Ornithological Tour


Itinerary:
from Cape Town to Kruger Park

Duration: 17 days 

Group size: 4 – 12

Lodge Safari Price: 5390 €

 

 

 

 

Info

South Africais a mega-diversity country. In the southwest, it contains two habitats found nowhere else in the world, the heath-like fynbos, and the semi-desertKaroo. Both these systems hold a host of endemic species; South Africa has 58 endemic and near-endemic birds, more than any other African country, most of which will be seen on our safari, making it an indispensable destination for birders. Included are sensational birds such as the African Penguin, Blue Crane,CapeRockjumper, a suite of small endemic bustards, the African Black Oystercatcher, Knysna Turaco and at least 30 species of endemic larks and chats.

In the northeast of the country,South Africametamorphoses into bush and savanna vegetation similar to that inEast Africa, and here species diversity increases dramatically, with possibilities of hundreds of species a day. In this area spectacular species include a host of storks and vultures, spectacular raptors and a host of bee-eaters, hornbills, kingfishers, barbets, sunbirds, iridescent starlings, waxbills and bush-shrikes. We can expect to see at least 400 species on this trip, with possibilities of 450+. The endemics and near-endemics of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland are marked with an asterisk  ( *).

Day 1: Arrival in Cape Town

Day 2: Pelagic trip (optional)

Day 3: Cape Peninsula

Day 4: The West Coast

Day 5: Sir Lowry’s Pass to De Hoop Nature Reserve

Day 6: De Hoop Nature Reserve to Wilderness

Day 7: The Garden Route

Day 8: Garden Route to Karoo National Park via the Swartberg Pass

Day 9: Karoo National Park

Day 10: Karoo National Park –Johannesburg

Day 11: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve

Day 12: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve – full day

Day 13: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve to Kruger N.P.

Days 14 & 15: Kruger N.P. – full days

Day 16: Kruger NP to Johannesburg

Day 17: Departure

Itinerary*

Day 1: Arrival in Cape Town

You are transferred to your hotel in this beautiful city.

Day 2: Pelagic trip (optional)

Although pelagic seabirding is not for everyone, some people love it. Given South Africa’s premier waters for seabirding we offer an option today of either going on a pelagic trip, or for those strict land-lubbers, we will find something alternative to do today as we are spoilt for choice and we may decide on going to Paarl Mountain for Protea Canary or we’ll chase some of the more difficult endemics that require additional time. For the pelagic goers though, the continental shelf offCape Town offers some of the finest pelagic birding in the world, where one can see swarms of up to six albatross species on a single day. Sailing from Simonstown to the fishing grounds of the highly productive Benguela current, derived fromAntarctica’s icy waters, you will be awed by the sheer spectacle of thousands of seabirds, of 15 to 20 different species, squabbling over scraps behind fishing trawlers. Once the initial adrenaline rush is under control, and you have fought off the crippling views of Black-browed, Shy and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, White-chinned Petrel,CapeGannet, Sooty Shearwater andWilson’s Storm Petrel, we will sift through the clouds of birds in search of less common species. The composition of the flocks differs depending on the time of year, as does your chance of seeing various species. In summer (November-February), the Benguela attracts Palaearctic migrants includingCory’s and Manx shearwaters, European Storm Petrel, Arctic Skua and Sabine’s Gull. Other summer visitors include Flesh-footed Shearwater, Great-winged Petrel and Leach’s Storm Petrel.

Day 3: Cape Peninsula

Covering a range of habitats, this day offers a comprehensive introduction to the diversity of birds in theWestern Cape framed within the scenic splendour of the wholeCapePeninsula. The peninsula, a spectacular1 km high and70 km long mass of sandstone mountains, shelters the city of Cape Town and is constantly pummelled by one of the stormiest oceans in the world. We begin our day at the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where we will see at close quarters a spectacular cocktail of Cape fynbos endemics, such as Orange-breasted Sunbird*, Cape Sugarbird*, Cape Siskin*, Cape Bulbul* and Cape Francolin*. We then wind along the spectacular Ou Kaapse Weg pass on our way to Kommetjie, where we will stop to look for Benguela (the cold-water current of South African and Namibia) endemic seabirds, including African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull, Bank, Crowned and Cape cormorants.

