one without a good sighting of an African Fish Eagle (with a fish). 




The bonus bird was a Yellow-billed Kite.





Ride was 2 hrs long, and was a good way to cool down after a hot day on the beach. Back at the pier last bird of this day greeted us.


African Pied Wagtail



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Thank you, @xelas.

It is always a pleasure to follow your reports and admire the outstanding photos.

We visited the St Lucia area and north to Kosi Bay, Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo NR 2 years ago. We really enjoyed the abundance of bird life of the area.

This December break it is back to KZN again... 2 weeks at Mabibi beach camp with a detour through Eswatini on the way there.

I'm looking forward to the rest. 

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@Ritsgaai, glad to hear that our words and photos brings something new and enjoyable also to local experts like you. 


South Africa is such a great destination as there is so much to explore. Already Kosi Bay and Ndumo would be good for an extra week.

BTW, you might be willing to add some information about Ndumo to @Dave Williams here: 


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