We often get feedback that the accommodation on this tour is great! Indeed, South Africa is one of the best value destinations on the entire continent. The excellent infrastructure, superb accommodation, great food, wonderful South African hospitality, spectacular and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most pleasant countries in the world to bird in. We begin this tour in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cape Town, looking for a host of avian endemics found nowhere else but in the Cape Floral Kingdom (the richest place on earth for plants), and also doing a pelagic trip. Capepelagics are amongst the best in the world. We then head northwards from Cape Town up the west coast, and then across the beautiful and rugged Cederberg range into the Karoo, another one of Africa’s greatest endemic hotspots. We then visit the Agulhas Plains, which are the stronghold of South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane, and also are inhabited by localized endemics such as the Agulhas Long-billed Lark. We then continue to the picturesque Garden Route, where we have time to sample some of the birds more typical of Eastern South Africa, including Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, and a host of others.
All in all, our 12-day featured Cape tour in March this year is full of localized endemics, spectacular scenery, and so much more.
This trip is not only full of localized avian endemics, but also of spectacularly famous scenery such as the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and Table Mountain (photos by Martin Benadie)
Itinerary (12 days/11nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Cape Town
This is the day you need to arrive in Cape Town – any time during the day. You will be met at Cape Town International Airport and transferred to our B&B. Time-permitting, we may already start some birding today – we can bird one of the Cape Peninsula’s fine wetlands (Intaka Island, Rietvlei or Rondevlei). Here we will look for Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo, a host of shorebirds, Cape Teal and Maccoa Duck among many other waterfowl, Little Bittern, and many other herons, three grebe species,Greater Painted-snipe, African Snipe, four species of reed-associated Warblers, and other waterbirds. While looking for waterbirds (or even while driving to our B&B) we should also find good numbers of terrestrial endemics, including Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, and Jackal Buzzard.
Overnight: at the lovely “birder-friendly” Avian Leisure B&B, Simonstown, South Peninsula
A desert bird that skulks - watch this weird little warbler disappear into a rock crevice! Cinnamon-breasted Warbler is one of the Cape’s strangest endemics, and is one of the toughest of the many Karoo endemics to see well. (Photo by André Stapelberg)
Day 2. Pelagic Trip (or Cape Peninsula and False Bay Birding)
After an early breakfast, we embark on a pelagic trip (weather-permitting, otherwise Cape Peninsula and False Bay birding), departing from Simonstown, where we will find African Penguin, and from here we’ll be going 30-50 km out to sea. En route, we pass the magnificent Cape Point – really spectacular when seen from the sea. Our first pelagic species are usually Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel (with the occasional Spectacled Petrel), followed soon by sometimes both species of Giant Petrel, Northern and Southern. Further out, a minimum of four Albatrossspecies, Pintado and other Petrels, several Storm Petrels (two species are usually common), shearwaters, and many others are observed.
Begin this tour with a Cape pelagic trip where we invariably find 4 albatross species and always hope for an additional rarer one like this Salvin’s Albatross (Photo by André Stapelberg)
We almost always find at least one trawler, and it is around these fishing boats that huge congregations of albatrosses and other seabirds create an amazing spectacle. We also often encounter marine mammals, such as Bryde’s whale, on these pelagics.
Overnight: Avian Leisure B&B, Simonstown, South Peninsula
Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens has plenty of birds
Day 3. Birding the Cape Peninsula and False Bay (or Pelagic Trip)
Today, we plan to visit excellent sites such as the Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, one of the best waterbird sites, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of the most beautiful places anywhere and full of birds. At Kirstenbosch, it is quite easy to find some important fynbos endemics such as Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird, while Cape Spurfowl, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Cape Robin-Chat, Swee Waxbill (with luck), and a whole host of other quality birds entertain us. Many raptors are possible here and at other sites we will visit – including Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, several exciting accipiters, Jackal Buzzard(endemic), Forest Buzzard (endemic), Peregrine Falcon, Rock Kestrel, and others.
A terrestrial woodpecker, Ground Woodpecker (photo by Martin Benadie) and African Penguin (photo by Chris Lotz) are found on the spectacular Cape Peninsula – the woodpecker shown here has the sea as a backdrop, with high mountains behind the photographer
After birding these beautiful gardens, we depart for Rooiels (although sometimes we reverse the order and bird Rooiels first). To get to this village, we have to traverse one of the most scenic drives in South Africa along the False Bay coast. First we drive parallel to an extremely long white beach bordering the “Cape Flats” that separate the mountainous Cape Peninsula from the inland Cape Fold mountain ranges. Then we reach an area where impressive mountains meet the sea, to begin a truly stunning marine drive. The main target bird at Rooiels is the charismatic and localized CapeRockjumper. But we should also find Cape Siskin, Cape Rock Thrush, and many more. On our return to the Cape Peninsula, time-permitting (else later in the itinerary), we can bird the superb Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary for a plethora of herons, reed-associated warblers, waterfowl, shorebirds, African Black Oystercatcher, Purple Swamphen, Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo, African Marsh Harrier, and (as usual) many others.
