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Bonamanzi is a 4200 ha natural wildlife refuge situated on the western edge of St. Lucia Wetland Park. The uniqueness of its habitat and the accompanying diversity of fauna and flora, its role in the history of the region, and the presence in its boundaries of important marine fossil records, led to its recognition in 1995 as a Natural Heritage site. It is for its birds that Bonamanzi is most well known. A list of 385 species has been recorded, and is regularly added to as more birders visit. Three factors contribute to the high number of species; firstly, the freedom that birders have to walk within defined areas of the reserve, secondly, the habitat diversity, and thirdly, the continuity of the natural habitat in reserves adjoining reserves. The bird list includes 4 east coast endemic or near-endemic species, a number of southern African endemic species, 29 red Data book species, a number of range-restricted species, and a number of species whose southern limits end in the Hluhluwe region.

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Specials

Neergaard's Sunbird (endemic), Pinkthroated Twinspot (endemic), Lemonbreasted Canary (near-endemic), Rudd's Apalis (near-endemic), African Broadbill, Natal Nightjar, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Pinkthroated Longclaw, Pel's Fishing Owl, African Finfoot, Cuckoo Hawk, Green Coucal, Crested Guineafowl, Bearded Robin, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Yellowbreasted Apalis, Lesser Blackwinged Plover, Blackbellied Korhaan, Grass Owl, Black Coucal, Greyrumped Swallow, Rufouswinged Cisticola.

Other southern African endemic or near-endemic species that may be found in Bonamanzi are Black Sawwing Swallow, Orangethroated Longclaw, Southern Black Tit, Whitethroated Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Olive Bush Shrike, Glossy Starling, and Cape White-eye.

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Habitats

Coastal sandforest, coastal grasslands, acacia savanna and palm savanna.

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Facilities

A network of roads and game-viewing tracks, walking trails, a range of accommodation and catering options, camping, guided walks, river cruises.

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Birding

1. Sandforest and Tall woodland areas. This habitat is largely located in the higher, central parts of the reserve, and is cool, dense to fairly open habitat. Typical species of the denser forested areas include raptors like the African Goshawk, Steppe Buzzard, Little Sparrowhawk, and a Bonamanzi special the Cuckoo Hawk. In summer look for the three green cuckoos (Klaas’s, Diederik Cuckoo and Emerald Cuckoo), the Green Coucal (a special). The forests are good for flycatchers (nine species – including Fantailed Flycatcher), Bulbuls (four species) and another Bonamanzi special, the Crested Guineafowl. The major forest special in Bonamanzi is the African Broadbill, a nationally near-threatened species that can be heard calling and can be seen in the early morning in the dense forest near treehouses 1 to 6, or in the wilderness areas close to the southern boundary of the reserve. Five robin species can be seen in the forests, including the endemic Whitethroated Robin and also Bearded Robin and Natal Robin. The biome-restricted Gorgeous Bush Shrike is common in the dense tangled parts of the forest, but is difficult to see. Rudd's Apalis is common in the canopies of the forest, and occurs together with the Yellowbreasted Apalis. The near-endemic Olive Bush Shrike is less common and favours the less dense parts of the forest. The beautiful Yellowspotted Nicator is common in the reserve, and will be heard calling from the tree tops. A drive at night will invariably result in the calls of the Wood Owl from below the canopies of tall trees.

2. Grasslands
Grasslands occur on the eastern and western boundaries of the reserve. The western grasslands are seasonally inundated and grow on heavy, black clay that makes the area impassable in the wet seasons. This area yields Rufousnaped Lark, Desert Cisticola, Fantailed Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Rattling Cisticola, Grassveld Pipit and Longbilled Pipit, Yellowthroated Longclaw, Fiscal Shrike, amongst others. In the wetter seasons, this grassland area can yield both Lesser Blackwinged Plover, and Blackwinged Plover. This area is home to the spectacular Secretarybird, and Blackbellied Korhaan is also often seen. The short grassy area close to the entrance are a prime spot during the wetter years for the Natal Nightjar. It is best sought at night, and will be heard calling from this area.

A number of raptors hunt over these grasslands. The globally near-threatened Southern Banded Snake Eagle is a relatively common raptor that hunts along the tree-line on the edge of the grassland. Other raptors include Tawny Eagle, Blackbreasted Snake Eagle and Brown Snake Eagles, Honey Buzzard. Whitebacked Vulture and Whiteheaded Vulture are often seen overhead, as is the distinctive Bateleur. A pair of Ostrich occupy this grassland.

The grasslands in the eastern parts of the reserve face the onshore winds from lake St. Lucia, and host a slightly different avifauna. Grassveld Pipit is common, as are Redbacked Shrike and Fiscal Shrike, Fiscal Flycatcher, Whitebrowed Robin, Common Waxbill, Bluebilled Firefinch. In summer Bluecheeked Bee-eater is a regular sighting, as is Little Bee-eater. In large stands of trees on the edge of the grasslands, look for African Green Pigeon. A number of drainage lines in this area are overgrown with coarse, rank vegetation that attracts Black Coucal from time to time, whilst Burchell's Coucal is commonly seen. Orangebreasted Waxbill and Quail Finch are also seen in this part of the reserve.

