CHANGELANE RIVER GORGE - MAPUTO PROVINCE:
The southern tip of Mozambique straddles a gap between the Lebombo Mountains on the western border and the beaches of the Maputaland coast. In the west, the bulk of the Lebombo Mountains lie in adjacent Swaziland, but with some significant river gorges and forest patches on the eastern foothills of the Lebombos.
Much of the area is not easily accessible to leisure birders. The high mountains are flanked on the east by diverse woodland which offers a rich diversity of bushveld species (Ndumu Game Reserve is just 50km to the South).
The Changalane gorge is a spectacular river gorge cutting through the Lebombo Mountains. It extends for some 5km and runs south-north parallel to the border a little further west. The eastern side of the gorge has some high cliffs which are an important breeding site for the endangered Cape Vulture. At present access is not easy, but the adventurous birder will be amply rewarded with sightings of the vultures and other raptors, as well as a host of other birds in the remnant forest patches and riverine habitats in the area. The approach route passes through rather rich acacia and mixed woodland.
The Lebombo Mountains hold Mozambique's only colony of the endangered Cape Vulture. The rocky cliffs in the same area are host to Black Stork, Alpine Swift and African Black Swift. Other species include African Finfoot, White-backed Night-Heron, Swee Waxbill, Olive Bush-Shrike, Eastern Nicator and Striped Pipit. The surrounding woodland holds a good variety of species including Dark-Chanting Goshawk, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Bearded Woodpecker and Red-crested Korhaan.
The site is about 9.5km from the main road, and can be reached by following a rough track (4x4 recommended) into the mountains from the village of Changalane.
From Maputo one would travel towards Namaacha and then take the southern road down towards Goba. At Goba, just after crossing the Mbuluzi river turn left (GPS: M5-01) and take the main road southwards towards Changalane for 13.9km. The sign that indicates you have reached the town is on the left hand side of the road, just before a school. Opposite this sign (GPS: M5-02) turn to the right and go around to the left of a large square building. (If you reach the Posta de Administrativo you have gone too far). Continuing straight on will bring you to the Maternity Hospital (ask for directions if unsure – since this building may not appear to be a hospital at first glance !) Just before reaching the Maternity hospital, turn right on a track (at M5-03) which passes a strangely shaped, elongated water tower which is about 10 metres high. This track heads in an easterly direction and is mostly straight. The road does split every now and then where muddy patches are present in the wet season, but at the only major fork (after about 4km) keep right. The track crosses a drift over the Changalane River (M5-04) and then veers increasingly to the left to follow the gorge in a southerly direction. After 9.6km you reach another river crossing which may be tricky, but from here the breeding cliffs are very obvious up on the left.
Male and female Swee Waxbill.
There are no facilities in the area and this site is suitable for independent birders equipped with 4x4 and a sense of adventure. The site can easily be combined with a visit to the Licuati Forests. (See site M6.
The site is also very close to the Mhlumeni/Goba border post. If travelling from Swaziland, turn right at Goba and the Changalane is a further 14km.