If birds are your thing, the Weza-Ngele forest in KwaZulu-Natal is a must-visit. The rare Cape parrot, orange ground-thrush and bush blackcap are just three birds that are worth spotting. The afromontane forest habitat aside, there are also grassland and wetland habitats with different birds to spot.

Did you know?

The female Cape parrot sports a bright orange patch on its forehead.

The Weza-Ngele Forest is one of the largest expanses of afromontane forest in KwaZulu-Natal and home to a number of rare birds.

Afromontane means 'African mountain' and such mist-belt forests sustain large trees such as yellowwood, Natal krantz ash, red stinkwood, sneezewood, forest elder and forest tree fern. However, it’s not the flora that provides the real attraction here, it’s the beautiful birds that have made this forest ecosystem their home.

Although there are a number of common wetland and grassland birds to be found, it is the forest birds that draw travellers armed with binoculars and bird lists. More than 220 bird species are found in the region, with around 70 of these living in the forest itself.

The Weza-Ngele forest boasts a small population of one of Africa’s most endangered birds, the endemic Cape parrot, of which less than 500 remain in the wild. Other sought-after birds include the orange ground-thrush and bush blackcap.

An overnight stay with a start at dawn offers the best overview of the birds found here. But do include a late afternoon ramble to a good vantage point overlooking the forest canopy to spot the Cape parrots as they fly to favourite roosting sites.

There are a couple of well-marked short trails in the lower reaches of the forest, but, for the more serious birders, a half-day circular hike through the forest offers the best birding as it spans the full altitudinal range of the forest. At the summit of this trail you’re likely to spot red-winged francolin and black-winged lapwing in the grasslands.

There are many other characteristic forest species to be found here, including the lemon dove, Knysna turaco, African emerald cuckoo, trumpeter hornbill and swee waxbill.

Tired of craning your neck to look up into the lofty branches? Peer into the lower branches and you might spot one of the dwarf chameleons (related to the black-headed dwarf chameleon) that also live here.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Ingeli Forest Lodge
Phone: +27 (0)39 553 0600
Email: i-hotel@venturenet.co.za
Web: www.ingeliforestlodge.com

How to get here

The Weza-Ngele forest straddles the N2 between Kokstad and Harding in southern KwaZulu-Natal. It's 28km west of Harding.

Get around

A number of short and long walking trails provide access to the forest.

What will it cost

A day-permit costs R4 per person and includes a bird list and map.

Length of stay

Forest walks range from an hour to a half-day but best would be to stay overnight so one can enjoy an early morning hike through the forest.

What to pack

Don't forget your birding book and a good pair of binoculars.

Where to stay

The Ingeli Forest Lodge is found on the edge of the forest and is signposted from the N2.