North-east Zululand – Sodwana Bay National Park

About the Birding

Controlled by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Sodwana Bay National Park is popular among holidaymakers – being one of the premier diving, snorkelling, and deep-sea fishing destinations in South Africa. The reserve is dominated by coastal forest and supports a plethora of highly desirable bird species.

The best birding areas at Sodwana are along the Ngoboseleni Trail, which starts and ends at the reception office. The trail takes approximately 3 hours to complete and is over easy terrain. Forest species to look include the Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turacos, Brown Scrub-Robin, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Green Twinspot, Woodward’s Batis, Green Malkoha, Black-bellied Starling, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Grey Waxbill and Eastern Nicator. Neergaard’s Sunbird is regular in the forest canopy and is best detected by its distinctive call, which is easily recognized from the calls of all other regular sunbirds which co-occur here. The area around the camp is good for a variety of coastal scrub birds, such as Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Collared, Grey and Olive Sunbirds, Southern Boubou, Green-backed Cameroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-backed Manikin, Tambourine Dove and African Pied Wagtail.

Ngoboseleni Lake is rich in waterfowl species and should be searched for African Pygmy Goose, Woolly-necked Stork, Goliath Heron, both Lesser and African Jacanas, and White-faced Whistling Duck.

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated and Green Twinspots, Woodward’s Batis, Green Malkoha, Brown Scrub-robin

About the Birding Site

Situated between St. Lucia to the south, and Kosi Bay to the north, the Sodwana Bay sub-route encompasses a wide range of habitats. The region is incredibly popular among holidaymakers and those seeking a thrilling excursion into one of the most untouched areas in KwaZulu-Natal. Sodwana Bay – the site for which the sub-route is perhaps best known – is one of the top 10 diving sites in the world and is the premier diving site in South Africa.

Moreover, the region is known for deep sea fishing as well as for the extensive tracts of pristine coastal habitats supporting a plethora of interesting species. Notable habitats along this sub-route include sand forest, thornveld, subtropical forests, palm savannah, and Lake Sibaya itself. Given this incredible habitat diversity, the region supports and incredibly high diversity of Zululand specials. Specials include the near-endemic Neergaard’s Sunbird, Rudd’s Apalis, Pink-throated Twinspot and Lemon-breasted Canary as well as the sought-after African Broadbill, Swamp Nightjar, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Saddle-billed Stork, Black Coucal and Collared Pratincole. Key sites along the route include Lake Sibaya and Sodwana Bay National Park, with both sites sharing similar species. Note that several days are recommended in the area to fully appreciate the beauty of this rich area, and given the difficulty of access to these sites.

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated and Green Twinspots, Woodward’s Batis, Green Malkoha, Brown Scrub-robin

Other Related Information

Directions:
Sodwana Bay is best accessed via Hluhluwe. From the N2 north of Durban, take the Hluhluwe turn-off and drive through the village. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the tar road to Mbazwana village. The reserve is signposted along the way and is situated about 100km from Hluhluwe. From the north (Johannesburg, Pongola) “Soddies” can be reached by taking the Jozini/ Ndumo/ Kosi turn-off 50km south of Pongola …

Other related information:

Directions:
The turn-off to Sodwana is situated in the village of Jozini, which is reached 20km after turning off the N2. The turn-off is signposted, but be sure not to travel over the Jozini Dam wall, as you have then gone too far. Follow this road, which becomes a dirt/ sand road for about 38km, and take the right hand turn-off to Mbazwana. It is then another 23km to Mbazwana, and a further 20km on tar road to Sodwana.
The entrance gate is managed by the iSimangaliso Wetland Authority and a community levy fee is payable upon entrance into the park. Gates are open 24/7 though the reception is open during standard business hours.

Access and facilities:
Sodwana Bay is generally considered to be one of the top diving sites in South Africa and numerous tour operators run diving and snorkelling excursions to the many pristine reefs. The region is also known as a premier fishing destination, while the detailed network of roads and trails offer access to the pristine coastal forests in the area. Note that many of the roads surrounding Sodwana and Lake Sibaya are sandy and thus require 4×4 vehicles with high clearance.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife manage a number of campsites (Gwalagwala, Retreat Camp) and log cabins near Sodwana Bay. The log cabins consist of two (4-sleeper) or three (6-sleeper) rooms and have a fully-equipped kitchenette and open plan dining and lounge area. The Gwalagwala campsite consists of 33 campsites, each with plug points. The Retreat Camp consists of 64 campsites with plug points, and 286 sites without plug points. The camp stands are capable of supporting anything between 2 and 50 people, depending on the size of the camp, and are suitable for those with boats and/or caravans.
For more information or to make a reservation, please contact:
Tel: +27 (0)35 571 0051
Email: Sodwana.reception@kznwildlife.com

Mseni Beach Lodge in Sodwana Bay is listed as a Birder Friendly Establishment. This lodge features three fully equipped cottages all of which are air-conditioned and nestled within beautiful indigenous bush. The Forest view cottage sleeps 2, the family cottages sleep 4 each and the beach house sleeps up to 10 people.
For more information or to make a reservation, please contact:
Tel: +27 (0)33 345 6531
Fax: +27 (0)33 345 8918
Cell: +27 (0)87 803 5878 / +27 (0)72 061 9672
Email: info@mseni.co.za
Email: bookings@mseni.co.za
Website: www.mseni.co.za

Local guide information:
A number of BirdLife Community Guides operate within the wider area. For more information, please visit:
https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/community-bird-guides/

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

Key species:

Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated and Green Twinspots, Woodward’s Batis, Green Malkoha, Brown Scrub-robin

Contact details:

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