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Birding tours South Africa and birdwatching Cape Town, pelagic birdwatching, ecotours and birding breaks.

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Western Cape, South Africa, Birding Adventures

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This epic tour begins with 12 days of birding the scenically spectacular Western Cape Province of South Africa. Here in the Cape, there are more endemic birds than anywhere else on the entire African continent, and pelagic trips off Cape Town rank amongst the finest in the world. Key areas we visit during this leg of the tour include the fynbos biome (the richest biome for plants on the planet – even more diverse than the Amazon - and with attendant endemic birds), the West Coast, Karoo, Overberg (Agulhas Plains) and the Garden Route.

After the Cape trip, we fly to Durban to begin birding Subtropical South Africa for 16 days. This part of South Africa provides a representative sample of the very best that African birding can offer. Huge numbers of bird species are seen on this leg of the tour, and we will also find a plethora of endemics, including a great number of birds restricted to the imposing Drakensberg escarpment. Apart from yielding a big bird list, this dream African experience also provides the possibility of seeing Africa’s big (and small) mammals, such as lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, rhino, giraffe, crocodile and all the others, and spectacular, diverse, scenery. Key sites we visit during this leg of the tour include Sani Pass into Lesotho, Wakkerstroom and other highland areas, temperate and subtropical forests at varying altitudes,  Zululand with its mega-diversity of birds and big animals, the Kruger National Park, and many other sites.

You can join either of the two legs of this tour (12 days in the Cape or 16 days in Subtropical South Africa) if your time is limited. South Africa is a large country, and even given the full 27 days, you are likely to see only 550 of the 750 regularly-occurring bird species this wonderful country has to offer – but you will see most of the big mammals. Many of the missing birds can be seen in neighbouring Namibia, and we recommend combining this South Africa tour with an 18-day Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls birding adventure (September and March each year, plus private departures any time). Please note that we offer discounts for birders signing up on more than one tour.

You need to arrive in Cape Town any time on Day 1 and you need to leave Johannesburg any time on Day 27.
Please peruse the detailed itinerary of each leg of the tour, below, but please note that the exact itinerary might change depending on availability of accommodation and other factors.

BirdWatch Cape acts as agent only for this tour and not as principal operator. The optimum time for this trip is October/November. Any time September – February is also suitable.

Price available on request

The tour can be can be customised to meet your specific needs. We can also, within limitations, shorten or lengthen the trip.

Western Cape, South Africa, 12-day Birding Adventure

Cape Gannet

Photograph Ria Grant
Day 1
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 Afton Grove B&B. Time-permitting, we may already start some birding today.
O/N Afton Grove B&B.

Day 2
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 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. Further out, a minimum of four albatross species, Pintado and other petrels, several storm petrels (two species are usually common), shearwaters and many others are observed. 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 Whales on these pelagics.
O/N Afton Grove B&B.

Day 3
Cape Peninsula and False Bay birding (or pelagic trip if postponed due to the weather). We begin our Cape Peninsula birding at the Constantia Greenbelt, where the most strategic species is the endangered, localized, skulking, Knysna Warbler. This warbler has a really beautiful call, but is rather disappointing in appearance. While looking for this bird, we may find Buff-spotted Flufftail (with luck), African Olive (Rameron) Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, the attractive Cape Batis and other good birds. After about an hour birding here, we will visit the nearby Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of the most beautiful places anywhere, and full of birds. Here it is quite easy to find some important fynbos endemics such as Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird, while Cape Francolin, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Cape Thrush, 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 (Common) Kestrel and others.
Cape Rock-jumper

Photograph courtesy Nicol Mutch, Scotland

After birding these beautiful gardens, we depart for Rooiels. 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, where Southern Right Whales come close inshore to calf.. The main target bird at Rooiels is the charismatic and localized CAPE ROCKJUMPER. 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, African Purple Swamphen, Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo African Marsh Harrier and (as usual) many others.
O/N Afton Grove B&B.

