AT A GLANCE
South Africa is known throughout the world as the “rainbow nation”. This is not only true for its incredible cultural diversity, but the term could also be applied to its rich fauna and flora. From its crystal clear open oceans and lush, almost tropics-like forests to the dry desert areas in the western parts of the country, the savannahs and grasslands in the eastern areas and the high peaks of the mighty Drakensberg mountain range, it is indeed a special place.
All of these distinctly different ecosystems in South Africa allow birders to explore a diverse range of bird-rich habitats. A remarkable 840 bird species are found in South Africa, about eight percent of the world’s total bird species.
This Nature Travel Birding tour takes place in The Western Cape – a truly remarkable piece of land in the Southern part of South Africa, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west and an intricate system of folded mountain ranges on the inland side. The winter rainfall system, strong summer winds and unique topography have contributed to a high degree of endemism and a singularly unique floral kingdom, described originally by the Dutch settlers as Fynbos, or ‘Fine Bush’. This floral uniqueness also results in a unique bird component and the Western Cape is the place for the endemics-seeker. Throw in breathtaking scenery, warm and welcoming people, a long and interesting history and superb tourism infrastructure and the result is an unforgettable birding, wildlife and cultural experience.
Our itinerary has been honed over the years to include the top birding spots while keeping travel and car-time to a minimum. Two nights per stop ensures an unhurried pace and lots of time to seek out the special and endemic species. Southern Right Whales are virtually guaranteed between September and November, while the onset of spring is the beginning of the famous Cape flower season. Indeed, once you’ve experienced it, you’ll understand just why it has long been dubbed as the fairest Cape of them all.
DAY 1: Arrival and The Cape Peninsula
Our tour begins with your arrival at Cape Town International and we head straight to the famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, located on the slopes of Table Mountain with spectacular views over the Cape Flats and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains in the distance.
Here we will search for birds such as Cape Sugarbird, Cape Spurfowl, Olive Thrush, Swee Waxbill, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Black Sparrowhawk, Malachite and Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Forest Canary and others before heading on to a charming guest house in Simons Town on the Cape Peninsula, where we spend the next two nights.
DAY 2&3: The Cape Peninsula
The Peninsula is ours to explore over the next day and a half. Highlights include the African Penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach, Cape Point Nature Reserve and the south-western most tip of Africa, Kommetjie and the Strandfontein Water Treatment Works. The Cape has notoriously fickle weather and we will plan each day’s activities according to the weather at the time.
There’s a range of birds to be seen, including Jackal Buzzard, Cape Siskin, Common Ostrich, Cape Robin-Chat, Grey-backed Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Bulbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Flamingo and marine species such as African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Gannett, Cape, Bank, White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants, and perhaps even White-chinned Petrel or Sooty Shearwater offshore. Mammals to be seen on the Peninsula include Chacma Baboon, Cape Mountain Zebra, Eland and Bontebok.
Optional inclusions: Pelagic Birding trip and Table Mountain tour
DAY 4&5: Swellendam and the Agulhas Plain
After an optional morning activity we’ll drive around the edge of False Bay and on to Rooiels via one of the area’s most scenic drives to look for Cape Rockjumper near Hangklip on the eastern point. On a fine day the views are spectacular, with the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the rocks below us on one side and the Kogelberg Range rising high above us on the other side.
Then we’ll head inland and drive on to Swellendam, the third oldest town in the country. This gives us access to Bontebok National Park and De Hoop Nature Reserve on the Agulhas Plain, where we’ll look for species such as Agulhas Long-billed and Agulhas Clapper Lark, Southern Tchagra, Southern Black and Karoo Korhaan, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Black Harrier and others. Mammals to be seen include Bontebok, Eland, Grey Rhebuck and Yellow Mongoose, while Southern Right Whales are common off-shore between August and November.
We’ll spend our time birding and exploring in the area, scheduling Bontebok National Park for the afternoon of arrival, De Hoop for our full day and the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve for the morning of departure, if time allows.
DAY 6&7: Ceres and the Tankwa Karoo
After breakfast and a possible visit to Grootvadersbosch, we’ll head some distance north-west to Ceres, an agricultural town in the fertile Ceres Valley. On our full day here we depart early on an excursion into the desolate Tankwa Karoo, which will take up most of the day.
This desolate region of sand, gravel plains and rocky outcrops holds a surprising number of endemic birds and we’ll be on the lookout for species such as Verreaux’s Eagle, Black-eared Sparrowlark, Black-headed Canary, Karoo Eremomela, Karoo Korhaan, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher and the highly sought-after Cinnamon-breasted Warbler.
This trip will take up most of the day, and we’ll take packed meals and drinks with us. We’ll return in the late afternoon for some time to rest before dinner.
DAY 8: Langebaan and the West Coast
In the morning, after a quick trip up the Gydo Pass to search for Protea Seedeater, we’ll drive to Langebaan Lagoon on the West Coast, where we stay at a guest house in the town. Langebaan is adjacent to the West Coast National Park, which encompasses the shallow, azure-hued Langebaan Lagoon.
On our full day we will spend our time exploring the lagoon, renowned for migrating waders, and the West Coast National Park, which provides some good Strandveld birding. Birding highlights here include Common Ostrich, Grey-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Clapper and Cape Long-billed Lark, Karoo Robin, Cape Penduline Tit and a host of wader species.
During the August and September flower season this area is particularly attractive. Mammals to be seen include Bat-eared Fox, Small Grey Mongoose, Cape Grysbok, Springbok, Red Hartebeest and Cape Mountain Zebra.
DAY 9: Departure
After a full morning activity we depart for Cape Town and the airport, some two hours’ drive away, with stops to view the iconic Table Mountain on the way.
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