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This spectacularly scenic mountain area is home to the full range of high Drakensberg specials and is accessible to two wheel drive high clearance vehicles. Road conditions are poor at the best of times and the going is slow. During exceptionally wet or snowy conditions, parts of the road may require 4 wheel drive. Naude's Nek Pass connects the village of Rhodes with Maclear (approximately 95km apart) and at 2 740m is the highest mountain pass in south Africa. Sixty species of birds can be expected during a full days birding covering all elevations.

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Specials

Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier, Grey-winged Francolin, Striped Flufftail, Ground Woodpecker, Sickle-winged Chat, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Drakensberg Siskin, Wattled Crane, Blue Crane and Grey Crowned Crane.

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Habitats

High altitude grassland, moist on the east slope and drier on the west, is dissected by gullies filled with bracken and montane fynbos. Seepages in higher areas produce small montane marshes.

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Facilities

Birding from the road. Accommodation in Rhodes and Maclear.

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Birding

1. The beauty of Naude's Nek Pass is the ease with which Drakensberg specials may be observed from the comfort of your vehicle: Cape Vulture and Bearded Vulture soar overhead, Drakensberg Rock-jumper and Ground Woodpecker perch on roadside rock outcrops, and flocks of Drakensberg Siskin fly up from the verges. Mountain Pipit and Grey-winged Francolin occur on the higher stretches of the pass. This must be one of the few places where one may see eight species of chat, namely African Stonechat, Mountain Wheatear, Buff-streaked Chat, Familiar Chat, Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat and Ant-eating Chat. Listen for the calls of Wailing Cisticola.

2. The lusher eastern slopes of Naude's Nek (descending towards Maclear) are home to quartering Black Harrier, with moister grassland harbouring Striped Flufftail and Yellow-breasted Pipit. Denham's Bustard and Blue Crane may also be seen stalking over the grasslands. With a bit of luck you may see one of only 3 breeding pairs of Wattled Crane in the entire Cape Province.

3. Between the village of Rhodes and Naude's Nek there are three south - flowing streams coming off the highlands of Lesotho, namely Kloppershoek, Carlislehoek and Maartenshoek Streams. These valleys with their attendant thickets are good places to see and hear Barratt's Warbler in the summer, together with Layard's Tit-Babbler and Fairy Flycatcher. Yellow Canary, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Bunting, Redeyed Bulbul, Olive Thrush, wagtails, waxbills and sparrows all may be seen in the valleys; while Cape Rock-Thrush and Sentinel Rock-Thrushshould be looked for on the rocky slopes above. Giant Kingfisher hunt in the streams, while assorted swift and swallow fly overhead.

4. A pleasant round trip in the car will take you westwards out of Rhodes on the Bastervoetpad Circuit. Sickle-winged Chat, Sentinel Rock-Thrush and African Rock Pipit prefer the drier western side of the pass; scan any exposed rocks and keep an ear open for the pipit’s distinctive and far-carrying call. 15km out of Rhodes turn south on the Bokspruit-Sterksruit road. Four kilometres further take the right fork to Sterkspruit, 12 km further turn left at the T-junction, approx. 45 km then turn left to Bastervoetpad. Continue straight on this road until the tar road where you turn left to get back to the villages of Ugie and Maclear. Look out for Secretarybird, Grey-winged Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, raptors such as Verreauxs' Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier, African Harrier-Hawk and Lanner Falcon. Patches of exotic plantation hold Forest Buzzard and Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk.

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General

A comfortable hotel (Rhodes Hotel), a fairly ‘rough and ready’ campsite, and several B&B or self-catering options are available in Rhodes, for details contact Dave Walker at Walkerbouts Inn - Rhodes (+27 45 974 9290 or ). In Maclear the Royal Hotel (+27 45 932 1176) and the Settlers Lodge (+27 45 932 1029) are both reasonable options.

Jon Smallie 2001
Libby McGill 1998
Jonathan Roussow 1997



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