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Mkhuze Game Reserve
Categories: accommodation; camping; guide; trails; hide;
Mkhuze Game Reserve was proclaimed in 1912 and covers some 40 000 ha. This section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park rates as one of South Africa's favourite birding destinations and is one of Zululand's top 3 birding spots. Mkhuze also boasts one of South Africa's highest checklists for a protected area with over 400 species being recorded here. The main reason for this is the diversity of habitats included in the protected area. These include pans, swamps, acacia thornveld, sand forest, riverine forest and open woodland.
The camp site near the entrance of the reserve is good for Jameson's Firefinch, Green-winged Pytilia, Marico Sunbird and Black Stork is often seen flying overhead. The road between the campsite and the main camp can produce Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Striped Kingfisher, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike. The skies at the picnic site near the Kwamalibali hide should be scanned for Bateleur and Lappet-faced Vulture.
The Sand Forest includes Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Barred Owlet and Yellow-bellied Greenbul. In late winter and early spring, flowers ofthe Weeping Boer Bean tree (Schotia brachypetla) act as powerful magnets to Neergard's, Purple-banded, Collared, Eastern Olive, Grey, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds. Purple-crested Turaco, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Woolly-necked Stork, Comb Duck, Lesser Moorhen, Dwarf Bittern, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Red-backed Mannikin, Grey Waxbill and Crested Guineafowl can all be recorded from the two hides. Dwarf Bittern and Greater Painted Snipe occurs in the wetter summer months.
Mantuma camp is a great place to observe Bearded Robin at close quarters, as well as Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Collared Sunbird and in summer, Violet-backed Starling. A small hide next to a waterhole in the camp can provide close-up views of birds, including Purple-crested Turaco. The Riverview Walk, (which leaves from opposite the camp office), offers a good opportunity to look out for Pinkthroated Twinspots and Grey Waxbills, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Yellowspotted Nicator frequently haunts the tangles around the safari camp.
The Loop Road area consists of open thornveld, and the birder could see Burnt-necked Eremomela, Grey Penduline Tit, Bushveld Pipit, Flappet Lark, Grey Go-away Bird, Brownheaded Parrot and a number of raptors including Tawny, Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles. Nsumo Pan is a wonderland for waterbirds, an extensive wetland fed by the Mkhuze and Umsunduze Rivers. This pan is home to South Africa's only breeding colony of Pink-backed Pelicans. Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill and various egret species also breed in the fever trees (Acacia xanthophloea) on the southern side of the pan. Interesting birds found around the picnic spot at the pan include Red-capped and White-browed Robin-Chat, Green-capped Eremomela, Woodland Kingfisher, African Broadbill and Tambourine Dove. Waterbird numbers are dependant on the water level of the pan. Goliath Heron, Openbilled Stork, Pygmy Goose and Lesser Jacana are also found at the pan. The Fig Forest, situated adjacent to the pan, is a magical, enchanting place filled with birds, but do enquire about accessibility before going there. Species to be found in this forest include Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Narina Trogon, Broad-billed Roller, Green Malkoha, Southern-banded Snake Eagle, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Black-bellied Starling, Green Twinspot.... the list just goes on and on.
The thornveld around the airstrip is famous as the region's "hot spot" for Olive-tree Warbler, but other species to look out for include Senegal Lapwing, African Pipit, Icterine Warbler, Lizard Buzzard and Desert Cisticola.Greater Painted-snipe, Pygmy Goose, African Hawk-Eagle, Dwarf Bittern, Allen's Gallinule, White-browed Robin-Chat, Squacco Heron and Green-backed Heron are all recorded around the pan and the small dam next to the road just north of Ediza.
From Hluhluwe town, take the N2 north. Signposted approximately 50km's north, is the town of Mkhuze. Follow the road through town to the T-junction, (avoiding the left hand fork to the business centre). Here take a right turn and follow the fairly good gravel road, (suitable for sedan cars), for about 10km. Look out for the signboard which indicates the left turn leading into Mkhuze Game Reserve. If coming from the north, Mkhuze village is about 60km from Phongola Town.
New Entrance Gate to Mkhuze Game Reserve
A new bridge and all-weather road is now linking the Sodwana Bay and Mkhuze sections of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The Ophansi Bridge, built over the Mkhuze River, provides an eastern access to Mkhuze for the first time. This new route allows visitors to the Wetland Park to enjoy diving activities, birding and canoeing on the Muzi Pan, which is situated between Sodwana Bay and Mkhuze, and excellent game viewing - all within a 70 kilometer radius.
The D820 access road on which the bridge is built, can be reached via the Lubombo Road which connects Hluhluwe with Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay further to the north. The traveling time from Sodwana Bay to the new entrance is a comfortable 40 minutes.
Previously Mkhuze only had one entrance on its western border near the town of Mkhuze, making it virtually impossible to visit Sodwana Bay and this section of the Wetland Park in one day.
Accommodation in Mkhuze Game Reserve is mainly situated at Mantuma Camp (about 10km's from gate)