Needing a break from the Ambers, Sally and I took our campervan to Zululand for 2 weeks. We spent 4 nights in St. Lucia at Sugarloaf campsite; 5 nights in Mkuze; 3 nights in Nyalazi camp (2 kms from the Umfolozi entrance); and then 2 nights in Bonamanzi.
Bonamanzi is not shown on this map, but it is just SE of Hluhluwe town.
Most of the time it was wet and overcast which was a shame, but you take what you get and make the most of it. It certainly did not help with photography.
St. Lucia. Sugarloaf Campsite
October 23rd to 27th 2022
From a birding perspective, Sugarloaf is centrally located to visit a number of interesting birding sites in the immediate area. Both Eastern and Western Shores of Isimangaliso Wetlands are a short drive away; then there is the estuary and beach a short walk from the campsite – as well as the Gwala Gwala trail. An hour’s drive will get you into Umfolozi.
The campground has about 100 sites and 4 ablution blocks. The grounds are a birders paradise. On many an occasion we have recorded over 90 different species in the camp alone. And it harbours specials such as Green Twinspots, Tinkerbirds, Wood Owls, Livingstone’s Turacos, Wattle-eyes, Green Malkoha, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Narina Trogan, Brown Scrub-Robins, Shikra, Little Sparrowhawk, Hornbills, Woodwards Batis among many others.
This time we had an opportunity to take pics of the Green Twinspots and a very friendly Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird as well as a Golden-tailed Woodpecker within metres from our Afrispoor Cheetah.
Apart from monkeys there are buck, Red and Grey Duiker, Mongooses in particular Banded which form part of the attraction in the site. Monkeys were seen actually playing with a young Bushbuck – each playfully chasing each other.
Monkeys come for food so don’t leave any temptations and they will soon stop bothering you.
On the first morning the sun was shining. We took this opportunity to walk down the beach to see the Tern roost next to the new estuary mouth.
On the way, we unexpectedly came across a couple of Eurasian Whimbrels in the dunes. Others were on the beach along with White-fronted Plovers.
Our timing was good as the tide was out. However, the numbers and variety of species was limited and of course IDing the birds was made difficult as they were on the other bank and we had no scope with us. It was still a treat as we were able to sit and watch the antics of the birds and get somewhat excited as new birds flew in.
So that was when the tide was out. One lucky afternoon the sun came out and I was able to go back down to the estuary and watch the tide coming in. Here is a video.
The rains came and came again most of the time there. However, we still took drives into both Eastern and Western Shores. Western Shores was very quiet and if I remember correctly it took us an hour to see our fist aminal. We came across the Martial Eagle’s nest with a chick on board. Otherwise, the rain kept all the animals and birds in shelter.
At one of the river crossings this Hamerkop remained fishing on the bridge as we crossed, and it let us stop and take a picture.
On one of our trips into the Eastern Shores we came across these three Zebra having a pow-wow. The picture of the three standing in the burnt-out bush looked unreal – as if they were placed there. More like a picture you might see on the cover of a jigsaw puzzle box.
On several occasions we visited the Amazibu Hide to search for the resident family of Rufous-bellied Herons. It was third time lucky but only one appeared. And it moved to a new location, the sun and shadows moved over it and gave it a remarkably blue appearance.
Here are photos taken in mainly the Eastern Shores side of Isimangaliso Wetland Park
At the end of this series, we shall include a bird list showing what we saw and where. From Sugarloaf we headed to Mukuze.
Sally and Paul Bartho
The St. Lucia Ski Boat Club is directly opposite to the entrance to Sugarloaf. We found it a great place to have fish and chips (and a beer) at lunchtime. In the evening the mossies can be bit off-putting.