Durban and surrounds – Palmiet Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Palmiet Nature Reserve in Westville is situated along the gorge of the Palmiet River and is named after the Palmiet Reed which once grew extensively along this river system. The reserve was established in 1972, driven by the local community in effort to slow housing development within the valley. A series of well-marked trails meander through the reserve covering most habitat types. The main trail, the Palmiet Trail, winds along the river through the climax coastal scarp forest.

The Nkankane and Ridge Trails climb up the gently sloping northern flank of the valley and pass through grassland dotted with many Transvaal Beech trees – a rare tree species in KwaZulu-Natal.

The forest here is dominated by tall Wild Poplar and Red Beech trees, as well as various fig species nearer the river. This habitat supports a high diversity of frugivorous species including Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-rumped and Red-fronted Tinkerbirds, White-eared Barbet and Narina Trogon. Other forest species include the Terrestrial Brownbul, Red-capped Robin-chat, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Woodpecker, and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Watch overhead for Crowned Eagle, as several pairs nest nearby and these birds often soar over the reserve at midday. Mountain Wagtail occupy the rocky sections of the Palmiet River, with an average territory size of 500m. Sandy patches along the river support clumps of peated grass and, when in seed, look out for seedeaters including the Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, and both Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins. Grassland habitats should be checked for the diminutive Little Bee-eater, Rattling Cisticola, Neddicky ad Yellow-throated Longclaw.

Key species:

Crowned Eagle, Mountain Wagtail, Grey Cuckooshrike, Green Twinspot

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:

Crowned Eagle, Mountain Wagtail, Grey Cuckooshrike, Green Twinspot

Other Related Information

The Palmiet Nature Reserve is located in Westville, which is part of the Greater eThekwini Durban Metropolitan area. It is best reached from the N3 heading west and taking the Westvill off-ramp. Head through Westville along St James Avenue and follow this road until it becomes Attercliffe Road. Then bear right into Jan Hofmeyr Road and continue down the hill. Turn left into Old New Germany Road at the Village Market Centre and follow the road down to the parking area.

Other related information:

Alternatively, from the M13 heading west to Pinetown, take the Queens Avenue/Salisburg Road. Turn right into Queens Avenue and cross the highway. Proceed along Queens Avenue, before turning left into Jan Hofmeyr Road. Drive past the Westville Hotel on your left and then turn right into Old New Germany Road. Proceed down the hill to the parking area.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.8242, 30.9261

Access and facilities:
Palmiet Nature Reserve is open to day visitors between 06:00 and 18:00. 15km of trails run through the reserve. 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:

Crowned Eagle, Mountain Wagtail, Grey Cuckooshrike, Green Twinspot

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Trustees of the Palmiet Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)31 203 7065