Zululand – Part 4 – Bonamanzi.

Bonamanzi Game Reserve, Hluhluwe

4th to 6th November 2022

Bonamanzi Game Reserve in relation to Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserves
Bonamanzi Tracks Network

Leaving Nyalazi we entered Umfolozi and then drove through the Hluhluwe part of the Park to the N2. Turning right onto the freeway we headed south towards the petrol station with all the lights lining the freeway at its entrance. Just before reaching the lights there is a bridge over the freeway and we took the exit to the bridge. Turn left at the top and drive 4 kilometres along the dirt road to a T junction, turn left and immediately right to the entrance of Bonamanzi Game Park.

The Bonamanzi Game Park was empty. We were one of a very few not only campers but also chalet guests. We set up camp on our own in campsite 21 on the opposite side to the swimming pool. Between reception and the campsite we recorded 3 specials and another at the campsite – all heard. They were the Gorgeous Bushshrike, the Bananabird – Green Malkoha – the Eastern Nicator and then the Narina Trogon in camp. Quite a start for our bird list. We went on to see all of them except the Eastern Nicator but only fortunate enough to photograph one of them.

Bonamanzi has opened up all its roads to its guests for which there is a compulsory conservation levy of R150 per vehicle per day once off charge, definitely worth it as you are able to explore both the Game Area and Wetland Areas on your own and the numerous tracks as well.

A Bearded Scrub-Robin enjoyed the campsite with us.

Making use of our first afternoon there we headed to the Wetland Area. Fortunately, despite all the rain the tracks were doable. The floodplain area is very extensive and runs probably 2 kilometres alongside the canal.

That afternoon we had many waterbird sightings and some pretty unexpected birds too – one in particular in numbers.

Here are some of the birds we sort of expected to see.

Unexpectedly we saw several Brown-throated Weavers.

And then among all the Southern Red Bishops all along the wetland area by the canal were Red-headed Queleas.

At the Reception area and bungalows there is a dam with a comfortable overlooking hide. It was a good spot to sit and watch the birds especially when the rain appeared.

However, the surprise was not a waterbird but a Tambourine Dove seen walking on the lawn by the bungalows.

Here are photos of some of the other birds seen while driving around.

The highlight of our time there was to capture photos and videos of a very special bird – one that we had heard on arrival. On our first morning we took a walk along the road back towards the pool and nearby campsite. Sites 7-10. Chasing around following a number of birds we heard a strange call but suspected that it could be very special. Then we saw a female fly across the campsite – Narina Trogon. Then the male appeared at the place where the female had flown from. Shots taken for record, then can we get closer, closer still, will it let us? It did and sat chortling away not 10 metres from us. Totally unconcerned. I moved around and took videos and it stayed put. It only flew off after we left. Lovely sighting.

Narina Trogon

And so ended our couple of wet weeks in Zululand.

Please click on the following link to see our bird lists for each of the 4 areas we visited in Zululand.

In total we identified 215 different bird species.


Sally and Paul Bartho

Zululand – Part 3 – Nyalazi Camp

Nyalazi Camp

1st to 4th November 2022

Zululand. Umfolozi and Hluhluwe maps marked Map 1 and 2. Mkuze shown as Map 7.
Hluhluwe on the right and Umfolozi on the left.

Campsite 7

Nyalazi is a small and very popular campsite. It has 7 sites. During holiday seasons and the winter months it is very busy. All the campsites have been levelled and sand added to form a flat base – as you can see in the photo above. Most of the sites have a view over the Umfolozi fence and animals are often seen.

In the past we have seen Giraffe, Buffalo and Rhino wander through as well.

The overcast weather persisted during the 3 days we stayed there. During our time based at Nyalazi Camp, we went into both Hluhluwe and Umfolozi. Weather restricted our viewings although it has been at times like this that you come across the unexpected.

It is a short 300 metre drive to get inside the park. However, the entrance gate is a further 3 kilometres away. So, as you exit to the right from the campsite turnoff, you are on a main road running through the Park – the road from Mtubatuba to Nongoma.

This time we encountered herds of both Buffalo and Elephants blocking and crossing the road. Must be hellish dangerous at night especially for those not maintaining the speed limit.

In Hluhluwe we had a good drive around, checking the only Hide – Thiyeni Hide – as well as the picnic sites.

The Rubbing Post at Thiyeni Hide. It has been like that for at least 20 years. The Rhinos and baby rhinos – or as you know them, Warthogs – do enjoy a good rub.

At the picnic site closest to Hluhluwe’s Memorial Gate, we noticed this strange looking root system of a tree hanging over the Hluhluwe river.

Looks to me like the underside of a bird with two spindly legs holding the body in place.

In Umfolozi, we noticed a White-backed Vulture on its nest and at the Mpafa Hide the resident pair of Mocking Cliff-Chats paid us a visit in the Hide.

Here are some of the birds which posed for us as we travelled around.

Therre was one camp bird that posed for us particularly well as he sang – a Diederik Cuckoo.

Sally and I debated about going home instead of our plan to visit Bonamanzi. In the end we stuck to our plan and were very pleased that we did.

We drove back through Hluhluwe to get to Bonamanzi.


Sally and Paul Bartho

Zululand – Part 2 – Mkuze


27th October to 1st November 2022

Mkuze Map. Campsite is immediately after the entrance on the left of the map.

Mkuze is a short 130 kms drive from Sugarloaf in St. Lucia. We stopped for diesel on the way and went through Mkuzi town to do some shopping. We arrived early. As the campsite is next to the entrance, we immediately set up camp before checking in at reception some 6 kms further into the park.

Like Sugarloaf the campsite was virtually empty, so we chose a site sheltered from the wind but out in the open so that if there was any sun it would warm up our Cheetah and our solar panels could charge our batteries. We were told that there was no power available anymore when we booked and the staff at the entrance confirmed this. But that was not the case. We had power every evening from 17h00 to 22h00.

Again, the weather was overcast and rainy on most days.

Kumasinga Hide is usually bustling with birds, however it was very quiet whenever we visited. That does not mean we saw nothing interesting. We watched Red-billed Oxpeckers bathing, a green snake crawling along nearby branches as well as a large leguaan stalking along the bank.

Red-billed Oxpeckers having a bath:

The Leguaan crawling up the bank:

And the Green Snake slithering along the dried branches by the hide:

Malibala Hide was also quiet but we did enjoy the Terrapin castles and the ever resident Three-banded Plover.

The swimming pool looked good for a swim – alas a tad wet and cold.

One of the sunny moments.

Camp birds were not too shy despite the need for shelter.

At the picnic site by Nsumo Pan we did observe a distant Squacco Heron.

Squacco Heron on the other side of the Pan

A few other creatures caught our attention:

And finally, a few bird shots as we circled the Park numerous times.

And that sums up the time we spent at Mkuzi. Our bird list will be available to see in our final Zululand Report on Bonamanzi.

Hoping for better weather we headed for Nyalazi Campsite close to the entrance of Umfolozi. Part 3 follows.

Paul and Sally Bartho