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Lake St Lucia is the most important breeding area for waterbirds in south Africa, supporting large numbers of pelicans, storks and flamingos. The greater St. Lucia Park was created to protect this vital wetland and includes the conservation areas of Mapelane, Eastern Shores, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Charters Creek, Fanies Island, False Bay Park and Mkuze Game Reserve (the latter is dealt with separately). In addition to the wetlands, the park incorporates a wide range of terrestrial habitats and is the most accessible place to see the Zululand coastal "specials". Day lists of over 100 species are possible in summer. A one or two day stay is recommended.

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Specials

Large numbers of Great White Pelican and Pink-backed Pelican, Rufous-bellied Heron, Saddle-billed Stork and Yellow-billed Stork, Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo. Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Crested Guineafowl, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Lesser Jacana, Caspian Tern, Livingstone's Turaco, Green Malkoha, Swamp Nightjar, Mangrove Kingfisher, African Broadbill. Eastern Nicator, White-throated Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Woodwards' Batis, Short-tailed Pipit, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Neergaard's Sunbird, Green Twinspot, Pink-throated Twinspot and Grey Waxbill.

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Habitats

Habitats that surround the estuary and floodplain are varied and typical of the East Coast Littoral including dune forest, sand forest, coastal thicket, mangrove and coastal grassland (seasonally flooded in places).

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Facilities

There are a number of camps in the park, and each offers chalet accommodation and some offer camping. Each camp offers walking trails, and boat trips are available at some. Details of the camps are summarised below.

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Birding

1. St. Lucia village The best way to see waterbirds is on a cruise of the estuary, when large flocks of Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, Lesser Flamingo and Saddle-billed Stork (uncommon, though the best place in KZN for this species). Yellow-billed Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Caspian Tern, and a variety of waders including Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover and Pied Avocet. Check the mouth of the estuary for Goliath Heron and roosting terns including Lesser Crested Tern (common). Rarities recorded here have included Greater Frigatebird, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Brown Noddy. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Sand Martin and Southern Brown-throated Weaver are easily seen from the bridge over the estuary in summer. The mangroves just downstream from this bridge are a good place to search for Mangrove Kingfisher in winter: listen for its distinctive call in the morning or late evening. A variety of forest birds may be found in the dune forest around town e.g. on the short Gwalagwala Trail, all of which are present, and perhaps easier to see than at Cape Vidal. Buff-spotted Flufftail may be glimpsed crossing a path, or try with a tape-recorder for this elusive species. The small seasonal pan near Sugarloaf campsite has produced Dwarf Bittern in summer.

2. St.Lucia - Iphiva Tl. The trail starts at the entrance to the KZN Wildlife "Iphiva" Campsite. It can take anything up to 3 hours depending on how much time you spend birding. You do not need a permit and walking the trail is free of charge, although a night camped at Iphiva will be well worth it. The Iphiva campsite is near to the Crocodile farm , on the Cape Vidal Road and is well signposted. The trail leads at first through open grassland with flooded pans in places. The trail also leads at times through dense areas of coastal thicket and the edge of the dune forest and provides excellent birding. One of the magic things about this trail is the abundance of small antelope, Zebra and Wildebeest making for quite an exciting walk. Do keep your eyes open though for Crocodiles in the pans and Hippos out of the water can be potentially dangerous. Maps of the trail and guide books are also available from the KZN Wildlife offices in St Lucia. The grassland areas are normally good all year round for Croaking Cisticola, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Grey-rumped Swallow. In the more moist summer months Rosy-throated Longclaw can be flushed from the shallow grassy edges of pans. If you are camping in the Iphiva campsite listen out at night for the Swamp Nightjar calling as well as African Wood-Owl which are fairly common around the campsite. The patches of forest thickets in the grassland are good places for spotting the Southern Banded Snake-Eagle perching in one of the bigger trees, this is probably one of the best areas in South Africa to see this bird. Some of the deeper, more permanent pans are often covered with water Lilies and these are good areas to look for African Pygmy-Goose, White-backed Duck and Lesser Jacana often with big mixed flocks of herons, egrets, storks and Pacific Golden Plover. Along the forest edge Narina Trogon and Green Malkoha are often heard calling and in the acacia thickets of the forest look out for Rudd's Apalis. The last section of the trail leads through the campsite, the more time spent birding around the campsite the better. The areas near the edge of the dunes are always great spots to see Brown Scrub-Robin which have become fairly tame here and will even come into your campsite and pick up scraps. Keep an eye out for Woodwards' Batis, Square-tailed Drongo, Dark-backed Weaver, Schalow's Turaco, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Eastern Nicator (which is easily heard calling from the thickets at the edges of the dune forest). Crested Guineafowl are often seen foraging around the campsites and are also now fairly tame. The campsite is also home to many fairly habituated bushbuck, Red Duiker, Warthog, banded Mongoose, and some very cheeky Vervet Monkeys. At Night Hippo's and bush pig can be seen wandering amongst the campsites. There is also a short walk from the Iphiva campsite to the beach (starting just behind the youth centre) which is an excellent area for seeing most forest birds, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, African Broadbill, African Crowned Eagle, and in the early morning Green Twinspot are often seen along the paths. (DP).

