Transkei – Hluleka Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Laying roughly 30Km to the south of Port St Johns, the 772 hectare Hluleka Nature Reserve is one of the Transkei’s best kept secrets. The tranquil reserve showcases an extensive pristine coastline, numerous lagoons and two lush coastal forests (the Congwane Mtombo and Nsabeni Hluleka Forest Reserves) rich in endemic species. Several days are recommended in the area to maximise chances at several difficult species.

Several trails lead through the Congwane Mtombo and Nsabeni Hluleka Forests. Time your visits to this section of the reserve with the early morning and late afternoon, when bird song is at its peak. Knysna Woodpecker is common and is best detected its high-pitched shrill call. The songs of the Brown Scrub-robin and both the Red-capped and Chorister Robin-chats echo throughout the forest understory, while Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Grey Cuckooshrike, Common Square-tailed Drongo, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, and Black-bellied Starling prefer to remain within the forest canopy. Small numbers of Spotted Ground Thrush arrive to breed during the summer months, with small numbers overwintering. Mangrove Kingfisher is sometimes also present as is best detected by its loud trilling call. Small streams support the Mountain Wagtail and quiet backwaters on the estuary itself hold small numbers of African Finfoot and possibly also White-backed Night Heron.

Time spent exploring the extensive grasslands near the reserve entrance will likely yield the Black Harrier – a fairly common species within the reserve – as well as both Yellow-throated and Cape Longclaws, Croaking Cisticola, and Broad-tailed Warbler (Fan-tailed Grassbird). Denham’s Bustard, Grey Crowned Crane and Secretarybird are sometimes present. Black-bellied Bustard – a rare bird in the Eastern Cape – is likely present in small numbers. Southern Ground Hornbill has not been seen within the reserve for several years now, but likely still occurs throughout the wider region.

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Grey Cuckooshrike

About the Birding Site

Until very recently, the vast Transkei has been the least explored region of the Eastern Cape province – extending from Kei Mouth to as far as Port Edward at the boarder of the KwaZulu-Natal province, and bound to the north by the Drakensburg Mountains. Many parts remain difficult to access, given that the region was considered as an unrecognised state for ‘separate development’ until as recently as 1994. Post-Apartheid, the Transkei was reclassified as part of the Eastern Cape though the region remains almost totally under-developed.

The Transkei convers an estimated area of 45 000Km2and includes several notable river systems, though is otherwise a generally rugged landscape blanketed by extensive grasslands and isolated forests. Large areas are of agricultural significance, mainly of a subsistence nature, and many parts suffer from decades of over-grazing. However, the region remains ecologically important for several notable reasons.

The many remnant forests along the Transkei coast are of ecological significance in that they support many localized and threatened species. Among these are the Cape Parrot, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, African Barred Owlet, Mangrove Kingfisher, and Spotted Ground Thrush. As such, most forests on the Transkei are characterized as ‘State Forests’ and have been included into provincial nature reserves. Sites of particular importance include the Manubi State Frest, Hluleka Nature Reserve, Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve and Mkhambathi Nature Reserve. Intact grasslands and wetlands further support large populations of the Wattled Crane, Yellow-breasted Pipit, and the critically endangered Rudd’s Lark. Further exploration in the region will likely deliver other exciting finds – perhaps even a relic breeding population of Egyptian Vultures!

Visits to the Transkei typically for the dedicated birder requiring considerable inside knowledge, some forethought and planning, and a level of self-reliance. However, though those willing to venture into this exciting region will certainly be rewarded with an impressive species list.

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Grey Cuckooshrike

Other Related Information

Directions:
Take the R61 south from Port St Johns and turn right towards Hluleka Nature Reserve along an unpaved road. Continue for 47km along this road, heading South, to reach the entrance to Hluleka Nature Reserve.

The nearest towns are:
Port St Johns: 78Km
Mthatha: 86Km

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
There is limited cellphone reception within the reserve and visitors are required to be entirely self-sufficient. Fishing, self-driven game drives and birding, hiking and swimming are all permitted. Note that road conditions are extremely variable and a 4×4 with high clearance is recommended.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available for Hluleka Nature Reserve. However, 7 well maintained self-catering units are available within the reserve with capabilities of sleeping a combined total of 24 people.

For reservations, contact:
The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency
Email: reservations@ecpta.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)43 492 0883
Tel: +27 (0)43 492 0884
Website: www.visiteaterncape.co.za

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for the Hluleka Nature Reserve.

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

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Grey Cuckooshrike

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency

Email: reservations@ecpta.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)43 492 0883
Tel: +27 (0)43 492 0884
Website: www.visiteaterncape.co.za

Hluleka Reserve Contact Details:

Tel: +27 (0)87 285 7784
Reserve Manager: +27 (0)79 493 3566
Admin/hospitality supervisor: +27 (0)78 608 3044/+27 (0)78 797 2886/+27 (0)82 056 2637

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