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-wing 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.
O/N Glennfinnan Guest House, Langebaan.

Day 5
Today we head inland over the magnificent Cederberg Mountain Range. On the way, we have an excellent site for the tough Protea Canary. On the summit, we have a second chance for Cape Rockjumper on the off-chances that it was missed at Rooiels. We may also find Ground Woodpecker, European Bee-eater and other spectacular 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.
O/N Village B&B, Ceres, or Tanqua B&B

Day 6
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.
O/N Village B&B, Ceres

Day 7
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

Day 8
Today we drive eastwards to Africa’s southern-most point, where we begin birding the superb Agulhas Plains and Overberg. Here, flat plains and gently rolling hills separate the southern-most tip of the African continent where two oceans meet, from 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, 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, Southern Tchagra, plus we may encounter close inshore Southern Right Whales, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok and other mammal specials of the Cape. Time permitting, we can visit De Mond Nature Reserve, an excellent site for the rare, localized, diminutive Damara Tern.
O/N Pride of Africa B&B, Agulhas

Day 9
We will spend most of the day 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 Bush-shrike, 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 out-smart this vocal but skulking species), Forest Canary, Cape Siskin, Swee Waxbill and more. An night trip to the edge of the forest usually yields African Wood Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar.
O/N Honeywood Farm.

Day 10
We drive eastwards for 3 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.
O/N Ebb & Flow, Wilderness National Park

Day 11
A full day looking for the rich diversity of species the Garden Route has to offer.

Day 12
We go to George (half an hour’s drive) to catch our our 2-hour flight to Durban to begin the Subtropical Leg of the tour, OR
 - for those ending their trip here you fly (or drive) back to Cape Town.

see a trip report of a Western Cape tour here

Cape Batis

Photograph courtesy Cape Bird Club

Subtropical South Africa 16-day Birding Adventure 


Day 12
A host of incredibly exciting new birds not found in the Cape awaits us this very afternoon. Many of these can be found in the big garden of our Durban B&B – we may find the likes of Purple-crested Turaco, Black-throated Wattle-eye, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and many other mouth-watering species. We’ll also look for estuary birds, such as Little Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers and numerous others.
O/N Gateway Country Lodge, Durban

Day 13
After further birding in the Durban area, where we’ll spend quite a lot of time getting to grips with a whole new suite of species, we’ll eventually start heading inland to Creighton. As we ascend into the rolling hills of the “Natal Midlands”, so we’ll start seeing a host of new species, including several spectacular widowbird, bishop and whydah species. The extravagant plumage of birds such as Long-tailed Widow, Southern Red Bishop and all the others provides much entertainment. Time permitting, we can look for Pied (Magpie) Mannikin and also bird the fine Oribi Gorge and Vernon Crookes Nature Reserves.
O/N Smithfield Guest House, Creighton.

Day 14
We leave very early in the morning (around 05h30) with a packed breakfast and lunch to ascend the Sani Pass by 4-wheel drive with a local guide. The ascent up Sani Pass, one of the most famed birding routes in South Africa, provides easy access to most of the birds endemic to the Drakensberg Escarpment and highlands, plus spectacular mountain scenery. Patches of temperate forest and scrub, inhabited by sought-after Bush Blackcap, Drakensberg Prinia, Chorister Robin-chat and other endemics, are found in the lower reaches of the pass. This habitat is replaced by Protea savanna a little higher up, where Gurney’s Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird occur. Above the tree-line, Drakensberg Siskin and Orange-breasted Rockjumper start to appear, and at even higher altitude, Mountain Pipit, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeyer) and many other Drakensberg specials occur. We will spend a full day ascending to the top of the escarpment and into the beautiful mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, with frequent stops along the way, in a quest to find all the localized specials. We then descend the mountain for dinner.
O/N Smithfield Guest House, Creighton.