Overnight: Avian Leisure B&B, Simonstown, South Peninsula
Cape Rockjumper has a beautiful call, striking colors, a boisterous personality and a terribly limited distribution around Cape Town. What more can you possibly ask for? (Photo by André Stapelberg)
Day 4. West Coast Birding
Today we begin an exciting birding journey northwards from Cape Town. We hope to find Black Harrier, Chestnut-banded Plover, Cape Penduline Tit, Cape Clapper Lark, Cape Long-billed Lark, Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Black Korhaan, and other specials in addition to a tremendous shorebird spectacle. Langebaan Lagoon is one of Africa’s most important shorebird stopover sites, and there are good hides (blinds) from which to observe the spectacle. We may also find Osprey, African Fish Eagle, and many others.
Overnight: Le Mahi Guest House, Langebaan
Day 5. Transfer to the Karoo
Today we head inland past some spectacular mountains. On the way we may stop to try for Protea Canary and many other species. But we have to get to the eastern (rain-shadow) side of the mountains to get to the famed (amongst birders) Karoo. Here, almost every species encountered is endemic, so it makes for spectacularly exciting birding for any serious birder who has never visited this particular semi-desert.
Overnight: Village B&B, Ceres, or Tanqua B&B, Route 355
Day 6. Birding the Karoo
A full day of Karoo birding. The pickings here include the likes of Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (a truly bizarre rock crevice skulker), Namaqua Warbler, the lovely Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary, White-throated Canary, Fairy Flycatcher, Southern Grey Tit, Karoo Chat, Sickle-winged Chat, Tractrac Chat, Karoo Lark,Karoo Long-billed Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Large-billed Lark, Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Burchell’s Courser, Double-banded Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, and many others.
Overnight: Village B&B, Ceres
This spectacular African species, the incomparable Secretarybird, is still common 2.5 hours’ east of Cape Town (photo by Martin Benadie)
Day 7. Transfer to Cape Town
We will drive back to Cape Town, birding at Paarl en route for fynbos species and those waterbirds we are still missing. A night back on the Cape Peninsula will give us time to find some of the Cape’s more difficult species.
Overnight: Avian Leisure B&B, Simonstown, South Peninsula
We see plenty of Blue Cranes and other endemics/near-endemics (Photo by Martin Benadie)
Day 8. Birding the Overberg and the Agulhas Plains
Today, we drive eastwards to Africa’s southernmost point, where we begin birding the superb Agulhas Plains and the Overberg. Here, flat plains and gently rolling hills separate the southernmost tip of the African continent, where two oceans meet, from the Cape Fold Mountains further inland. These plains are one of the few areas where Secretarybird and Denham’s Bustard are still common. They are also the most important stronghold for South Africa’s magnificent national bird, the Blue Crane. White Stork is common in late summer. Extremely localized endemics such as Agulhas Clapper Lark, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, and others lurk here. We will also visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve, which protects a large tract of highly threatened lowland (as opposed to mountain) fynbos. Here we will see lots of waterbirds and Southern Tchagra, plus we may encounter Cape mountain zebra, bontebok, and other mammal specials of the Cape. Time permitting, we can visit the De Mond Nature Reserve, an excellent site for the rare, localized, diminutive Damara Tern.
Overnight: Pride of Africa B&B, Agulhas
We look for Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Denham’s Bustard and some awfully localized larks around Africa’s southern-most tip, the meeting point of two oceans.
Day 9. Birding the Agulhas Plains and the fringes of the Langeberg Mountains
We will spend the morning birding the Agulhas Plains. In the afternoon, we will head to our B&B adjacent to a lovely temperate forest at the base of the Langeberg Mountains. This forest is inhabited by such sought-after birds as Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Olive Bushshrike, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, and of course many more. The forest fringes host the localized Victorin’s Warbler (it is great fun trying to outsmart this vocal but skulking species), Forest Canary, Cape Siskin, Swee Waxbill, and more. A night trip to the edge of the forest usually yields African Wood Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar.
Overnight: Honeywood Farm, Heidelberg
Day 10. Birding the Garden Route
We drive eastwards for three hours to the beautiful Garden Route, where a large diversity of birds can be found in idyllic surroundings. We’ll start looking for some birds that are quite widespread through large tracts of Africa, but which are nevertheless sought-after because they are so elusive – things like African Finfoot and Red-chested Flufftail (we often get great views of this skulker around here).Other star birds we look for in the Garden Route include Knysna Turaco (endemic), Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Chorister Robin-Chat (endemic), White-starred Robin-Chat, and a host of others. And the Garden Route is the only place in South Africa where certain species – such as the endemic Forest Buzzard and Half-collared Kingfisher – are common.
Overnight: Wilderness Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, GardenRouteNational Park
Knysna Turaco (common and less skulking than usual along the Garden Route) is a South African endemic (Photo by André Stapelberg)
Day 11. Birding the Garden Route
A full day looking for the rich diversity of species the Garden Route has to offer.
Overnight: Wilderness Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, Garden Route National Park
Day 12. Transfer to George and flight to Durban, or departure
We drive to George (half an hour’s drive) to catch our 2-hour flight to Durban to begin the Subtropical leg of the tour,
for those ending their trip here, you fly (or drive) back to Cape Town.