• Overview
  • Trip Outline
  • Trip Includes
  • Trip Excludes
  • Reviews

Trogons,Turtles & Tuskers

16 to 26 February 2023

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, iSimangaliso , Tembe, Kosi Bay, Wakkerstroom


Zulu Land
Rural Zululand

Zululand’s Game Reserves and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park are spread across Zululand on the subtropical coastal plain and on the upper reaches of some of its larger rivers.

With more than 600 species recorded, the area that we will be visiting is a birding diversity hotspot. World famous game parks provide forest, grassland, wetland, bushveld, estuarine, coastline and open ocean habitats, making this one of southern Africa’s most diverse areas for birding. More than 50 southern African endemic or near-endemic species occur.

In addition to fantastic birding, this trip offers excellent mammal watching opportunities, with the Big 5 mammals occurring in two of the parks that we will be visiting. But perhaps the cherry on top is the prospect of experiencing the thrill of witnessing the ancient nesting rituals of magnificent Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles, which nest nowhere else in Africa.

We visit three iconic game parks, namely Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (False Bay, Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay sections) and Tembe Elephant Park.

On the homeward leg of our tour, we overnight in Wakkerstroom, an iconic highveld grassland birding hotspot.



Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Internationally acclaimed for its conservation efforts and home to the Big 5 mammal species, this iconic Park has a combined area of nearly 100 000 ha, including the corridor which links the two sections.  Rivalling Kruger National Park in its beauty and variety of landscapes, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is one of South Africa’s best-known, most evocative parks.

Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park


Hluhluwe Imfolozi Map
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Map



The Hluhluwe region has hilly topography where altitudes range from 80 to 540 metres above sea level. The high ridges support coastal scarp forests in a well-watered region with valley bushveld at lower levels. The north of the park is more rugged and mountainous with forests and grasslands and is known as the Hluhluwe area.  The iMfolozi area, comprising predominantly open savannah, is found to the south near the Black and White iMfolozi rivers.


Birding Attractions

African Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Cuckoo Hawk, African Finfoot, Black-bellied Bustard, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl, Bronze-winged Courser, Southern Bald Ibis, European Nightjar, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Red-throated Wryneck, Mountain Wagtail, Flappet Lark, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Narina Trogon, Croaking Cisticola.

African Crowned Eagle

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park spans 280km of coastline from the Mozambique border in the north to Mapelane, south of the St Lucia estuary. It is South Africa’s third largest protected area and is made up of around 3,280 sq. km of natural ecosystems. We visit two sections of the park, namely False Bay Park and Sodwana Bay National Park.

False Bay Park, a Ramsar site wetland since 2015, is a nature reserve that protects the western shores of the freshwater bay. False Bay which adjoins the Hluhluwe River floodplain, lies in the north-western corner of Lake St Lucia. Along the western shores of the bay one finds a beautiful strip of forest separated from the water by a broad grassy margin. This combination of wetland and forest birding provides excellent birding opportunities.

False Bay Park
False Bay Park

The Hluhluwe River floodplain is a mosaic of open water, grasslands, pans and enormous reedbeds. There is restricted access to the floodplain to minimise disturbance to breeding birds.

Birding Attractions

African Wood-Owl, Pink-backed Pelican, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Collared Pratincole, Senegal Lapwing, Green Malkoha, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Broadbill, Neergard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, Grey Waxbill.

Sodwana bay National Park

Renowned for its sport fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling, Sodwana Bay National Park is situated on the Elephant coast within iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This nature reserve lies adjacent to Africa’s southern-most coral reefs. The coastline of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the only remaining major nesting site in Africa where Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles still lay their eggs. These important breeding grounds have been protected by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the conservation partners of the Wetland Park Authority, for over 50 years. This ancient nesting ritual starts early in November every year. The female emerges from the surf and rests in the wash zone alert for danger – at this point she is easily disturbed. She then moves above the high tide mark to find a suitable site, where the laborious process of digging a nest, down to more than a metre in  depth, commences. After laying a batch of 80-100 eggs, she carefully closes the nest and conceals its presence from predators like jackals, genets, honey badgers and ghost crabs. The cumbersome journey back to sea follows.

Leatherback Turtle
Leatherback Turtle

We do a guided tour in an open game viewing vehicle around low tide at night in search of these magnificent creatures. Tours last for approximately four hours and include an informative talk on the environment in general and sea turtles in particular.

Birding Attractions

Crested Guineafowl, Livingstone’s Turaco, Green Malkoha, Brown Scrub-Robin, Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Woodward’s Batis and Pink-throated Twinspot.

Kosi Bay Nature Reserve

Kosi Bay Nature Reserve is situated in the north-east corner of KZN, very close to the border with Mozambique. Kosi Bay itself consists of an estuary, four linked lakes running from north to south behind a large dune, and the lagoon of the Siyadla River where it flows into the southernmost lake. Areas of coastal and dune forests, grasslands and wetlands provide the most interest for birders. Surrounded by ancient sand forests, Kosi Forest Lodge is situated within the iSimangaliso World Heritage Park, one of the last unexplored wetland wildernesses. 


