Featured Tour

Ventures Birding Presents: The Best of South African Birding

Openings for February, 2019. Join us and our partners at Ventures Birding for a 16-day birding adventure through some of the most amazing places in South Africa. Limited spots available.

Ventures Birding Presents:
The Best of South African Birding!

Join a small group of bird-enthusiast travelers and experienced birding guides as we journey to some of South Africa’s most amazing bird-watching locations. This tour is focused on some of the best birding opportunities South Africa has to offer, all lumped into one fantastic journey!

Keep scrolling for itinerary and more details!

Featured Destinations

Learn more about the destinations featured on this adventure.

  • Johannesburg

  • Kurisa Moya (Magoebaskloof)

  • Kruger National Park

  • Blyde Conservancy

  • Malolotja Nature Reserve (Swaziland)

  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  • Cape Town

  • Wellington

  • Hermanus

A South African Birding Experience You Will Never Forget

Day 1

Arrive Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport) –Day at leisure.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport), you will be transferred to Africa Sky Guest House. - Balance of day at leisure.

Overnight Africa Sky Guest House.

Included: Transfer from O.R. Tambo Airport, dinner, and overnight Africa Sky.

Day 2

Johannesburg - Magoebaskloof

Early morning departure from Johannesburg for Kurisa Moya situated in the Magoebaskloof area.

Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge boasts over 250 species of birds in 5 different habitats. When you take a guided bird walk, you have the unique opportunity to find and identify the special birds of the area, particularly the indigenous forest species which you hear all around you but are so hard to spot without the help of a Bird Guide.

David Letsoalo, a BirdLife South Africa-accredited Bird Guide, won the Eagle Award for being the best local guide in South Africa. Birding outings with David are the only way to really see these elusive forest birds. BirdLife SA-accredited guide, Paul Nkhumane, is one of the top five guides in the country and is also based at Kurisa Moya.

David and Paul have ‘stakeouts’ for the specials in the Woodbush Forest like the Cape Parrot, Bat Hawk, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Knysna Turaco, White-starred Robin, Orange Ground Thrush, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-Chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, African Crowned Eagle and many more.

The surrounding grasslands are home to breeding Blue Swallows, a highly endangered species.

Overnight Kurisa Moya.

Included: Breakfast, transfer, birding walk, dinner, and overnight Kurisa Moya.

 

Day 3

Kurisa Moya to Kruger Park - Punda Maria Camp

Morning departure for Kruger National Park.

You will spend the next two days exploring the Northern limits of the Kruger Park with the chance of seeing some of the special bird-species only found in this part of the park.

Punda Maria Camp, on an island of sandveld in a sea of Mopane, is one of Kruger's premier birding camps. Set against a ridge of Wyliespoort quartzite in a line of rolling hills which are the easternmost extension of the Soutspansberg, the camp is an excellent base from which to spot many of the Afro-tropical species not seen elsewhere in South Africa. Punda, which has a diversity of raptors and woodland birds, has the highest rainfall in northern Kruger - an average of 650mm a year. This is apparent in the prevalence of Usnea lichen, known as 'Old Man's Beard,' hanging from many of the trees.

The area around Punda combines mountainous sandveld with patches of Mopane forest and mixed woodland. The Mopane leaves in the higher rainfall zone of Punda remain green far longer into winter than elsewhere in the north. The string of hills to the north of the camp are exploited by raptors, particularly on hot summer days when the wind blows from the south, providing ideal thermals for birds of prey to get the necessary altitude to soar and hunt in the most energy-efficient manner.

Regularly seen eagles are the resident Martial, Tawny, African Hawk-Eagle, Bateleur, and Brown Snake-Eagle, as well as the summer visitors - the Wahlberg's, Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles, and the Yellow-billed Kite. An occasional visitor is the Eurasian Hobby. Other common raptors in the Punda area include the African Harrier-Hawk, Lanner Falcon, and African Goshawk.

The evening will be set aside for a night safari, where you will have the opportunity to explore the magic of the African bush at night (night safari for your own account.)

Overnight Punda Maria.

Included: Breakfast, birding activities, entrance fees, dinner, and overnight Punda Maria.

Day 4

Kruger National Park - Punda Maria

Today will be spent enjoying more birding activities in the Punda Maria Camp area.

Overnight Punda Maria.

Included: Breakfast, birding activities, dinner, and overnight Punda Maria.

