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Ken Borland

Kosi Bay 0

Posted on April 17, 2017 by Ken


The view over Kosi Bay estuary with the traditional fish traps

The view over Kosi Bay estuary with the traditional fish traps


The KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife camping site at Kosi Bay is situated in thick coastal forest close to the edge of the kuNhlange lake, the biggest of the four that make up the estuarine wonder at the remote north-eastern border of Natal.

Each camp site is secluded away amongst the mangroves, thereby providing ideal habitat – one of their favourite trees and close to water – for the special gem that is Blackthroated Wattle-Eye.

These busy little birds, that are somewhere between a flycatcher and a batis, are uncommon and easily overlooked, but they’re easier to spot when they pass through the trees in your campsite, as they did at Kosi Bay!

Other birds seen without having to venture far from the comfort of my camping chair were Pygmy Kingfisher (a pair had taken up residence on the road to the ablutions and were seen every day), Natal Robin, which was resident at my site and put on a superb performance of all its many calls, imitating tchagras, cuckoos, nightjars and even African Fish Eagle; Olive Sunbird, Squaretailed Drongo, Terrestrial Bulbul, whose presence I was alerted to by a loud tapping noise as it thumped a caterpillar on a branch; Goldentailed Woodpecker and Blackbellied Starling. I was also surprised to see African Hoopoe in such thick forest.

Kosi Bay is also home to an isolated population of the Red Bush Squirrel and there was an endearing family at my campsite, full of cuteness and a penchant for nibbling at my soap! Samango Monkeys kept to the treetops and were far more pleasant to live next to than their Vervet cousins.

Red Bush Squirrel

Red Bush Squirrel

One of the main attractions at Kosi Bay is the marvellous snorkelling that can be done at the Sanctuary Reef inside the mouth of the estuary. Unfortunately the tide was going out when I dived, meaning there was a strong current and with snorkellers encouraged not to put their feet down on the bottom due to the presence of Stonefish, it was hard work and not able to be maintained for very long.

Kosi Bay estuary - the mouth

Kosi Bay estuary – the mouth

Fortunately there is always birding to be done and there were several Common Tern on the bank of the estuary and the impressive Whimbrel was spotted coming over the sand dune as one approaches Sanctuary Reef. Even a Caspian Tern came flying over the aquarium-like waters.

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove were seen on the way down to the parking area.

Back at camp, a gentle stroll along the Samango Trail produced a pair of elegant Tambourine Dove and a pair of Brown Robin were also seen on a particularly thick, jungle-like portion of the trail, on the actual path. They are obviously not welcome in camp, presumably out-competed by the Natal Robin. Just to ram home the point, a Natal Robin pooed on the picture of a Brown Robin in the bird book I had left open in camp!

The trail also provides lovely elevated viewsites above the lake, with Purplecrested Lourie flying amongst the tall trees and Whitebreasted Cormorant flying, landing, diving and catching fish.

KuNhlange Lake itself boasted plenty of Pied Kingfisher, their lives made easier by the crystal-clear water, Yellow Weavers and African Pied Wagtail. A pair of Trumpeter Hornbill were seen in the morning flying over the 24.6km long lake and then again back across the water in the late afternoon, leading me to wonder if they were the same pair returning to the same perch?

The attractions at Kosi Bay are spread out over a large area, linked by confusing sandy tracks, and 4×4 and a local guide are essential.

The drive out to Black Rock, a promontory jutting out to sea, provided a pair of Whitefronted Plover on the landmark itself, while Gymnogene and Rufousnaped Lark were seen on the way there, along with Fantailed Widowbirds fluttering slowly about, in the grasslands that are around the Kosi Bay area.

Whitefronted Plover on Black Rock

Whitefronted Plover on Black Rock



Kosi Bay is at the north-eastern border of KwaZulu-Natal



Sightings List

Pygmy Kingfisher

Natal Robin

Olive Sunbird

Red Bush Squirrel

Blackthroated Wattle-Eye

African Hoopoe

Pied Kingfisher

Trumpeter Hornbill

Yellow Weaver

Squaretailed Drongo

Tambourine Dove

Purplecrested Lourie

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Terrestrial Bulbul

Southern Boubou

Goldentailed Woodpecker

Little Bee-Eater

Blackeyed Bulbul

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Common Tern

Fiscal Shrike

House Sparrow

Spectacled Weaver

Pied Crow

African Pied Wagtail

Blackbellied Starling

Samango Monkey

Familiar Chat

Lesser Striped Swallow

Common Myna

Blackheaded Heron


Hadeda Ibis

Rufousnaped Lark

Whitefronted Plover

Vervet Monkey

European Swallow

Redeyed Dove

Eastern Coastal Skink

Brown Robin


Caspian Tern

Yellowbilled Kite

Fantailed Widowbird


Amatikulu Nature Reserve 2

Posted on November 21, 2012 by Ken


Looking out over the Amatikulu Estuary, its confluence with the Nyoni and beyond that the Indian Ocean, one was struck by an enormous sense of tranquility as we enjoyed the scenery from the tented camp on the hill.

