A three-day birding experience in the Midlands Meander, recommended sites and birder friendly accommodation options available.
Set in the beautiful rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, the Midlands Birding Route is a birder’s paradise. Set in the Midlands Meander region, it forms the northern section of the Southern KZN Birding Route. The major attraction for birders on the Meander is the Karkloof Conservation Centre in its beautiful surroundings, where there are two world-class bird hides and the opportunity to see all three Crane species in one outing. The Midlands offers the opportunity to tick some of the rare birds off your list, and offers some of the most reliable sites for Cape Parrots and Blue Swallows.
Arrival: Arrive in the evening and check into a birder-friendly accommodation establishment in the Mooi River area: – Riverside Cottages (033 267 7245) – S29° 21′ 71.0″…E29° 42′ 40.0″ OR Waterford Manor (073 260 7423) – S29° 17′ 33.2″. . . E29° 58′ 50.1″
Day 1: Have an early breakfast at accommodation establishment and head up to Kamberg Resort for a day birding experience. You can also visit the Rock Art Centre while you are there. Giants Castle Nature Reserve,part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site, offers beautiful mountain trails and, of course, the internationally renowned vulture viewing hide. Beacon Vlei ‘s 50 acre dam and the surrounding wetland area are home to a rich diversity of bird species. The website for the Southern KZN Birding Route notes: “The dam, wetland and reed-bed area are home to species such as the Grey Crowned Crane, Purple Heron, Western Marsh-Harrier, Sedge Warbler, African Jacana, African Marsh-Harrier and Half-collared Kingfisher. Occasionally a Goliath Heron is sighted”. All this is available to guests. At the end of the day head to an accommodation establishment in the Nottingham Road/Balgowan area: Gowan Valley Guest Farm (033 234 4413) – S29° 23′ 54.2″. . . E30° 04′ 26.7″; Lythwood Lodge (033 234 4666) – S29° 26′ 45.3″. . . E30° 03′ 08.7″; Little Paradise Guest Farm (033 234 4192) – S29° 23′ 01.4″. . . E30° 04′ 43.5″ – Beacon Vlei Guest Farm (071 872 1360) – S29° 23′ 10.2″. . . E30° 04′ 26.7″ OR Midlands Forest Lodge (072 125 3392) – S29° 23′ 31.0″. . . E30° 04′ 54.0″
Day 2: The unspoiled natural bush of the greater Karkloof area has been identified as an area of significant biodiversity value, and has therefore been earmarked for conservation by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Within that area can be found the Karkloof Conservation Centre, the Karkloof Nature Reserve and the Rockwood Forest, all of which offer birding opportunities. Have an early breakfast at the accommodation establishment and head to Karkloof Conservation Centre for the day. You can take along a picnic basket for while you are there. Check into a birding enthusiast’s accommodation establishment in the Karkloof/Curry’s Post area and enjoy the birding they offer: – Thistledown Country House (0824910533) – S29° 19′ 38.9″. . . E30° 15′ 39.7″; Rockwood Lodges (031 502 4043) – S29° 18′ 03.0″. . . E30° 13′ 40.0″; Fiddlewood Guest Farm (083 754 5752) – S29° 26′ 57.8″. . . E30° 11′ 32.1″ OR The Windmills Self-Catering Lodges (033 266 6965) – S29° 18′ 56.8″. . . E30° 03′ 06.4″
Day 3: Have an early breakfast at the accommodation establishment and head to the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve in Howick. The Reserve covers 650ha of grassland, cliffs, indigenous forest and Acacia woodland. It is run by WESSA and offers first-rate birding opportunities. Non-WESSA members are required to pay an entrance fee. The Midmar Dam Resort is another good site for birding. You can take along picnic baskets and there are braai facilities available there and at Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. Alternatively, you could go to the Caversham area, which is one of the most beautiful places for birding on the Midlands Meander. Stop in for lunch at Caversham Mill Restaurant. Head to the next accommodation establishment to spend your last relaxing night in the majestic Midlands: Lemonwood Cottages, in the Dargle Valley and conservancy area in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is home to dancing Grey Crowned Cranes – birding available there to guests only. Likewise, Tillietudlem, in 1600 hectares of quiet Dargle Valley beauty on the southern side of the Inhlosane Mountain, offers guests a variety of environmental activities, including birding. – Tillietudlem game and trout farm (033 234 9045) – S29° 36′ 53.4″. . . E29° 56′ 19.9″; Lemonwood Cottages (082 052 6072) – S29° 23′ 10.1″. . . E30° 03′ 12.8″; Otters Den Self-catering (082 972 5537) – S29° 26′ 25.7″. . . E29° 56′ 12.7″; Waterfall Cottage (082 342 8217) – S29° 27′ 53.6″. . . E29° 59′ 35.6″; Hawklee Country House (033 266 6209) – S29° 26′ 32.6″. . . E29° 56′ 18.6″; St Ives Country Estate (033 234 4490) – S29° 27′ 24.6″. . . E30° 08′ 00.1″ OR Lions River Country Cottages (033 234 4543) – S29° 26′ 04.1″. . . E30° 08′ 50.1″.
Birds to spot in region:
Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
Black-rumped Buttonquail (Turnix nanus)
Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaearuela)
Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus)
Drakensberg Rockjumper (Chaetops aurantius)
Drakensberg Siskin (Crithagra symonsi)
Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)
Mangrove Kingfisher (Halcyon senegaloides)
Southern Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus)
Spotted Ground Thrush
Wattled Crane (Grus carunculatus)