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Cwebe and Dwesa Nature Reserves

Modified: 2008/10/03 10:09 by admin - Categorized as: Eastern Cape
These two relatively small reserves, separated by the Mbashe River, are situated in the central wild coast. They are bordered on the one side by the Indian Ocean and on the other by rugged grasslands of the former Transkei. Both reserves are primarily covered by lowland forest but also support grasslands and acacia scrub. There are a total of 290 birds recorded in the reserves, with at least a hundred to be found on a visit. Being relatively under-birded the number of known birds is ever increasing. Although a day will suffice in each reserve, at least three days is required is recommended to make the trip worthwhile.



Spotted Ground-Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, African Crowned Eagle, Knysna Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Croaking Cisticola, Broad-tailed Warbler, Knysna Warbler, Mountain Wagtail and Lemon Dove. It also supports Brown Scrub-Robin, Chorister Robin-Chat, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Cape Robin-Chat and White-browed Scrub-Robin. The reserves also play host to Tree Dassie, Blue Duiker, Burchell’s Zebra and Blue Wildebeest.



The attraction of the two reserves is the pristine lowland forests, which covers most of the area. Closer to the shore however the forests give way to acacia scrub and eventually open grasslands. small estuaries wind through the forests and spill out on a sandy, rocky shoreline. The Mbashe River cuts its way between the reserves creating cliffs and gorges, it also hosts mangroves near the mouth.



A network of roads and trails giving access to most areas, some requiring 4x4, hotel, hutted camp and camping.



With both reserves being small one can cover most of the habitats in a day, the habitats are fairly close together and thus all relatively accessible on foot. The best birding is done in the forest in the early morning, leaving the forest in mid-morning to investigate the grasslands and surrounding scrub. A walk along the tracks is normally the most productive as the tracks are generally more open.

In the forests you should find most of the specials including Spotted Ground-Thrush, Knysna Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, Forest Canary, Brown Scrub-Robin, White-starred Robin, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Chorister Robin-Chat. In the summer months Black Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo and nesting Mangrove Kingfisher are particularly vocal. African Crowned Eagle can often be heard circling high overhead, while African Wood-Owl can be found at night.

At the forest edges one should look for Barratt's Warbler, Forest Canary, Southern Tchagra, Olive Sunbird and Grey Sunbird. Forest clearings also produce Broad-tailed Warbler, Swee Waxbill and Red-backed Mannikin.

Along the estuaries running through the forest one can find Half-collared Kingfisher, African Black Duck, Mountain Wagtail, Green-backed Heron and possibly African Finfoot. Also look out for African Crowned Eagle, which are regularly seen at the Mbanyana River causeway in Cwebe.

In the short, well-grazed grasslands one should locate Plain-backed Pipit and Black-winged Lapwing in winter. Wailing Cisticola and Yellow-throated Longclaw can be found in the longer grass, while Croaking Cisticola occurs in the moist grasslands. In the adjacent acacia scrub there is often Black-crowned Tchagra, Red-necked Spurfowl, and White-browed Scrub-Robin Scrub robin.

The estuaries and adjacent coastline often produce African Black Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, African Fish-Eagle, Osprey, Common Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone. The mangroves on the Mbashe River are also worth investigating.

A good selection of the forest specials should be easily located in and around the campsite and chalets. The best forest birding is done on the road to the reserve office. There is also a track leading north through the forest towards Mendu, ask at the Office for directions.

One should also walk through the grasslands near around the office; there one can find Wailing Cisticola, Plain-backed Pipit, Broad-tailed Warbler and Yellow-throated Longclaw. Look in the moist grassland around the estuary east of the campsite for Croaking Cisticola and a pair of Grey Crowned Crane that frequent the area. Venturing further into Dwesa will take you to more extensive grasslands especially around the Mendu estuary.

The best forest birding is done around the Mbanyana River causeway. Here one can find Half-collared Kingfisher, Mountain Wagtail, Narina Trogon, and African Crowned Eagle. This area can be reached by following the 4x4 track running across the reserve, the turn-off to the track is approximately 500m after the gate to the Nature Reserve. The track also winds through some forest clearings, which provide excellent habitat for Broad-tailed Warbler and Barratt's Warbler. Following the road past the Haven takes you to some cottages and the mouth of the Mbanyana River, the moist grasslands there are a good place to look for Croaking Cisticola and Wailing Cisticola. The mouth of the Mbashe River plays host to Mangroves, Coastal forest and a small tern Colony.



With these reserves being in the rural areas of the Transkei the access roads, which are gravel, can be notoriously bad. All the roads however have recently been upgraded making it accessible to all vehicles. This however may change after a few rainy seasons. As yet there is no direct link between the two reserves but there is a contract underway to build a pontoon on the Mbashe River. This will hopefully be complete by 2004.

The reserves remain relatively undeveloped with only footpaths giving access to the majority of areas. With both reserves being small, most places can be reached on foot. Care should however, be taken that you can find your way out of the forests. There are a few trails that can be negotiated by 4x4 to shorten the walks. Cwebe Nature Reserve has a trail leading to a waterfall in the forest, the trail is well marked, ask for directions at the hotel.

Dwesa Nature Reserve is the bigger of the two reserves situated on the western side of the Mbashe River. There is a campsite and a few Chalets, beautifully situated adjacent a small estuary spilling into the ocean. For bookings or enquiries phone: 047-499 0073 /22

The only accommodation offered in Cwebe Nature reserve is the Haven Hotel, which is situated about two kilometres from the Mbashe River, a popular spot for anglers. The rooms are all individual chalet style accommodation. Bookings and enquiries can be made by Cell: +27 83 996 5343 or fax: +27 47 576 8905 or email: .

Both Cwebe and Dwesa are reached by gravel roads, which lead off the N2 between east London and Umtata.

The turn-off to Dwesa is in the town of Idutya, 80km from Umtata. The turn-off is well signposted.

To get to Cwebe there is a turn-off 40km from Umtata that is sign boarded Bityi/Elliotdale, here one should follow the signs to Elliotdale. After 19km along the gravel road there is a tarred road, immediately upon reaching the tar, take a right turn back onto gravel and follow the signs to The Haven Hotel. The Haven is another 45km along the same gravel road.

Mark Beckermann 2001.

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