08 June 2014 by Christine Marot

Umgeni River Bird Park: Durban’s haven for cool and unusual birds

Birds of many a feather have been flocking together at Durban’s Umgeni River Bird Park for the past three decades.

The multi-coloured lorikeets are quite tame and readily approach visitors

With a flutter of wings and a flash of bright colour, two of Umgeni River Bird Park’s friendly lorikeets come in for a human airport landing.

These pretty birds were without doubt the highlight of my visit to the 30-year-old park. Obviously unafraid of visitors, the multi-coloured birds land on heads, shoulders and arms.

From brightly coloured parrots and macaws to burrowing owls, hornbills, cassowaries, toucans, endangered cranes, thick knees, flamingos, a large kori bustard (the heaviest bird in the world capable of flight) and numerous other species, there’s an incredible diversity of endemic and exotic birds to be appreciated.

The park was created to educate the public and share the beauty and diversity of birds, a guiding philosophy that has remained unchanged over the years.

The lorikeets are curious and unafraid of people, making for an enjoyable, interactive encounter The lorikeets are curious and unafraid of people, making for an enjoyable, interactive encounter

Designed and built by Dr Alan Abrey on the site of a disused quarry, the park opened in 1984. Today it comprises 3.5ha of tropical landscaping that is home to more than 800 birds representing 200 species, some of which are the only examples of their kind on the African continent.

Make an effort to time your visit when the free-flight bird shows are on at 11am and 2pm daily. Featuring a variety of birds from around the world, the shows are as enjoyable as they are informative.

The Education Station, with its changing exhibits, is the central focus for school groups and guided tours, for which prior booking is essential.

After meandering around the park, stop for a light refreshment break at the aptly named Cockatoo Cafe tea garden.

Find the Umgeni River Bird Park at 490 Riverside Road, Durban North, on the banks of the Umgeni River, just 10 minutes from the city centre. Follow signage from the N2 or M4 (Ruth First) highways. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm. Tickets cost R40 for adults, and R20 for children (4-12) and pensioners. Phone: +27 (0)31 579 4601.

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