Durban and surrounds – uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The Umhlanga River is a relatively unspoilt estuary at the northern end of Umhlanga Rocks, just to the north of Durban centre. A short trail leads through the intact dune forest and over the lagoon, covering many different habitats and offering an easy and pleasant walk.

From the main parking area, follow the trail through the Typha beds towards the staff quarters where the trail divides. The right-hand path climbs the primary dune and follows its crest towards the mouth and through a portion of magnificent Milkwood dominated dune forest.

This trail ends at the beach where one is able to walk to the lagoon. The left fork passes through a large grove of lagoon hibiscus before entering the climax dune forest where the bird birding is to be had. Search this area for Crested Guineafowl, the shy and reclusive Green Malkoha, Spotted Ground Thrush (mainly in winter), White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Grey Sunbird, Grey Waxbill and occasionally Green Twinspot. Further along, the path crosses a wooden bridge over the reed-filled lagoon. Search here for the African Yellow Warbler and Southern Brown-throated Weaver. The trail climbs the primary dune, meeting the other trail, and leading towards the river mouth.

Key species:

Green Malkoha, Spotted Ground-thrush, Olive Woodpecker, Crested Guineafowl

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:

Green Malkoha, Spotted Ground-thrush, Olive Woodpecker, Crested Guineafowl

Other Related Information

Take the N2 north out of Durban and exit onto Portland Drive. Turn right at the first T-junction and then immediately right again. Turn left into Newlands Drive immediately after driving under the M4 bridge, the left at the stop sign into Lagoon Drive. The entrance to the reserve is at the cul-de-sac at the end of the road.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.7129, 31.0922

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
The site is accessible by day visitors and all trails are marked. Safe parking is provided for up to 10 vehicles. A picnic site and toilets are provided, and numerous restaurants can be found nearby.

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:
Diverse accommodation options are also available in Umhlanga Rocks.

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:

Green Malkoha, Spotted Ground-thrush, Olive Woodpecker, Crested Guineafowl

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0)31 274 1150