Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park

This reserve complex is the oldest in south Africa, and the Umfolozi section is famous for its Rhinoceros conservation programme. The varied topography and range of habitats in this large area has produced a bird list in excess of 340 species. Two days' stay in each of the two main camps is recommended in order to cover the complex adequately. Daily bird lists of around 110 species are possible in summer.



African Finfoot, Southern Bald Ibis, Bronze-winged Courser, Brown-headed Parrot, Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, Narina Trogon, Woodland Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Crowned Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Wire-tailed Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.



The topography in the Umfolozi section ranges from the lowlands of the Umfolozi River beds to steep hilly country, which includes some wide and deep valleys. Habitats in this area are primarily grasslands, which extend into acacia Savannah and woodlands. The Hluhluwe region has hilly topography where altitudes range from 80 to 540 m above sea level. The high ridges support coastal scarp forests in a well watered region with valley bushveld at lower levels.



The complex contains an extensive road network, with several attractive picnic sites and hides. There are two main hutted camps, one in each section, and several comfortable bush camps. Night drives and short trails with game guards are available and 3 or 4 day wilderness trails are offered at Umfolozi in the Wilderness area, but early booking is essential.


Birding in Hluhluwe

1. The road south from Hilltop Camp descends a long steep ridge to finally meet the Nzimane stream at the Siwasamakhosikasi picnic site. Here at the sandstone cliffs is a colony of Southern Bald Ibis and a nesting site for Southern Ground-Hornbill. Check the river for African Finfoot. Also look for Mocking Cliff-Chat, African Pied Wagtail, Red-winged Starling, Violet-backed Starling, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Crested Barbet and Crowned Hornbill. Continue along this road towards the Thiyeni hide where Golden-breasted Bunting, Common Waxbill, Greater Striped Swallow and White-winged Widowbird can be seen. (4 hours)

2. From the camp follow the south road and turn right into the loop road past Crocodile Pool and Hippo Pool around the Nzimane loop. Along the way you may encounter Red-billed Firefinch, African Firefinch, Green-winged Pytilia and many Hamerkop and African Pied Wagtail. (2 hours)

3. Take the road south from the camp and turn left past Isivaneni view site and on to the Hluhluwe Dam and Maphumulo picnic site. At these sites you may see Hamerkop, African Jacana, Green-backed Heron, African Fish-Eagle, Trumpeter Hornbill and Lesser Honeyguide. At Maphumulo look for African Finfoot opposite the launch site. Continue on to the main road and return to the camp through grassy hills via Zincakeni Dam. (3 hours).

4. Boat cruise: African Darter, Reed Cormorant, African Finfoot, Green-backed Heron, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron and Goliath Heron, African Fish-Eagle, Water Thick-knee, African Jacana, Black Crake, Lesser Moorhen, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher and Malachite Kingfisher. Occasionally seen are Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican and African Openbill.

5. Night drives: Spotted Thick-knee, Water Thick-knee, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar and European Nightjar (Nov-Apr). After heavy rains when the streams flow, White-backed Night-Heron can be found. African Wood-Owl, African Scops-Owl, Barn Owl and Marsh Owl are found occasionally.

6. Seme: Look for Secretarybird, Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Martial Eagle, White-backed Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-bellied Bustard, Crowned Lapwing, Red-throated Wryneck, African Pipit and African Stonechat. At the Seme viewpoint one can find Sabota Lark, Red-throated Wryneck and with luck Flappet Lark. Summer visitors include Amur Falcon, Harlequin Quail, European Roller, Red-backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher. The small pans occasionally hold Egyptian Goose, White-faced Duck and the odd wader.

7. Memorial Gate Wetlands. Woolly-necked Stork, Hadeda Ibis, Burchell's Coucal, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Rufous-naped Lark, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Common Waxbill. Occasionally Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, egret, African Marsh-Harrier, Cape Wagtail and Cuckoo Finch. The nearby Manzibomvu stream has African Black Duck, African Finfoot, Mountain Wagtail and Malachite Kingfisher. The hills of Mangangeni have Jackal Buzzard, African Cuckoo Hawk, Flappet Lark and Croaking Cisticola.