We continue to follow the scenic coastline via Misty Cliffs andScarboroughto the entrance of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Here we will search for more fynbos specials and a few more seabirds from the high cliffs at Cape Point, with the added attractions of game viewing and whale watching. The finest of he mammals is the pied endemic Bontebok, but we might also see Chacma Baboon and Eland. Rounding the peninsula to Simonstown, we stop atBoulder’s Bay to mingle with a large colony of breeding African Penguins. Our final stop is the Strandfontein Sewage Works, a series of settling ponds on the northern shores of False Bay, which supports a remarkable variety of waterfowl, including the near-endemic South African Shelduck* and Cape Shoveller*, and in summer, many waders. We head back toCape Townfor dinner and to overnight.

Day 4: The West Coast

Located approximately120 km north ofCape Town, southernNamaqualand is famed for its spring (September) flowering displays of many annuals, particularly daisies. The arid and rather bleak terrain is sprinkled with a series of wetlands, which, in the austral summer, hold the greatest densities of shorebirds on the entire eastern Atlantic flyway. In the spectacular Langebaan Lagoon of theWest CoastNational Park, Palaearctic waders abound, particularly Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Knot and Sanderling. Resident shorebirds, including African Black Oystercatcher, White-fronted Plover, Kittlitz’s Plover and the scarce Chestnut-banded Plover add to an already impressive list. The marshes and sedges are home to African Marsh Harrier as well as skulking palustrine specialists. The National Park also incorporates five islands, supporting nearly a quarter of a million breeding seabirds. Most of the Benguela-endemic seabirds, includingCapeGannet and Bank Cormorants, are easily seen here. The terrestrial vegetation surrounding the wetlands support a variety of species that are not easily seen elsewhere. The most absorbing of these are the endemic Black Harrier*, Southern Black Korhaan* and Cape Long-billed Lark*. We head back toCape Town for dinner and to overnight.

 

Day 5: Sir Lowry’s Pass to De Hoop Nature Reserve

Daybreak will find us at the historic Sir Lowry’s Pass in theHottentotsHollandMountains overlookingFalse Bay. Residing here are two fynbos endemics that are not found on theCapePeninsula, the magnificent and much sought-afterCapeRockjumper* and Victorin’s Warbler*. Other birds to see here includeCapeSiskin*, Ground Woodpecker* and Cape Rock Thrush*. Situated200 km east ofCape Town, the Agulhas plain stretches from theLangebergMountains to Cape Agulhas – the southern tip ofAfrica. This region is the only home of the highly range-restricted Agulhas Long-billed Lark*. Other South African endemics include parties of stately Blue Crane* (South Africa’s endangered national bird),Stanley’s Bustard, Thick-billed* and Red-capped larks, Black Harrier* and Southern Black Korhaan*. Mammals here include the scarce Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok and Eland. Overnight in the Overberg on a full board basis.

Day 6: De Hoop Nature Reserve to Wilderness

The morning will be spent atPotbergMountain in De Hoop Nature Reserve. Potberg holds the lastCapeVulture* breeding colony in theWestern Cape. Other special birds among the list of 260 species recorded for the reserve areSouthern Tchagra*, Pied Starling*, Orange-throated Longclaw*, Bokmakierie, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Pied Barbet, Black Harrier*, African Black Oystercatcher and eight species of canary. Depending on time, we may visit the Heuningnes Estuary to look for the only group of highly endangered Damara Terns that breed in theWestern Cape. We will drive through to Wilderness in the middle of the day and explore the fascinating forests in the evening. Here we may try to see the African Finfoot in one of its southernmost stakeouts. The forests here are home to a host of brightly coloured species such as Starred and Chorister Robin*, Emerald Cuckoo, Knysna Turaco*, Narina Trogon and the loquacious Red-billed Woodhoopoe. En-route we shall explore the Wilderness andSedgefieldLakes. The coastline, numerous river estuaries and the languid lakes of the Wilderness/Sedgefield complex that support over 70 water bird species, including large numbers of grebes, ducks, rallids and waders. Overnight on theGarden Route on a full board basis

 

