Birding on the Umzimkulu Estuary
Birding on the Umzimkulu Estuary: the last free-flowing river in Natal hosts a myriad of avian species. The benthic zone and free-flowing tidal nature of the estuary are what attract so many different birds here. And it’s among the very last of the handful of unspoilt estuaries left in KZN Natal.
Around the Lodge
An endless supply of mullet and other fry keep the fish eagles well-fed here. They had triplets a few years back. We got some great footage of the family squabbles around the dinner table right here.
The pair of Crown Eagles that live down nearer the town of Port Shepstone, happily terrorise the neighbourhood monkeys, cats and small dogs all day long. They productively breed here in the valley too.
An African Harrier Hawk aka Jiminiji comes right into the lodge trees to restore order here every now and then. The yellow-billed kites claim their fair share of sky and prey. Often getting irritated with each other these birds of prey can be seen jostling for respect and space up in the skies. A Giant Heron even gets into the mix – much to the annoyance of the Fish Eagles. They hate each other. And the timely visits from the Osprey and Woolly-necked Storks give the Umzimkulu Estuary international fame.
The Masked Weavers love the Fever Tree in the parking area. It is adorned with hopeful love shack bird nests right now. They are spectated on by the starlings. Hadedas. Loeries and a host of other small birds.
But it’s the Benthic Zone that holds all the colour. Kingfishers! From the vibrant and tiny Malachite to the Giant Kingfisher we have the whole family here it seems.
Exquisitely adorned terns swoop in from the ocean to feed on the occasional outburst of sprats and things.
Plovers and all sorts with names that this beginner birder just cannot get quite right yet enjoy and feed in the mud and along the banks! Wagtails think they actually own the boats here and often make nests on them. Making a huge fuss when we want to go fishing with their little ‘uns. But when we get back, the wagtail parents just assume their parental positions again without any fuss.
Many a wagtail has started its life on a boat somewhere!
In the estuary swim Zambezi Sharks and Turtles. And some really big fish! You can see a playlist of Umzimkulu Estuary fishing adventures right here.
The north bank of the estuary, down at the beach, is called the Sandspit. Here we have seagulls to tick off. Gannets. A few crows!
If we are really blessed, an albatross or a skua might be seen way overhead. Big points for those guys! If you really are into sea birds, we can take you out to sea too. On our purpose-built and rigged deep-sea game fishing boat. All the way to Protea Reef where a whole seabird ecosystem is waiting to be observed.
The Umzimkulu Marina features 4 self-catering units facing the estuary. Safe parking and loads of space. Kids love it here. Can fish out front. Or take a boat. A kayak. Or even a paddle-boat for low-speed stalking birds and fish on the water.
You can just check-in and enjoy the birding right from the banks of the river. We are surrounded by trees and lined by hibiscus mangroves.
Check out the birding tour offers right here.