The lower south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, also known as the Hibiscus Coast is famed for its pristine blue flag beaches, subtropical vegetation, and laid back lifestyle. Kingfisher Lakeside Retreat is located in a prime position on the Hibiscus Coast. It is situated just south of the town of Trafalgar, which features a stunning blue flag beach, and just a couple hundred metres north of the ecologically sensitive Mpenjati Lagoon. This mixture of coastal forest and estuarine habitats means that the birding at Kingfisher Lakeside Retreat is vast and offers something for both novice and experienced birders.
The accommodation at the retreat mainly consists of glamping tents, each with their own wooden balconies overlooking small wetlands. The tents are modern, luxurious, and feature all the necessary mod-cons for a fantastic getaway. As a birder it is pleasing to see these are all named after species of birds, namely Kingfisher, Wagtail, Falcon and Weaver. However, during my three day stay at the retreat, I stayed at the regally named Fish Eagle Cottage. The cottage consists of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge with DSTV television, an outdoor entertainment area, and a private swimming pool. The view from the cottage was simply stunning, overlooking the vast golf course-esque grounds, featuring small wetlands, and fringed by large trees.
The birding at Kingfisher Lakeside Retreat has many layers to it. At first you notice the many Village Weavers nesting and making a racquet in the large trees throughout the venue. Then you notice the waterfowl that are attracted to the small ponds e.g. Egyptian Geese and White-faced Whistling Ducks. The wetland at the front of the resort is surrounded by reed beds, and these attract a large flock of Eastern Golden Weavers who nest in the reeds.
What I find very interesting about the area, is that it is an overlap zone for both Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos. There are a number of large wild fig trees in the resort, including my favourite one, which is right before the wetland at the front of the resort. I saw both species of Turacos in this tree gorging on the wild figs. The figs also attracted a plethora of other fruit eating species, including large amounts of the beautiful African Green Pigeons, as well as Violet-backed Starlings, Cape White-eyes, Black-bellied Starlings, and Black-collared Barbets.
The other woodlands in the resort also host both Golden-tailed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, as well as Black-backed Puffbacks, Black-headed Orioles, and a special sighting for me, which was an African Pygmy Kingfisher.
As a birder you, of course also need to keep an eye out on the skies overhead. I was lucky enough to see a pair of magnificent Crowned Eagles soaring overhead, as well as a sub-adult. These eagles are amongst the most powerful raptors in Africa, and can take large prey including, bushbuck, duiker, vervet monkeys, and rock hyrax (dassies).
The retreat is not only a paradise for birders, but is also filled with delights for the general nature lover. I was lucky enough to see Water Monitors, Bushbuck, Vervet Monkeys, and a vast array of butterflies. The resort also has a number of bee-hives.
I haven’t even got to the jewel in the crown of what this resort has to offer both serious birders and the general tourist. For the tourist there is a short path through the bush to a private beach. You can also take a leisurely stroll for a couple of kilometres north and you will get to the blue flag swimming beach at Trafalgar. For the experienced birder, you will instead head south for a couple of hundred metres until you come to the Mpenjati Estuary. The allure of the estuary, especially in spring and summer is to find a mega rarity, perhaps a wader or even a rare Tern or Gull. I went to the estuary every morning and evening. The tranquillity of the estuary is simply sublime. Whilst I didn’t find a mega rarity, I did find a Ruff, which has never been recorded in the pentad before. Once accepted it will become the 298th species recorded in the pentad. I was also pleased to see Whimbrels, Common Greenshank, White-fronted Plover, Common Sandpiper, Greater-Crested Tern, and Common Terns. A pair of African Fish Eagles, were also ever present at the lagoon.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Kingfisher Lakeside Retreat. The weather was perfect with warm balmy days, and evening storms. The birding is excellent, and the direct access to the Mpenjati Lagoon really is the x-factor that pushes this venue into the birding stratosphere.
If you too would like to have a memorable birding holiday, then check out more of Kingfisher Lakeside Retreat on our Accommodation Directory that caters to the unique requirements of the birding community.