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While Sehlabathebe is unlikely to make it onto a list of "Required Southern African Birding Destinations", its unique and remote situation makes for unrecorded possibilities.

Sehlabathebe comprises 6500 ha of high altitude (220 – 2700m) grassland plateau, bounding Kwazulu-Natal to the east. The closest access is from Bushman’s Nek border post in the Underberg District; 2 – 3 hours by foot or on horseback only. Road access is via Matatiele, through Ramatseliso’s (Rama’s) Gate borderpost or Qacha’s Nek, and requires a sturdy vehicle. Overnighting is called for at or in the precincts of the self-catering Sehlabathebe Lodge.

Specials include Yellow-breasted Pipit and high altitude birds such as Drakensberg Siskin, Mountain Pipit, Drakensberg Rock-jumper and Bearded Vulture. Karoo species such as Sickle-winged Chat may be found juxtaposed with eastern species. Sehlabathebe is not all that far from where there have been recent sightings of Egyptian Vulture, and perhaps Rudd's Lark will be found in the vicinity. Experts can weight the pro’s and cons of the Karoo Prinia and Drakensberg Prinia, and of Wailing Cisticola and Grey-backed Cisticola; and provide records which may extend further eastward than the recorded distribution of karoo birds, by reporting to the the "Birds in Reserves Project" through David Ambrose, National University of Lesotho, Roma, Lesotho. (Tel: 09266-340300).

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Birding

Trees and shrubby cover around the Lodge, and ponds provide an artificial habitat which materially adds to the bird count. Degraded grassland in the vicinity can yield challenging pipits.

The seasonal wetlands set in grassland are attractive to nomadic and vagrant species.

Broken ground on the escarpment overlooking Kwazulu-Natal, and along the Tsoelike River, holds African Rock Pipit.

Basalt soil slopes beneath the heights on the northern boundary are where high altitude species should be sought.

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General

A valid passport is essential to enter Lesotho.

Accommodation is available in the area.

Robin Guy 2002.


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