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Page Revision: 2008/10/09 11:44


Itala is a highly recommended Birding (and game viewing) destination. The wide diversity of habitats, broken terrain and variable altitude has resulted in an excellent variety of birds. At present the list is over 300 species, and at least two full days are recommended to cover the reserve effectively. Most habitats are easily accessible from the present road system. The reserve is malaria free.

Specials

Goliath Heron, White-backed Night-Heron, Southern Bald Ibis, African Hawk-Eagle, White-bellied Korhaan, Freckled Nightjar, Half-collared Kingfisher, Ground Woodpecker, Eastern Nicator, Mountain Wheatear, Buff-streaked Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Red-billed Oxpecker. The reserve is exceptionally rich in raptors, and Bat Hawk have also been reported.

Habitats

Open and closed acacia thornveld, thickets, broadleaved woodland, protea and Faurea saligna woodland, riverine forest, rivers, floodplains, grassland (including mist belt grassland), vleis, granite outcrops and extensive cliffs.

Facilities

Chalets, bush camps, campsite, restaurant, picnic sites, self - guided and wilderness trails, day drives and night drives, and view sites.

Birding

The staff at reception will provide detailed maps, and arrange bookings for game and night drives.

1. Ngubhu Loop drive runs along the base of the cliffs before turning north into a central basin. Along the cliffs and rocky slopes look for Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear, Buff-streaked Chat, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Cape Rock-Thrush, Wailing Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, Long-billed Pipit and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. The rare Klipspringer is also occasionally seen. The central basin supports African Hawk-Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle (summer), Shelley's Francolin, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Flappet Lark, Rattling Cisticola, Chinspot Batis and Red-billed Oxpecker. The road to Ngubhu picnic site is good for Bushveld Pipit, and Bronze-winged Courser have also been seen. On the Mbizo River at the picnic site a patient vigil should produce Half-collared Kingfisher. (Duration of loop drive: 3 to 4 hours).

2. Dakaneni Loop takes you down to the impressive Pongola river where one can see, apart from some very large crocodiles, Goliath Heron, African Black Duck, African Fish-Eagle, African Finfoot, African Green-Pigeon and occasionally Brown-headed Parrot. Also to be found are Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Jameson's Firefinch. On the way out of the valley listen and look for African Crowned Eagle, Bearded Woodpecker, Eastern Nicator and Ashy Flycatcher. (Duration of drive: 2 to 3 hours).

3. Onverwacht Loop drive consists almost entirely of open grassland. Here one can tick Southern Bald Ibis, Martial Eagle, White-bellied Korhaan, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Red-capped Lark, Banded Martin, Cape Grassbird, Cloud Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, African Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Buffy Pipit, Cape Longclaw, African Quailfinch, and, with a bit of luck, Cuckoo Finch on the fence near the main entrance gate. In the late afternoon look out for the shy Aardwolf. (Duration of drive: ± 2 hours).

4. Ntshondwe Camp is a fantastic place to bird, and has a high density of fig trees. A casual stroll around the camp should produce Tambourine Dove, Purple-crested Turaco, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-throated Robin-Chat, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Cape Batis, Striped Pipit, African Firefinch and many more. The little dam in front of the restaurant provides habitat for a variety of weaver, bishop, widow and Black Crake. For the more energetic there are a couple of short easy walking trails at the back of the camp.

5. Night drives, apart from seeing specials such as Serval or Leopard, also yield a variety of owl, nightjar, dikkop, and possibly a Bronze-winged Courser or Temminck's Courser. (Duration of drive: 2 to 3 hours).

General

Accommodation is booked through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Reservations in Pietermaritzburg (tel. +27 33 845 1000 / fax. +27 33 845 1001).bookings@kznwildlife.com. www.kznwildlife.com.

Gate Opening and Closing Times:

Summer (1 November to 28/29 February ) 05h00 to 19h00 Winter (1 March to 31 October ) 06h00 to 18h00 Day visitor Entry fee R35.00 per adult R18.00 per child PLUS R30.00 per vehicle More than 20 passengers R120.00 Late entry fee R200 per vehicle, R500 per coach

Office Hours:

The office is open from 07h00 to 19h30

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: 8 kms and 15 minutes

Camp Telephone Number: +27 34 983 2540 Camp Fax: +27 34 983 2566 E-mail: ntshondwe@kznwildlife.com

Facilities:

Restaurant, bar, coffee shop, information centre, petrol and diesel, conferences, day and night game drives, walking trails.

Shop:

A fully equipped shop selling curios and a range of supplies.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Vryheid which is 69 kms away.

How to get there:

Ithala Game Reserve is situated near Louwsburg in northern KwaZulu-Natal. From Durban it is best reached via Eshowe and Melmoth to Vryheid. From the Gauteng area the best approach is via Standerton, Volksrust and Utrecht to Vryheid. From the north coast go via Pongola and Magudu. From Pietermaritzburg travel via Ladysmith, Dundee and Vryheid.

Athol & Les Marchant 2001.



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