Lilac-breasted Roller

Photograph Ria Grant

Day 15
This morning before brunch we’ll bird a patch of high altitude temperate forest and surrounding grasslands for stunning birds such as Orange Ground Thrush, Olive Woodpecker, the critically-endangered Cape Parrot, the magnificent and endangered Blue Swallow, Narina Trogon and a host of others. We may find Denham’s and Black-bellied Bustards, Bald Ibis, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-winged Lapwing and a host of other exciting specials between the B&B and the forest patch. After brunch, we depart for Eshowe where, time-permitting, we can already start birding Dlinza Forest with its splendid canopy tower and aerial boardwalk.
O/N Eshowe B&B.

Day 16
We will make a very early start with packed breakfasts and lunches. We will bird the medium-altitude Ongoye Forest in the morning with a local guide. In this truly beautiful temperate forest, we may find Narina Trogon, the endangered Spotted Ground Thrush, the rare and unpredictable Delegorgue’s Pigeon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, the inconspicuous but very beautiful Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, Red-backed Mannikin, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Green Malkoha, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, and many other phenomenal species. Ongoye Red Squirrel is also quite possible. After birding this and other forests in the area (time permitting), we will then head to the warm coast to seek Palm-nut Vulture (in the Raffia Palm Nature Monument at Mtunzini), Collared (Red-winged) Pratincole, the rare Swamp Nightjar at its daytime roost, and a plethora of other tantalizing specials.
O/N Eshowe B&B.

