Lowveld – Lowveld National Botanical Garden
About the Birding
Head to entrance two, turning right at the main entrance this leads one over to the original entrance to the gardens and the grace hall bridge. Some time spent patiently watching the Crocodile River from here often produces the secretive African Finfoot. Other species seen here regularly include Half-collared and Malachite Kingfishers, African Black Duck, African Darter, Green-backed Heron, and Holub’s Golden Weaver and Red-faced Cisticola are found in the riverside vegetation. Other species that are also often seen in the taller riverine vegetation near the bridge include White-browed Robin-Chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Terrestrial Brownbul, and even the odd Eastern Nicator. Purple-banded Sunbird, a forest-loving species that has recently colonized Nelspruit over the past ten years, is often found in the vicinity of the bridge in tall trees such as Matumis that like the river. This species is fairly dependable here but can also be found in other areas throughout the gardens.
About the Birding Site
Located in Nelspruit with rugged, rocky river scenery, the 159ha gardens lie in Sour Lowveld Bushveld with typical riverine forest along the river of the Crocodile and Nels Rivers. A variety of species can be found in the gardens, including African Green-Pigeon, African Finfoot, African Black Duck, Tambourine Dove, White-browed Robin-chat, Red-capped Robin-chat, Collared Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver, Yellow-breasted Apalis, and Orange-breasted Bush-shrike. The call of the Purple-crested Turaco echoes through the lush gardens. These botanical gardens are a must-stop for any birder visiting the Nelspruit area. A typical walk in the garden should produce a good list of typical Lowveld birds offering a combination of forest and water birds. The open layout with wide lawns offers good views of Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-browed Robin-Chat, Cape Robin-Chat and (and maybe White-throated Robin-Chat), Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Tambourine Dove and Purple-crested Turaco. Red-headed Weaver may also be found. Listen for Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird short call and compare it to that of the Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, very common here. Winter is a good time for Sunbirds, including Collared Sunbird and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, in the aloe section. Striped Pipit is also most commonly encountered at that time of year.
Other Related Information
There is an entry fee of R38 to access the gardens. Drive towards White River from Mbombela on the R40 and, once in Riverside Park turn right at the second traffic light. The street sign states ‘Botanical Gardens’. When you reach a T-junction at the end of the road you have a choice of two entrances but the opening time is only at 08h00. For the best birding turn right to Entrance 2.
GPS: -25.446, 30.968
Text prepared by:
Michael Meidlinger and Marc Cronje