iSimangaliso Route


The Isimangaliso Wetland Park offers birders some of Zululand's best birdwatching. With over 420 Species recorded in the area, one can be assured of some great birding in one of South Africa's most bio-diverse areas. One of the great things about birding around Isimangaliso Wetland Park is the series of amazing new bird hides and boardwalks.

The Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a  World Heritage Site and one of South Africa's oldest reserves established back in 1895. It includes the conservation areas of the Eastern Shores, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Charters Creek, Fanies Island, False Bay, Phinda Resource Centre and Mkhuze Game Reserve (dealt with separately). The lake itself covers an area of about 38 000ha and is one of South Africa's most important waterbird breeding areas.
The Habitats are extremely varied from the Estuary and its Floodplains and Pans to Dune Forest, Sand Forest, Coastal thickets, Mangroves and Grassland (with flooded areas in the summer). There is also a group of excellent local guides based in Isimangaliso Wetland Park town, which if used will make finding all those specials and great trails that much easier !

Eastern Shores

The greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park wetlands reserve is a recently proclaimed world heritage site and one of South Africa's oldest reserves established back in 1895. The lake itself covers an area of about 38 000ha and is one of South Africa's most important waterbird breeding areas. The habitats are quite varied from the estuary and it's floodplains to dune forest, sand forest, coastal thickets, mangroves and grassland (with flooded areas in the summer)- all this allows for a wonderful selection of birdlife with over 420 species recorded in the area. One of the great things about birding around Isimangaliso Wetland Park are the self guided trails and hides. Birding on foot with waterbuck and reedbuck grazing in the background and hippos snorting from the pans makes for an extra special birding experience.
Access to Isimangaliso Wetland Park is only via Mtubatuba just off the N2. Follow the R618 for approx. 30km. After crossing the Estuary, follow the signs left to Cape Vidal. Just before the Cape Vidal gate, apposite the crocodile farm is a small road to the right, head down here for about 1km for the access road to the Iphiva Trail. Alternatively to reach the estuary and Gwalagwala Trail, make a left turn at the traffic circle and head through town following the signboards to Sugarloaf Campsite and KZN Wildlife offices.

Cape Vidal Road

Now tarred; the 40 Km’s is a pleasure to drive and also gives you excellent opportunities for viewing big game such as White Rhino. There is a daily limit on cars allowed into the reserve, so get there early in peak season.

The 40km's from Isimangaliso Wetland Park to Cape Vidal is certainly not boring, along the road being one of the best places to see a host of different raptors. Look out for Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagles soaring overhead. Southern Banded Snake-Eagle is best seen along here (especially on telephone poles) if you missed it at Iphiva.20km from the gate (almost opposite the Mission rocks turn-off) is the Mfazana Pan and the start of the trails for which a ranger is needed (organised from Cape Vida)l to do this trail. This area is good for seeing Chorister Robin-chat, Narina Trogon, Rudd's Apalis, White-starred Robin (in winter months) and Olive Bush-Shrike. Look out around here for African Wattled Lapwing and Osprey in summer. Closer to Cape Vidal just before the road veers left (about 4km from Cape Vidal) is the parking area for the Iboma Trail, (to do this trail you need to organise a ranger from Cape Vidal) a great little walk offering many grassland birds, including Croaking Cisticola and Rosy-throated Longclaw in the damp areas, it is also worth checking around the numerous palmtrees along the trail for roosting Swamp Nightjar. The southern portion of the trail runs runs close to the Mfabeni Swamp which you can see clearly along the road just before Cape Vidal. Red-chested Flufftail is often heard here and keep an eye open for Rufous-bellied Herons. The whole range of reed dwelling warblers can also be heard. The campsite at Cape Vidal is an excellent spot in the winter months for Spotted Ground-Thrush which feeds around the campsites. Buff-spotted Flufftails and Brown Scrub-Robins are also known to come right out and forage around the campsite (especially if you are camping close to the dune thickets). The walk up the Whale Hide is probably the easiest place to find Green Twinspots which spend their days flitting about under the casuarinas trees in front of the log cabins. The Imvubu Trail (a ranger is also needed to do this trail) which starts at the campsite is excellent. It is about 7km's long and leads through incredibly beautiful bush with great sea views and runs along the shores of Lake Bhangazi for a while. The first section of the hike through the dune forest is great for the forest specials of the KwaZulu-Natal coast, Yellowspotted Nicator, Woodward's Batis, Grey Sunbird and Green Malkoha are all easy to find. Other fairly common forest birds to look out for on the trail are Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Sunbird and African Broadbill.