Day 17
We will visit the Dlinza Forest canopy tower in the early morning. Here, it is often possible to see Grey Cuckoo-shrike and other generally elusive species at eye-level. White-eared Barbet, Green Malkoha, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbill, Olive Bush-shrike and a whole host of other species often put in an appearance. When mixed feeding flocks (bird parties) gather, the birding becomes even more exciting than usual. Thanks to the new canopy tower, this is probably the easiest place in South Africa to find Delegorgue’s (Eastern Bronze-naped) Pigeon, but in some years this species is absent. After brunch, we head to the famed Lake St. Lucia, which has a phenomenally rich assemblage of waterbirds, forest birds, grassland birds and others in its great variety of different habitats. When we arrive at the B&B, we’ll immediately start birding – Livingstone’s Turaco, Lemon Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Rudd’s Apalis, and other spectacular forest birds have actually become garden birds here.
O/N St. Lucia Kingfisher Lodge
Day 18
We will leave early with a packed breakfast for Cape Vidal. We are bound to stumble across White Rhino and other megafauna en route to Cape Vidal, which is one of the best sites for Green Twinspot, the elusive Southern Banded Snake Eagle and the attractive Crested Guineafowl – far more exotic in appearance than its more common cousin the Helmeted Guineafowl. There are of course many other birds, such as Green Malkoha, Red-backed Mannikin, etc. The rare and local Samango Monkey occurs at Cape Vidal along with the more widespread Vervet Monkey.
O/N St Lucia Kingfisher Lodge
Day 19
We’ll drive to the small but magnificent Mkuze Game Reserve, which boasts 400 + bird species as well as a plethora of mammals including Black and White Rhinos and Leopard. Time-permitting, we may look for Pel’s Fishing Owl before entering the reserve. After dinner, we can embark on a night drive. Mkuze night drives quite often yield LEOPARD, and there are chances of seeing several owl, nightjar, thickknee and courser species.
O/N Mkuze Game Reserve.
Day 20
An early morning bird walk in the Sand Forest should yield the extremely localized Neergaard’s Sunbird, African Broadbill with its bizarre display flight, Pink-throated Twinspot and other tantalizing endemics, plus a phenomenal diversity of other species. Mkuze is one of the richest sites for birds on the entire African continent. We will also have a reasonable chance of finding the diminutive Suni Antelope in the Sand Forest. After our early morning bird walk, we will embark on birding drives in search of a whole host of exciting species – we will bird woodland, savanna and wetland areas. While looking for birds, there is also an excellent chance of stumbling across White Rhino (and possibly the rarer Black Rhino), Nyala, as well as other mammals that are difficult to find in most other game reserves.
O/N Mkuze Game Reserve.
Day 21
After final birding in Zululand, we’ll depart for Wakkerstroom, an area of rolling green hills on the Drakensberg Escarpment - in stark contrast to Mkuze’s dry woodland. The first bird we will focus on finding at Wakkerstroom, in areas of long grass at relatively low altitude, is Barrow’s (Southern White-bellied) Korhaan. This is a difficult korhaan because it is small yet usually lurks in tall grass. We usually find it in the late afternoon when it ventures into open fields nearby its typical habitat. While looking for this species, we should also find South African Cliff Swallow, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Southern Crowned Crane, Blue Crane (South Africa’s national bird) and many more.
O/N Wakkerstroom Country Inn, Wakkerstroom.
Day 22
After final birding in Zululand, we’ll depart for Wakkerstroom, an area of rolling green hills on the Drakensberg Escarpment - in stark contrast to Mkuze’s dry woodland. The first bird we will focus on finding at Wakkerstroom, in areas of long grass at relatively low altitude, is Barrow’s (Southern White-bellied) Korhaan. This is a difficult korhaan because it is small yet usually lurks in tall grass. We usually find it in the late afternoon when it ventures into open fields nearby its typical habitat. While looking for this species, we should also find South African Cliff Swallow, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Southern Crowned Crane, Blue Crane (South Africa’s national bird) and many more.
O/N Wakkerstroom Country Inn, Wakkerstroom.
Day 23
After some final early morning birding around Wakkerstroom, we head for one of Africa’s greatest game parks, the Kruger National Park! This park has a staggering bird diversity, and we are bound to find MULTIPLE species of each of the following groups: hornbills, barbets, rollers, bee-eaters, kingfishers, cuckoos, storks, eagles (including theamazing Bateleur), vultures, owls, weavers (including Red-headed Weaver), turacos and many others. As a by-product of our marked focus on birding, we should also encounter elephant, lion, giraffe, buffalo, a plethora of antelope species, hippopotamus, crocodile, and many small mammals, such as mongooses, etc. We will, however, require much luck for leopard or cheetah.
O/N Lower Sabie or Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
Day 24
We will spend a full day birding the rivers, riverine forests, woodlands and savannas of this pristine and huge African wilderness area.
O/N Lower Sabie or Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
Day 25
After a final morning of birding in Kruger, we will depart for the escarpment. Here, we will look for one of Africa’s rarest birds, the small but powerful and extremely fast TAITA FALCON. This was only recently discovered as a breeding bird in South Africa, but this site is probably the most reliable place on earth to find this species at present. As usual, we may find all sorts of other birds, including Mocking Cliff Chat, Lanner Falcon, Cape Griffon Vulture, etc. We’ll then head further west, eventually arriving at one of South Africa’s premier grassland endemic birding sites, Dullstroom. Here, we may find Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Secretarybird, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Cape Eagle Owl and others.
O/N Linger Longer Country Retreat, near Dullstroom
Day 26
We will drive further westwards to our next lodge, which offers spectacular birding that is very different from anything we will have done so far – hence we add a lot of new species to our already large bird list right at the end of the tour. We will bird the lodge ground and along the nearby Zaagkuilsdrift Road, looking for many birds characteristic of the Kalahari, including such spectacular species as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-cheeked Waxbill. Kalahari Robin, White-throated Robin, Northern Black Korhaan, several bee-eater species (sometimes including Carmine and Blue-cheeked), Temmink’s Courser, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Red-headed Finch and Black Egret.
Day 27
We’ll do some pre-breakfast birding. Today is basically a travel day and your international flight can leave from Johannesburg International Airport any time today. The lodge is 1.5 hours’ drive from the airport

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