The northern part of the reserve hosts a large tract of open coastal grassland that becomes a grassland/acacia woodland mosaic towards the eastern part. The grassland is home to Blackbellied Korhaan, Desert Cisticola, Rufousnaped Lark, a variety of widows, and is the prime hunting area in the reserve for Martial Eagle. Look for migrant warblers in the acacia woodlands, and for Yellowbellied Eremomela.

3. Woodlands
Woodlands take a number of different forms in different parts of the reserve. In the flatter western areas adjoining the grasslands is a mosaic of both Terminalia and Ilala palm dominated woodland. The Ilala palm woodland is the special habitat of the near-endemic Lemonbreasted Canary that builds its nests in the folds in the leaves of the Ilala palm. The woodlands host families like Starlings, Sunbirds, the secretive Grey Penduline Tit, Kingfishers, Fantailed Flycatcher, Crested Francolin, Spotted Dikkop, Orangebreasted Bush Shrike. Cape Batis and Chinspot Batis are both common species in the woodland areas, as is Grey Waxbill.

In the eastern and nothern parts of the reserve, the woodland is acacia dominated, including stands of Fever tree woodland. Typical bushveld families like shrikes, flycatchers, eremomelas, batises, weavers, canaries, will be seen, and the Little Sparrowhawk and Lizard Buzzard venture out from the more treed areas and hunt on the edges of the acacia woodlands.

4. Pans and dams.
There are many small pans in the reserve, the most rewarding being those at the Lalapanzi lodge, the Dinizulu dam, and the small pan close to the entrance, where a hide is provided. These pans are home to jacanas, ducks, kingfishers, the African Fish Eagle, and at the larger dams one is likely to see Greenbacked Heron, Reed Cormorant, Whitebreasted Cormorant, Threebanded Plover, Common Sandpiper and others. From time to time one can see Pygmy Goose on the large dams. Beware at all dams! The Nile Crocodile is a common resident species in the reserve, and is found in all large water bodies. Look for Yellow Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Golden Weaver and Spottedbacked Weaver breeding near water.

5. The Hluhluwe river.
The major wetland in Bonamanzi is the Hluhluwe river and the enormous reedbed that is located on the eastern boundary of the reserve. A boat trip on the river (organised at the reception), can yield African Finfoot, various duck species, kingfishers, and the plum sighting of Pel's Fishing Owl. The reedbeds along the river are home to five species of warbler, and Red Bishop, Squacco Heron, Greenbacked Heron, Black Crake, Reed Cormorant, and African Marsh Harrier is regularly seen quartering over the reeds. On the edge of the river in marshy grassland it is possible to encounter both Marsh Owl and Grass Owl. Black Coucal may be seen here as well. Natal Nightjar is also seen in this area. Be careful if you are close to the reedbeds, they are home to Hippos!

Two special bird species that may be seen along the bare banks along the Hluhluwe river, are Greyrumped Swallow, and Rufouswinged Cisticola. Other swallows and martins are well represented in Bonamanzi, including Whitethroated Swallow, Wiretailed Swallow, Eurasian Swallow, and Sand Martin, Brownthroated Martin and Banded Martin.

6. The Hluhluwe river floodplain.
Trained, experienced bird guides are on hand to lead birders on guided walks (a fee is payable) to the unique Hluhluwe river floodplain. Whilst this wonderful area is outside the boundaries of Bonamanzi, guided outings yield many wader species in the pans and shallow grassy vlei areas. This is the prime area for viewing the Pinkthroated Longclaw and the Orangethroated Longclaw together. Also likely to be seen are both White Pelican and Pinkbacked Pelican in the waters of False Bay that adjoins the floodplain, and Yellowbilled Stork in the wet grasslands. In summer (November), Redwinged Pratincole breed in large numbers on the floodplain.

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General

Bonamanzi offers a range of accommodation, ranging from a small camping and caravanning site (electrified), to luxury self-catering airconditioned treehouses, luxury all-inclusive single or adjoining combo units, to the luxury all-inclusive chalets in the Lalapanzi thatched camp.

Contact Bonamanzi by telephone on 035 – 5620181, by fax on 035 - 5620143 , or .

Bonamanzi is owned and managed by Mondi.

Directions to reach Bonamanzi are as follows:

From Durban – distance approximately 280 km (travelling time 2hrs 45 minutes - the N2 is tarred all the way, and is a double-lane freeway for three quarters of the trip. There are three toll gates). Take the N2 north past Stanger, Empangeni, Richards Bay, Mtubatuba. About 80 kilometres past Mtubatuba take the Bushlands / Bonamanzi left hand side offramp. Turn right over the bridge, the tar ends after about 100 metres, and travel for about 2,5 kilometres to a T-junction. Turn left and continue along this road. The Bonamanzi entrance is the second turning on your right, and is clearly signposted.

From Johannesburg. (Roughly 4 hours travel on tarred roads). Head out of Johannesburg towards Bethal. Travel through Ermelo, Piet Retief, Pongola, and past Mkuze on the N2. After Mkuze keep a look out for the left hand side offramp to Hluhluwe. Take the offramp, turn left towards the village of Hluhluwe. Drive through the town to a T-junction. Turn right onto a dirt road and drive on it for roughly 6 kilometres to the entrance to Bonamanzi on your left.

Trevor Snyman 2002.



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