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Ongoye Forest is situated about 150km north of Durban, just inland from Mtunzini. It is a large remnant patch of coastal forest, and stretches for about 20 km along a ridge of hills between Eshowe and Empangeni. The forest is quite beautiful, occurring in patches between granite outcrops and rolling grasslands. It is the only place to see Green Barbet in Southern Africa.

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Birding

1. Bird the forest by walking along the track (see below). The most activity is in the first 1 or 2km, and the Green Barbet is fairly common. Other specials include, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Brown Scrub-Robin, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Green Twinspot and Mountain Wagtail - there is a small weir on a stream about 2km into the forest.

2. A lookout point, at the top of the second rise and on your right, is where you can look for Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon in the forest canopy and soaring raptors - African Crowned Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Yellowbilled kite.

3. On the way in or out, look for Striped Pipit and Plain-backed Pipit on the rocky outcrops, Black-rumped Buttonquail in the grasslands, and African Pygmy-Kingfisher nest holes in the road cuttings.

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General

Access is the most difficult part of visiting this reserve. The Amanzimnyama road to the east of the reserve is steep, crosses three streams and is muddy, but provides access to the reserve office and accommodation. Turn off the N2 freeway at Mtunzini, head inland and take the old road north to Empangeni. About 4.2km north of the Forest Inn, turn left just before an old petrol station. Zero your tripmeter here. Follow this road for 4.5km and turn right onto D1554. Continue on this road to just past the Manzmnyama School, and at 8.9km turn right onto a small track. From here on you need a 4-wheel drive or vehicle with very good ground clearance. The gate into the forest is at 10.2km. Continue along the main track, and at the top of the hill turn right at the fork and proceed to the office. Once you have your permit, head back to the fork, turn right (zero tripmeter) and follow the track. After 2.6km turn left onto an indistinct grassy track - the main track goes over the hill. You are now heading for the forest on your left. Stop at about 4km, before or just inside the main forest. From here on the road is really bad.

The KwaGugugushe road to the west of the reserve provides easier access from the southeast but is less scenic and provides limited access.

The forest is controlled by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife tel 033-845100. The reserve can be contacted on 0829504624. The gates are open from sunrise to sunset. A small entrance fee is charged. Please call in at the office on arrival.

There is a 6-bed self catering unit in the reserve which is booked through BirdLife Travel or Tel: 033-3443816. Otherwise there is a range of accommodation available in Mtunzini.

A 4x4 vehicle is required to visit Ongoye due to the condition of the roads.

The nearest centre is Mtunzini which is about 25km from the eastern end of the reserve.

Guy Gibbon 2008.


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