North-east Zululand – iSimangaliso Lake Mavuya

About the Birding

Managed by Sappi since 1989, Lake Mavuya is a large wetland and lake immediately to the south of the Monzi-Futulu Park. While much of the lake is off-limits and used by the surrounding forestry company for sugar cane and eucalyptus plantations, the southern portion has been conserved. Lake Mavuya’s catchment is the meeting place for two rivers – the Mavuya and Ntenja Rivers – and the conservation area extends over 200 hectares including a catchment area of 95 hectares.

Since 1999, the lake and surrounding wetlands have been listed as a natural heritage site given the high diversity of amphibians that the wetlands support. However, the area is also a sanctuary for no fewer than 243 species of bird including several Red Data bird species.

The dam supports a plethora of interest waterbird species including the African Pygmy Goose, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, all three teal species (Red-billed, Blue-billed and Cape), and often White-backed Duck. In winter, large numbers of both Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans visit when many of the other nearby wetlands dry. The extensive reedbeds and the damp wetland support Lesser Jacana, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, and occasionally the Rufous-bellied Heron. Overhead, watch for the Martial and Southern Banded Snake-eagles, and the Woolly-necked and Marabou Storks.

Key species:

African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Rufous-bellied Heron, Red-chested Flufftail

About the Birding Site

The iSimangaliso Wetlands Reserve has recently been proclaimed as a World Heritage Site and is one of South Africa’s oldest reserves established in 1895. The lake itself covers an area of around 38 000 hectares and is one of South Africa’s most important waterbird breeding sites. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes Mkhuze and Sodwana Bay, though these sites are treated separately. The surrounding habitats are extremely complex and varied including the estuary and its floodplains, numerous pans, dune and sand forests, coastal thickets, mangroves and grassland.

Altogether, the region is one of the most biodiverse areas in all of South Africa supporting a plethora of interesting species including as many as 420 species of birds. This includes a high number of near-endemics including the Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Woodward’s Batis as well as other sought-after species including the Southern Banded Snake-eagle, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Spotted Ground-thrush, and Rosy-throated Longclaw. A number of self-guided routes are available, including several hides, and an excellent group of local guides are based in the village of St. Lucia, which if used will make finding specials that much easier.

Key species:

African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Rufous-bellied Heron, Red-chested Flufftail

Other Related Information

From Durban or Johannesburg (via Pongola), take the N2 highway to Mtubatuba, which is situated about 100km south of the Hluhluwe offramp. Follow the St. Lucia signs. From Mtubatuba, drive for 16km and turn right at the Monzi/ Futululu signs. Travel for 7km until you cross the Mfolozi River. At the T-junction, on the southern bank of the river, turn to the west (inland) along the L79 and D780 roads. Lake Mavuya is located about 1km to the south and is accessible by following forestry tracks.

Other related information:

Notable points of interest include the:
Lake Mavuya: -28.5032, 32.2141

The nearest towns to the Lake Mavuya are:
Mtubatuba: 16km
St Lucia: 32km

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Numerous Birder Friendly Establishments are available in 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:

African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Rufous-bellied Heron, Red-chested Flufftail

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