Trip report - Eastern South Africa Part 1

To: "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Trip report - Eastern South Africa Part 1
From: "John McAllister" <>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 15:11:10 +0200
Hi everyone

The following is a report on  GREAT winter birding trip I went on to KZN
(the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in June this year.  I know that
this is not about Aussie birds, but Aussie birders often come over this way
some of you at least may find this of interest.  I'll keep parts 2 and 3
for a few days and if the flak's not too heavy I'll post them later.

I had never done a birding trip to northern KwaZulu-Natal in mid-winter
before so was quite keen to see what we would find.  My forecast was that we
would see  251 species on the 9-day trip.  In the event we saw a total of
247 species so my "guesstimate" was not too far out.  One feature which was
quite challenging was that many of the birds were not calling or displaying
so these identification aids were often not available to us.  In the case of
grassland species this meant that we had to find a way around the
"indistinguishable from species xxxx when not displaying" cop out so often
found in the South African birding field guides.  A great advantage of
winter birding of course is that dawn cracks at a more reasonable hour :)

As someone who has had the privelige of taking disabled birders around Kenya
though it always saddens me to see how seldom our accommodation providers in
the country areas provide any sort of facilities for these visitors.

Participants were Ros Alexander from Morningside, Gisela Ortner from
Robindale, John Bradshaw from Sasolburg, Jeanne Thomas from Randpark Ridge
and John McAllister form Wakkerstroom.


6 double rooms
tel./fax.: +27 (0)36 631 3307
Hosts:: Rose and Chris du Toit
Accessibility: One bedroom is wheelchair friendly, but there are no rails at
the bath.  Rose tells me that they plan on making at least one other bedroom
accessible to wheelchair users in the near future.  All public rooms are
wheelchair friendly

This guest house is now under new management and was a very pleasant
surprise.  Although not a birder herself Rose is very helpful and willing to
provide great packed brunches to birders who wish to leave at ungodly hours.
Our pre-dawn departure did not phase Rose and she was up to ensure that our
brunch was freshly packed.  Although dawn was rather late in winter she
assures me that she would do the same for early birders in summer.  The
rooms were of a high standard and all were en suite.  There is a bar with an
honour system and a lounge for guests (and for birders to complete their day
lists). In conclusion I can happily recommend Naunton to all visiting

4 double rooms
tel./fax. +27 (0)35 474 5128
Hosts  Bev and Rob Clack
Accessibility: None of the rooms or facilities are wheelchair friendly.

As always the welcome was very warm and friendly.  Again, although not
birders themselves, Rob and Bev are always willing to help birders wherever
they can.  Breakfasts are a very flexible affair and can be arranged to suit
birders going birding at the nearby Dlinza Forest before breakfast and
returning at very vague times.  For those going further afield Bev is happy
to provide an adequate packed breakfast.  The only public facilities
available to birders are in the rather "intimate" dining area.  These are
adequate for filling in day lists, but rainy days may be a bit difficult.
All rooms are en suite.  Once again I can recommend Dew Drop Inn to visiting
birders although the lack of a lounge for guests could be problematic at
times.  In fairness though the Dew Drop Inn is essentially a Bed and
Breakfast operation and guests would not normally be resident during the

6 double rooms and 1 family unit
tel./fax. +27 (0)35 590 1015
Hosts  Wayne and Rehet
Accessibility: None of the rooms or facilities are totally wheelchair
friendly.  Some rooms have only one small step up however that could be
"jumped" by some wheelchair users.  Toilets are accessible, but baths and
showers are not.  The out door dining facilities are also accessible to many
wheelchair users, but the indoor dining facilities are not.

This lodge is beautifully situated on the estuary adjacent to the Gwalagwala
Forest Walk and is a must for birders.  Livingstone's Turaco is a garden
bird!  The rooms all have en suite facilities and look out onto the
beautiful gardens.  There are good public facilities for guests.  Once again
breakfasts are flexible affairs which cater well for birders needs.
Although we did not take packed breakfasts Rehet assures me that these are
readily available.  Rehet is also happy to make reservations for birders or
non-birding partners on or at any of St Lucia's other facilities.  I have no
hesitation in thoroughly recommending Kingfisher Lodge to any visiting

LALAPANZI CAMP Bonamanzi Game Farm
26 double rooms
Tel. +27 (0)35 562 0181
Fax. +27 (0)35 562 0143
Owners: Mondi Forests
Accessibility: None of the rooms or facilities are wheelchair friendly.

As a world-famous site for African Broadbill and the southern African
near-endemic Lemon-breasted Canary, Bonamanzi probably needs very little
introduction to birders.  We (with the exception of myself) stayed at
Lalapanzi Camp and had our meals at the Bush Kitchen.  I stayed in one of
the well-known Tree Houses (No. 5 to be precise) which are fully equipped
self-catering units for two (I ate at the Bush Kitchen nevertheless).  As
usual the accommodation and the food was excellent.  The units seem to have
been refurbished recently and the tap water is now potable and safe to
drink.  Bonamanzi is of course a very birder oriented Game Farm and I find
it quite strange that they don't employ a resident bird guide as do most of
the East African lodges (I might be available guys :)).  Once again I
thoroughly recommend a stay at Bonamanzi for any birder.

MANTUMA CAMP, Mkhuze Game Reserve
A wide range of self-catering accommodation from campsites to well-equipped
Tel. Central Reservations +27 (0)33 845 1000; Reserve +27 (0)35 573 0003
Fax. Central Reservations +27 (0)33 845-1007
Owners: KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife
Accessibility: None of the rooms or facilities are wheelchair friendly and
this may well be a breach of the South African Constitution for a Government
owned facility.

As a birding destination Mkhuze needs no introduction and is a must for all
visiting birders.  We stayed in a well-appointed 7-bedded (3 bedrooms)
chalet which was fully equipped for self-catering.  Ablution facilities
comprised separate bath, shower and toilet facilities which proved to be
adequate for our purposes but one can imagine times when this may well not
be so.  While the accommodation facilities at the reserve are still adequate
they seem to have gone downhill in recent years.  This probably reflects
declining budgets for state-owned conservation facilities in South Africa as
much as anything else.  I would nevertheless still recommend that birders
stay in the reserve rather than at any of the no doubt excellent lodges in
the surrounding area.  It is a great pity though that KZN Wildlife has seen
fit to cease offering guests cooks to prepare their food.  Self-catering
often proves to be a non-viable option for foreign visitors in particular.
One would also think that South Africa needs to create jobs - not get rid of

Four double rooms in main house and one double room in the garden cottage
For bookings: e-mail: 
Tel. +27 (0)17 730 0427
Fax.+27 (0)17 730-0668
Accessibility: None of the rooms or facilities are wheelchair friendly.

Wakkerstroom Farm Lodge is situated around 6 km outside Wakkerstroom and
bookings are taken by John and Diana Osborne who live in the village. The
"lodge" is managed by Emma Mahlaba and accommodation is on a self-catering
basis although Emma, the housekeeper/caretaker at the main house will
prepare food for visitors if desired.  The house and outbuildings where the
cottage is located comprise beautifully restored buildings dating from the
late 19th century.  Ablution facilities are a bit limited, but usually
adequate.  The owners are apparently adding a third bathroom  which will
sort out any potential problems here.  With breeding Rufous-chested
(Red-breasted) Sparrowhawks in the eucalypts lining the driveway the "lodge"
makes a good base for birders wishing to cater for themselves while
exploring this exciting birding area.

The next episode will deal with the first part of the trip itself.

Regards to all

John McAllister
P O Box 249
South Africa
Tel. +27 (0)17 730 0269

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