Twelve hours later, that tranquility had been replaced by what felt like a raging hurricane as we tried to pack up camp after our two nights at Amatikulu Nature Reserve. Situated so close to the coast, we were bombarded by squalls that raced up from the south, bringing howling wind and heavy rain.

While the weather had been against us in terms of birding, we still enjoyed a fabulous stay and were most impressed by Amatikulu.

The view from the tented camp, looking out over the Amatikulu Estuary

My first sighting arriving after the long drive from Johannesburg to the reserve, situated about 100km north of Durban and just above the mouth of the Tugela River, was of a Vervet Monkey. Fortunately, Amatikulu is one of the few places that has well-behaved monkeys and they did not trouble our camp at all!

A Wild Plum was the centrepiece of the campsite and in the morning we were greeted by a flock of Blackbellied Starlings foraging in it.

Our first morning consisted of doing the lengthy forest trail over the next hill and down to the estuary. We quickly picked up a Bluegrey Flycatcher and soon we were admiring the idyllic dune forest and that wet smell that came from the rather swampy conditions after all the recent rain. A stream also runs through the forest and we were impressed by a large stand of trees with their roots in the stream, which reminded me of banyan trees in India. (I wish I knew trees better, these had long, straight trunks and big glossy leaves if anyone can help with identification!)

Another notable forest tree was Tabernaemontana ventricosa, the Forest Toad Tree, with its beautiful five-star, helix-shaped, creamy white flowers.

An Eastern Olive Sunbird was chip-chipping away in the higher foliage but we managed to track him down, while Thickbilled Weaver’s were down on the forest floor even though the breeding season was surely underway.

Down we went through the beautiful forest until we came out on the river bank, from where we walked a few hundred metres to where the Amatikulu reached the Nyoni. Sitting down for a bite to eat, we were joined on a little sandbank by a delightful little Sanderling, as well as Whitefronted Plover and Common Sandpiper.

Towards the other end of the estuary, peeking above a sandbank, we spotted the distinctive heads and bills of a few Whimbrel. As pleased as we were to see them, we decided against wading across to their side because the river looked fairly deep and there are crocodiles about!

This did not deter a couple of locals from their handfishing in the estuary, which just adds to the sense of stepping back into a time when the Natal coast was not just holiday resorts.

Heading back to the picnic site, we picked up White-Eared Barbet and then Squaretailed Drongo, Blackbacked Puffback and Forest Weaver were waiting for us back at camp.

The afternoon, interspersed with showers, was spent doing the 4×4 trail through the hilly coastal grassland with patches of forest and Lala Palms.

It was prime habitat for Croaking Cisticola and he was our first tick on the afternoon drive, quickly followed by Yellowthroated Longclaw. A Longcrested Eagle came zooming over and Yellow Weavers were busy in one of the trees along the route.

Yellowthroated Longclaw

Spectacled Weaver was also around and, although the swampy area around the Nyoni Pan looked very promising, it didn’t provide anything unusual.

Redbiller Oxpeckers were on a female group of Greater Kudu and we finally tracked down Natal Robin just before sunset.

In between squalls on the final morning, a visit to the ablutions turned up a Pygmy Kingfisher sitting briefly on a branch right by the door.

It was a great way to end a trip which pretty much blew us away in both senses of the phrase!

Sightings list

Vervet Monkey

Plains Zebra

Blackbellied Starling

Bluegrey Flycatcher

Whitefronted Bee-Eater

Blackeyed Bulbul

Redshouldered Widow

Redcollared Widow

Eastern Olive Sunbird

Sombre Bulbul

Thickbilled Weaver

Collared Sunbird

Pied Kingfisher

Egyptian Goose

Reed Cormorant

Great White Egret

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Common Sandpiper

Whitefronted Plover



Yellowbilled Duck

European Swallow

White-Eared Barbet

African Pied Wagtail

Squaretailed Drongo

Blackbacked Puffback

Forest Weaver

Croaking Cisticola

Yellowthroated Longclaw


Longcrested Eagle

Yellow Weaver

Little Bee-Eater

Spectacled Weaver

Common Moorhen

Grey Heron

African Jacana

Scarletchested Sunbird

Greater Kudu

Redbilled Oxpecker

Redeyed Dove

Natal Robin

Red Duiker

Pygmy Kingfisher

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