Durban and surrounds – Bluff Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Bluff Nature Reserve was proclaimed in 1961, making it Durban’s oldest bird sanctuary. Today the reserve is controlled by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The original wetland area was divided during the construction of Tara Road, with the majority of the remaining wetland situated on the eastern flank of this major road. Water levels fluctuate substantially in the vlei, according to local rainfall patterns, and the main water-body has been known to dry in some years.

The vlei is also occasionally invaded by alien vegetation and, together, these factors are a cause of great variation in the diversity and abundance of waterfowl species present. To the west of Tara Road is a small section of the vlei, often covered with water lilies. This area adjoins a large patch of coastal forest stretching from the vlei up the hill to Wentworth Hospital.

Reedbeds surrounding the main vlei regularly support extensive roosts and breeding colonies of several species of heron and egrets, as well as African Spoonbill. Listen for the calls of Black and Baillon’s Crakes, African Rail, and African Swamphen as these species are all present throughout the year. The main waterbody supports a variety of waterfowl including Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, both Red-billed and Blue-billed Teals as well as the occasional Southern Pochard and Maccoa Duck. The surrounding thickets support Black-throated Wattle-eye, Grey Sunbird, Green Malkoha, Olive Bush-shrike, all three Mannikin species, and occasionally Spotted Ground Thrush (mainly in summer).

Key species:

Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-billed and Blue-billed Teals, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen

About the Birding Site

The eThekwini Metropolitan Area (Durban) is a major harbour city situated on the east coast of South Africa. It serves as the most accessible port of entry into the KwaZulu-Natal province with daily flights to all other major cities in South Africa, and further afield (e.g. Mauritius, Dubai). The city and surrounding towns are popular among holidaymakers, given the sub-tropical climate and extensive beaches along the rich waters of the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the city falls within a global biodiversity hotspot – the Maputaland-Pondolona-Albany (MPA) Hotspot.

This region is home to more than 7000 species of plant, more than 25% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The variety of landforms and sub-tropical climatic conditions, combined with its unique biogeographical position, have resulted in a range of aquatic (wetlands, rivers, estuaries) and terrestrial (mainly forests and coastal grasslands) environments which additionally support a plethora of interesting bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. The eThekwini area contains three of South Africa’s eight biomes (namely savanna, forest and grasslands), and supports more than 2000 plant species, 82 terrestrial mammals, 69 reptiles, 25 endemic invertebrates and well over 500 bird species – making it South Africa’s most biodiverse city, by far. To be expected then, the region offers a variety of prime birding spots featuring a number of South Africa’s most sought-after bird species. Top among these are the Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, and Knysna Woodpecker. Durban is also well known for its variety of waders and marine species, often turning up rarities such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Key sites within the eThekwini Metropolitan Area include Tala Game Reserve, Pigeon Valley and Krantzkloof Nature Reserves, Durban Bay Head and the Durban National Botanical Gardens.

In addition, as a further attraction to this rich region, the eThewkini Natural Science Museum has world-class ornithological displays and collections.

Key species:

Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-billed and Blue-billed Teals, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen

Other Related Information

Bluff Nature Reserve is situated in Tara Road, in the Bluff area near the Engen oil refinery. To reach the reserve, head south along the M4 from the City Centre. Take Mobeni/Jacobs off-ramp and turn left in Quality Street. Follow the road to the top of the hill, from where the vlei can be seen, and down the other side towards Tara Road. Turn left and immediately right into the reserve.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.9383, 30.9911

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Bluff Nature Reserve is open to day visitors between 07:00 and 19:00 and a nominal fee is charged. A small trail leads through the remnant coastal bush and reed beds to two elevated bird hides that overlook the main vlei and Typha and Phragmites reedbeds. Safe parking and toilet facilities are available.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A number of Birder Friendly Establishments are available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area including Camperdown/Kloof/Pietermaritzburg.

For more information, view:

Local guide information:
No community bird guides are currently available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-billed and Blue-billed Teals, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0)31 469 2807