From tree top to flood plain, mountain to grassland, Zululand is a bonanza for birders.
Birding in Zululand is a heady experience. Some of the finest birding spots in South Africa are located within a few hours' drive from each other, and Zululand is a favourite haunt of both local and international bird watchers.
In the open grasslands and riverine bushveld of Ithala Game Reserve and the rolling hills around Vryheid, we find a checklist of 393 species, from the ostrich to the mannikin, and it includes threatened species such as the bald ibis and the long-crested eagle.
Whether you are an experienced birder or an enthusiastic amateur, Zululand is the ultimate place of birds.
Zululand Birding Route
Situated in Southern Zululand, this popular birding route meanders the Babanango highland, traverses the rolling hills of Melmoth, drops down to the green tranquil forests of Eshowe, continues through the coastal belt at Mtunzini and Richards Bay, and culminates in St Lucia.
The entire Route encompasses 10 different habitat types, which support some 400 bird species - more than half the total South African species. Birders may start the Route at either end, or select any combinations of the Route.
Birding day record counts achieved on the Zululand birding route have been in excess of 260 species recorded in a 24 hour period.
Making this route particularly popular are the welcoming accommodation establishments in the region, ranging from traditional country hotels to game lodges and welcoming bed and breakfast cottages.In addition, numerous well informed and experienced birders are available for advice on local species and the most favoured habitats or to act as guides in the various areas on the route.
Northern KwaZulu-Natal has a wealth of bird life and some 330 species have been recorded in the area. The region centres around the historical town of Vryheid, which is an ideal stepping off point for birders.
Zululand at Your Feet
Hiking is a superb way to explore Zululand. The region is criss-crossed with trails, many of them in nature reserves and game parks. Before setting out, ascertain the distance, degree of difficulty and the clothing and equipment required for the outing. Some trails and hikes will require prior booking, particularly those that involve overnight stops. A comprehensive guide to hiking trails in the province has been published by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, and is available free of charge from tourist information offices. There are a host of self-guided trails in Zululand, ranging from the 2 day Mkhaya Trail, between Vryheid and Pongola, to the day and overnight Tafelberg Trail in the forests near Babanango; from the 2 hour trail through the Dlinza Forest in Eshowe to the 10 km Dumbe Trail near Paulpietersberg and the 2 day Lancaster Hiking Trail in Vryheid. Battlefield trails are becoming increasingly popular, and Zululand offers hikers with an interest in military history several interesting options.