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Situated in the mountains above Pilgrim's Rest, this 5000-hectare private nature reserve is home to over 290 species of birds - a phenomenal total when considering the size of the reserve. This diversity is due to a varied topography and consequent diverse vegetation types. A number of walking trails have been laid out through all the vegetation types and these give access to the majority of the reserve's birds. An impressive number of mammal species occur on the property, both introduced and naturally occurring, including Grey Rhebuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Oribi, Blesbok, Burchell's Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Giraffe, Serval, Caracal, Leopard, Aardwolf, Antbear, Cape Clawless Otter, Honey Badger, Brown Hyaena and others.



Southern Bald Ibis, African Cuckoo Hawk, Verreauxs' Eagle, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Red-winged Francolin, White-bellied Korhaan, Denham's Bustard, African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher, Buff-streaked Chat, White-starred Robin, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Tchagra, Gurney's Sugarbird, Golden Weaver, Cut-throat Finch, Red-backed Mannikin and Forest Canary



Short grassland on mountain plateaus, tall rank grassland on hillsides and drainage lines, protea shrubveld on mountain slopes, Afromontane forest, riverine thicket, broad-leaf woodland, acacia thornveld, cliffs and rocky outcrops, exotic plantations, lodge gardens



There are five walking trails throughout the reserve, varying from relatively easy to strenuous. A picnic site is provided at the start of the Kudu Trail. The Matseteng Dam has a bird hide and plans are afoot for another hide on the larger Mantsibi Dam. A wide dirt road runs through the centre of the reserve, providing good game-viewing and birding. A further 80-90 km of management tracks are accessible on guided game drives.



1.The key to birding this superb reserve is to cover as many of the diverse habitats as possible. The cottages are tastefully situated along a rocky ridge, providing great birding. garden birds include Familiar Chat, Cape Robin-Chat, Chorister Robin-Chat (winter), Red-winged Starling, Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Cape Bunting, and occasionally Forest Canary.

2. A tract of scrubby vegetation at the last line of cottages is a good point to stop and spend some time birding. Dark-capped Yellow Warbler is a regular summer visitor here, and Southern Tchagra has also been seen. Long-crested Eagle occasionally perch on the telephone poles and African Cuckoo Hawk have been seen flying out of the adjacent Eucalyptus plantation on several occasions. Check mixed flocks of Cape Canary and Streaky-headed Seedeater for the odd Forest Canary. Listen for the high-pitched insect-like call of the Brown-backed Honeybird in the wattle thickets on the right-hand side of the road.

3. The best montane grasslands are accessed on the main road between the lodge and Kudu Trail, and on both Waterbuck and Kudu Trails. Common birds are Wailing Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, African Stonechat, Long-billed Pipit, African Pipit, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel. Seen less regularly are Denham's Bustard, White-bellied Korhaan, Secretarybird, Verreauxs' Eagle, White-necked Raven and Red-winged Francolin. The best grassland birding is usually in the protea shrubveld when the proteas are in flower, attracting Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Streaky-headed Seedeater. Rocky outcrops have Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush and Mocking Cliff-Chat. Some excellent cliff habitat can be seen on the Klipspringer Trail and on the main road below Matseteng Dam. Look out for Striped Pipit, Speckled Pigeon, Freckled Nightjar (flushed from day perch) and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. Southern Bald Ibis have recently bred successfully on the cliffs below the dam.

4. Dense acacia thickets around the bird hide and along the Kudu Trail are excellent early in the morning. It’s not unusual to hear a dawn chorus of White-throated Robin-Chat, Cape Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Brubru, Southern Boubou, Natal Spurfowl, Shelley's Francolin, Chinspot Batis, Bar-throated Apalis and Yellow-breasted Apalis. Species regularly seen hear include Fiscal Flycatcher, Black Cuckooshrike, a variety of cuckoo species, Violet-backed Starling, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-backed Puffback, Cardinal Woodpecker, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Greater Honeyguide, Lesser Honeyguide and Golden-breasted Bunting. The acacia thornveld near Nooitgedacht Gate and on the road to Boschoek Gate have a variety of dry thornveld species such as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Acacia Pied Barbet, Grey Go-away-bird, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (some years), Cut-throat Finch and Violet-eared Waxbill.

5. A variety of waterbirds can be seen at Matseteng and Mantsibi Dams, the latter being far more productive. Good birds to look out for are African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher (on both dams), Green-backed Heron, African Black Duck, Mountain Wagtail (below the main dam wall) and Black Stork.

6. It is worth going on a guided night drive for nightjars and owls. Fiery-necked Nightjar, Freckled Nightjar, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and Spotted Eagle-Owl can be seen. Cape Eagle-Owl has been recorded a few times closer to the lodges.



From Johannesburg leave the N4 highway near Belfast, taking the R540 to Lydenburg. Then get on to the R36 Ohrigstad/Hoedpsruit road and 29 km out of Lydenburg take a right turn indicated as "Pilgrim's Rest"(R533). The road climbs up Robber's Pass and Crystal Springs is sign-posted on the left at the top of the pass. Alternatively, from Nelspruit take the R37 to Sabie and then the R532/533 to Pilgrim's Rest. Bypass the village and continue up Robber's Pass (sign-posted "Lydenburg"). Crystal Springs will be on the right at the top of the pass.

Accommodation is available in the area.

Warren McCleland 2001.

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