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The Ben Lavin Nature Reserve is situated in the rolling foothills of the Soutpansberg and covers some 25 square kilometers. The reserve comprises mainly of sour mixed bushveld with riverine woodland along the dry watercourses and arid thornveld in the north-western section. Dominant tree species include Sweet Thorn (Acacia karoo), Umbrella Thorn (Acacia tortilis), common Wild Pear (Dombeya rotundifolia), Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys cinerea), and Marula (Sclerocarya birrea).

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Birding

The rest camp is home to a large variety of birds and birding from your bungalow's veranda can be rewarding. You might glimpse Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and the elusive Black Cuckoo. Crested Francolin and Natal Spurfowl can be seen foraging early in the morning and just before sunset. Southern Black Tit, Brubru, Striped Kingfisher and both Yellow-breasted Apalis and Bar-throated Apalis are found in the tall sweet thorns at the ablution block. White-browed Scrub-Robin and Bearded Scrub-Robin may be seen in the thickets around the rest camp. The following species may also be seen in the rest camp: Lizard Buzzard, Little Sparrowhawk, Shikra, African Goshawk, Common Scimitarbill, Dusky Indigobird, Village Indigobird and Purple Indigobird.

The Fountain and Tabajwane Trail takes you through the dry Doring River Floodplain. After good rains this landscape is transformed into a lush green floodplain with colourful birds. Yellow-crowned Bishop and Southern Red Bishop are seen everywhere and the reeds along the riverbank are home to Red-collared Widowbird and White-winged Widowbird. Other species include Zitting Cisticola, Rattling Cisticola, Red-billed Quelea, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Striped Kingfisher. The Tabajwane Trail takes you through dense vegetation and home to Southern Boubou, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-chested Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo and Kurrichane Buttonquail. It is worth spending some time at the Muheri Waterhole where Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove and a variety of seedeaters come to drink regularly.

The Waterbuck trail will take you through mixed thornveld with bird species in abundance. This three kilometer walk is home to both Crested Barbet and Black-collared Barbet and at the Waterbuck Dam you may see guineafowl drink. The last kilometer or so takes you through more open woodland where you should look out for Cape Glossy Starling, Wattled Starling, Common Fiscal, Red-backed Shrike, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Wahlberg's Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Steppe Buzzard in summer. After sunset this tranquil bushveld atmosphere becomes a nocturnal symphony of sound. Barn Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl and Spotted Thick-knee frequent the rest camp, while the northern section boasts Bronze-winged Courser, Southern White-faced Scops-Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar.

The Ben Lavin Nature Reserve provides an ideal base from which to explore the unique Soutpansberg area. It also serves as an ideal stopover to Zimbabwe and the northern Kruger Park.

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General

The reserve offers lodges and huts, furnished tents and camping facilities with a nearby ablution block and a rustic bush camp. The reserve is crisscrossed with 45km network roads and four hiking trails, ranging from three to eight kilometers in distance.

Drive north from Pietersburg on the N1 and about ten kilometers before the town of Louis Trichardt, turn right at the Ford Edward signpost. There is a prominent sign for the reserve at this turning. The entrance gate to the reserve is about 3km on this good gravel road.

The reserve can be contacted on 015-5164534.

Ben de Boer 2007 David Pretorius 1997



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