Game Reserves in Eastern CapeUmtiza Forest Reserve
Where? The reserve is just outside East London, west of Buffalo Flats.
The Umtiza Nature Reserve is a forest reserve on the Buffalo Pass. It lies alongside the bell-shape of the Buffalo River as it sweeps away to follow the course of the pass road, before curving south to run through the reserve itself.
The reserve is just outside East London, west of Buffalo Flats and south of Scenery Park. Its role is to protect what remains of the indigenous forests on the banks of the Buffalo River.
The reserve is named after one of the rare trees found in the reserve, the umtiza listerana, part of the legume family.
The spiky tree with its multi-fluted stem (it looks as if a few stems have fused together) is endemic to South Africa, and if you want to know what it looks like, there is a geocache hidden in one of them on the circular Tree Dassie Trail in the Umtiza Forest (finding it shouldn't be difficult, as national tree labels mark many of the trees).
Umtiza Nature Reserve is one of the only parts of the country where you'll find this tree, and the forest is said to have more of them than anywhere else in the world.
The forest is beautiful, filled with twisted stems, lichen and moss covered bark, overgrown tree stumps and windy paths that appear to lead deep into the back end of beyond.
Birding in the reserve is one of the highlights, and you can anticipate sighting thirty to forty in one visit. The reserve is fundamentally forest and spotting them is rather difficult, but if you get there early morning, forest birds will make themselves available.
Spotting birds means sitting quietly and listening. Stumbling through the forest whilst chatting is counterproductive, although you will still hear them call. Birds of Umtiza include the Narina trogon, Knysna woodpecker, African dusky flycatcher, brown scrub robin, lemon dove and yellow-throated woodland warbler.
The bridge across the river, roughly 2 km from the entrance, is great for spotting African finfoot.
Within the forest are a series of trails that vary from 1.5 km to 6 km in length. All of them are good for bird spotting, but the longest walk is considered the best.
Round off your visit with a picnic at the picnic area near the nature conservation offices.