Day 7: The Garden Route

Sandwiched between the sea and the rugged fold-belt mountains of the southern Cape,450 km east of Cape Town, the Garden Route winds over mountainsides dappled with fynbos flowers before it plunges into the thickly forested gorges where cola-coloured rivers flow. This region is cloaked with the most extensive tracts of indigenous forests inSouth Africa, and is home to a host of Afro-tropical highland endemic bird species. Among the special birds we might see here are Forest Buzzard*, Knysna Turaco*, Narina Trogon, Knysna* and Olive Woodpeckers, Grey Cuckooshrike, Chorister* and Starred Robins, Yellow-throated Warbler, Olive Bush Shrike*, Black-bellied Glossy Starling, Swee Waxbill*, Forest Canary*, Blue-mantled and Paradise Flycatchers, Terrestrial Bulbul, Cinnamon and Tambourine doves and Bar-throated Apalis.  At night, the bubbling call of the Wood Owl is not uncommon, and we may even hear the phantom-like hooting of the diminutive Buff-spotted Flufftail, one ofAfrica’s most elusive forest birds. Along the forested estuary banks, we might pick up the rare Half-collared Kingfisher. Overnight on theGarden Route on a full board basis

Day 8: Garden Route to Karoo National Park via the Swartberg Pass

The morning will be spent either chasing some of the rarer forest species that have eluded us, or some fynbos endemics such as Victorin’s Warbler*, Cape Siskin*, Cape Rockjumper*, or the unpredictable Protea Canary* which inhabit the high altitude Swartberg Mountains before we descend into the hot arid interior of the Karoo, where we are likely to see a wealth of dryland endemic species. Birding on the way, we shall make our way to theKarooNational Park by nightfall, and will take a night drive to look for Spotted Eagle Owl and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and even some rare nocturnal denizens such as Aardwolf,CapeFox, Bat-eared Fox, Genet, Springbok, Red Hartebeest, Eland and many other wild antelope. Overnight inKarooNational Park chalets on a full board basis.

Day 9: Karoo National Park

In the morning, explore the Karoo National Park, The Karoo National Park combines spectacular mountain scenery with the very best of Karoo birding.  The Khoisan hunter-gatherers, the oldest inhabitants ofSouth Africa, called the central plateau the ‘Karuu’, or “place of great dryness”. Belying its barren appearance, theKaroo is home to some 5 000 species of plant, including one third of all the world’s succulent plant species. The park represents one of the more spectacular parts of theKaroo, with the impressive Nuweveld escarpment, which rises to1 900 m a.s.l., forming the backdrop for the lower plains. Despite only 170 bird species having been recorded in the park, it is extremely important for Namib-Karoo endemics, as well as supporting a host of other arid-zone specials.  The lowland plains are particularly good for Karoo Korhaan*, Spike-heeled* and Karoo larks*, Grey-backed Finchlark*, Tractrac* andKaroo chats*, Karoo Eremomela* and Rufous-eared Warbler*.  Black-headed Canary* is nomadic, but it occurs whenever there is seeding grass and water. The belts of riverine woodland hold Namaqua Warbler* and provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many other species.  The thicket and scrub on the slopes support Layard’s Titbabbler* and Southern Grey Tit*. The secretive and localised Cinnamon-breasted Warbler*, Rock Pipit*, Pale-winged Starling* and Ground Woodpecker* occur in rocky gorges and kloofs while the Sickle-winged Chat* is found on the grass and scrub of the plateau. The newly described Karoo Long-billed Lark* is common throughout the park. Other arid-zone species occurring here are Dusky Sunbird*, Pale Chanting Goshawk*, Pririt Batis*, Fairy Flycatcher*, Cape Penduline Tit* and White-throated Canary*. The cliffs near the dam hold breeding Black and Booted eagles and Black Stork. Nightdrive inKaroo. N.P. optional (price not included) OvernightKaroo N.P chalets.

Day 10: Karoo National Park –Johannesburg

We spend the last morning in theKarooNational Park before returning toCape TownAirport where we catch an early evening flight toJohannesburg and overnight there. OvernightJohannesburg on a full board basis.

