North Coast – The Zinkwazi Road and Zinkwazi Lagoon

About the Birding

Located roughly 80km to the north of Durban, the Nature Conservancy of Zinkwazi encompasses seemingly endless golden beaches flanked by tropical palms, lush indigenous coastal forests, and over 7km of untouched lagoon. Away from the river itself, the region is dominated by subtropical woodland and moist thorn-veld bordering the nearby Harold Johnson Nature Reserve. The Zulus refer to the region as ‘Zinkwazi,’ translating to ‘the home of the fish eagles’ and indeed these birds are conspicuous on the lagoon itself. More than 250 other bird species are known to occur within these forests.

Within the riverine forests – look for Black-throated Wattle-eye, both Grey and Olive Sunbirds, Crested Guineafowl (this being one of the southern most sites where the species occurs), White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped and Red-fronted Tinkerbirds, both Scaly-throated and Lesser Honeyguides, Common Square-tailed Drongo, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Green Malkoha, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, and Dark-backed Weaver. Seeding grasses attract the shy Green Twinspot and Grey Waxbill. These two species also often attend the Casuarina trees near the lagoon parking area, when in seed. The shy Spotted Ground Thrush is a fairly common winter visitor, preferring to remain on the forest floor in areas with dense leaflitter. Fruiting trees attract an abundance of Purple-crested Turaco, and both the Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills. Scan the overhanging vegetation on the Zinkwazi Lagoon for the resident pair of African Finfoot, while exposed perches overlooking quiet waters could yield both the Malachite and Half-collared Kingfishers. Mangrove Kingfisher is mainly a winter visitor in small numbers.

The Zinkwazi Lagoon often supports small numbers of waterfowl including the African Black, Yellow-billed and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, and both the Goliath and Purple Herons. The beach regularly holds a small tern roost including the Caspian, Common (mainly in summer), Little (mainly in summer), Sandwich, White-winged and Greater Crested Terns. Muddy edges to the lagoon may yield small numbers of shorebirds possibly including the Ruff, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, and Common Whimbrel.

Away from the lagoon itself, the moist thorn-veld and grasslands hold the Yellow-throated Longclaw, Shelley’s Francolin, Chinspot Batis, Mocking Cliff-chat, Striped Pipit, White-crested Helmetshrike, Violet-backed Starling, and the Golden-tailed Woodpecker.

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Crested Guineafowl, Green Malkoha, Shelley’s Francolin

About the Birding Site

The North Coast – frequently also referred to as the Dolphin Coast – extends from the city of Durban to the Tugela River mouth, located immediately to the south of Richard’s Bay. With its distinct subtropical climate, pristine and extensive beaches, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean – the region is extremely popular among holiday makers. In addition to the rich beaches, the area offers diverse cultural attractions, magnificent golf courses, and extensive nature reserves.

Further afield, the north coast (particularly Durban) is the gateway to the rest of KwaZulu-Natal offering easy access to the Drakensberg mountains, temperate midlands, and Zululand. While much of the region has been transformed into extensive sugarcane fields, the route offers several key sites of interest to birders visiting the area and an impressive checklist of birds including several of South Africa’s most sought-after specials. Among these species are the globally threatened Spotted Ground Thrush, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Finfoot, Red-headed Quelea, and Southern Bald Ibis. Wetland sites on the route also play host to rarities on an annual basis, offering exciting prospects for birders. Key sites along the route include the Dlokwane Forest, SAPPI Tranquila, Otimati, and the St. Kitts Wetlands.

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Crested Guineafowl, Green Malkoha, Shelley’s Francolin

Other Related Information

Follow the N2 freeway north from Durban in the direction of Richard’s Bay. After roughly 80km, before the Tugela River, take the exit sign-posted to Nkwazi. Turn under the highway and follow the signs to the Zinkwazi Lagoon.

Notable points of interest include the:
Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge: -29.2776, 31.4397
The nearest towns to Zinkwazi are:
Nkwazi: 8km
KwaDukuza: 24km
Durban: 86km

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
A number of short trails cover patches of coastal forest besides the Zinkwazi Lagoon, most of which begin and end at the Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge. Safe parking is available at the Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge offers a number of accommodation options, conveniently situated along the banks of the Zinkwazi Lagoon and serving as a fantastic base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Options include 13 en-suite hotel suits each equipped with twin or double beds capable of sleeping two, lagoon chalets with an open plan living area and fully-equipped kitchenette, and a basic campsite with communal braai facilities and an ablution block. For more information or to make a reservation, please use the contact details listed above.

Other diverse accommodation options are available at Zinkwazi and in the nearby town of Nkwazi. However, the nearest Birder Friendly Establishments can be found within the nearby towns of Eshowe and Mtunzini.
For more information, view:

Local guide information:
A site guide is available through the Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge and outings can be arranged through the reception using the contact details listed above. The nearest BirdLife Community Guides operate out of Mtunzini and Eshowe. For more information, please visit:

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Crested Guineafowl, Green Malkoha, Shelley’s Francolin

Contact details:

For more information, please contact:

Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)32 485 3344
Fax: +27 (0)32 485 3340