iPhiva Camp and Trails

Starts at the entrance to the KZN Wildlife "Iphiva" Campsite. It can take anything up to 3 hours depending on how much time one spends birding. A permit is not required and walking the trail is free of charge, although a night camped at Iphiva will be well worth it. The Iphiva campsite is near to the crocodile farm, on the Cape Vidal road and is well signposted. On the road in, look on the telephone lines for Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters which are common in summer as well as Grey Waxbill which is often found foraging on the roadside. The trail leads at first through open grassland with flooded pans in places. The trail also leads at times through dense areas of coastal thicket and the edge of the dune forest and provides, all in all, excellent birding. One of the magic things about this trail is the abundance of small antelope, zebra and wildebeest making for quite an exciting walk. Do keep your eyes open though for crocodiles in the pans and be warned that hippos out of the water can be very dangerous.
The grassland areas are normally good all year round for Croaking Cisticolas, Yellow-throated Longclaws, Red-breasted Swallows and Grey-rumped Swallows. In the more moist summer months Rosy-throated Longclaws can be flushed from the shallow grassy edges of pans. If you are camping in the Iphiva campsite listen out at night for the Swamp Nightjar calling as well as African Wood-Owls which are fairly common around the campsite. The patches of forest thicket in the grassland are good places for spotting the Southern Banded Snake-Eagle perching in one of the bigger trees, (this is probably one of the best areas in South Africa to see this bird). Some of the deeper, more permanent pans are often covered with water lilies and these are good areas to look for African Pygmy-Goose, White-backed Ducks and Lesser Jacana, often with big mixed flocks of herons, egrets, storks and lapwings. Along the forest edge Narina Trogon and Green Malkoha are often heard calling and in the acacia thickets of the forest look out for Rudd's Apalis. The last section of the trail leads through the campsite. The more time spent birding around the campsite the better. The areas near the edge of the dunes are always great spots to see Brown Scrub-Robins which have become fairly tame here and will even come into your campsite and pick up scraps. Keep an eye out for Woodward's Batis, Square-tailed Drongo, Dark-backed Weavers, Livingstone's Turaco, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Black-Throated Wattle-eye and Eastern Nicator (which is easily heard calling from the thickets at the edges of the dune forest). Crested Guineafowl are often seen foraging around the campsites and are also fairly tame. The campsite is home to many fairly habituated bushbuck, red duiker, warthogs, banded mongoose, and watch out for the very cheeky vervet monkeys. At night hippo's and bushpig can be seen wandering amongst the campsites. There is also a short walk from the Iphiva campsite to the beach (starting just behind the youth centre) this is an excellent area for seeing most forest birds, including Olive Woodpecker, Red-faced Mousebird, Grey uckoo-Shrike, African Broadbill, African Crowned Eagle and in the early orning, Green Twinspots which are often seen along the paths at this time of day.

IgwalaGwala Trail

This short but productive trail is situated on the outskirts of the town and is easily accessible to the visitor. To get there, drive south along McKenzie Street, through the village and past the accommodation establishments. At the end of the street is a circular parking spot. Park here and follow the circular trail. The trail leads through coastal forest, and is adjacent to the St. Lucia estuary. A wide variety of species can be seen within an hour, including forest and wetland species. Check the forest mid-stratum and canopy for Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Trumpeter Hornbill, Scalythroated Honeyguide (listen out for it calling at the first T-junction of the trail as it has a calling perch nearby) Yellow-breasted Apalis, Rudds Apalis, Livingstone's Turaco, Dark-backed and Yellow Weaver, Narina Trogon, Grey, Olive and Collared Sunbirds, Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Emerald Cuckoo, Woodwards Batis and Southern Boubou. Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub Robin, Buff-spotted Flufftail, redbacked Mannikin, Grey Waxbill, Green Twinspot and Terrestrial Brownbul can be spotted on or near the ground. The short path leading down to the estuary can be worthwhile. African Fish Eagle, various kingfishers as well as terns and herons can be seen along the shores, perched in dead trees or flying over the water.
In Isimangaliso Wetland Park Village there are a number of private establishments offering accommodation for all tastes. There are also the KZN Wildlife campsites, all close to walking trails and good birding. At Cape Vidal there is a beautiful campsite as well as log cabins. Isimangaliso Wetland Park has most facilities that one might need and is very well geared for the eco-tourist. There are also numerous companies that offer guided tours and boat trips on the estuary.Your text...

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