This IBA consists of two adjoining reserves on the north-eastern Pondoland coast, one on either side of the mBashe river. These two reserves contain 20 km of pristine coastline and coastal forest. The topography rises step-wise from the coast to 300 m and is composed of Karoo sediments and Ecca shales and sandstones. The area is drained by a number of rivers, the most important being the mBashe. Growing on well-drained but poor soils, the vegetation is typical of edaphic coastal plateau sour grasslands that constitute part of the Tongaland–Pondoland mosaic. The grasses are low in nutrient content and are of little agricultural value to commercial or subsistence farmers. Small forest patches exist in the river gorges and on the coastal sand-dunes. The primary canopy trees in the coastal forest are of Millettia, Albizia, Drypetes, Heywoodia, Sideroxylon, Celtis, Combretum, Ficus and Protorhus. In the coastal sand-dune forest, Millettia and Buxus are found. Mangroves of Bruguiera, Avicennia and Rhizophora are quite extensive at the site, which lies at the southern limit of the East African mangrove belt.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The coastal forest at this site is vitally important for Zoothera guttata, which breeds here. Bird parties are frequent and typical forest birds include Ceratogymna bucinator, Apaloderma narina, Tauraco corythaix, Campethera notata, Coracina caesia, Cossypha dichroa, Pogonocichla stellata, Cercotrichas signata, Trochocercus cyanomelas, Telophorus olivaceus, Estrilda melanotis and Serinus scotops. The quiet forest streams hold Alcedo semitorquata and Motacilla clara. The moist grassland patches surrounding the forest hold Balearica regulorum and, occasionally, Neotis denhami. The coastal mangroves hold the only protected breeding population of Halcyon senegaloides in South Africa. The rugged coastline, and its associated musselbeds, support Haematopus moquini.
Non-bird biodiversity: The reptiles Macrelaps microlepidotus and Dasypeltis inornata, endemic to South Africa, are known to occur within the reserve. The area is also particularly rich in highly localized endemic frogs—Hyperolius semidiscus, Leptopelis natalensis, Breviceps verrucosus and Natalobatrachus bonebergi have all been recorded within the reserves.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Both reserves were gazetted in 1975 in the apartheid homeland of the Transkei. This area, like many other coastal forest areas along the south-east coast, may suffer from deforestation and firewood removal by adjacent rural populations. Removal of old-growth trees could affect hole-nesting species such as Ceratogymna bucinator and Phoeniculus purpureus. Populations of these birds should be monitored as they may elucidate trends in old-growth removal. These reserves could suffer from land claims, and the return of the land to its original inhabitants through deproclamation is not impossible; this should be avoided at all costs, and any land claims in this area should be closely monitored.