MASSINGIR DAM, GAZA PROVINCE:
Forming the southern border of the Parque Nacional do Limpopo, Massingir Dam has a surface area of up to 150 km2 when full. The dam is situated on the Rio dos Elefantes (Olifants River). It is named after the town of Massingir on the southern end of the dam wall. The steep northern shoreline borders the Parque Nacional do Limpopo. The lake can be accessed from two of the camps in the park. At Campismo Aguia Pesqueira, one has a magnificent and superbly scenic vantage point over the lake far below. One can access the lakeshore from here, but this part of the shore is rather steep and stony and not conducive to birding, although African Fish-Eagle is common and distant flocks of Pelican and Flamingo may be seen if you scan the lake from a high vantage point with a scope. A similar trail from Campismo Albufeira (situated close to the park gate) also provides access to the lake and here, the terrain is less steep and the lakeshore a little more productive.
The lake has extensive areas of shallow water on the southern shores. Birdlife on the lake is very variable and dependent on water levels, but at times the dam hosts breeding Pink-backed Pelican and numbers of Greater Flamingo. This is best accessed by boat, although adventurous birders may be able to navigate a maze of small tracks to the shoreline – the location of which is very variable depending on water levels. The dam wall itself is a good place to stop and scan. Depending on water levels you may be able to see a variety of herons and shorebirds and on occasion the pelicans and flamingos which frequent this vast lake are also visible.
Woodland around Massingir is very varied and productive with extensive stands of fever trees below the dam wall offering excellent riverine woodland. Good birding is also to be had at a lookout point near the main sluice gates which can be very productive for shorebirds, raptors and aerial feeders.
A variety of waterbirds may be seen including Pink-backed and Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo, African Fish-Eagle and Osprey. Others include Marabou and Yellow-billed Stork, African Jacana and various ducks and shorebirds. Woodland birds include African Hawk-eagle, Red-crested Korhaan, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Brown-hooded Parrot, Eastern Nicator, Southern White-crowned Shrike. Summer migrants to the area include Bronze-winged Courser, Southern Carmine and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Grey-hooded and African Pygmy-Kingfisher, European Golden-Oriole, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Verreaux Eagle-Owl and African Scops Owl. Swallows include Grey-rumped and Mosque Swallow and Horus Swift is fairly common in association with eroded banks around the lake and along the river. The river above and below the dam wall holds Pel's Fishing Owl and African Finfoot.
From South Africa the area is accessed via the Giriyondo Border post and the Parque Nacional do Limpopo. Giriyondo Border Post is an hour's drive (43km) north of Letaba camp in the Kruger National Park. Follow the main north road from Letaba camp (Towards Mopane Camp) 20 km from the camp; turn right into the S48 towards Giryondo. (GPS: M10-01) The border post is 23km along this road at (GPS: M10-02). Once through the Giriyondo Border post you will proceed to the PLN office to pay park entry fees. Proceed along the main road eastwards (keep left at the first fork) and after 27.5 km there is a junction and you need to keep left. (GPS: M10-03)
Massingir dam lies just outside the Parque Nacional do Limpopo, and the dam wall starts 1km from Albufiera Camp – as you leave the park heading towards the coast.
If approaching from the South (Maputo) proceed to the town of Macia and take the road to Chokwe (GPS: M13-05). After 61km you reach Chokwe and continue straight on through town. At 81km you reach a junction (GPS: M13-06). and here you turn left towards Massingir. The town of Massingir is a further 100km along this road, and you pass through town and over the dam wall to the Park gates just a few km further on (GPS: M13-04). From the EN1 (Macia) it is 188km to Massingir Town.
Once in the Massingir area – there are several options for birding.
- There is a road running to the east which starts at the centre of Massingir town – just one km from where the road comes off the dam wall, turn left (opposite a BCI Bank) and follow the road below the Dam wall. This road eventually leads to a road which runs parallel to the river downstream and provides excellent riverine woodland birding. (GPS: M13-02)
- To reach the shoreline and Covane Lodge, turn right opposite the above- mentioned road and proceed for 600m to a circle in the centre of town. Take the road right of the one going straight on and follow the signs to Covane Lodge. Take the right turn 3.4k after leaving the main tar road (GPS: M13-08) and then proceed along this road for another 4.1km before turning right again and proceeding towards the lodge. (GPS: M13-09) The closest shoreline is reached by taking an unmarked road to the right just 1 km before the lodge is reached. (GPS: M13-11). The last 3km of road towards Covane Lodge passes through excellent woodland, which has the advantage that one can safely get out of one's vehicle.
- At the beginning of the dam wall (northern end) one passes over the weir of the dam, and just after this, there is a track visible to the left. (GPS: M13-07). If you follow this track it allows access to part of the river just below the dam wall. This and associated fever tree forest and riverine thickets are a good birding area, and the river here is often very productive.
Currently repair and maintenance work is being done on the dam wall and the area around the dam wall may be noisy (August 2013).
The best located accommodation in terms of exploring the dam area is at Covane Community Lodge, which offers a variety of accommodation, including camping and houseboats – perhaps the best way to explore the lake. Boat trips across the lake can also be organised from Covane Lodge. Covane Community Lodge is currently managed by Barra Resorts: Visit http://www.barraresorts.com for more information or to make a booking.
Transfrontier Destinations runs a guided trails, hikes and canoeing trips down the gorge of the Rio dos Olifantes (Olifants River). Pel's Fishing Owl is quite often seen on the Canoe Trail along the gorge of the Rio dos Olifantes. (see http://www.tfpd.co.za/)
Note that the border post was built specifically to cater for tourism in the park, and you will therefore need to provide evidence that you are staying either in the Kruger Park or in the Parque Nacional do Limpopo itself in order to use this border post. However it is a fully operational border post and passports and vehicle papers are required as with any other border post. (See visiting Mozambique on the main page of the birding route website)
Male Double-Banded Sandgrouse.
M13-01: Massingir Town. GPS: S23 52 31.0 E32 08 43.2
M13-02: Road Below Dam Wall (Start). GPS: S23 54 57.2 E32 09 44.4
M13-03: Albufeira Camp. GPS: S23 52 06.7 E32 08 42.2
M13-04: Massingir Gate. GPS: S23 52 09.2 E32 08 51.1
M13-05: Macia turn off EN1. GPS: S25 01 30.4 E33 06 06.0
M13-06: Turn left 60km after Macia. GPS: S24 25 30.4 E32 50 41.6
M13-07: Road to Weir Lookout. GPS: S23 52 31.0 E32 08 43.2
M13-08: Go right to Covane. GPS: S23 56 16.0 E32 08 24.5
M13-09: Second turn to Covane. GPS: S23 55 08.9 E32 09 56.4
M13-10: Covane Lodge. GPS: S23 55 08.9 E32 09 56.4
M13-11: Track to Lakeshore. GPS: S23 53 26.6 E32 05 05.0
M12-01: Turn to Giriyondo GPS: S23 42 31.8 E31 32 36.2
M12-02: Giriyondo Border Post GPS: S23 35 08.4 E31 39 28.5
M12-03: Route to Aguia Pesqueira GPS: S23 45 31.2 E31 49 25.8
M12-04: Turn to Aguia Pesqueira Camp GPS: S23 48 28.4 E31 58 58.0
M12-05: Aguia Pesqueira Camp GPS: S23 51 30.1 E32 00 25.0