About Ntsikeni Wildlife Reserve

Ntsikeni Nature Reserve consists of a rather inaccessible vlei lying high on a plateau between Franklin and Creighton, in a section of East Griqualand, in the southern Drakensberg reaches of KwaZulu-Natal.

Did you know? Ntsikeni Wildlife Reserve is not only birders that visit Ntsikeni. Hiking and mountain bike trails are excellent, and the MTB Freedom Trail passes through the reserve from Pietermaritzburg on to Cape Town.

This largely unknown and not often visited reserve lies about an hour's drive south of Himeville marooned 1 750 metres high, often covered in dense mist or above the cloud level.

Hence, for a long time, it was only accessible to four-wheel-drive vehicles. More recently a new road, and a lodge run by the local community and set in trust, have meant more visitors.

Surrounded by mountains and endless grasslands, the 9 000 hectare reserve has central wetlands that are important breeding sites for a number of birds, including the wattled crane and Eurasian bittern, or great bittern - a difficult bird to see at the best of times, and one that is considered Critically Endangered with fewer than 150 surviving pairs.

Descriptions of the main vlei at Ntsikeni sound incredible: 1 100 hectares enclosed in a hollow encircled by hills and small mountains, all of which lie in the reserve. There are also unusual rock formations, rocky cliff faces, and smatterings of indigenous forest. The vlei has achieved RAMSAR status.

The bittern is not the only bird worth spotting. There is also a small colony of Cape vultures, yellow-breasted pipits, bearded vultures, the southern bald ibis, purple herons and Cape eagle owls. Over 60 species have been recorded.

Need to Know

WhereNtsikeni Wildlife Reserve, near Underberg, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Underberg Accommodation, KwaZulu Natal

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