North-east Zululand – Mkhuze Manyoni Private Game Reserve

About the Birding

Birders should begin their explorations of core section of Addo Elephant National Park in the areas surrounding the main camp in the north. Here it is permissible to walk around and there are several facilities that cater specifically for birdwatchers, including both a network of trails and footpaths as well as a small bird hide. Check the bulbuls carefully as both Dark-capped and Cape Bulbuls occur, though beware of hybrids which have intermediate eye-rings.

A few years later, in 2009, the reserve was formally proclaimed by the government as a Nature Reserve. Today, Manyoni is listed as one of South Africa’s top Big 5 reserves with a strong focus on conserving biodiversity. Moreover, the reserve is centrally situated in Mautaland between Hluhluwe and Mkhuze Game Reserves, placing it in one of South Africa’s richest birding hotspots. Over 472 bird species have been recorded in the area including such sought-after species as the Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird and a host of other notable species.

Impressive cliff systems along the edge of the Lebombo Mountains and overlooking the Umsunduze River and vast plains below produce thermals that attract a high diversity of birds-of-prey including the Martial, Wahlberg’s, Tawny and Crowned Eagles, as well as various vultures and Accipiters. Black Stork nest nearby and are often also sighted soaring through the region. The lawns of Leopard Mountain Lodge, perched atop one such cliff, attract a few pairs of Striped Pipits, as well as Natal Spurfowl and Crested Francolin. The bushveld areas that dominate the two reserves then host a high diversity of interesting species. The best approach to birding these areas is to follow mixed-species foraging flocks which regularly contain White-crested Helmetshrike, Bushveld Pipit (especially in winter), Grey Penduline-tit, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Green-winged Pytilia and Jameson’s Firefinch. Thickets and forest habitats support the Purple-crested Turaco, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, White-eared Barbet, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, and Eastern Nicator. Seeding grasses attract the shy Pink-throated Twinspot and Grey Waxbill. The near-endemic Neergaard’s Sunbird is best detected by its distinctive call, quite unlike the calls given by any of the other sunbirds that occur in the region.

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Bushveld Pipit

About the Birding Site

The Mkhuze area, situated just inland from iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, is world-renowned as a mecca for birders laying at the ecotone between two distinct climatic zones and supporting a high diversity of habitats. Habitats in the region include cliffs, rocky ridges and scarp forests on the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountains, through to acacia savannah, mixed woodlands and grasslands surrounding Lower Mkhuze. Numerous large pans are also scattered throughout the region and, although water-levels vary from year to year, are widely regarded as the most important waterbird breeding sites anywhere in South Africa.

This habitat diversity translates into an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species, including well in excess of 450 bird species; one of the highest lists for any region in South Africa. Among these are a number of highly sought-after localized species including the Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard’s Sunbird, and Rudd’s Apalis. Other notable mentions include the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, African Broadbill, Pink-backed Pelican, African Pygmy Goose, and Lesser Jacana. Most habitats are easily accessible at a number of sites along this sub-route and a two to five day stay is recommended in the area, with lists in excess of 200 species being a reasonable target. Birding sites along this sub-route include the Mkhuze Game Reserve (now included into the Greater iSimangaliso Wetlands Park), Leopard Mountain and Lebombo Game Reserves, and Phinda.

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Bushveld Pipit

Other Related Information

Directions:
Take the N2 freeway north until you reach the town of Mkuze. Turn to the west along the D240, then immediately south to the North Gate of Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Alternatively, roughly 25km to the south of Mkuze, turn west along the D464 to reach the southern gate to Manyoni Private Game Reserve.

Notable points of interest include the:
North gate: -27.6402, 32.0210
South gate: -27.7534, 32.1051

Other related information:

The nearest towns include:
Mkuze via the north gate: 3.4km
Hluhluwe via the south gate: 47km

Access and facilities:
Lodges within the Manyoni Private Game Reserve complex offer luxurious spa facilities as well as guided game drives and bush walks. Note that Manyoni Private Game Reserves is not open to day visitors.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Manyoni Private Game Reserves both offer a range of luxurious accommodation from luxurious 4-star rated lodges and self-catering homesteads.

For more information, please visit:
Manyoni Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)35 595 8550
Email: admin@manyoni.co.za
Website: www.manyoni.co.za
Alternatively, please consult the website of your intended lodge within Manyoni Private Game Reserve.

Local guide information:
Manyoni Private Game Reserves offer a range of guided activities, with knowledgeable trail guides.

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

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Bushveld Pipit

Contact details:

For more information, please contact at:

Manyoni Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)35 595 8550
Email: admin@manyoni.co.za
Website: www.manyoni.co.za

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