Durban Botanical Gardens

About the Birding

Covering an area of over 50 hectares, the Durban National Botanical Gardens lies at the base of Berea between the St Thomas and Sydenham Roads and boasts park-like gardens featuring many interesting plants from across South Africa and further afield. Worthy of mention are the peace and beauty of these gardens with sunny lawns, huge trees, and colourful plants in a rich forest-like setting. Additional to this is a small lake fringed with interesting plants including Papyrus, ornamental Banana, and Raffia Palms.

The small lake forms a suitable habitat for diverse waterfowl. Top among these are the Pink-backed Pelican, both Grey and Black-headed Herons, Western Cattle Egret, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, African Spoonbill, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, Common Moorhen, and a host of less common species. Between the months of December and April a large breeding colony of Pink-backed Pelicans forms on the two small islands in the lake, here at the southern breeding limit for this widespread species. Lesser Swamp Warbler, Thick-billed Weaver and Southern Red Bishop breed in the extensive reedbeds surrounding the lake while Black Crake, Red-chested Flufftail and African Swamphen are occasionally heard from the dense marshes.

The gardens themselves support an interesting assemblage of forest and woodland species, though several obvious species are missing. Key species include the Red-capped Robin-chat, Southern Black and African Paradise Flycatchers, Kurrichane Thrush, White-eared Barbet, Bar-throated Apalis, Dark-backed Weaver, Southern Boubou, Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Grey Sunbird, Olive Woodpecker, and Terrestrial Brownbul. Seeding grasses may yield the Bronze and Red-backed Mannikin, and occasionally the shy and sought-after Green Twinspot. Black Sparrowhawk regularly hunt through the gardens and at least two pairs are known to nest nearby. Southern Tchagra occurs nearby and is possible within the gardens, while Spotted Ground Thrush may wander through the area in the winter months.

Other fauna include a resident troop of Vervet Monkeys, which rain the gardens with the Ficus trichopoda trees come to fruit, and Water Mongoose in the vicinity of the small lake.

Key species:

Black Sparrowhawk, Pink-backed Pelican, Red-backed Mannikin, Red-capped Robin-chat, White-eared Barbet, Purple-crested Turaco

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 Sparrowhawk, Pink-backed Pelican, Red-backed Mannikin, Red-capped Robin-chat, White-eared Barbet, Purple-crested Turaco

Other Related Information

If approaching from the North, take the Argyle Road exit and turn north to follow Argyle Road. After several blocks, turn left into Cowey Road. Travel for roughly 1km, before turning left down Sydenham Road. After a short way, follow the signs to the right to the Visitor’s Centre.

Other related information:

Alternatively, follow the M4 north from Durban and take the Moore Road exit. Travel along Moore Road for roughly 3km before turning right into Cleaver Road. Cleaver Road merges into Botanical Gardens Road and then Edith Benson Crescent. From there, turn right into Sydenham Road and follow the signs to the visitors’ centre.

Access and facilities:
The main access is clearly signposted on Sydenham Road, with access to a protected car park next to the Visitors’ Centre. At the Visitors’ Centre, there is a curio shop, information booth, education centre and public toilets. Further in the gardens there is a small tea garden within 100 metres of the Sydenham Road gate. The Ernest Thorp Orchid House is a small colourful centre where orchids are displayed in profusion and various species can be photographed. Other features within the garden include a Garden of Senses, a Sunken Garden and a number of sculptures. The gardens also contain a section of indigenous trees and plants, a cycad collection and a fern garden.

The gardens are open between 07:30 and 17:45 daily, while the orchid house is open between 09:00 and 17:45 daily. The information offices and gift shop are open between 08:00 and 16:30 daily, and the coffee shop open between 08:00 and 16:00 daily.

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 Sparrowhawk, Pink-backed Pelican, Red-backed Mannikin, Red-capped Robin-chat, White-eared Barbet, Purple-crested Turaco

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Durban National Botanical Gardens
Tel: +27 (0)31 322 4021
Alt tel: +27 (0)68 598 1396
Alt email: