South Africa: A bird and mammal spectacular!

October 2020

Please email us on info@birdwatchingtrips.co.uk for information about our 2020 tour



 

Please email us on info@birdwatchingtrips.co.uk for details of our next tour to South Africa

 

Elephant 3

Close encounter of the elephant kind!



South Africa is a spectacularly beautiful country, rich in wildlife. In the southwest there are two unique habitats, the stark heath-like fynbos and the expansive semi-desert Karoo. In the northeast, South Africa metamorphoses into golden-green grasslands and tropical savanna where species diversity increases dramatically. Spectacular species include a host of bee-eaters, hornbills, kingfishers, barbets, and sunbirds. We can expect to see over 400 species of bird on this tour, and a lot of exciting mammals! This is a unique itinerary put together especially for us!

Lilac breasted Roller South Africa 1

Lilac-breasted Roller - we should enjoy lots of these spectacular birds during the tour



Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Kimberley.

Flights from the UK arrive in Johannesburg in the morning of Sunday 28th October, Day 1, of our tour. Our tour starts here. Together we take an internal flight from Johannesburg to Kimberley where we are met by our superb local guide. Famous for its diamonds, more recently Kimberley has also become a renowned area for seeing some of Africa’s most specialized and reclusive nocturnal mammals. We will visit a nearby private ranch that is surrounded by some fantastic Kalahari woodland. The area holds some specialized Kalahari birds, and we might encounter Red-headed Finch, Scaly-feathered Finch, the stunning Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, striking Crimson-breasted Shrike, or Marico Flycatcher on our first afternoon there. But we are really here for a night-drive. After dark we have a chance of finding some very rare animals; if luck is on our side, this area can produce Cape Porcupine, Aardwolf, the weird Springhare, and the strange, odd but delightful Aardvark, and very rare Black-footed Cat!

Day 2: Mokala NP.

Today we head south of Kimberley for a visit to one of South Africa’s newest national parks, proclaimed in 2007. This huge park is now a haven for some of Africa’s rarest antelopes. But it also home of San Rock Art and sites of Anglo-Boer War conflict. The headline animals here include both species of African Rhinoceros (although the poaching scourge that is wracking South Africa is making these animals harder to find and more skittish). Some of the rarer antelope include the magnificent Gemsbok, Roan and Sable Antelopes, as well as both Black Wildebeest and Tsessebe, the fastest antelope! Some of the other exciting smaller mammals we might encounter today include Yellow Mongoose, Meerkats, and the scruffy South African Ground Squirrel, while jackals, Steenbok, warthog, giraffe, impala, zebra and more are also possible. Birding is excellent too, and the strident call of the Black-chested Prinia is omnipresent. Cape Buntings like the rocky areas and Chestnut-vented Tit-babblers grate away from every thicket. Large raptors including Pale Chanting Goshawk and White-backed Vultures can also be found here. After our full, but exciting day at Mokala we return to our Kimberley farm. Another optional night-drive to look for nocturnal mammals can be arranged.

Day 3: Kimberley to Karoo NP.

After a little low key birding and mammal viewing in the early morning we will pack our bags and start the long drive into the South African interior, and the town of Beaufort West, home to Karoo National Park. We leave the Kalahari woodlands and enter a new ecosystem – the semi-desert Karoo. This park combines spectacular mountain scenery with the very best of Karoo wildlife; it is packed with Karoo endemics. The lowlands support Spike-heeled Lark, Gray-backed Finch-Lark, Karoo Chat, and Rufous-eared Warbler. The secretive Pale-winged Starling, and Ground Woodpecker occur in rocky gorges, while the Sickle-winged Chat is found on the grassy plateau. The newly described Karoo Long-billed Lark is common throughout the park.

Day 4: Karoo National Park.

We will have a full day to explore this rugged wilderness area. A pride of lions has recently been reintroduced to the region and although they are elusive, it is still exciting to be in their domain. We shall seek out Red Hartebeest, Cape Mountain Zebra and Klipspringer amongst the more common mammals today, while we just soak up the splendour of this magical area. Birds to look for include the spectacular Verreaux’s and Booted Eagles, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, mousebirds, Hoopoe, the silky Short-toed Rockthrush and the delightful Familiar Chat. Our optional night drive here can be exciting and unpredictable, but Aardwolf and Bat-eared Fox are again a real possibility.

Crimson breasted Shrike South Africa 1

Crimson-breasted Shrike, what a stunner!



Day 5: Karoo to Garden route.

The diversity of South Africa will be no more apparent than today. We start the day in the desert, ascend a mountain and finish the day in a coastal rainforest. We greet the dawn in the Swartberg Mountains where we will experience the striking heathland of the fynbos biome. While a handful of heather species occur in Scotland, an incredible 800 species occur in the fynbos of South Africa. It is a floral kingdom all of its own and we should get to enjoy many wonderful flowers today. In terms of birds, we search for the skulking Victorin’s Scrub-Warbler, the charismatic Cape Rock-Jumper, the rare Protea Canary, and local Cape Siskin. Then we will descend the Swartberg Mountains, wending our way through rainforest and cola-coloured rivers to the coastal hamlet of Wilderness, so appropriately named, for a two-night stay.

Day 6: Garden Route

The Garden Route winds over mountainsides dappled with fynbos flowers before it plunges into the thickly forested gorges where more cola-hued rivers flow. Among the forest specialities we search for here are Forest Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, both Knysna and Olive Woodpeckers, Chorister Robin, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Olive Bush Shrike, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary. We stay at a delightful B&B where we can expect to see many of these species coming to the feeders.

Day 7: Wilderness to Overberg

After a final morning at Wilderness, we move west towards Cape Town. The Overberg is a large agricultural matrix, but strangely it still has some interesting and unique wildlife living within it. Here we seek the highly range-restricted Agulhas Long-billed Lark and Agulhas Clapper Lark. Other spectacular specialities include parties of stately Blue Cranes and Stanley Bustards. In the afternoon we head towards Potberg mountain, which holds the last Cape Vulture breeding colony in the region. Other targets are the endemic Southern Tchagra, Pied Starling, Orange-throated Longclaw and Pearl-breasted Swallow. We complete the day at a delightful Cape Dutch farm, which doubles as our accommodation for the night. Elegant, and romantic!

Day 8: Overberg to Cape Town.

We will spend the morning at the lovely Bontebok NP where the remarkable pied antelope, the Bontebok, was saved from extinction. We will be sure to see this amazing and delightful creature, and also we are likely to see the strange deer-like Grey Rhebok. This area also holds small numbers of Secretarybirds and Stanley’s Bustards that often display here. We also have a chance to catch up with more of the Overberg’s birdlife. We complete the day enjoying the spectacular Clarens Drive near to Cape Town, where we will scan for Southern Right Whales, which are regular along the coast here. In addition, we may catch up with some additional fynbos specialties such as the Cape Rockjumper, or make a stop at the famous Betty’s Bay penguin colony!

Day 9: Cape Town.

The Cape Peninsula is exceptionally beautiful. We spend the morning searching for fynbos endemics such as Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird and Cape Siskin. We visit Kommetjie, home of the Benguela-endemic African Black Oystercatcher, as well as Bank, Crowned and Cape Cormorants. Continuing to the Cape of Good Hope, we stop at Boulder’s Bay to mingle with the African Penguins. Our final stop is Strandfontein, a series of settling ponds supporting a remarkable variety of waterfowl.

saddle billed stork

We will look for Saddle-billed Stork in Kruger National Park



Day 10: Cape Town to Kruger NP.

Kruger National Park, one of the finest wilderness areas on Earth, needs little introduction. We will spend the day getting there though, with a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then an onward flight to Skukuza within the National Park. By the afternoon however, we will be on a game drive looking for elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other megafauna!

