Winter is over and Spring in all her colors is waltzing right in, welcoming the last third of the year as the perfect time to view Eswatini’s vast and diverse bird life. The small kingdom is home to one of the world’s largest bird populations with over 500 different species and it is the climate, the diversity of vegetation as well as its wide altitudinal range that makes it one of the best places on the continent for a variety of birds to thrive. Here’s a look at five of the best places in Eswatini to do bird-watching.
Malolotja Game reserve
Malolotja Nature Reserve is one of southern Africa’s important bird areas due to the reserve supporting a significant number of globally threatened and near threatened species as well as a significant number of restricted-range species. More than 280 species of birds have been recorded at the reserve and the birdlife haven is an ideal breeding spot favorite for many endangered birds including the blue swallow, blue crane and Stanley’s bustard. The reserve also excitingly contains rare species such as striped flufftails and black-rumped buttonquails.
Hlane Royal National Park
Hlane Royal National Park is the country’s largest park and a definite bird watcher’s paradise. It lies northeast of Manzini in the Lowveld area of Eswatini. The park is considered one of the true bird parks of the world. Raptors are of wide variety and stunning martial eagles, bateleurs, and Long-crested Eagles can be spotted here. Hlane is also home to several species of vulture ranging from the white-backed and white-headed to the lappet-faced as well as rare Cape vulture.
Mantenga Nature reserve
Mantenga Nature Reserve is found in the picturesque Ezulwini Valley between the breathtaking peaks of twin mountains Execution Rock and Sheba’s Breast. The reserve is 725-hectares of nature and is home to a variety of predominantly middleveld species. Mantenga is a happy breeding ground for many migratory birds such as the Little Grebe, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant and even the Little Sparrowhawk.
Mbuluzi Game Reserve
Eswatini’s reserve that boasts of superb scenery and close encounters with wildlife is also the perfect place to catch beautiful birds in flight. Mbuluzi Game Reserve is lined by the majestic Mbuluzi River and the historical Lubombo mountain range and offers a remarkable bird habitat with over 300 species. Bird varieties at Mbuluzi include the Dwarf Bittern, Narina Trogon, Pels Fishing Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, and even the Crested Guineafowl.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
This is the country’s most visited reserve and the pioneer of conservation in Eswatini. Mlilwane is located in the Ezulwini valley in between Mbabane and Manzini and delights in abundant bird life. The Sanctuary covers over 4000 hectares and hosts a stunning variety of birds. The Fish Eagle as well as the Purple Crested Lourie can be spotted at Mlilwane. Visitors to the sanctuary are also treated to memorable birding walks and are most likely to see the National Bird,the Purple-Crested Turaco.