3. Cape Vidal Road. The road to Cape Vidal can be quite bad at times but still accessible with a two wheel drive. There is a daily limit on cars allowed into the reserve, so get there early in peak season. The 40km's from St Lucia to Cape Vidal is certainly not boring, as along the road is one of the best places to see a whole host of different raptors. Look out for Brown Snake-Eagle and Black-chested Snake-Eagle soaring overhead. Southern Banded Snake-Eagle is best seen along here if you missed it at Iphiva.

About 20km's from the gate is the parking area for the Mfazana Pan and hides (almost opposite the Mission Rocks turn off). The 20 minute walk down to the pans is good for Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, Rudd's Apalis, White-starred Robin and Olive Bush-Shrike. Both Hides normally have some good waterbirds. Look for African Wattled Lapwing along the shores and Osprey in summer. The hides are also great for viewing hippo and crocodile.

Closer to Cape Vidal just before the road veers left (about 4km's from Cape Vidal) is the parking area for the Iboma Trail, a walk with most grassland birds, including Croaking Cisticola and Rosy-throated Longclaw in the damp areas. Also check around the numerous palm trees for roosting Swamp Nightjar. The southern portion of the trail runs close to the Mfabeni Swamp which you can see along the road just before Cape Vidal. Red-chested Flufftail is often heard here, and Rufous-bellied Heron occurs. The whole range of reed dwelling warblers can warbler heard. (DP).

4. Cape Vidal dune forest. The dune forest at Cape Vidal is THE locality in South Africa for Brown Scrub-Robin and Woodwards' Batis; both species are readily seen along the roads or within the campsite. Spotted Ground-Thrush occur in winter, and Buff-spotted Flufftail occur in the campsite. Livingstone's Turacoare common and conspicuous by their vocalisations. Other species more easily located by their calls are Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Eastern Nicator, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Rudd's Apalis (the latter restricted to Acacia thick in the coastal forest), Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Grey Sunbird. African Wood-Owl is commonly heard in the campsite at night. Check patches of seeding grass at the roadside or along the Umvubu forest Trail for mixed groups of Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill and Red-backed Mannikin.

The Umvubu Trail which starts at the campsite is excellent. The trail leads through incredibly beautiful bush with great sea views and runs along the shores of Lake Bhangazi for a while. The first section of the hike through the dune forest is great for the forest specials, with Eastern Nicator, Woodwards' Batis, Grey Sunbird and Green Malkoha all easy to find. Other fairly common forest birds to look for are Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Sunbird and African Broadbill. African Wood-Owl is commonly heard in the campsite at night. (DP).

5. Sodwana Bay. The mosaic of habitats around Sodwana Bay to the north hosts similar birds to those of cape Vidal and eastern Shores, including Southern Banded Snake-Eagle and Woodwards' Batis, although its coastal grassland around Lake Bhangazi North is more extensive and less disturbed. Rufous-bellied Heron, African Pygmy-Goose, Lesser Jacana and Rosy-throated Longclaw are more easily seen here (summer), and in winter Short-tailed Pipit is not uncommon in areas of short grass. Both Kurrichane Buttonquail and Black-rumped Buttonquail have been recorded in the grassland, whilst the coastal form of African Barred Owlet (rare) occurs at forest edges. Swamp Nightjar may be flushed from their day roosts beneath clumps of Lala palms, which should also be checked for the uncommon Lemon-breasted Canary.

6. Mapelane. The dune forest at Mapelane is the southern limit of the ranges of a number of species including Livingstone's Turaco, Rudd's Apalis and Woodwards' Batis, though these remain easier to see further north. Green Twinspot are commonly heard, less commonly seen, in the campsite.

7. False Bay Park, Fani's Island and Charter's Creek are the three reserves on the western shore of the lake and share similar habitats, including dry woodland, sand forest and the grassy margins of the lake. All have self-guided trails which allow access to the woodland and lake shore. Look and listen for Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Eastern Nicator. African Broadbill is also best located by its frog-like call. White-throated Robin-Chat, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis and Neergaard's Sunbird are common in the campsite and Pale Flycatcher near the gate, at False Bay Park. Check thickets along the entrance road for Pink-throated Twinspot. The lake edge is not highly productive but African Fish-Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork and various terns and shorebirds may be seen. The more extensive marshy grassland below Dugandlovu Rustic Camp holds Swamp Nightjar and Rosy-throated Longclaw common).

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General

An entrance fee is payable at all the reserves, which are signposted off the N2.

KZN Wildlife Website

St Lucia

St. Lucia village, at the mouth of the estuary, has a variety of food and accommodation available. Reservations for a launch cruise of the lake and campsites (necessary only during peak holiday season):

Gate Opening and Closing Times: 24 hours a day

Office Hours:
The office is open from 08h00 to 16h30

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 5901340 Camp Fax: +27 35 590 1343

Facilities:
Boat tours on the St Lucia launch up the estuary narrows.

Special Precautions:
St Lucia is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary. No swimming is allowed in the estuary because of crocodiles.

