Ongoye Forest Reserve Hot
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Ongoye Forest Reserve is a large remnant patch of coastal forest covering approximately 3900ha and is the only known location of the Green Barbet, making it one of the Zululand Birding Routes must see locations.


Ongoye Forest Reserve is best visited with one of Birdlife South Africa’s birding guides as they know the best locations for the elusive species and increase the opportunity to see the Green Barbet from below 50% up to over 80%. The reserve will be tricky to reach without a high clearance vehicle. Good birding can be done by slowly walking through the various forest patches while the Eastern Bronze-Naped Pigeon is best viewed by climbing one of the granite outcrops at dawn and waiting to see where the birds perch high in the forest trees at sunrise. The grasslands also provide a good variety of birdlife.

Ongoye is also one of the few forests that has its own endemic mammal, the Ongoye Red Squirrel. Samango monkeys, busbuck, blue duiker and thick-tailed bushbaby may also be seen and in summer months there is an excellent diversity of insect life that includes endemic butterflies. The Zululand dwarf-chameleon is a localized Kwa-Zulu Natal endemic that can be viewed here.



Best Time to Photograph
Dawn to mid-morning is when birds are most active in the forest
Type of Photography
  • Landscape
  • Birds
  • Insects
Best Time of Year
  • Summer
  • Spring
Photographic Tips

Forest birding and photography is difficult due to low lighting and dense vegetation, but sitting patiently at the viewing points can be rewarding. It is also worth making use of the local guides who know where best to locate specific species. Spring and summer is when birds are breeding and so this gives the best chance of seeing the often-elusive species.
Recommended Gear
Mid to long range telephoto lenses together with cameras with high ISO ratings are recommended. Tripods and flashes are also suggested.


Season and Weather
Summer months are extremely hot and humid and afternoon thundershowers can be expected. Winter weather is more pleasant with cool temperatures and more stable weather patterns.
Other Activities
  • Birding
  • Walking & Hiking
  • Insects
Guide/s Available
Birdlife South Africa Guides are a must for this reserve. Sakhamuzi Mhlongo and Junior Gabela are the two best guides for this location
Featured Guide/s


Closest Town
Getting There
Ongoye Forest is situated inland of Mtunzini and between Eshowe and Empangeni. From the R102 turn left onto the D884. Follow this road for 4.5km and turn right onto the D1554. Continue on this road to just past the Manzamnyama School and follow the signage to the reserve.
Ongoye Forest Reserve


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Peter Chadwick
Author: Peter ChadwickWebsite: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
As a dedicated conservationist, Peter Chadwick has 30 years strategic and operational conservation experience in terrestrial and marine protected area management. He has worked within all of the major biomes in southern Africa as well as having provided expert conservation advice at a global level. His conservation and wildlife photography is a natural extension to his conservation work where he has numerous opportunities to capture photographs that showcase the beauty and complexity of the outdoors. Peter’s photography is internationally recognized, with this work appearing globally in a wide range of print and electronic media.