Transkei – Wild Coast Sun and the KZN border

About the Birding

Relatively under-explored, the coastal border between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces has gained appreciation in recent years for the plethora of species not possible anywhere else in the Eastern Cape. Time spent here requires a dedicated trip, given that the area is closer to Durban than any accessible port of entry into the Eastern Cape. However, those willing to venture into this remote region will certainly be rewarded with an impressive list of provincial species! Several days are recommended to do the area proper justice.

Much of the area is blanketed in coastal grasslands. Here, both the Cape and Yellow-throated Longclaws co-occur and are often seen side-by-side. Little Bee-eater has been recorded in small numbers, at the extreme southern limit of its range, along with Black-bellied Bustard. The Plain-backed and African Pipits are abundant in heavily grazed sections, while the Pale-crowned and Croaking Cisticolas prefer thicker tussock grassland. Search damp areas for Rufous-winged Cisticola – yet another species found here at the extreme southern limit of its range – as well as the beautiful Orange-breasted Waxbill. The African Grass and Marsh Owls appear in such habitats after dark, together with the scarce Swamp Nightjar. Black-rumped Buttonquail have been flushed from this area though seeing this species requires immeasurable luck. Southern Ground Hornbill also persist in small numbers.

Rich forests line the banks of the Mtamvuna River and the grounds of the Wild Coast Sun Hotel. Time spent exploring these areas should yield the Kurrichane Thrush, Grey Waxbill, Green Twinspot, Red-backed and Magpie Mannikins, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, White-bellied Sunbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, White-eared Barbet, Natal Spurfowl, Purple-crested Turaco and both the Violet-backed and Black-bellied Starlings. Green Malkoha has also recently been discovered in this area, though knowledge of this species’ unusual insect-like call is essential to locating them. The beautiful Gorgeous Bush-shrike is also suspected to occur at the extreme southern limit of its distribution.

Key species:

Purple-crested Turaco, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Green Malkoha, White-bellied Sunbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Green Twinspot

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 border 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:

Purple-crested Turaco, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Green Malkoha, White-bellied Sunbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Green Twinspot

Other Related Information

Directions:
From Mthatha, travel north along the N2 in the direction of Kokstad. Shortly before the provincial boarder, head south along the R394 and then the R61 to reach Port Edward. The Wild Coast Sun is located on the southern banks of the Mtamvuna River. Use the Wild Coast Sun as a base to explore the surrounding region though be advised that a 4×4 with high clearance is advised if you intend to explore the community roads.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
A wide range of activities and attractions are available at the Wild Coast Sun Resort and Casino including guided tours of the river, a spa, ten pin bowling, and a large golf course.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available for Wild Coast Sun region and the provincial boarder with KwaZulu-Natal. However, a range of accommodation options are available in the coastal village of Port Edward to suit a range of budgets and requirements.
The Wild Coast Sun also offers reasonable accommodation.

For reservations, contact:
Sun International Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)11 780 7855
Email: crobook@suninternational.com
Website: www.suninternational.com

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for the Wild Coast Sun and the KZN boarder.

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

Key species:

Purple-crested Turaco, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black-bellied Bustard, Green Malkoha, White-bellied Sunbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Green Twinspot

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Wild Coast Sun Resort and Casino

Tel: +27 (0)39 305 9111
Email: wildcoastmvg@suninternational.com
Website: www.suninternational.com/wild-coast-sun/

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