South Coast – Lake Eland Game Reserve

About the Birding

Lake Eland Game Reserve is a private reserve, roughly 5000 hectares in size, and is dominated by rolling grassy hills and valley bushveld. The Umzimkulwana River runs through the reserve and a large dam has been constructed on one of its tributaries. The area known as Hell’s Gate consists of a deep gorge with steep rocky cliffs on either side. Birdlife is prolific throughout the reserve and numerous game animals have been introduced into the area.

Most of the reserve is blanketed in rich coastal grasslands which support both the Red-winged and Shelley’s Francolins. Neither of these species are particularly uncommon, but both are difficult to spot and are best detected by following their loud calls in the early mornings. Other grassland species include both the Yellow-throated and Cape Longclaws, Lazy Cisticola, Grey Crowned Crane, Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Grassbird, Familiar Chat and Streaky-headed Seedeater. In the valley bushveld and riverine habitats – look for the Black and Grey Cuckooshrikes, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Southern Tchagra, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Olive Sunbird, Cape Batis, and both the Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills. The near-endemic South African Shelduck occurs on the dam. Cliffs running through Hell’s Gate occasionally host nesting raptors.

Key species:

Shelley’s and Red-winged Francolins, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Tchagra

About the Birding Site

The South Coast Birding Route in KwaZulu-Natal – spanning from Durban to the southern provincial border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape – comprises a variety of rich sub-tropical habitats ranging from coastal and inland wetlands to extensive grasslands, woodlands and forests. The forest birding to be had in this region is arguably some of the best anywhere in South Africa, featuring an interesting community of birds that is intermediate between the rich afromontane and coastal forests.

It is the only route within KwaZulu-Natal where these two diverse forest assemblages overlap and, for this reason, birding in this area is extremely rewarding. Several species reach their northernmost limits within this route including the sought-after Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Warbler, while other notable highlights include the Magpie Mannikin, Knynsa Turaco, and Red-headed Quelea. Moreover, the route boasts many of KwaZulu-Natal’s most revered birding sites including Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve and the Weza-Ngele Forest among others. Several days are recommended in the area to afford yourself with the best chances of finding the most sought-after species.

Key species:

Shelley’s and Red-winged Francolins, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Tchagra

Other Related Information

Take the main N2 highway from Port Shepstone to Kokstad. The turnoff to Oribi Gorge is 21km from Port Shepstone. Turn right and follow the road through the gorge to the top on the far side. At the T-junction turn left and follow the tarred road for a few kilometres till you meet a good gravel road, the entrance to Lake Eland reserve is well marked on the left-hand side of the road a short distance from the end of the tar.

Other related information:

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -30.6930, 30.1790

The nearest towns to Lake Eland Game Reserve include:
Port Shepstone: 41km
Kokstad: 117km

Access and facilities:
Amenities consist of a restaurant/pub with a curio shop and shady picnic sites with basic ablution facilities, situated at scenic spots along the extensive network of game viewing tracks that allow access to remoter parts of the reserve. A lookout point and adrenalin stirring suspension bridge over a section of the gorge are popular sites to visit.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Basic accommodation options (camping and chalets) are available at the nearby Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

For more information, contact:
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)33 845 1000
Fax: +27 (0)33 845 1001

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

Local guide information:
A BirdLife Community Guide operates out of Umtamvuna Nature Reserve and Oribi Gorge. For more information, please contact: Mpendulo Innocent Mzindle on cell: +27 (0)73 893 0241. Alternatively, please visit:

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

Key species:

Shelley’s and Red-winged Francolins, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Tchagra

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Cell: +27 (0)83 257 9468