Nylsvley Nature Reserve

The Nyl Floodplain is the largest inland floodplain in South Africa, reaching 16 000 hectares when fully inundated. 10% of this floodplain is formally conserved as Nylsvley Nature Reserve, and was listed as a RAMSAR site, an internationally important habitat for waterfowl, in July 1998. Soon to be declared a national park, Nylsvley is one of the top birding spots in southern Africa, with at least 365 species recorded. Over 104 water bird species visit (and many breed) during extensive flooding, which only occurs every three or four years. In high rainfall years, it is best to visit for two to four days in February to May. In dry seasons a two-day visit to see the bushveld birds is recommended.

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Specials

Squacco Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Slaty Egret, Eurasian Bittern, Dwarf Bittern, Little Bittern, African Pygmy-Goose, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Striped Crake, Streaky-breasted Flufftail, Greater Painted-snipe, European Honey-Buzzard, Western Marsh-Harrier, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Meyer's Parrot, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Black-winged Pratincole, Olive-tree Warbler, African Golden Oriole, Common Whitethroat and Tinkling Cisticola.

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Habitats

The floodplain comprises extensive reed beds and grassveld that is adjoined by broadleaved woodland and bushveld. Habitats include short grassy plains, reed beds, stands of long rice grass, open water patches, marshes, acacia savanna and broadleaved woodlands.

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Facilities

These include a short network of roads, extensive tracks for walking and cycling, a well demarcated 8km walking trail, 5 hides on the floodplain, a small campsite, picnic site, and group camp.

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Birding

1. Vogelfontein has 3 hides are situated in the floodplain. The area is normally the highlight of the trip and is worth visiting even in a dry spell because interesting vagrants appear every now and then. During and just after flooding water birds converge in their thousands and in their wake large flocks of storks and raptors, making this a truly unique birding experience in south Africa. To reach Vogelfontein turn right out of the main gate of the reserve. Turn right just before the railway line crossing and follow this road, which runs parallel to the railway line. Take the next road to the right (about 5km) and this road leads past Vogelfontein. There is a small parking area and the hides are visible from the road. Entrance to two of the hides is through a gate on the right. Gumboots are recommended during a high rainfall season. Note that there are no toilet facilities at Vogelfontein.

2. Two more hides are accessible from inside the reserve. They are both situated in the flood plain and offer excellent sightings. Consult the map for their precise locations. Note that the one hide is in the restricted wilderness area and so can only be reached on foot. The track to this hide goes through bushveld habitat and is quite rewarding in terms of bushveld species. The walk is about one hour each way.

3. Broadleaf woodland and bushveld habitats surrounding the floodplain comprise the majority of the reserve and offer good bushveld birding. These areas are accessible via roads and footpaths.

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General

Accommodation at Nylsvley Nature Reserve consists of a campsite and group camp, with very reasonable rates. The shady campsite (c. 30 people) has braai sites, a lapa and basic ablution facilities (cold water only). The group camp consists of twin bedded rooms (c. 30 people), an equipped kitchen, a lapa partly under thatch, and a braai area. For bookings, phone (014) 743-1074 / 7175383. To enquire about the current extent of flooding or for any further information contact the Friends of Nylsvley at (012) 667-2183.

Access is via the N1 to Nylstroom/ Pietersburg and turn off at the Kranskop tollgate towards Nylstroom. Turn right in Nylstroom onto the R101 towards Potgietersrus and Naboomspruit. Keep heading towards Naboomspruit and turn right at the Boekenhout/Nylsvley sign onto a gravel road for 8km. This leads you over the N1 and a railway line and to the reserve. The 4000ha reserve is open from 6am to 6pm daily and there is a small entrance fee payable at the gate.

Friends of Nylsvley Website

Mieke de Villiers 1997 Dieter Oschadleus 1998 Andrew Tucker 2002

Avian Leisure