Mount Sheba Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga
Beautiful Mount Sheba Nature Reserve is extremely popular amongst bird lovers and is regarded as one of Mpumalanga’s premier forest-birding destinations. The reserve is privately owned, but is open to the public - many of whom use the particularly good series of walking trails to set their sights on a particularly unique set of birds.
Mount Sheba lies nestled in amongst mountain peaks just above the pretty historical town of Pilgrims Rest. It covers 1110 hectares of land that need at least a day to explore. The landscape includes steep hillsides covered in dense afromontane forest in the upper reaches, with thorny thicket on the lower slopes, river valleys and gardens. Scenically, it is a stunning reserve.
The upper slopes of the reserve that give way to open grassland are covered in beautiful examples of Protea, and these, together with an array of imposing rocky outcrops and boulders, attract birds such as the African cuckoo hawk, the forest canary, the Africa emerald cuckoo, Cape eagle-owl, blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Gurney’s sugarbird.
The gardens at Mount Sheba are an excellent source of not only birds, such as the malachite sunbird, but pretty flowering plants, fruit trees and open lawns that are a perfect space, particularly early mornings, to catch sight of the southern double-collared sunbird and the Knysna turaco. The plant life in the reserve is equally tantalising and rare plants such as the clivia caulescens, gladiolus varius and disa extinctoria are well worth uncovering. Animals at Mount Sheba include the oribi, klipspringer and African wild cat.