Addo Elephant National Park – Amakhala, Lalibela, Shamwari and Pumba Private Game Reserves

About the Birding

Large portions of the reserves are blanketed in succulent thicket, in various stages of rehabilitation, as well as acacia scrub. These habitats are rich in species and will often yield the Southern Tchagra, Black Cuckooshrike, Knysna Woodpecker, Acacia Pied Barbet, Chinspot Batis and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler (Warbler). Knowledge of the calls of Southern Tchagra and Knysna Woodpecker are essential to locating these highly sought-after species. Isolated patches of evergreen forest along the small tributaries of the Bushmans River are equally productive.

Key species to look for in this habitat include the Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Dark-backed Weaver, Narina Trogon, and Grey Cuckooshrike. The rare Knysna Warbler occurs in dense thickets at the forest edge. The Bushmans River itself supports African Black Duck, White-backed Night-heron and African Finfoot.

Small wetlands across the four reserves support an interesting selection of waterfowl including the Cape Shoveler, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, and both Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese. White-faced Whistling Duck often appear in impressive numbers and are sometimes joined by the rare Fulvous Whistling Duck, Southern Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and Maccoa Duck. African Spoonbill is usually present alongside both the Black and Grey Herons, while Goliath and Purple Herons occasionally appear. Dense reedbeds support the Little Bittern, African Swamphen, Black Crake, African Rail, and Red-chested Flufftail; though seeing the latter species requires luck and patience.

Reclaimed agricultural pastures are blanketed in extensive grasslands, supporting a plethora of open-country bird species. Calls of the beautiful Bokmakierie echo throughout this habitat and, in the early morning, the birds often perch atop small bush-clumps to sun themselves. The similar-looking African and Plain-backed Pipits co-occur, testing even the most experienced birders, while other prevalent ‘LBJs’ include the Rufous-naped and Eastern Clapper Larks as well as Grey-backed, Wing-snapping and Zitting Cisticolas. Common Quail appear in abundance during the summer months and are regularly flushed from small tracks through the reserves. Several pairs of Denham’s Bustard and Secretarybird maintain year-round territories in the area and local guides often know the whereabouts of these species. The threatened White-bellied Bustard is also known from several locations in the area. Ant-eating Chats attend termite mounts, especially near the excavations of Aardvark burrows, while in the summer months Pearl-breasted Swallows fly diligently alongside vehicles in search of flushed insects.

Birds-of-prey abound across the three reserves. The impressive Martial and Crowned Eagle both nest locally and are regularly seen soaring over the reserves come midday, along with Jackal Buzzard. Pale Chanting Goshawk is conspicuous, regularly perching atop trees to survey the surrounding habitats. African Fish Eagle occur along the rivers. Other notable species include the Gabar and African Goshawks, Little and Black Sparrowhawks, Rock Kestrel, Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, and occasionally African Cuckoo Hawk.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Southern Tchagra, Knysna Turaco, African Finfoot, Secretarybird, Martial and Crowned Eagles

About the Birding Site

Since the 1990s, large areas surrounding the core area of Addo Elephant National Park have been converted into privately-run game reserves. This includes the Shamwari, Amakhala, Lalibela and Pumba Private Game Reserves which, collectively, cover an area of roughly 40 000 hectares and have earned international renown as safari destinations. These reserves fall under the Indalo Protected Environment, declared in 2018 by agreement with the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

Accordingly, an essential focus of their management is the rehabilitation of the Eastern Cape thicket ecosystem, as part of the Eastern Cape Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. Thus, key habitats within the reserves include reclaimed agricultural pastures and succulent thicket in various stages of recovery. Patches of riverine forest and several dams and wetlands are also included. High habitat diversity within the four reserves translates to an extremely high diversity of animal and bird species, beyond the ‘Big 5’ game viewing experiences for which the reserves are well known. In terms of avian diversity, some 275 species are known from these reserves including several threatened and endemic species. Top among these are the Crowned and Martial Eagles, Secretarybird, Denham’s Bustard, Black Harrier, Knysna Turaco, Bokmakierie, Chorister Robin-chat and Knysna Woodpecker.

All four reserves can be visited on organized day trips from either Port Elizabeth or Grahamstown, and several luxurious accommodation options are available for overnight visitors.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Southern Tchagra, Knysna Turaco, African Finfoot, Secretarybird, Martial and Crowned Eagles

Other Related Information

Shamwari, Amakhala, Lalibela and Pumba Private Game Reserves are all accessible off the N2 highway between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown and are well sign-posted.
Shamwari: 75 km from PE, 65 km from Grahamstown
Amakhala: 80 km from PE, 60 km from Grahamstown
Lalibela: 95 km from PE, 35 km from Grahamstown
Pumba: 110 km from PE, 20 km from Grahamstown

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Note that access to the Shamwari, Amakhala, Lalibela and Pumba Private Game Reserves is by appointment only, either for pre-arranged day trips or overnight stays at one of the many lodges. Self-driving is not permitted. A range of guided activities are also available including walking safaris, conservation centre vists, and boat trips on the Bushmans River.
The nearest fuel stations, banks, and shopping facilities are in the small villages of Colchester and Nanaga, situated along the N2 between Port Elizabeth and the entrances to three reserves. It is recommended that visitors refuel their vehicles here.

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for Shamwari, Amakhala, Lalibela or Pumba Private Game Reserves. However, guides operating through the local lodges are well-informed about the local birdlife and can be hired for day or overnight safaris within the four reserves.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours) and Wesley Gush (Amakhala Private Game Reserve)

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Southern Tchagra, Knysna Turaco, African Finfoot, Secretarybird, Martial and Crowned Eagles

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Shamwari Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)42 203 1111

Amakhala Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)41 450 5658
Tel: +27 (0)82 659 1796

Pumba Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)46 603 2000
Tel: +27 (0)41 502 3050

Lalibela Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)41 581 8170