Day 11: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve

We will drive fromJohannesburg to the high altitude grasslands of the eastern South African escarpment, birding en-route.  The area around Wakkerstroom is renowned for its good populations of endemic grassland species. Overnight in Wakkerstroom.

Day 12: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve – full day

Located in a large area of agricultural parkland unaffected by forestry and people, the area surrounding the small town ofWakkerstroom is the centre of an endemic bird area, supporting some of the most threatened species inAfrica.  We head out on the Amersfoort road, seeking one of the world’s most threatened larks, the Critically Endangered Rudd’s Lark*. The roadside should be littered with Red-collared and Long-tailed Widows. Although Rudd’s Larks* are scarce, in the breeding season they are obvious because of their aerial display flight and curious distinctive call. We will look for other specialities including our regular party of exquisite Blue Korhaan* at this locality as well as (Eastern) Spike-heeled Lark. Genetically these birds are quite distinct from their western cousins and with the rate of splitting larks in southernAfrica these days, it is better to bank them. The site should also yield Red-capped Lark and Orange-throated Longclaw* and occasionally we get lucky with Black Harrier* quartering the grasslands alongside the road. Pushing farther north to our regular Botha’s Lark* site we watch for Red-winged Francolin en-route. Later we will head out on theUtrecht road looking for a pair of obliging Buff-streaked Chat* and the globally threatened Yellow-breasted Pipit*. Although we mostly see this bird when we flush it, a little stealth and patience should result in superb views, canary yellow underneath it is quite a stunning looking bird. This area is also good for Southern Bald Ibis*, Drakensberg Prinia*, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Sentinel Rock Thrush* and Eastern Long-billed Lark* which we will try to find. Depending on time availability we might race down to Dirkiesdorp, looking for Lazy Cisticola and Barratt’s Warbler* in a small forest patch en-route. Dirkiesdorp is a good locality for the recently split Barrow’s (White-bellied) Korhaan*. It certainly is very different in both looks and behaviour, to its East African relatives and is almost certainly a valid species. This area is also home to many Ayre’s Cisticola. We are in for a chat surprise and should see Mountain Chat, Familiar Chat, Southern Ant-eating Chat as well as Sentinel Rock Thrush* and Cloud Cisticola in the grasslands amongst many African Pipits.

Headed back to town, we will spend some time at the Wakkerstroom wetlands. Birding the wetlands is productive and can be lot of fun and we should add a host of commoner species and perchance African Rail, African Snipe, Grey Crowned Crane, African Marsh Warbler, Yellow Warbler, SA Cliff Swallow*, African Marsh Harrier and Hottentot Teal. The wetland can sometimes yield Spotted-necked Otter for the patient. Of course, dark brings out the owls, and an optional owling excursion in this area often reaps excellent dividends, with Spotted and Cape Eagle Owl (endemic race capensis and possible split) being regulars, and we will try our best spots for Marsh and Grass owls too. Finding nocturnal mammals are a pleasant side-effect of our evening spot-lighting jaunts and we should find the bizarre Springhare, Scrub Hare, Steenbok and Small Spotted Genet and with luck perhaps one of Striped Polecat,CapeFoxor Aardwolf! Other mammals in the area include Yellow Mongoose, Suricate and African Wild Cat.

Day 13: Wakkerstroom Biosphere Reserve to Kruger N.P.

After an early wake-up call we head straight for Kruger N.P. where we will enjoy spectacular birding and game viewing for the next few days. On the way we shall enjoy the escarpment and some of the transitional birding en-route to the thornveld of southern Kruger. The escarpment grasslands may yield Rufous-naped Lark. We will soon be accosted by an entirely different avifauna, rich in big birds including over 25 species of raptors such as the exquisite Bateleur, enormous Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Tawny Eagle and many others. Storks also abound and the startling Saddle-billed Stork, with the dimorphic males and females never fail to impress. Of course the big birds of Kruger have a healthy supporting cast of colourful little ones and Crested and Black-collared Barbets are common as are the Grey, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbills, Amythest Starling and a host of other glossy birds as well as the exquisite and minute seedeaters such as Melba Finch and Southern Cordon Blue. Village Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Diderick Cuckoo, Ground-scraper Thrush, Bronze Mannikin, Yellow-fronted Canary and Marico Sunbird may be added in the camp gardens. Other species we may find today are White-browed Scrub Robin, Red-chested Cuckoo, Crowned Hornbill, Cape Glossy Starling as well as Black, Collared, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied sunbirds. The drives may reveal a plethora of bush birds such as Southern Black Tit, Brubru, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush Shrikes, Little Bee-eater and Black Cuckoo-shrike. The area in the south of the park is also one of the best for the beastly White Rhinoceros, and we shall enjoy other commoner game such as Impala, Giraffe, Warthog, Blue Wildbeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Hartebeest and Elephant at our leisure. Of course, there is always the chance of one of the cats, and Lion and Leopard are seen from time to time. Headed back to camp, we may pick up Fiery-necked Nightjar as the sun sets and perhaps Greater Galago (Bushbaby). After dark both Pearl-spotted Owlet and African Scops Owl are a possibility in the campsite. Night at Kruger National Park camp on full board basis.

