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Kosi Bay is situated in the north-east corner of KZN, very close to the border with Mozambique. Kosi Bay itself consists of an estuary, four linked lakes running from north to south behind a large dune, and the lagoon of the Siyadla River where it flows into the southernmost lake. Understandably, the main attractions are activities such as fishing and snorkeling in the lake system. However, it is the adjoining conservation areas of coastal and dune forests, grasslands and wetlands, that provide the most interest for birders. Most east coast specials and endemics can be found here, including Rosy-throated Longclaw and Swamp Nightjar, and a few sought-after species such as Pel's Fishing-Owl, African Finfoot and African Pygmy-Goose as well.



The range of specials includes Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Crested Guineafowl, African Finfoot, Livingstone's Turaco, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Swamp Nightjar, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Brown Scrub-Robin, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Woodwards' Batis, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird and Rosy-throated Longclaw. Rarities include Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Crab Plover and Greater Frigatebird



Habitats include the lake system with tidal flats and the lagoon of the Siyadla River; coastal, dune and raffia palm forest; coastal grassland with ephemeral pans and permanent wetlands; and sea shore.



Facilities include 4-wheel drive access and boat trips to most areas, with trails in the forest areas. A four-day hiking trail circuits the lakes. Permits from the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife office at Kosi Bay Nature Reserve are required to visit most areas.



Kosi Bay is not a cohesive conservation area and one needs to visit the different birding areas on individual excursions, some of which may include other leisure activities. Although self-guided tours to most of the areas are possible, successful birding generally requires local guides. The area is criss-crossed by a myriad of sandy tracks to local settlements, and one needs to know the area well in order to find the birding localities. Birding on the lakes also requires a boat and local knowledge. Although the local people are friendly, the occasional security problem has occurred. Guided tours from the lodges are therefore recommended. Access to most areas requires a permit from the conservation authorities (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), or arrangements with the lodges. In the following descriptions, p = permit required, g = guide required, sg = self guided possible.

1. Kosi Forest Lodge focuses on birding and has arranged access to all the areas discussed, and can provide guided tours. The Lodge is situated south of Magnus near the end of fourth lake and the Sisal river. Set in a small patch of sand forest, nearby habitats include woodland, grassland, coastal forest, raffia palm forest, and the river. Birds in camp include Brown Scrub-Robin, Purple-banded Sunbird, Flappet Lark, Livingstone's Turaco, and African Wood-Owl (at night).

2. From Kosi Forest Camp, a canoe trip on the Sisal river includes a drive through the coastal grasslands and forest. The grasslands support an amazing array of cisticola, including Zitting Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola and Neddicky. The forest hosts an isolated population of Yellow-streaked Greenbul, as well as African Broadbill, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Woodwards' Batis. Overhead, sightings include Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Brown Snake-Eagle, as well as African Cuckoo Hawk and Palm-nut Vulture. On the river itself, birds include African Pygmy-Goose, African Finfoot and Pel's Fishing-Owl. The same trip at night will yield Swamp Nightjar in the grasslands, and with luck, Pel's Fishing-Owl on the river. (g)

3. The Raffia palm forest is best reached from Kosi Forest Lodge. This extensive stand of Raffia Palms is virtually guaranteed to provide sightings of Palm-nut Vulture. (g)

4. A day trip to the beach at Black Rock south of the lakes can also be an enjoyable birding experience. Black Rock is a promontory that juts out into the sea and, when strong southerly winds are blowing, is good for sighting sea birds such as Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Shy Albatross. A recent sighting was that of Tropical Shearwater. On the way the track passes a large wetland supporting Lesser Jacana and Whiskered Tern. (p/sg).

5. A day trip to Kosi Mouth for snorkeling can also include some birding. The tidal flats can be checked for migrant waders, including Crab Plover, and the mangroves for Mangrove Kingfisher. The stunning view site, reached by turning right shortly after the entrance gate, also provides opportunity to scan for raptors, of which Ayres's Hawk-Eagle has been seen recently. (p/sg).

6. The open grasslands and Hyphaene palm savanna on either side of the road before the village of Manguzi are worth birding. The palms occur on the ridges and the grassland in the ‘dambos’ which become flooded by late summer. All three longclaw, including Rosy-throated Longclaw, occur. Plovers include Senegal Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing and occasionally Black-winged Lapwing. When flooded, the dambos may yield Eurasian Bittern, African Pygmy-Goose and Lesser Jacana. The area is populated so drive off the road onto the dambos, the best of which are shortly before town. (s/g).

7. Kosi Bay Nature Reserve includes the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife campsite. The Samango trail meanders through the coastal forest, and species such as Brown Scrub-Robin, Woodwards' Batis, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Livingstone's Turaco are seen. The small patch of mangrove forest around the jetty supports Black-throated Wattle-eye, and Yellow Weaver nest in the reeds. (sg).

8. Departing from the Nature Reserve campsite, boat trips through the “narrows” to second and first lakes, and across third lake to Banga Neck (where the turtles nest in summer), are also available. General waterbird species such as Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Grey Heron Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, African Fish-Eagle, Grey-headed Gull, Whiskered Tern, Common Tern and White-winged Tern, and Pied Kingfisher and Giant Kingfisher, are seen. The “narrows” trip can sometimes be arranged at night, and sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl are regular. (p/sg).

9. Kosi Bay Lodge has a good area of coastal lowland forest, and some small areas of wetland. Typical species of these habitats as described above may be expected. (sg)



Gate Opening and Closing Times: 06h00 to 18h00

Day visitor Entry fee R20.00 per adult, R10.00 per child PLUS R15.00 per vehicle

The office is open from 07h00 to 16h00

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: One minute

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 592 0234/5/6
Camp Fax: +27 35 592 9512

Guided wilderness trail, boating fishing, snorkeling and communal freezer for campers.

Shop: Nil (Cool drinks, charcoal, bait and ice are available from the camp office and firewood can be purchased from the community at the camp entrance.)

Special Precautions: Kosi Bay is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary. A 4 x 4 is recommended to be able to reach Kosi Mouth.

Please Note that the Kosi lakes are natural systems whick contain large populations of hippos and crocodiles. Fishermen need to be aware of these animals as they move around the system in their boats. Hippos usually spend the daytime in groups in the water and feed at night on the lush grasslands that surround the lakes. Potential confrontations occur with visitors as the hippos move to their grazing grounds at dusk and return to the water at dawn. Fishermen should be especially cautious when negotiating the narrow channels between lakes at these times.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Kwangwanase which is 13 kms away.

How to get there: Travel on the N2 to Jozini. Drive through the town and over the dam wall and follow this road to Kwangwanse. Kosi is 13 kms from this town but is not well sign posted.

KZN Wildlife Website

Guy Gibbon 1999

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