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The Hans Merensky Nature Reserve is situated in the Limpopo Province, about 70km North east of Tzaneen. It offers a rich and mature bushveld of Mopane and many other trees. One great advantage of this park is that one can walk all through the reserve. The great Letaba River borders one side of the reserve and this adds interest to the park from a birding point of view. The bird-life is rich and varied even in winter. Spring and summer will provide many interesting migrants as well. In winter, a weekend birding can provide a list of around 100 species, in spring and summer this can be up to 150 and probably even higher. The list of birds provided at the office (for Merensky and its vicinity) boasts over 250 birds. The opportunity to walk, the presence of the great Letaba, and the richness of the flora makes this an interesting place for birding. The reserve warrants at least a two-day visit.

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Specials

The White-breasted Cuckooshrike can be seen here, probably one of the most southerly points it occurs. Brown-headed Parrot, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Arnot's Chat, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela.

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Habitats

The great Letaba River, a Dolorite Ridge, some dams and grasslands, miombo and mopane woodland.

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Facilities

There are hiking trails with huts, walking trails and also a large circular drive.

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Birding

Evenings and nights will produce many nightjar species as well as Owls. Trips in early morning and even during the day, will produce a great variety of bushveld birds. In winter, bird parties are common and offer exciting opportunities. Up to 30 species and even more might be found in a party, including White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Southern Black Tit, Bearded Woodpecker, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black-headed Oriole, Common Scimitarbill, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Grey Tit-Flycatcher etc. In spring and summer Bee-eaters, Warblers and other migrants will also be seen. All year around a variety of Raptors, Francolins, some Waders, Doves, Robins and Cisticolas can be seen. Along the Letaba, Red-faced Cisticola is common, cormorants, kingfishers, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper, Meyer's Parrot and Brown-headed Parrot can all be seen too.

The circular drive is quite long and if taken one should plan for a stop with either late breakfast or lunch in one of the rest places in order to do justice to all the opportunities for birding.

One can also take interesting walks from the Guesthouse or Rondavel, and of course the hiking trail will offer many opportunities for good birdwatching.

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Accommodation

The reserve itself has one "Guesthouse" (with three bedrooms; 6 people in total) and a "Rondavel" (2-4 people). It is very affordable and equipment is fine. There are also huts for those doing the hiking trails.

Jaap Kuiper 2001.



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