Published on 19 August 2013
Written by Etienne Marais/Indicator Birding



The Maputo Special Reserve covers about 80 000 HA of coastal Mozambique south of Maputo. The reserve is still undeveloped but has a network of tracks which offer some access to the incredible diversity of habitats the reserve has to offer. A 4x4 vehicle is essential to visit the reserve due to sandy tracks combined with steep inclines in places. Apart from the beauty, the Maputo Special Reserve provides a sense of wilderness which is almost unparalleled in Southern Africa. Due to the variety and richness of the habitats the reserve offers a remarkable diversity of bird species – with a list of around 350 species.


The biggest attraction of the reserve are the vast expanses of beautiful and varied countryside, including grass covered rolling hills and tracts of tall sand forest, a diversity of woodland types and coastal dune forest, which occurs in a variety of forms. There are a number of large lakes and innumerable smaller lakes and wetlands – where birding is variable depending on water levels and season. In summer some of the lakes can offer a spectacular array of waterbirds, and sea-watching at Ponta Milibangalala can also on occasion, be rewarding.


 Brown Hooded Kingfisher


Brown-Hooded Kingfisher.


Sand-forest specials include Neergaard's Sunbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Rudd's Apalis, Eastern Nicator and Gorgeous Bush-shrike. Coastal dune forest and dune forest in remnant dunes some way inland offers Livingstone's Turaco, Green Malkoa, Green Twinspot, Brown Scrub-Robin, Woodward's Batis and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. Extensive rolling grasslands are home to specials such as Swamp Nightar, Denham's Bustard, Grey-rumped Swallow and various raptors. Damp grassland areas may offer Rosy-throated Longclaw and Pale-crowned Cisticola. Large lakes and associated seasonally flooded areas – of which only some are accessible, hold a variety of waterbirds including Herons, Storks , Pelicans, Flamingos, Cormorants and ducks - and a variety of waders -particularly in summer. When inundated ephemeral pans and flooded or damp grasslands may hold Saddle-billed Stork, Grey Crowned Crane and Black Coucal – the latter particularly in the south of the park. The woodland/wetland mosaic offers a variety of other birds including Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Crowned Eagle and African Cuckoo-Hawk. In summer Sooty Falcon occurs along the northern part of the reserve in association with mangrove swamps – an area that is difficult to get to but probably holds specials such as Madagascar Bee-eater and Mangrove Kingfisher.

Ponta Milibangalala has proved an excellent locality for seawatching and possibilities include White-chinned Petrel, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Sooty Tern. However, almost any of the Indian ocean seabirds could turn up; particularly on the back of large weather systems.


narina trogon


Male Narina Trogon.

Directions to the reserve

The reserve lies to the south of Maputo and from the city can be accessed in one of two different ways.

1. From Maputo, head down to the ferry dock off Avenida 10 de Novembro, (M1-01) and take the ferry across the bay to Catuane. From the dock on the southern bank (M1-02), follow the main road southwards from Catuane. After 42km you reach a junction (with the road from Boane). Continue past Bela Vista for a further 23km and just after crossing the Futi River, the reserve is signposted on the left (M1-07). The entrance gate is at point M1-08.

2. Alternatively one can leave Maputo on the main road (EN251) – cross the Maputo River and proceed to Boane. As you come into Boane, look for the turn to Bela Vista on the left (GPS: M1-03). The turn is 19 km beyond the junction between the EN251 and the EN4. After having turned here and crossed the river, keep left where the road forks after 2.4km. (GPS: M1-04) Proceed along this road for 63km (keep left when in doubt) and at the T-Junction turn right towards the Maputo Elephant Reserve. (GPS: M1-05) Continue past Bela Vista for a further 23km, through the town of Salamanga and just after crossing the Futi River the reserve is signposted on the left. (GPS: M1-07)

3. If coming from Komatipoort, one can take the EN4 in towards Maputo, turn left at the junction with the EN251 (M1), and proceed as with 2 above. An alternative (more direct) route is to turn left onto the EN251 some 41km after passing through the border post (turn at GPS: M1-06) Continue along this road for 46km to the small town of Boane. Just after the railway line look for the right turn to Bela Vista(GPS: M1-03). Turn right and proceed as for 2 above.

4. The Park can also be accessed from the South – and may be combined with a trip to the coastal resort locations of Ponta Mamoli, Ponta Malongane or Ponta do Ouro. From Ponta Mamoli drive back towards the main road for 9.2km and then turn north on a sandy track. The reserve gates are at a further 16km along this road at (GPS: M1-13)


southern crowned crane


Southern Crowned Crane.

Birding Directions

As you come into the reserve the area around the offices is set in interesting mixed woodlands and holds a good variety of woodland species including Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Southern Black Flycatcher and Brown-hooded Kingfisher.

