The Epic, Part 3 – Underberg to Bonamanzi

From Underberg, we took the road to Eshowe in Zululand.  We had spent 18 months there in 1976, but found he town much changed.  What was the same was the Dhlinza Forest, a well-known birding spot in the middle of the village.  We stayed at a beautiful farm , The Chase, where we occupied a comfortable cottage set in a magnificent garden.  Jono and Jane Chennels were our hosts and were extremely hospitable and went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed.  They farm mainly sugar cane, but have recently started growing proteas for export and this has proved to be very successful.

We birded in the Forest and got our first lifer of the trip, a Green Twinspot, which came to the hide, along with Tambourine Doves, Purple-crested Turacos and Red-winged Mannikins.  Our stroll along the boardwalk was rewarding and we also hiked one of the forest trails, getting Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin and Narina Trogon.

On leaving Eshowe, we stopped in an the Ngoye Forest, where we met up with local guide, Abednigo Dube, who managed to find us our second lifer, the elusive Green Barbet, high in the canopy.  Out on some adjoining grassland, we saw a Red-chested Flufftail (our third lifer) along with many Crowned Eagles – at one stage there were four in the sky above us.

From there we proceeded to the Bonamanzi Reserve, an excellent birding spot, close to Hluhluwe Game Reserve.  We stayed in a tree house, which was close to their water features and bird hide, so had good sightings without having to travel too far.  One can walk anywhere in the reserve and can also go out at night, despite there being buffalo and rhino around, making it very rewarding if one is prepared to put in the time. The area abounded with Bush Shrikes and we heard them all the time.

We also visited the False Bay Reserve, home to the Eastern Nicator and many more bush shrikes, and we walked the trail at Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe.  The latter was not too successful and did not compare with our previous visit, but we did see many Long-crested Eagles.  Sadly, we did not have time to get to St Lucia.

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