Birding the Umtiza Forest Reserve, East London
Umtiza Indigenous Forest Reserve produces 30-40 bird species which can be sighted from 3 trails. All trails produce birds, but the 6 km walk will produce the greatest variety. With most species being forest birds, it is helpful if you can identify the calls or use recorded sounds to bring some birds in. A good starting time is about 7am. The Narina Trogon is one of the special features of Umtiza, and the best time for sightings is during the Summer (between October and December). Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Knysna Turaco and Knysna Woodpecker are also quite common and usually found in the forest canopy.
The reserve is also home to samango monkeys, tree dassies and blue duikers.
The reserve has easy day walks on a network of trails. There are three different trails, the first of which is a distance of 2½ km (a 1 hour walk) which circles the Manager’s Office and remains on the plateau. The second walk is 6 km long (a 2 to 3 hours walk) and crosses to the north of the Buffalo Pass Road. The third is a shorter distance of 1½ km (a 30 minute walk) and covers part of the previous trail.
There are picnic and ablution facilities in the parking area near the Nature Conservation offices and maps of the trails are available in the small hut, also near the offices, as part of self-issue permits. If the permit book has been removed, refer to the map on the signboard in the parking area.
To reach the forest, drive north up Oxford Street from the East London Post Office and turn left onto Connaught Avenue at the traffic lights near the Museum. Turn left at the Buffalo Pass turnoff which is 3½ km further on, continue to the top of the hill and take the first road to the left. After a few hundred metres you reach the entrance after a journey of about 13 km.
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