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



Maputo lies at the conjunction of several estuarine systems, which provide large tracts of excellent habitat for waterbirds, particularly shorebirds and fish-eaters. Some of the best birding is however to be had around the modified habitats of salt pans. There are two options in terms of salt pans, the "town pans" and Matola estuary pan. The pans are a little different with the town pan providing more deep water habitat and attracting a greater variety of fish-eating birds. These pans offer a variety of excellent birds and though best in the summer months, they do offer good birding throughout the season. Regular species include Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Great White and Pink-backed Pelican, a variety of storks, herons and egrets, African Spoonbill, White-fronted Plover, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Cape Teal.


Wader numbers vary significantly with the majority of species being Palearctic visitors. However, fair numbers of waders over-winter including Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, Terek Sandpiper (most reliably on the mud banks of the adjacent river), Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Common Greenshank. The pans do, however, hold huge potential for rarer waders including Caspian Plover (in 2011) and hypothetically Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Pacific Golden Plover and others. Note that wader numbers vary daily as they come and go from the adjacent estuary especially to roost over the high tide - normally at the northern end of the pans. Caspian and Whiskered Terns are also regular visitors. Other species that are possible include Osprey, Peregrine, Cape Cormorant (2012, nearby), Mangrove Kingfisher (although best mangrove felled in 2012) and the wet areas along the approach road hold Purple-banded Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Red-headed Quelea and Yellow Weaver.


great white pelican preening


Great White Pelican.

Access and Directions

1. Town Pans. If in Maputo, the town pans are accessed via the EN4 (De Namaacha Avenue) just after the big tollgate on that road. Once through the tollgate (heading towards Komatipoort/Boane) proceed 1.1km and take the off-ramp which is signposted "Centro de Manutencão. (GPS: M3-01) As one comes off the highway, the off-ramp turns in a circle to the left, keep left at the first fork as if to go back under the highway and shortly afterwards take a dirt track to the right which goes straight towards the salt works which are visible in the distance. Follow this track towards a huge pile of white salt for about 500 m and you will see a boom gate directly in front of you. (GPS: M3-02)Turn left towards another boom gate, where you sign in and proceed to the office in the building on the right of the gate.


black winged stilt


Black-Winged Stilt.


2. Matola Estuary Pan (Zacarias Pan) From Maputo leave town on the EN4. About 6 km from Boane, the main EN4 route to Komatipoort turns to the left – continue straight on towards Boane. Just after the bridge over the Matola River you will see a tall communication tower on the left. Almost directly opposite this is a minor gravel road to the left (just beyond a hardware/materials shop with a green roof called "Ferragem Zucule"( GPS: M3-03). Turn left down this road and follow this track, keeping left at the fork (signposted to Salinas Zacarias). Once at the Salt Pan you will that there are several berms or raised tracks above the surrounding ponds. During the week one can proceed straight on and park at the main building. On weekends park next to a boom gate on the right (about 100 m before the buildings) ( GPS: M3-04). The best approach is to walk the raised roads in a clockwise direction, returning through the first boom gate on the right as you come in. This walk provides one with plenty of birding opportunities including a view of the estuary channel.


caspian tern in flight de hoop


Caspian Tern.

Further Information

There are no facilities at either of the pans, at this stage. AACEM plans to provide local guides in the future. Please call Morris Ngwenyama on +258 82 565 9897 for any updates. The pans are in an area where visitors are in contact with local people, however to date no incidents are reported from numerous visits.


Little Stint


Little Stint.

GPS points

M3-01: Turn of En1 to Town Pan GPS: S25 55 56.4 E32 30 21.2
M3-02: Boom Gate, Town Pan GPS: S25 56 00.0 E32 30 42.7
M3-03: Turn to Zacarias Pan. GPS: S25 58 45.2 E32 26 02.9
M3-04: Parking at first boom gate, Zacarias Pan. GPS: S25 59 07.0 E32 26 36.7