Heading further into the reserve, the track crosses a mosaic of dune forest patches, woodland and rolling grassland. These forest patches are a type of dune forest habitat which holds a good variety of coastal forest species including Square-tailed Drongo, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Yellow-breasted and Rudd's Apalis and Narina Trogon. The first large wetland is encountered after 3.5km and may contain damp grassland which is worth exploring. Rosy Throated Longclaw is widespread and localised in the right habitat - generally very wet tufty grasslands. (GPS: M1-10) 18km from main gate is one good spot for this species.

After 11.9 km one reaches the wide shores of Lake Chingute - the second largest lake in the reserve. On occasion, good waterbirds can be seen here and the shallow shoreline may in summer host a number of waders. The best area is around the north-eastern corner of the lake (GPS: M1-15)

After 22.9 km one reaches a fairly well used track to the left. This is the road to the Southern Gate and Ponta do Ouro ( GPS: M1-12).

The last few kilometres of the drive down to Ponta Milibangalala cross beautiful rolling hills cloaked with grassland. Here species such as Yellow-throated Longclaw, Denham's Bustard and Grey-rumped Swallow may be seen.

Coastal dune forest around Ponta Milibangalala is worth exploring – particularly that around the large hill which is visible above the campsite. Typical species include Brown Scrub-Robin, Square-tailed Drongo, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-throated Robin-Chat, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbill and Southern Banded Snake-Eagle.

The road from the Southern Gate skirts the very large Lake Piti which may at times hold large concentrations of waterbirds.


Square-Tailed Drongo.


Sqaure-Tailed Drongo.

Further Information

The Maputo elephant Reserve is wild and remote, and the road network consists of sandy tracks. Visitors are advised to be self-sufficient and equipped with GPS in order to navigate in the park.

At this stage there are only camping facilities within the reserve and visitors must camp at the Milibangalala Camp Site, which has only basic toilet facilities (most campsites are far from any facilities). An exclusive natural beach lodge is being constructed at Ponta Chemucane (Also known as Anvil Bay).

There is basic chalet accommodation at the Madjadjane Community Lodge outside the gate near the Futi River. (M1-11) Tel +258 82 65 87 430. From the reserve gate proceed back over the Futi River and proceed 800m towards Salamanga – this accommodation is well signposted on the right (left if coming from Maputo).

Visitors may also consider using Ponta Mamoli as a base. There is a variety of accommodation at Ponta Mamoli and even a bigger variety a little further down the coast at Ponta Malongane or Ponta do Ouro. See

Another option is to stay overnight just north of the Park at Ponte Torres. This allows one to drive through the park to the northern end of the Peninsula and stay over at Nhonguane Lodge. Tel: +258 84 31 82 443, +27 83 306 4876 e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visitors pay standard Park fees which amount to 400 mts per person per day if you overnight or 200 mts for a day visit (for foreigners – Mozambique citizens pay less. Park fees are 200 mts per person per day, and a fee of 200mts per vehicle is also payable.

From the Western gate it is 35km on a sandy track to Ponta Milibangalala. At least 90 minutes is recommended for the trip, more if one is birding along the way.


White-Throated Robin-Chat


White-Throated Robin Chat.

GPS Co-ordinates

M1-01: Ferry departure point to Catuane. GPS: S25 58 42.9 E32 34 28.1
M1-02: Ferry docks South Bank (Catuane). GPS: S25 58 50.9 E32 33 36.4
M1-03: Boane - turn to Bella Vista. GPS: S26 02 39.5 E32 19 50.0
M1-04: Keep left on the tar road. GPS: S26 03 41.3 E32 19 07.2
M1-05: Bella Vista Junction. GPS: S26 19 35.5 E32 39 38.8
M1-06: Left turn towards Boane (from Komatipoort). GPS: S25 39 37.5 E32 14 35.1
M1-07: Turn to reserve. GPS: S26 31 50.3 E32 42 47.0
M1-08: Main Gate (western). GPS: S26 30 16.0 E32 42 56.3
M1-09: Ponta Milibangalala Campsite. GPS: S26 26 58.1 E32 55 31.1
M1-11: Madjadjane Community Lodge. GPS: S26 31 35.1 E32 41 56.8
M1-10: Rosy-throated Longclaw. GPS: S26 28 42.3 E32 49 30.3
M1-12: Junction with Southern Road. GPS: S26 26 41.9 E32 51 26.9
M1-13: South Gate. GPS: S26 36 28.7 E32 50 37.6
M1-14: Ponta Mamoli. GPS: S26 42 26.1 E32 54 00.3
M1-15: Lake Chingute. GPS: S26 30 34.5 E32 49 06.0