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Birding in the Lowveld National Botanical Garden

The Lowveld is one of South Africa’s top birding destinations thanks to its diversity of habitats and wide variety and concentration of bird species in the area.

With birding spots like Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon it is easy to forget that one of the top birding hotspots is right here in Nelspruit… The Lowveld National Botanical Garden.

Birdding in the Botanical Gardens
Situated in Riverside Park on the R40, the Lowveld National Botanical Garden has more than 850 species of trees on 159 hectares of birding paradise. With the natural evergreen forests along the river banks, a world first man made African rain forest on the western bank, Sour Lowveld Bushveld away from the river and the landscaped gardens, a wide variety of habitats is created in a very small area. This makes it home to almost 200 species of bird with occasional migrant visiting in season. Combine this with well maintained paths and open lawns and you have have a great opportunity to see a large variety of birds in one very convenient location.

What to Expect

The birding experience in the botanical garden can be divided into different routes and spots depending on what you are looking for;

General Birding

An early morning walk in the gardens should allow you to encounter species such as the Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-Browed Robin-Chat, Cape Robin-Chat and maybe White-throated Robin-Chat. Orange-Breasted Bush-Shrike, Grey-Headed Bush-Shrike, Tambourine Dove and Purple-crested Turaco may also be found. Listen for the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird’s short call and compare it to that of the Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. Winter is a good time for Sunbirds in the aloe garden where you should try and spot the Collared Sunbird and the Scarlet-Chested Sunbird. The Striped Pipit is also most commonly encountered at that time of year.

Rare Birds

Some of the rare birds found in the garden that are not typical Nelspruit birds include the Bearded Scrub-Robin, Mountain Wagtail, Half-collared Kingfisher, Olive Woodpecker, Olive Bush-Shrike, Black-bellied Starling and Olive Sunbird. On occasions you may also find the Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Purple-banded Sunbird, Buff-spotted Flufftail and Grey Cuckoo shrike if you are fortunate.

Grace Hall Memorial Bridge (Low-level Bridge)

On the way into the gardens you cross the Crocodile River on this bridge. Scan each bank very carefully for the elusive African Finfoot and sometimes the African Black Duck can be seen along this quieter section of the river.

Birding in the Botanical Gardens

Main Path through the Botanical Garden

This path is mainly paved and easily negotiated. There is a view point halfway through the route allowing for a view of where the Nels River joins the Crocodile River. From here you must keep a lookout for the Mocking Cliff-Chat on the opposite granite banks. The Gorgeous Bush-Shrike is most likely to be found on this route too.

River Route

This route is rocky and slightly strenuous, but allows for river-level views where some of the water species can be found. Allow about 2 hours for this walk.

The Skies

A frequent look to the skies can produce a variety of raptors with African Goshawk and African Harrier-Hawk the most likely sightings whilst the Little Sparrowhawk may be seen dashing through the bush. Migrant time may yield Steppe Buzzards, Wahlberg’s Eagles and the Yellowbilled Kite.

The African Rain Forest

Forest birding is not easy for beginners but can be rewarding too with a little patience. It requires slow movement, looking for the slightest movement, either in the canopy or on the forest floor, and also following up on sounds which may not necessarily be bird song, but may even be the movement of leaf-litter on the ground. Birds found in the forest at the Gardens include Red-capped Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker, Green-backed Cameroptera, Bar-throated Apalis, Collared Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Olive Bush-Shrike, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Tambourine Dove, Ashy Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Dusky Flycatcher plus more common ones such as Cape White-eye.  The Crocodile River in the forested area is always worth checking for special birds such as African Finfoot, African Black Duck, Half-collared Kingfisher and Mountain Wagtail.

Birding in the Botanical Gardens

Download Checklist of birds to be seen

Download a map of the Lowveld National Botanical Garden

Download map and directions to the Lowveld National Botanical Garden


The pathways in the garden were laid out with physically challenged visitors in mind, specifically those in wheelchairs and those who find it difficult to walk.  Approximately 70% of the developed section of garden is accessible by wheelchair. Although the entrance to the nursery is accessible via wheelchair, pathways in the nursery are rather narrow. Assistance in choosing plants is available. If requested, plants can be brought to you at the nursery entrance for viewing.

Restrooms that accommodate physically challenged visitors are available at both entrances as well as at the Tea Garden and Restaurant. Garden pathways are dotted with directional signs, garden layout maps and storyboards. These make a walk in the garden informative and interesting.

Safety tips

Please be aware that some of the moss-covered pathways can be slippery, especially when wet. Please keep to the pathways and lawns and do not, for any reason, climb over any safety barrier. Basic first aid is available at the office buildings and at both entrances.

Contact Details and Rates

Tel:         +27 13 752 5531
Fax:         +27 13 752 6216

September – March: Monday to Sunday from 08h00 to17h45
April – August: Monday to Sunday from 08h00 to 17h00

Entrance Fees:
Adults: R25  Students: R14  Senior Citizens: R14  Children: R12  BOTSOC members: Free

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