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Page History: Hela Hela (Highover Nature Reserve)

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Page Revision: 2008/10/27 14:50

Nestled in the spectacular Umkomazi Gorge, Hela Hela boasts an impressive combination of valley bushveld and mist belt forest birds. A star attraction is the population of the endangered Blue Swallow which breed on the pristine upland grassland overlooking the valley. A full day exploring all the habitats represented in the reserve should produce over 100 species in summer.


Blue Swallow, Black-winged Lapwing, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Broad-tailed Warbler, Pale-crowned Cisticola and Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk.


1. The valley bushveld near the main entrance and towards the Umkomazi River, is rich in birds with shrikes, starlings and sunbirds being particularly well represented. Species worth looking out for include Brown-backed Honeybird, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Icterine Warbler and Garden Warbler (the last two during summer only.)

The unique aspect of birding at Hela Hela is the mixture of species one encounters. Birds typical of mist belt forest such as African Green-Pigeon, Knysna Turaco, Olive Bush-Shrike, Dark-backed Weaver and Swee Waxbill are frequently seen in bushveld adjacent to these forest patches.

2. Along the Umkomazi River African Black Duck and Mountain Wagtail may be seen. Keep an eye skywards for the Forest Buzzard (fairly common here), African Crowned Eagle, Verreauxs' Eagle and Black Stork.

3. The grasslands above the valley are home to Blue Swallow (September - March), Black-winged Lapwing, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Broad-tailed Warbler (common in the seepages) and Pale-crowned Cisticola. Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk may be observed in flight over the adjacent forest.


Highover Nature Reserve is a privately owned nature reserve and natural heritage site encompassing the above mentioned habitats in an area of 1504 ha, and is situated 25km south-west of Richmond. Follow the signs from Richmond village to the Hela Hela Valley and the main entrance to Game Valley Estates is sign-posted on the left after you cross the Mkomazi River. Obtain a key for the grasslands from the owner of Highover.

Contact the owner Dave Edwards tel +27 33 212 3171

Highover Nature Reserve

Adam Riley 2001.
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