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

How to get there:
Turn off the N2 into Mtubatuba and follow the signs through town and on 25 kilometres to St Lucia.

Cape Vidal

Gate Times :

Summer : (01 October -31 March) 05h00-19h00 05h00-21h00 (Night B4 public holiday, long weekend and on a Friday)

Winter : (01 April - 31 September) 06h00-18h00 06h00-21h00(Night B4 public holiday, long weekend and on a Friday) Day visitor Entry fee R30.00 per adult R 15.00 per child R35.00 per vehicle, 11-20 passengers R70.00, more than 20 passengers or mass above 3000 kg R140.00

Emergency Numbers : (All Hours)

082 493 9010 - Manfred Bronkhorst, Hospitality Manager 082 841 5953 - Fortunate Mbuyazi, Receptionist 082 559 2875 - Leo Frankel, Hospitality Manager, St. Lucia

Office Hours:
The office is open from 08h00 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 16h30 Sundays and public holidays: 08h00 to 12h30 and 13h30 to 15h30

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: 35 kms and 30 minutes.

Camp Telephone Number:(035) 5909012 Camp Fax:(035) 5909007

Shop: This sells curios and limited supplies

Special Precautions: Cape Vidal is a malaria area and special precautions are necessary.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Mtubatuba which is 60 kms away.

How to get there:
At the entrance to St Lucia village turn left at the T junction and take the road that goes past the Crocodile Centre to the Cape Vidal entrance gate. Travel on the new tar road for 35 kms to Cape Vidal camp.

Sodwana Bay

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
The gate is open 24 hours a day

Day visitor Entry fee R20.00 per adult R15.00 per child

Office Hours:
The office is open from 08h00 to 16h30 from Monday to Thursday.
The office is open from 07h00 to 16h30 from Friday to Saturay.
The main reception office closes at 15:00 pm on Sunday Afternoons.
Should guests arrive after office hours they are to please proceed to the camp gate, where they will be asisted.

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 571 0051/2/3 Camp Fax: +27 35 571 0115

Facilities:
Diving, fishing and boating. Horse riding (beach & reserve) and micorlighting are also avaialble.

Shop:
The shop in the reserve is run by a concessionaire and stocks curios, groceries and fishing tackle.

Special Precautions:
Sodwana Bay is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Hluhluwe which is 80 kms away.

How to get there:
The tar road from Hluhluwe to Mbazwane town is now complete. Upon arrival at Mbazwane follow the signs, turning right through town and right again at the T-junction from there it is another 13km of tar to the main gate of Sodwana Bay National Park. We recommend this route to all our visitors, as it is the safest and even slightly quicker when coming from the north.

False Bay

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
Summer ( October to March ) 05h00 to 20h00
Winter (April to September ) 06h00 to 20h00
Day visitor Entry fee R25.00 per adult R13.00 per child

The office is open from 08h00 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 16h30

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 562 0425 Camp Fax: +27 35 562 0425

Shop: Limited sales of curios and supplies.

Special Precautions:
False Bay Park is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Hluhluwe which is 15 kms away.

How to get there:
The turn off to False Bay is at Hluhluwe village on the N2 and the entrance is about 15 kms east of the Hluhluwe railway station.

Fani's Island

Gate Opening and Closing Times: Year Round 06h00 to 20h00

Day visitor Entry fee R20.00 per adult R10.00 per child

The office is open from 08h00 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 16h30

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: 500 meters

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 550 9035 Camp Fax: +27 35 550 9051

Facilities: A fully equipped rustic conference centre seating 50 delegates is situated on the lakeside.

Shop: The shop sells limited curios and basic supplies.

Special Precautions: Fani's Island is in a low risk malaria area.

Swimming in the lake is not permitted due to the large crocodile population in the area, however there is a splendid swimming pool for visitors use .

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Mtubatuba which is 40 kms way.

Fani's offers a range of scenic self-guided walking trails.

How to get there:
The turn off to the camp from the N2 highway is 20 kms north of Mtubatuba and 30 kms south of Hluhluwe village. Approximately 12 kms along this road is a turn off to the left to Fani's Island which is 15 kms along a gravel road.

Charters Creek

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
Summer( October to March ): 06h00 to 18h00
Winter (April to September ): 06h00 to 18h00
Day visitor Entry fee R20.00 per adult and R10.00 per child

The office is open from 08h00 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 16h30

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: 500m

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 550 9000 Camp Fax: +27 35 550 9001

Facilities:
Boat tours have been suspended until further notice due to the low water levels of the lake. It is also currently not possible to launch a private boat from Charter`s Creek launch site due to the low water levels.

Shop: The shop sells curios and a limited range of supplies.

Special Precautions: Charters Creek is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Mtubatuba which is 40 kms away.

How to get there:
The turn-off to the camp from the N2 highway is 20kms north of Mtubatuba and 30 kms south of Hluhluwe . Charters Creek is a further 18 kms east along this road.

The Zululand Birding Route (www.zbr.co.za) will also be able to help with details of guides, accommodation and birding spots Tel: +27 35 753 5644 or e-mail zbr@mweb.co.za

Duncan Pritchard 2001
Jonathan Rossouw and Adam Riley



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