Muzi Swamps or Pans are locally well known for the abundance of waterbird species that occur there. Surrounded by rural villages and forest, the swamp is a typical coastal plain wetland with patches of sedge-marsh, open water, bare shores and some floating vegetation. It is situated on the Mkhuze River floodplain, between Mkhuze Game Reserve and Lake St. Lucia. The pan system becomes a major summer residence for palaeartic waders and some afro-tropical species. The densities and diversity of birds heightens dramatically during summer and regular birding trips here can produce in excess of 120 species in a summers day.
Muzi can be reached via Hluhluwe village, up the R22 towards Sodwana Bay and Mbazwana. About 50km north of Hluhluwe you cross the Mkhuze River bridge, and two kilometers on one finds the D820 turn-off to the left. Take the turn-off and continue on for 2-3 kilometers when you come out on to a large wetland area. The roads are tarred and accessible in sedans, no 4x4’s needed.
Another way of reaching it would be along the dirt road that runs between Mkhuze Game Reserve and Phinda Resource Reserve. This road is accessed from the N2 highway, about 10km north of the Hluhluwe turn-off. A drive along this road, which reaches the main Hluhluwe-Sodwana tar road just before the Mkhuze River bridge, can be productive for Lemon-breasted Canary and Pink-throated Twinspot.
to arrange a guide.
A guided canoe trip can also be taken on the pan with trained canoe guides. These can also be booked via the Birding Route
For the Muzi pans section – the road is raised above the surrounding waters edge and provides a good viewing platform where spotting scopes are recommended equipment. Here again you can walk down to the waters edge and grassland areas and set up viewing points with scopes, etc. Bear in mind that there are large numbers of both crocodiles as well as hippopotami in pan system.
There is no accommodation available, but there are a number of private lodges in the area. Please consult the “Accommodation” pages for more details.
A wide variety of waterbirds can be seen in a short time period. The list of specials is impressive, with Pink-backed Pelican, Black Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Woolly-necked and Saddle-billed Storks, African Openbill, Comb Duck, White-backed and Fulvous Ducks, African Pgymy-goose, African Marsh-harrier, Lesser Moorhen, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Jacana, Senegal Lapwing, Greater Painted-snipe, Collared Pratincole, Caspian Tern and Black Coucal all being recorded annually.
Some of the more common species include Goliath Heron, White-faced Duck, African Jacana, African Fish Eagle and White Pelican.
Longtoed Lapwing and Rufous-bellied Heron are recorded occasionally.
A wide variety of woodland birds can also be recorded around the pans. They include Swamp Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Grey-rumped Swallow, Eastern Nicator, Bearded Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin (winter), Rudd’s Apalis, Rufous-winged and Red-faced Cisticolas, Burnt-necked Eremomela, African Yellow White-eye, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Pink-throated Twinspot and Lemon-breasted Canary. Red-billed Oxpeckers are often seen feeding on the cattle next to the pan.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Pel’s Fishing Owl can be recorded in the riverine forest, please contact the Zululand Birding Route to arrange a guide.