Days 14 & 15: Kruger N.P. – full days

For the next couple of days we are at one ofAfrica’s most famous reserves. We enjoy the sectors between Lower Sabie to Letaba Camps, passing through a variety of different habitats and woodland types including pans, Acacia thornbush, woodland and riverine forest. We will stick close to the major rivers where viewing opportunties are better for both birds and mammals. The surrounding bush offers a spectacular number of birds including a variety of kingfishers, barbets, bushshrikes, helmetshrikes, rollers, cuckoos, robins, bulbuls, starlings, sunbirds and seedeaters.Kruger is also renown as a good area for vultures and raptors, mostly because of the wealth of large predators in the park. While looking for birds we will undoubtedly bump into countless large mammals including Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Vervet Monkey and Bushbuck. Letaba is legendary and the birding inside the camp itself is simply remarkable, with Grey Go-away birds mobbing the Marabou Storks that harass the nests. The river frontage usually provides for a remarkable number of birds including a host of Kingfishers such as Pied, Giant andWoodland. The beautiful White-fronted Bee-eaters hawk from in front of the restaurant, while the melancholic Heuglin’s Robin-chat sings non-stop from the thicket behind the bungalows. African Fish Eagle, Open-billed Stork and Goliath Heron are other impressive riverside residents. Other species we might encounter in the woodlands today are Red-billed Woodhoopoe, Double-banded Sandgrouse, African Green Pigeon, Purple-crested Turaco, a variety of cuckoos, Liliac-breasted Roller, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Little and European Bee-eater and perhaps the spectacular Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Trumpeter and Southern Ground Hornbill, wooppeckers, babblers, thushes, scrub-robins, warblers, cisticolas, flycatchers, a hoarde of iridescent sunbirds and more. The nearby grasslands are good for Serval and Cheetah.

Night atKrugerNational Parkcamps on full board basis.

Day 16: Kruger NP to Johannesburg

Today we will spend the morning soaking up the remainder of Kruger’s excellent birding and game viewing opportunities before heading back toJohannesburg where we overnight. We may stop at certain localities on the way back toJohannesburg to enjoy some last minute birding. OvernightJohannesburg.

 

Day 17: Departure

The tour ends inJohannesburg after transfer to the airport to catch the international flights back home.


*Subject to changes without notice

Price and Services

Price:               5390 Euro

 

Price includes:

  • All accommodation
  • Meals
  • Park and toll fees
  • Land transportation
  • Professional guiding services
  • domestic flight (Cape Town to Johannesburg)

 

Not included:

  • international flights
  • Visa fees and airport taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Drinks
  • Pelagic trip
  • Game/night drive
  • Gratuity to hotels or local guides
  • Laundry
  • Telephone and items of a personal nature

FURTHER INFORMATION 

Group size: 6-12 participants

Single room: Available at extra cost, 730 Euro

Visa: not required

Entry: Passport (at least 6 month valid from date of departure)

Vaccinations: No vaccinations are compulsory, but we suggest Malaria Prophylactics in summer (November-March). For more information please contact your GP.

We offer several other birding tours:

e.g. Namibia – Botswana Tour

Departures

Dates 2014:

10.01.2014

26.09.2014

Detailed Tour Itinerary

Birding Tour SA 2013

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