Amatikulu Nature Reserve

Amatikulu Nature Reserve is situated on the coast about 100km north of Durban, with the Indian Ocean shoreline as its eastern boundary. The reserve comprises the Amatikulu and Nyoni River estuaries, fine coastal lowland forest and some unspoilt climax grassland, a rare habitat type along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Approximately 210 species occur. The reserve has also been restocked with several mammal species.

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Specials

Dwarf Bittern, Crested Guineafowl, Green Malkoha, Swamp Nightjar, White-fronted Bee-eater, Olive Woodpecker, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill.

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Habitats

River estuaries, coastal lowland and dune forests, coastal grassland.

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Facilities

The Zangozolo Tented Camp, which can accommodate 12 visitors, is built on wooden platforms overlooking the Amatikulu River and incorporates a panoramic view of the river estuary, sea and dune forests. A network of trails lead along the river to the beach, through the dune and coastal forests and through the grassland. There is also a 4x4 track that leads to a pan near the Nyoni River. At the end of the main road which leads through the reserve, there is a shady picnic site on the bank of the Amatikulu River.

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Birding

Take the road that heads left and down towards the picnic site. A short distance from the gate, the road runs through the grasslands where, in spring and early summer, many grassland bird species can be found, including Zitting Cisticola, Pale-crowned Cisticola, and Yellow-throated Longclaw. White-fronted Bee-eater are usually seen hawking insects from the telephone lines along this road. In the wet season, Swamp Nightjar has been found in the moist shallow depressions occurring in the grasslands. The best option to see Swamp Nightjar would be to do a late afternoon walk with the local guide Junior (details below).

The road continues through coastal lowland forest which provides a suitable habitat for Crested Guineafowl, Lemon Dove and Gorgeous Bush-Shrike.

The road ends at the picnic site, from where one can see a range of aquatic birds in the river. One may find Goliath Heron and Little Egret stalking the banks, or Caspian Tern quartering the river in search of fish. In the picnic site, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Chinspot Batis can be seen in the upper branches of the trees, busily gleaning insects from the foliage.

The picnic site is the best base for birding, as there are 3 trails that begin and end at the picnic site.

Trail one follows the water's edge and ends at the Nyoni river. Listen carefully as you walk along this trail, as Rufous-winged Cisticola occurs in the reeds on the edge and Buff-spotted Flufftail calls from the undergrowth early in the morning. African Fish-Eagle often perch on the dead trees halfway down the trail and their calls usually give away their presence long before they are seen.

Trail three branches right from trail one after 20 metres. This trail offers excellent coastal forest and swamp forest habitat. Along the first 500m listening carefully for scuffling in the undergrowth as Spotted Ground-Thrush (winter), Chorister Robin-Chat and Red-capped Robin-Chat all occur. Other inhabitants of this trail include Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Green Malkoha, Olive Woodpecker and Lemon Dove. According to the local guide, Eastern Nicator also occur although this has yet to be confirmed. The trail follows a stream through the forest which is densely grown with large grasses which are the preferred food of Grey Waxbill, Red-backed Mannikin and Green Twinspot. As with all forest birding, a knowledge of the calls is invaluable although care must be taken as the local Red-capped Robin-Chat's mimicry is very well developed! As trail three leaves the forest into the grassland, there is a path to the right which leads back to the main road and to the camp. If one continues, the trail is 7km one way and leads through great grassland habitat and offers the chance of flushing Black-rumped Buttonquail, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Shelley's Francolin (forest fringes) and Swamp Nightjar.

A third option is to hire the motorized pont at the picnic site in the early evening. A trip upriver away from the beach offers African Finfoot, Giant Kingfisher and Rufous-winged Cisticola in the reeds.

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General

Accommodation
Tenetd camp with six two-bedded units. Accommodation reservations:
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Reservations in Pietermaritzburg.
tel +27 33 845 1000
fax. +27 33 845 1001
E-mail: bookings@kznwildlife.com
www.kznwildlife.com.

Gate Opening and Closing Times
Summer( October to March ): 06h00 to 20h00
Winter (April to September ): 06h00 to 20h00
Day visitor Entry Fee R10.00 per adult R5.00 per child

Office Hours
08h00 to 13h00 and from 14h00 to 16h00

Contact Number
+27-32-4530155

Facilities
A communal freezer is available in the camp kitchen. There are individual fridge/freezer units for each hutted tent unit. The camp kitchen also has a powered plug point, electric kettle and all necessary crockery and cutlery.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Gingingdlovu which is 15 kms away.

Local Guides
Local Guide, Junior can be contacted through the Zululand Birding Route. He offers both half-day and full-day guiding options as well as hiring out boats and canoes at the picnic site.

Special Precautions
As crocodiles and bilharzia are found in the rivers, visiters are advised not to swim in the rivers or drink the river water and do so at their own risk.

Directions
Take the N2 north from Durban and after about 100km take the Nyoni off-ramp, turn right over the highway and proceed 3kms to the reserve's gate.

Roy Cowgill and Steve Davis 2008.