Days 11 – 13: Kruger NP.

Kruger National Park has a fantastic series of camps, many with confiding birds and other easy-to-see wildlife that make for superb viewing and photography opportunities, and we have three full days to enjoy the National Park. We will visit the best camps in the park for mammals, birds and photography, with many birds on their breeding grounds. We are likely to see Woodland, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrikes, Saddle-billed, Marabou, Yellow-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, Trumpeter, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbills, White-browed Robin-chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Scarlet-chested and Marico Sunbirds, Kurrichane Thrush, Village and Lesser Masked Weavers, African Green Pigeon, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver, Blue Waxbill, and many others. The grasslands in this part of Kruger host monstrous birds such as Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, and Southern Ground Hornbill. At night, Pearl-spotted, African Scops or Spotted Eagle Owls may be seen. While looking for birds we will also have great opportunities to enjoy and photograph the many handsome mammals in this area including Impala, Greater Kudu, Hartebeest, and Waterbuck. Warthogs, Vervet Monkeys and Hippopotamus are also common. A big target will certainly be encounters with the “Big Five”, Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhinoceros, for which Africa is justly famous. We may also be lucky and run into the much rarer Cheetah or Wild Dog. We will offer optional night drives, which are good opportunities to see cats awake and active.

Day 14: Kruger to Johannesburg.

We will spend another morning in Kruger NP before we return to Skukuza and fly out from there to Johannesburg to connect with your international flight home from Oliver Tambo Airport. (Flights to the UK arrive on Sunday 11th November.) Our delightful mammal- and bird-filled fortnight comes to an end here at Johannesburg Oliver Tambo Airport.

White rhino South Africa

With luck we may encounter an endangered White Rhino!



Our magnificent and truly unique South Africa tour includes:

13 nights’ accommodation in ensuite twin/double rooms in comfortable hotels and lodges, all meals (breakfast, lunch and evening meal) from lunch on Day 1 through to lunch on Day 14, bottled water throughout the trip, guiding by Alan and Ruth and an expert English-speaking local guide, ground transportation throughout the tour in comfortable air-conditioned minibuses and specialist safari vehicles in Kruger NP, airport transfers at Kimberley on Day 1 and Kruger on Day 14, internal flights from Cape Town to Kruger on Day 10 and Skukuza to Johannesburg on Day 14, entrance to all national parks mentioned in the itinerary, other excursions, game drives and night drives as mentioned in the itinerary, use of our field guides and telescopes, individual checklists of the birds and mammals.

Not included are:

International flights to and from Johannesburg, South Africa; internal flight from Johannesburg to Kimberley; any additional drinks or snacks; alcoholic drinks; laundry services, medical and vaccination fees; travel and medical insurance; any items of a personal nature, tips.

While we are unfortunately not able to book your international flights to Johannesburg for you, nor the connecting flight on Day 1 to Kimberley, of course we are very happy to advise you on the best flights to take. As always, we will be using Trailfinders to make all our own flight arrangements and will share these details with you.



Woodland Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher, another exciting bird on our wishlist



As always with our tours at BirdwatchingTrips, we are only offering this as a small-group tour to ensure you have the best possible views of all the birds and mammals we encounter and the highest levels of customer service. This tour will run with six participants with three guides (Alan, Ruth and an expert English-speaking local guide) throughout the trip.

The price of this fully-inclusive tour for six participants is £TBC* per person sharing a double/twin ensuite room. Sorry but we do have to pass on a single room supplement of £TBC* per person for anyone wishing to have an individual room on the trip.

*We reserve the right to adjust the price of this tour in the unlikely event of a major currency shift of more than 5%.

With just six places available on this tour, spaces will book up fast so please contact us on

info@birdwatchingtrips.co.uk

for more information or to reserve your place on this exciting trip!

We look forward to sharing the wonderful birds and mammals of South Africa with you!



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