Did you know?
All 3 South African crane species – blue, grey crowned and wattled – are found on the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route.
The vast Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route encompasses the province's long coastline, its verdant forests, the lowveld plains and soaring Drakensberg mountains.
With such a diversity of ecosystems, birds found on this route number in excess of 550 species, including a number of rare and endemic birds.
Twitchers will be all aflutter at the prospect of ticking off a number of species found in this region of South Africa. Some of the more popular birds to spot include the blue swallow, Drakensberg rock jumper, black-rumped buttonquail, crowned eagle, bearded vulture, Drakensberg siskin, mangrove kingfisher, southern bald ibis and various crane species.
The Creighton Valley, with its mist belt forests and grasslands, is home to the endangered Cape parrot, Knysna turaco, Barratt’s warbler, cuckoo finch and the globally threatened blue swallow. The province's Karkloof, Impendle and Weza-Ngele nature reserves support many of the same species.
With altitudes ranging from 1 600 to 3 480 metres above sea level, the Drakensberg's Sani Pass affords sightings of ground woodpecker, Cape rock thrush, bush blackcap and Gurney’s sugarbird. Higher up the escarpment, near the Lesotho plateau, keep binoculars at the ready for the southern bald ibis, black harrier, mountain pipit, lammergeier and Drakensberg siskin. Vulture feeding tables have also been set up near Sani Pass, where endangered bearded vulture and Cape vulture are regularly seen.
If birds of prey are your particular passion, don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit the Kempenveldt vulture hotspot on the Greytown road, which features a luxurious rock hide. The seclusion of the hide and the one-way-glass allows for stunning photographic opportunities.
Avitourism is alive and well along this birding route, which boasts the services of trained community bird guides and an excellent tour operation, which includes birder-friendly accommodation options. Local community bird guides are recommended as they are familiar with the area, providing valuable information on the locality of elusive species.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
BirdLife South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 789 1122
Fax: +27 (0)11 789 5188
Best time to visit
Any time of year is good for birding. If you're keen to head into the Drakensberg, be aware that it is very cold in winter (May to September), usually with snow.
Around the area
The Battlefields Route in KwaZulu-Natal introduces travellers to the historical battle sites of Rorke’s Drift, Isandlwana and Fugitives’ Drift.
Tours to do
There are many birding tours available. Contact BirdLife South Africa for further information.
Hiring your own car is best as you can explore at your own pace. But guided tours are also available, as are local community guides who know the area well.
What to pack
Birding book, binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen and comfortable walking shoes/boots.
Where to stay
Specialised birding establishments include the Clearwater Cabins and Trail Centre in Umtamvuna, Oribi Gorge Hotel and Botha House in Umdoni Park on the South Coast, and the Midlands Forest Lodge in the Midlands.