Zululand, in the KwaZulu-Natal province, is the most diverse birding region in southern Africa. Here you will find an incredible array of more than 600 recorded species that inhabit coastal, riverine, grassland, wetland, forest, woodland, cliff, gorge and valley habitats.

Did you know?

South Africa’s largest diversity of butterflies are also found in the Zululand region.

The Zululand Birding Route provides twitchers and casual birders alike access to southern Africa's most diverse and popular birding region.

Thanks to the diversity of habitats found here – coastal, estuarine, grassland, bushveld, wetland, forest, woodland, cliff, gorge and valley – Zululand teems with birds: more than 600 different species are found in the region.

The mighty Tugela River lies at the heart of Zululand, which stretches from Kranskop inland and Tinley Manor along the coast, past Umvoti and Zinkwazi in the south, to Amatikulu in the north. A choice of 16 routes provides access to the various habitats and sought-after birds such as the swamp nightjar, mangrove kingfisher and African finfoot.

From the warm coast of Zululand, between Mtunzini and Richards Bay, the southern Zululand route moves inland through estuarine swamp forest up to coastal scarp forest in the foothills of Eshowe, including the Ngoye Forest. This is where you'll find a real special - the green barbet.

A section of mist belt extends to thornveld cliffs where lanner falcon, southern bald ibis and rock kestrel breed. On foot in the forest you're likely to see blue duiker, while in the canopy samango and vervet monkeys share their spoils with bronze-naped pigeons and trumpeter hornbills.

Bounded by the Lebombo mountain range to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east is northern Zululand, with its broad-leaved woodland, seasonal pans and coastal floodplains. Here the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site offers birders access to over 420 species.

St Lucia is also popular for self-guided trails and hides. Habitats here are also varied, from the estuary and its floodplains and pans to dune forest, sand forest, coastal thickets, mangroves and grassland.

The Mkuze, Ndumo and Tembe game reserves are world-renowned birding destinations where the shy sand forest specials such as pink-throated twinspot, African broadbill, Neergard's sunbird and Rudd's apalis may be seen.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

BirdLife South Africa Birding Routes
Tel: +27 (0) 11 789 1122
Fax: +27 (0) 11 789 5188

Best time to visit

The hot, wet season - best for birding - runs from September to March.

Around the area

Visit the battle sites where much of the history of the region was moulded in bloody clashes between Boer, Brit and Zulu. These include the battle of Kambula in which more than 1 000 Zulus lost their lives.

Get around

Excellent to fair roads link all birding spots mentioned, but drivers are cautioned on gravel roads when they are wet as they can become impassable to anything but 4X4 vehicles.

What to pack

Binoculars, camera, birding reference books, comfortable walking shoes/boots, sunscreen and a hat. Insect repellent might also be handy.

Best buys

Zulu curios crafted by local communities.

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