8. Hilltop Camp. The Umbombo Trail in the camp is excellent for forest birds with African Goshawk, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Lemon Dove, Tambourine Dove, Narina Trogon, Green Malkoha, Klaas's Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo and African Emerald Cuckoo. Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul and Yellow-bellied Greenbul. Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Olive Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black-backed Puffback, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Cape Batis and Thick-billed Weaver. Chorister Robin-Chat and White-starred Robin are winter visitors to the forests. Yellow-breasted Apalis and Bar-throated Apalis occur in the forest while Rudd's Apalis can be found in thickets next to the forest. Various sunbird, barbet, bulbul, and shrike can be seen around the chalets as well as Eastern Nicator and Black-bellied Starling. African Crowned Eagle and White-necked Raven patrol overhead. African Wood-Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl occur. On summer evenings the call of Buff-spotted Flufftail can be heard at many localities around the camp. Jackal Buzzard, Lazy Cisticola and Striped Pipit can be found on rocky hillsides near Hilltop. A pair of African Cuckoo Hawk are regularly seen.

9. Special sightings: European Honey-Buzzard, are scarce summer visitors, Dwarf Bittern arrive with the heavy rains and Lesser Spotted Eagle may be recorded. Two records for Black Coucal were at the wetlands near Memorial Gate. Half-collared Kingfisher are scarce residents. Green Sandpiper was first recorded in December 2001 at a pan at Seme.


Birding in Umfolozi

1. From Mpila Camp in Umfolozi there are a number of roads to the west that can be followed. Most will pass through several habitats and good birding may be had anywhere along these roads. The Sontuli Loop and picnic site offers good views over the river, where White-fronted Bee-eater, Red-billed Firefinch and Blue Waxbill are often seen. Further on, the road passes through open acacia savannah and birding is good at any one of a number of small pans and water holes next to the road. The loop from Mpila via Sontuli, Msasaneni and Mantiyane back to Mpila can be comfortably done in 4 hours.

2. Leaving Mpila Camp, follow the road westward, bearing left past Mantiyane to Mphafa Hide, which overlooks a small waterfall. Here one may find Mocking Cliff-Chat, Three-banded Plover and Lesser Masked-Weaver. Continue along this road again, keeping left to the end which overlooks the white Umfolozi River. You may be fortunate to find Rudd's Apalis and Red-faced Cisticola here. (3 hours)

3. Between the entrance gate and Mpila Camp stop at the Nyalazi look-out for a good view over the reserve, and frequently soaring raptors such as Bateleur, Wahlberg's Eagle and White-backed Vulture may be seen from here. The low level bridge over the black Umfolozi River is home to Wire-tailed Swallow and many other swifts and swallows and is always worth stopping at. There are view sites on both sides of the river where one may get out of the vehicle and find small thornveld species like Long-billed Crombec, Chinspot Batis, Red-faced Mousebird and Pale Flycatcher. (1 hour)



Accommodation is available in the area.

KZN Wildlife Website

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
Summer (November to February ) 05h00 to 19h00
Winter ( March to October ) 06h00 to 18h00
A daily conservation levy of R80.00 per adult per day and R40.00 per Juvenile (3 to 12 years) per day is payable. Children under 3 years no charge. No gate entry fee will apply at this Park. South African and SADC residents who provide proof of identity may apply for 50% discount on this fee, and will be charged R40.00 per person per day.

The office is open from 07h00 to 19h00

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: 15 kms and 45 minutes

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 562 0848 Camp Fax: +27 35 5620113

Restaurant, bar, coin operated laundry, 95 octane unleaded petrol and diesel (the nearest 97 octane petrol is available in Hluhluwe village), day and night game drives, boat tours.

A fully equipped shop selling a wide range of curios and supplies.

Special Precautions:
Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park is in a LOW RISK malaria area and visitors need to consult their doctors before visiting the area.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Hluhluwe which is 25 kms away.

How to get there:
The recommended route from the north or south is to turn off the N2 at Hluhluwe village and follow the tarred road to Memorial Gate.

An alternative route is to turn off the N2 at Mtubatuba on to the R618 and proceed towards Hlabisa and travel for 27 kms to Nyalazi Gate.

Roy Cowgill and Steve Davis 1998
Erik Forsythe 2001.