North-east Zululand (Elephant Coast) – False Bay Park

About the Birding

False Bay Park is situated along the western shores of Lake St. Lucia and forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. This section of the park supports over 2247 hectares of sand forest, woodland, and mixed patches of open grassland and shoreline. Two trails explore the lake edge and surrounding forests, offering excellent chances for seeing the fantastic birdlife within this area.

As one enters the reserve, the road traverses mature sand forest. Stop at several places along this road and listen carefully for the calls given by mixed-species foraging flocks. These flocks are often centred by the Common Square-tailed Drongo and White-crested Helmetshrike but regularly also play host to Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Rudd’s Apalis and Eastern Nicator. Other notable forest species to look for include the shy Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Brown Scrub-robin, Red-capped Robin-chat, African Broadbill and Neergaard’s Sunbird; the latter is common at this site and is best detected by its distinctive call.

The main road leads to a picnic site at the edge of Lake St. Lucia, where it is possible to scan for waterbirds including the Goliath and Black Herons, Greater Painted Snipe and African Jacana. Depending on water-levels, the grasslands here may deliver the beautiful Rosy-throated Longclaw, while Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is regularly seen hawking insects in the summer months.

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Broadbill, Rudd’s Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot

About the Birding Site

The Zululand Birding Route in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa was the first of BirdLife South Africa’s avitourism projects and has now been running for nearly two decades. The specific objectives of this project were to promote birding tourism within northern KwaZulu-Natal, which in turn would assist in helping to conserve the birds of Zululand by giving them direct financial value. To date the birding route has trained and mentored over 35 community bird guides, making considerable progress in developing the birding infrastructure within the region.

With more than 600 species recorded, this region is also by far southern Africa’s richest birding hotspot featuring a high diversity of endemic and range-restricted species. Thus, in the interest of birding routes, the region is divided into four main regions altogether including a network of 16 self-drive routes that will thrill even the most seasoned of birders. These groupings are as follows: north-east Zululand (Elephant Coast), north-west Zululand, Southern Zululand and North Coast (Zulu Root) routes.

The north-east Zululand (Elephant Coast) route is arguably the richest route within the greater Zululand region, featuring five key bird areas as follows: Hluhluwe, iSimangaliso (St Lucia), Mkhuze, Sodwana, and Tongaland. Each of these subdivisions has its own unique character and set of special bird species though, collectively, these are widely regarded as the richest bird watching areas anywhere in South Africa.

Hluhluwe derives its name from a river, which in turn was named after the thorny monkey rope called umHluhluwe. The region is perhaps best known for the Hluhulwe-Umfolozi Park, which has been internationally acclaimed for its efforts to conserve Zululand’s rich biodiversity. Featuring the ‘Big 5’ and rated as one of the top wildlife destinations anywhere in South Africa, the Hluhulwe-Umfolozi Park also supports an incredible diversity of habitats and well over 350 bird species. Moreover, the nearby Bonamazi Game Park and the reserves on the western shores of Lake St. Lucia (False Bay Park and Falaza Game Park) offer abundant water and forest birding with great walking trails and breath-taking scenery. Understandably then, this is one of the busiest tourism areas in all of KwaZulu-Natal featuring an abundance of top-quality accommodation facilities ranging from peaceful camping sites through to luxury 5-star rated game lodges. Most sites are easily accessible, and many species are common across all the reserves within this sub-route, though several days are recommended to maximise the chances of seeing all top specials.

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Broadbill, Rudd’s Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot

Other Related Information

From Mtubatuba follow the N2 north towards Mkhuze. After about 55 km take the Hluhluwe turn-off, follow this road through the town of Hluhluwe and follow the well-marked road signs from here. False Bay Park is about 15 km further east of Hluhluwe Railway Station.

Notable points of interest include the:
False Bay camping grounds: -27.9682, 32.3804
False Bay entrance: -27.9800, 32.3538

The nearest towns to False Bay are:
Hluhluwe: 17km
St Lucia: 83km
Richard’s Bay: 115km

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
False Bay Nature Reserve is open to both day visitors and overnight visitors. Two short trails meander through the coastal forest, averaging 8km each over flat terrain. A picnic site is provided near the shores of Lake St Lucia with braai and bathroom facilities.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
False Bay Nature Reserve offers accommodation in the form of the Dukandlovu self-catering rustic camp and the False Bay camping area. Dukandlovu Rustic Camp has four huts each equipped with four beds and basic comforts. Amenities include drinking water, cold showers, firewood, and a deep freeze. Guests are required to bring their own bedding. The campsite offers views over Lake St Lucia and is popular among fishermen. Communal bathrooms are provided.
To make reservations, contact:
Cell: +27 (0)33 845 1000

Moreover, numerous Birder Friendly Establishments are available in the nearby town of Hluhluwe and St Lucia. For more information, please view Birder Friendly Establishments using the following link:

Local guide information:
Several community guides operate within the wider Hluhluwe/Mkhuze/St Lucia areas. For more information, please use the following link:

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

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Broadbill, Rudd’s Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

iSimangaliso Weltand Park
Tel: +27 (0)35 590 1663
Tel: +27 (0)35 590 1602
24-hr Emergency line: +27 (0)82 797 7944