Highlights of our stay at Kosi Forest lodge will be a guided canoe trip on the Sihadla channel and a guided walk through the magnificent Raphia Palm Forest, Birdlife on these two excursions is always very rewarding.

Top birds: Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Livingstone’s Turaco, Pel’s Fishing-Owl (with luck), Swamp Nightjar, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Brown Scrub-Robin, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Woodwards’ Batis, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird, African Pygmy-Goose, Lesser Jacana.



Tembe Elephant Park

Tembe Elephant Park, situated only a few kilometres east of Ndumu, is the home of the largest elephants in Africa.  Tembe hosts several sand forest species with a restricted distribution and is the only place in South Africa which offers the birder a reasonable chance of finding Plain-backed Sunbird.

Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park

Birding Attractions

African Crowned-Eagle, Black Coucal, Woodward’s Batis, Plain-backed Sunbird, Neergard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, Swamp Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, Narina Trogon, Shelley’s Francolin, African Pygmy-Goose, Lesser Jacana.


The Wakkerstroom area is one of the best locations in southern Africa to find the rarer highveld species, and the abundance of vleis in the area offers ideal wetland birding.  Hills, valleys, ravines, patches of indigenous forest, montane grassland and rocky outcrops surround the town.

This is the best place to find three endemic species restricted to South Africa’s high-altitude grasslands namely Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit.

Birding Attractions

Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit, African Rock Pipit, Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Blue Korhaan, White-bellied Korhaan, Bald Ibis, Denham’s Bustard, Red-winged and Grey-winged Francolin, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Bush Blackcap, Barratt’s Warbler, Pale-crowned Cisticola.

This 11-day tour leaves from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus.


Day 1

Date : February 16, 2023


Depart bright and early from Johannesburg.
Travel via Ermelo and Pongola to Mkuze, birding on route.
Overnight at Ghost Mountain Inn, Mkuze.

Day 2

Date : February 17, 2023

Mkuze-Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast for Gqoyeni Bush Lodge, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
Gameviewing and birding en route, arrive at lodge in the early afternoon. Overnight at Gqoyeni Bush Lodge.

Day 3

Date : February 18, 2023

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Early morning guided walk from camp.
Rest of day spent birding and game viewing in woodlands and grasslands.
Overnight at Gqoyeni Bush Lodge.

Day 4

Date : February 19, 2023

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park-False Bay-Sodwana Bay

Early morning birding and game viewing around lodge.
Depart after breakfast for False Bay Park, via Memorial Gate.
Explore Park and head for Sodwana Bay in the early afternoon.
Arrive mid-afternoon and overnight at Mseni Lodge, Sodwana.

Day 5

Date : February 20, 2023

Sodwana Bay

Early morning birding around lodge.
Rest of day spent birding and relaxing around lodge.
Guided turtle tour after dinner.
Overnight at Mseni Lodge.

Day 6

Date : February 21, 2023

Sodwana-Tembe Elephant Park

Early morning birding around lodge.
After breakfast head for Tembe, via Muzi Pan.
Afternoon game drive in open safari vehicle in Tembe Elephant Park.
Overnight at Tembe Lodge.

Day 7

Date : February 22, 2023

Tembe Elephant Park

Morning game drive in open safari vehicle in Tembe Elephant Park.
Rest of day spent relaxing around camp.
Afternoon game drive in open safari vehicle in Tembe Elephant Park.
Overnight at Tembe Lodge.

Day 8

Date : February 23, 2023

Tembe-Kosi Bay

Morning game drive in open safari vehicle in Tembe Elephant Park.
Depart after brunch for Kosi Bay.
Late morning arrival at Kosi Forest Lodge.
Afternoon walk in lodge grounds.
Overnight at Kosi Forest Lodge.

Day 9

Date : February 24, 2023

Kosi Bay

Early morning guided canoe trip along waterways.
Rest of day spent relaxing and birding around lodge.
Overnight at Kosi Forest Lodge.

Day 10

Date : February 25, 2023

Kosi Bay-Wakkerstroom

Early morning birding walk in Raphia Palm Forest.
Depart after brunch for Wakkerstroom, arriving mid-afternoon.
Overnight at Wetlands Country House, Wakkerstroom

Day 11

Date : February 26, 2023


Early morning guided birding around Wakkerstroom.
Late morning departure for Johannesburg.
Travel via Volksrust and Standerton to Johannesburg.

Transport, accommodation and meals, guiding, entrance/conservation fees and all specified activities

Gratuities, alcoholic beverages and items of a personal nature

There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Trogons, Turtles & Tuskers 2023”