Lake Sibaya

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A4iii (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 7,759 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 very high very unfavourable high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Situated 165 km north of Richards Bay in eastern Maputaland, Lake Sibaya is a freshwater coastal lake on the Mozambique coastal plain. Lake Sibaya is a drowned valley lake with a maximum depth of 43 m and a mean depth of 13 m; at its deepest point it extends 20 m below sea-level. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa and is fed only by minor streams; most of its water is supplied by seepage. Many pans typical of those elsewhere in the region surround Lake Sibaya. It has relatively little emergent fringing vegetation, which is largely confined to inlets and sheltered shorelines as small patches of Typha, Phragmites, Scirpus, Eleocharis and Cyperus, and a limited amount of floating vegetation in the same areas, e.g. floating emergent grasses. The western fringes of the lake merge into grassland. The eastern shore abuts a very rich dune forest, typically with trees of Mimusops, Deinbollia, Drypetes, Teclea, Cassipourea and Diospyros.

Key biodiversity
Water-bodies on the surrounding coastal plain often dry up completely during years of low rainfall; Lake Sibaya is then the only source of permanent water for birds in the area. The lake occasionally holds more than 20,000 waterbirds, including many locally rare and threatened species, some of which reach their southern limit in this vicinity. These diverse waterbird assemblages include Ciconia episcopus, Mycteria ibis, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Circus ranivorus, Sterna caspia, Glareola pratincola, Nettapus auritus, Porphyrio alleni and Microparra capensis. The adjacent flooded grassland and grassland dunes hold Macronyx ameliae, Neotis denhami and Caprimulgus natalensis. The forests around the lake’s margin hold Smithornis capensis capensis (a subspecies endemic to South Africa), Cercotrichas signata, Apalis ruddi, Batis fratrum, Nectarinia veroxii and Lamprotornis corruscus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The lake contains a goby Silhouettea sibayi (LR/nt) which occurs nowhere else, apart from a single record from Kosi Bay (IBA ZA039).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Sibaya. Downloaded from on 22/09/2020.