Birding KZN with Junior Gabela


Bird the northern KZN specials and endemics with local knowledge

Contact Junior: 082 667 3704


Sphamandla Junior Gabela has been a Birdlife South Africa accredited guide since 2005 and has been nature guiding since 2000.  A keen birdwatcher himself, he has a quiet passion for birding and an uncanny knack of locating even the most hard to find species.

He has developed a keen understanding of the habitats in coastal KwaZulu-Natal having taught as an environmental educator for WESSA at their Mtunzini Twin-Streams facility and now assists MER with research sampling and teaching tertiary level ecological courses when he isn’t bird guiding.

He is a well known specialist site guide for the following birding hotspots

  • Amatikulu Nature Reserve

  • Nkandla Forest

  • Dlinza Forest

  • Eshowe

  • Mtunzini

  • Richards Bay

  • Ongoye Forest

  • Umlalazi Nature Reserve

Junior can provide guiding and bird watching services throughout KZN.
Junior is located just a short drive from the metropolitan center of Durban and is then within easy reach of all the KZN birding hotspots.



One of the rarest raptors in South Africa, the Palmnut Vulture is commonly seen in and around Mtunzini, because of the profusion of Raphia palms growing in the swamp forests.

The main birding spots include the Umlalazi Nature Reserve, the Raphia Palm Monument and around Twinstreams Environmental Centre but visitors are often most surprised at the rich birdlife found in their B&B gardens.
The local specials are the Palmnut Vulture – attracted to the area by the large number of raphia palms planted in the swamp forests in the town and on surrounding farms, Green Twinspot, Grey Sunbird, African Cuckoo Hawk, African Finfoot, Narina Trogon and the Mangrove Kingfisher during the winter months

Mtunzini is also the feeding habitat of large numbers of Trumpeter Hornbills and Woolly- necked Storks.
If you are a keen birder and need to push up your check list with some rare ‘specials’ then the annual Mtunzini Birding Weekend in June or July may be your chance to get those all-important ticks!
The popular four-day event gives birding enthusiasts a chance to find several rare species while exploring some little-known birding hotspots with top class guides.
Hosted by Mtunzini Conservancy and using the Twinstreams Environmental Centre as its base, the weekend is limited to 24 birders who are arranged into smaller groups and covers a diverse range of habitats including Ongoye Forest outside Mtunzini, Dlinza Forest in Eshowe, and the Umlalazi and Amatikulu nature reserves with guides trained by Birdlife SA..

Large groups of Woollynecked Storks are also to be found in and around Mtunzini.

Mtunzini resident and top birder Dr Hugh Chittenden is a regular guest speaker at birding events arranged by the Mtunzini Conservancy.

During winter the specials include the Mangrove Kingfisher, the Spotted Ground-thrush, the Palmnut Vulture and the Green Barbet which has only ever been recorded in South Africa in Ongoye Forest.
Besides the birding, the evening entertainment includes braais organized by the very sociable staff of Twinstreams Environmental Centre as well as presentations by some top local birders, such as local resident and former Roberts Birds editor, Hugh Chittenden.
During the year, the Mtunzini Conservancy also hosts Saturday morning walks which give residents and visitors a pleasant atmosphere in which to brush up their knowledge of birds and trees.

More excellent nearby birding hotspots:

  • Umlalazi Nature Reserve
  • Twinstreams Environmental Centre
  • Ongoye Forest
  • Amatikulu Nature Reserve
  • Dlinza Forest and Aerial Boardwalk
  • Ntumeni Forest
  • Nkandla Forest
  • Isimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park

The annual Mtunzini Conservancy Birding Weekend is a great opportunity to see a vast range of birds over an intensive few days.


Mtunzini resident and top birder Dr Hugh Chittenden is a regular guest speaker at birding events arranged by the Mtunzini Conservancy.

Zululand has a spectacular 605 bird species and a wonderful range of destinations where they occur.
It is a treasure trove of ‘specials’ from the Green Barbet (found only at Ongoye Forest outside Mtunzini), the globally-threatened spotted Ground Thrush in Dlinza Forest, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeons, Crowned Eagles, Green Twinspots, the little known Mangrove Kingfisher (at Umlalazi Nature Reserve) to the magnificent Palmnut Vultures of Mtunzini.
The Zululand Birding Route links the top 70 birding spots in Zululand into 14 local routes in three regions. The routes in the vicinity of Eshowe and Mtunzini form the southern region.

The Zululand Birding Route also offers a network of experienced local guides available for birders to use at very affordable rates.
Not only do these guides assist you with their excellent observation skills and finding the ‘specials’ but also add great value to any birding outing by providing security and peace of mind when traveling in some more out of the way areas.