Lowveld – Sterkspruit Road

About the Birding

Navigate to -25.275,30.534 (gravel road signed R957 Cairn). Zero your odometer at the turn-off. You can start listing birds a short distance from the R37 when you reach the first patch of grassland, 700m down the road on the righthand side. Look out for Common Waxbill, Pin-tailed Whydah, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Zitting Cisticola and specials such as small flocks of White-winged Widowbird and Fan-tailed Widowbird. Brimstone Canary regularly forages along the roadside. Other birds found here include Golden- breasted Bunting, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Helmeted Guineafowl.

At the 1km mark you cross a wetland and a strip of riparian forest. Here you could find White-browed Scrub Robin, Red-billed Firefinch, African Firefinch, White-throated Robin-chat, Green-backed Cameroptera, Marsh Warbler, Tambourine Dove, Yellow- rumped Tinkerbird, Southern Boubou and many more. Continue your drive and stop in some degraded looking woodland at the 2.3km mark. This is also one of the few sites in Mbombela where Rattling Cisticola is regularly found. Other birds to look out for here include Blue Waxbill, Neddicky, Long-billed Crombec, Chinspot Batis, Red-throated Wryneck, Brubru and Red-collared Widowbird.

At the 2.4km mark you will pass through a second strip of riparian forest and here you could find Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, the localised Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Tambourine Dove, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Red-capped Robin- chat, Cape Batis and Olive Woodpecker. Rarer birds occasionally found here include Purple-banded Sunbird, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Scaly-throated Honeyguide. The stretch of woodland at 3.1km is the only place in Mbombela where Striped Kingfisher has been found, but other good birds found here include Collared Sunbird and Bearded Woodpecker.

The road then passes under some powerlines which are worth checking. African Fish Eagle likes to perch here and on occasions Brown Snake-Eagle as well, plus smaller raptors such as Lizard Buzzard and Common Buzzard. Sometimes European Roller and numbers of European Bee-eaters congregate here too. Shortly after the powerlines you will reach an area with very tall Eucalyptus trees (around the 3.3km mark) and this is where the survey area ends. Before turning around though, check the wetland area to the right where you could find Croaking Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Bee-eater, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Red-chested Fufftail and the localised Broad-tailed Warbler. Listen out in the Eucalyptus trees here for the hard-to-see Scaly-throated Honeyguide. On your return drive you could find species missed earlier, so continue birding for the maximum list.

About the Birding Site

This could be done as a combination of walking and driving and it is recommended to stop the car and walk a bit and listen as one will see and hear more birds. Early morning is best. This bird-rich area lies along the quiet gravel road that runs parallel to the northern bank of the Crocodile River, northwest of the city centre. This road travels due west and passes through a number of different habitats, attracting a good variety of bird species. Drive slowly and make frequent stops for the best results.

Other Related Information

There is no entry fee charged to bird this area. Drive towards White River from Mbombela on the R40 and turn left at Riverside Park on the R37 towards Lydenburg/Mashishing. Take the third exit at the first traffic circle, and drive straight through the next one, heading north towards Lydenburg. Continue past the offramp onto the N4 and turn left on the gravel road signed R957 Cairn.

GPS: -25.434125, 30.949516

Text prepared by:

Extracted from Birds of Mbombela – A Comparative Study by Duncan McKenzie and Peter Lawson. Published by BirdLife Lowveld (2019).

Other related information:


The easiest access to Addo Elephant National Park is from Port Elizabeth. To reach the Matyholweni Gate, take the N2 east from Port Elizabeth for 40km. The gate itself is located a few kilometres to the north of the small village of Colchester along a well sign-posted road. Alternatively, take the Motherwell off-ramp from the N2 and follow the R335 to the left for about 50Km to enter the main gate. The main gate is 70Km north of Port Elizabeth and 15km from Addo village.

Notable points of interest include the:

Addo Elephant National Park main gate: -33.4444, 25.7383
Addo Elephant National Park main camp: -33.4434, 25.7460
Bird hide at the main camp: -33.4443, 25.7470
Underground wildlife and bird viewing hide: -33.4453, 25.7465
Reserve entrance: -33.4416, 25.7506
PPC discovery trail: -33.4427, 25.74954
River Bend Lodge: -33.4260880119258, 25.75315138742868
Jack’s Picnic site: -33.5168, 25.7615
Spekboom tented camp: -33.5126, 25.7535
Matyholweni gate: -33.6804, 25.7992

The nearest towns to the main rest camp at Addo Elephant National Park are:
Addo: 16Km
Paterson: 27Km
Uitenhage: 55Km
Port Elizabeth: 70Km
Colchester: 41Km

Access and facilities:

Gate times vary seasonally (Apr-Sept: 06:00-18:00; Oct-Mar: 05:30-18:30), and standard national park conservation fees apply. Wild Cards are accepted for both day visitors and overnight stays. Note that accommodations are mostly of a self-catering nature, however there is a small restaurant and convenience shop at the main rest camp. Various shopping facilities are available in Port Elizabeth and the nearby villages of Colchester and Addo. A fuel station is provided at the main rest camp for your convenience, though it is advisable to top up in either Colchester or Addo prior to entering the park itself. A selection of activities are available through the lodges in Addo Elephant National Park including game drives, walking safaris, horse trails and elephant back safaris. However, self-driven tours are permissible.

Contact details:
Addo Elephant National Park
PO Box 52, Addo, 6105
Tel: +27 (0)42 233 8600
Fax: +27 (0)42 233 8643
Email: addoenquiries@sanparks.org

For more information, visit: www.addoelephantpark.com

For bookings, visit: www.sanparks.org

SANPARKS head office
Tel: +27 (0)12 426 5000

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency
17-25 Oxford Street
East London CBD
Tel: 043 492 0081
Email: info@ecpta.co.za

Recommended accommodation nearby:

The nearest Birder Friendly Establishment is within the Nytathi private concession of Addo Elephant National Park. Through River Bend Lodge, one has private access to over 14 000 hectares and over 332 species are known to occur in this section of the park. Guided birding activities are on offer. For more information, or to make a reservation, contact:

River Bend Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)42 233 8000
Fax: +27 (0)42 233 8028
Email: reservations@riverbendlodge.co.za


A range of self-catering accommodation options are available through SANPARKS, mainly at the Addo Main Camp and the Spekboom tented camp. Accommodation options include luxury guest houses, chalets, rondavels, and both caravan and camping sites. Gorah Elephant Camp offers high-end accommodation options, located in private concessions within the park and with limited access to standard Addo visitors.

To reserve accommodations at the main camp, contact:

SANPARKS reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Fax: +27 (0)12 426 5500

Alternatively, to reserve accommodations at Gorah Elephant Camp, visit: https://gorah.hunterhotels.com/

Local guide information:

No local guides are currently available for Addo Elephant National Park, though a range of guided activities are available through the Main Camp and private lodges.

Text prepared by:

Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

White-winged Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Brimstone Canary, White-throated Robin-chat, Marsh Warbler, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Rattling Cisticola, Brown-backed Honeybird, Cape Batis, Olive Woodpecker, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Red-chested Flufftail.