North-east Zululand – Tongaland Tshanini Community Nature Reserve

About the Birding

This section of road from Tembe Elephant Park to Kosi Bay has two good birding spots on it.

The Nyanyani Pan is a large seasonal pan situated 8km before the village of Manguzi, and about 17km from the Tembe turn-off. It covers both sides of the tar road, but the southern side is most extensive. This pan regularly holds thousands of waterbirds, especially during the dry winter months when many of the smaller pans dry and on the proviso that there is sufficient water throughout the winter.

Many egrets and herons occur including the Goliath, Purple, and Black Herons as well as the Great, Little and occasionally Intermediate Egrets. Rufous-bellied Heron are irregular visitors to the site, though this is one of the more reliable sites for the species in South Africa. Pink-backed Pelicans wander in after food, and one can normally spot at least two African Fish Eagles sitting on poles. African and Lesser Jacana are fairly common, while the Lesser Moorhen and Allen’s Gallinule skulk through the abundant sedges in the summer months. Waterfowl are abundant and often include the Red-billed and Blue-billed Teals, African Pygmy Goose, Cape Shoveler, Fulvous Whistling Duck, White-backed Duck and Spur-winged Goose. The surrounding grasslands frequently host Rosy-throated Longclaw, Caspian Plover (irregular summer visitor), Common Waxbill and Grey-rumped Swallow.

Manguzi Forest is a small patch of remnant dry sand forest supporting the full compliment of Zululand specials. Although not easily reached, this is a fantastic site to search for the Blue-mantled Crested and Paradise Flycatchers, Woodward’s Batis, Dark-backed Weaver, Eastern Nicator, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Green-backed Cameroptera, Collared Sunbird, Common Square-tailed Drongo, Olive Sunbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Lesser Honeyguide, Red-billed Firefinch, Green and Pink-throated Twinspots, and both the Rudd’s and Yellow-breasted Apalis. The uncommon Plain-backed Sunbird is known to occur, though is more easily seen at the nearby Tembe Elephant Park.

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s and Plain-backed Sunbirds, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Finfoot, Narina Trogon

About the Birding Site

Tongaland describes the extreme North-eastern corner of Kwazulu-Natal bordering Mozambique to the north and flanked to the east and west by the Lebombo Mountains and Indian Ocean, respectively. Much of the region is drained by the Phongolo and Mkhuze Rivers and the area is dominated by the respective floodplains of these two rivers (as well as their tributaries) and is characterised by many shallow pans, Lala palm savannah and bush/forest clumps.

Riverine forest borders some of the larger pans and streams, while the coastal stretch is blanketed in coastal dune forest. As the region is situated in the sub-tropical plain on the east coast, the area is extremely biodiverse and supports many species not found elsewhere in South Africa. Tropical species, both marine and inland, are also regular to this region and can be found nowhere else in South Africa.

Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park are perhaps the two premier sites along this sub-route, with the former boasting the highest bird list for any protected reserve in South Africa. Together, these are the premier destinations in South Africa for the full complement of sand forest specials including the Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard’s and Plain-backed Sunbirds, Rudd’s Apalis, and African Broadbill. Waterbirds such as the African Pygmy Goose and Lesser Jacana can be common on the floodplains, while the surrounding habitat support impressive numbers of Pel’s Fishing Owl, Palmnut Vulture, Lemon-breasted Canary, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Black-throated Wattle-eye. Access to these two reserves is extremely good, implying that they are extremely rewarding destinations to visit, while some of the other destinations on the sub-route are less accessible and offer more of an adventurous feel. Other sites on the birding route include Kosi Bay and the Tshanini Community Nature Reserve.

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s and Plain-backed Sunbirds, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Finfoot, Narina Trogon

Other Related Information

To reach the Manguzi Forest – traveling west from Manguzi, turn right exactly 1km from the main tar road/ police station turn-off. A sand track leads up through rural settlements. Follow a fence (on your left) for 500m and take the left split in the track. 600m later the track splits again – take the left fork. After 400m the track splits again, and again turn left. This leads straight into the KZN Wildlife Ranger’s outpost, where permission must be obtained to enter …

Other related information:

… The reserve is accessible with a two-wheel drive vehicle in winter, but a vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended for summer.

Once parked, exit the gate on foot, turn left and follow the fence for about 15m. A track leads off into the forest where the Ranger’s outpost fence ends. Follow this path through the forest, till you exit on the other side. On exiting, turn right and follow the fence back to the Ranger’s outpost.
Notable points of interest include the:
Nyanyani Pan: -27.0280, 32.6687
Manguizi Forest: -26.9938, 32.7278

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearby Tembe Elephant Park offers luxury tented accommodation, each located with maximum privacy and seclusion. The luxury tents feature an outdoor shower. A public dining area is located near the main reception area in a magnificent setting. For more information, or to make a reservation, please contact:
Tel: +27 (0)31 267 0144
Fax: +27 (0)31 266 8718
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishments are in Kosi Bay, Sodwana and Ndumo. For more information, please visit:

Local guide information:
A number of BirdLife Community Guides operate throughout Zululand. For more information, please visit:

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

Key species:

Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s and Plain-backed Sunbirds, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Finfoot, Narina Trogon

Contact details: