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Weenen Nature Reserve lies at the western end of the Tugela Valley and many Zululand specials can be found there. 262 species of birds have been recorded and one can get to 100 quite easily in a day, particularly with an early morning start, as it can be very hot in summer and the first couple hours are by far the best. It is situated 28Kms from Estcourt on the Weenen Road and 50 kms from Ladysmith. The reserve is run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

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Specials

Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Levaillant's Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Southern Tchagra, Willow Warbler and Icterine Warbler.

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Habitats

The reserve is predominantly grassveld and bushveld with some large fruit bearing trees like natal Fig.

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Facilities

There is a camping area at the main gate, a secluded tented bush camp which is being upgraded and a chalet which sleeps five. Booking is done through the office (036 3547013) There is a good network of dirt roads, but you may not get out your vehicle and walk. Armed guards can be hired through the office to walk with you. There are two self-guided walks, namely the Impofu trail which starts at the main campsite or the Beacon trail at the top end of the reserve. Night drives are offered and I have seen Marsh Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl and Cape Eagle-Owl on these drives.

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Birding

1. Good vehicular birding can be enjoyed throughout the reserve and my favourite area is the section from Tiervallei up to and past the Sanctuary picnic area. The sounds that come up from the valley are incredible and one can identify at least 50 birds in a short space of time. A Wahlberg's Eagle nest which has been used for many years is at the top of a Schotia Brachypetla here and the calls of Southern Boubou, tchagra, bushshrike, woodpecker, robin, sunbird, dove, kingfisher, firefinch, prinia, woodhoopoe, barbet, cuckoo and many more are a feast.

2. It is nice to get out of the vehicle at the Sanctuary picnic ground and there are always seedeaters on the ground, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler calling from the bush, Yellow-throated Petronia and Common Scimitarbill calling in the background. Pause at the bottom of Tiervallei and listen to the sounds from this side. There is some grassland on the way back to the road where Common Ostrich, Blue Crane and Secretarybird can be seen. White-bellied Korhaan are found in this area.

3. The picnic site Umthombe under a beautiful big fig tree is well worth a visit and White-throated Robin-Chat breed in the area, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike are often seen here. On the drive from here to the Mtunzini picnic spot, carcasses, when available are put out for vultures. Cape Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture come in to feed.

4. The hide at the dam is a good stop. Many seedeaters come to drink and a lot of birds can be seen and heard in the background. My best bird here was Dwarf Bittern.

5. Keep a close lookout all along the trip up past Mfomfeni for Bearded Woodpecker as this is where it is most found. The picnic site at Umtumzini is a good lookout point over the Weenen valley. Check the skies for raptors, swifts and swallows. The road down past the Beacon trail is more heavily wooded and I have seen African Cuckoo Hawk here on occasions.

6. The Impofu walking trail goes past the dam and this is the best area for Great Spotted Cuckoo and Broad-tailed Warbler has also been recorded here.

7. Raptors are good at Weenen and Brown Snake-Eagle is often seen. Keep a lookout throughout the park for a good assortment.

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General

As ticks can be a problem particularly in late summer it is recommended that you take some precautions.

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
Summer ( October to March ) 05h00 to 19h00
Winter (April to September ) 06h00 to 18h00
There is a late night entry fee of R40.00
Day visitor Entry fee R20.00 per adult R10.00 per child PLUS R20.00 per vehicle

Office Hours:
The office at the gate is open during gate hours.
The office for bookings is open from 08h00 to 13h00
Camp Telephone Number: +27 36 354 7013

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Weenen which is 8 kms away.

How to get there: Turn off the N3 into Estcourt, go right through the town and take the Colenso road. After 3 kms turn right on to the Weenen road.

KZN Wildlife Website

Ken Gordon 2001.
Gordon's Tours


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