North-west Zululand – Ulundi Mangeni Falls

About the Birding

The Mangeni Falls are situated on a tributary of the White Umfolozi River, west of Babanango. The waterfall has eroded through soft sandstone and has formed an impressive gorge, which is heavily wooded in places. Further afield, the area is dominated by vast open grasslands and rural settlements.

The waterfall and gorge are home to a number of rock associated species. Southern Bald Ibis roost near the falls; look out for them on any burnt areas in winter. Verreaux’s Eagle breed on the cliffs just below the falls, as do Rock Kestrel and Lanner Falcon. Mocking Cliff-chat, Cape Rock Thrush, Mountain Wheatear and Familiar Chat can all be seen on the rocks. Alpine and African Black Swifts breed here in summer, their loud piercing calls echoing in the gorge. Scan the surrounding grasslands for African Quailfinch, Spike-heeled Lark, Cape Crow, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird and White Stork. The river, when high enough, can be searched for African Black Duck. The bushes on the slopes are home to Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Bar-throated Apalis and provide food for Red-winged Starlings.

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird

About the Birding Site

North-west Zululand is one of the most varied of the birding routes in KwaZulu-Natal ranging in habitat from high altitude temperate grasslands in the west, to low lying subtropical thickets in the east including several large wetlands. Given this incredibly high habitat diversity, it is no surprise that the route also boasts an impressive checklist of birds including 58 of Southern Africa’s endemic and near-endemic species, many of which are confined to the extensive grasslands and wetlands.

Birding is generally best in the warmer summer months (September-April) when the resident species are supplemented by the influx of migrants, though the dry winter months often facilitate large congregations of birds around several nationally important wetlands. Many sites on the route are easy to access on fair roads though drivers are cautioned that gravel roads may become impassable during the wet season limiting access to a few sites. Moreover, given the size of the sub-route in general, the region is further divided into five distinct birding areas each treated individually. These include the Louwsberg, Pongola, Ulundi, Umfolozi, and Vryheid areas.

The town of Ulundi is situated at the very centre of Zululand, between Melmoth and Vryheid, and boasts some of the richest cultural history anywhere in South Africa. Several notable battlefields, royal residences and provincial government buildings are distributed throughout the region. Ulundi itself is located within the White Umfolozi Valley and is bordered by rolling hills and thorn-tree plains. The region is not that well explored – in a birding sense – but boasts some of the richest habitats where a diverse array of thornveld and grassland species may be found. Sites of potential interest include the Ondini Cultural Site, Opathe Game Reserve, Emakhosini Heritage Site, Zulu Rock Safaris and Mangeni Falls.

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird

Other Related Information

The waterfall is difficult to reach and is best accessed with a vehicle with high ground clearance. From Babanango, drive west on the R68 towards Dundee. Turn left after 31.5km at the sign marked “Qudeni”. Follow this gravel road for 14.7km, and turn right at the sign “Mangeni”. Travel a further 6.5km and turn left towards a few distant buildings. Cross the concrete bridge and then turn right onto a track immediately after crossing …

Other related information:

… Proceed with this track for about 500m, and park the vehicle at one of the side-tracks that lead towards the valley on the right (which is visible from far away). It might be a good idea to pop in at the police station and inform them of your visit before parking at the falls. To reach it, carry on with the road after crossing the low-level concrete bridge, and take the right had split in the road that leads to the station. Luckily the area is all open grassland and all these landmarks can be seen from a distance.

Notable points of interest include the:
Mangeni Falls: -28.4618, 30.7667
The nearest towns to Mangeni Falls are:
Dundee: 72km
Melmoth: 103km

Access and facilities:
Access to Mangeni Falls is difficult and birders should be well prepared when visiting this site. Note that 4×4 vehicles with high clearance are mandatory.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishments are in the village of Eshowe. For more information, please visit:

Local guide information:
The nearest BirdLife Community Guides operate out of the nearby villages of Eshowe and Nkandla. For more information, please visit:

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

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird

Contact details: