The Umgeni River Bird Park was designed and built in an old quarry on the banks of the Umgeni River, just 10 minutes outside of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Visitors to the park are guaranteed an opportunity to see a large number of bird species on winding pathways through the park, in walk-through aviaries, or out in the open paddocks, surrounded by spectacular scenic beauty and cascading waterfalls.
The park was originally opened in 1984 by a group of bird lovers who wanted to educate others about birds from around the world. In 1987, the roads in front of the park were washed away in a flood, resulting in the temporary evacuation of the birds to a private home on higher ground. By 1989, the park was home to over 4,500 birds and given the “Premier Durban Attractionâ€ award by the Durban Tourism Board. The park was purchased by Tsogo Sun in 1997, but closed down at the end of 2009 as it was not financially viable. The Regency Foundation Network agreed to raise the R4.5 million necessary for the purchase, and the city took over the costs of running the park, to finally reopen in June 2010.
Umgeni puts a significant emphasis on conservation and breeds 17 of the 24 endangered bird species residing in the park. Young chicks are fed hourly around the clock, and visitors can watch the goings-on in the baby room through a viewing window. Africa’s first Free Flight Bird Show, opened in 1996, features birds from North and South America, Africa, Indonesia, and Australia. Birds involved in the show include owls, cranes, cuckoos, hornbills, macaws, kookaburras, toucans, lorikeets, and vultures in an open-air auditorium. The show is staged from Tuesday to Sunday at 11h00 and 14h00, weather permitting (shows on Mondays during school and public holidays). Afterwards, visitors can enjoy breakfasts and lunches at the Cockatoo Café.
There are over 700 birds from 200 species in the park, including cockatoos, flamingos, peacocks, loeries, aras, macaws, various parrot species, forest birds, water birds, small seed-eaters, insect-eaters, and 4 species of crane, including the Blue Crane, South Africa's national bird.