Day 5

Kruger National Park - Letaba Camp

Early morning birding along the Mahonie loop at Punda Maria before breakfast and departing for Letaba Camp. 

Letaba Restcamp falls under the shady gaze of the tall Sycamore Fig, Natal Mahogany, Apple Leaf, and Sausage Trees that surround the banks of the sweeping Letaba River. It owes much of its character to the arresting setting of the riverine oasis in which it is set. Situated centrally, at the junction of the three main roads of the Kruger Park, the camp is a prime location from which to explore the park.

Aloe and Impala Lilly attract a range of indigenous birds and fleck the campgrounds with colour. The abundance of greenery at the camp means it does anything but live up to the meaning of its name - the "river of sand".

Overnight Letaba Camp.

Included: Breakfast, transfer, birding activities, dinner, and overnight Letaba Camp.

Day 6

Blyde Conservancy – Rukiya Safari Camp

Morning departure for the Wild Rivers Game Reserve. Wild Rivers falls within the 12,000 hectare Blyde Olifants Conservancy which supports a wide variety of game from plains game and predators to Hippopotamus and Crocodile. Giant Essenhout, Jackalberry, and Leadwood trees which have lined the river banks for centuries play host to an incredible array of bird life, including the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl and numerous red-data species. Plains game and resident leopard also roam the reserve. 

The well known ornithologist, Dr Warrick Tarburton, described Wild Rivers as “The best birding experience in the entire Lowveld”.

Overnight at the exclusive Rukiya Safari Camp.

Included: Transfer, all meals, all birding activities/entrance fees, and overnight Rukiya Safari Camp.

Day 7

Blyde conservancy – Rukiya safari camp

Rukiya’s location on the banks of the Blyde River is the perfect residence for the elusive Pel’s fishing owl, while other speciality water-orientated birds here include African finfoot, African fish eagle, trumpeter hornbill, various kingfishers, herons, black crakes, storks, and bee-eaters. There are many birds of prey to be seen, as well as larks, orioles, weavers, babblers, shrikes, and numerous ground fowls.

Morning and afternoon birding excursions.

Overnight Rukiya Safari Camp.

Included: All meals, birding activities, and overnight Rukiya Safari Camp.

Day 8

Swaziland – Malolotja 

Early morning departure for Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland.

Malolotja Nature Reserve is situated in the heart of Swaziland's highlands and is the last unspoiled mountain wilderness left in Swaziland. In addition to astounding hill top views, you may see numerous animals from ten or more species, plus unique highveld birdlife.

Several rivers feed this reserve and tend to follow the lines of weakness in the hard quartzite ridges, having cut gorges and deep pools out of the rock which created rapids and waterfalls.

More than 280 species of birds have been recorded from Malolotja and the reserve is particularly important for breeding groups of endangered species, such as the blue swallow, blue crane, bald ibis, and Stanley's bustard. Only two breeding colonies of the bald ibis exist in Swaziland, and one of these is found inside the reserve!

Many other rare species are to be found in the reserve in a variety of specialized habitats. The bog and vlei systems are home to striped Flufftails, Blackrumped Buttonquails, and Blue Cranes; the streams and riverbanks to Giant, Malachite, and Half Collared Kingfishers and the African Finfoot; the high protea woodland to Sunbirds and Gurney's Sugarbirds; the short grassland to Blue Swallows, Anteating Chats, Plovers, and Stanley's Bustard; and the rocky outcrops to Sentinel Rock Thrushes, Buffstreaked Chats, and Ground Woodpeckers.

Overnight Malolotja.

Included: Breakfast, transfer, afternoon birding excursion, and overnight Malolotja.

 

Day 9

Malolotja

A further day will be spent exploring and birding Malolotja Reserve.

Specials for Malolotja include Southern Bald Ibis, Striped Flufftail, Denham's Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Ground Woodpecker, Blue Swallow, Buff-streaked Chat, Chorister Robin, Brown Scrub-Robin, Orange Ground-Thrush, Broad-tailed Warbler, Short-tailed Pipit and Gurney's Sugarbird.

Overnight Malolotja.

Included: Breakfast, dinner, birding activities, and overnight Malolotja.

Day 10

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Morning departure for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park supports more than 500 bird species and is one of the most important breeding areas for waterbirds in South Africa, with at least 48 species having bred here. Due to the variability of the St Lucia system, the lakes may hold very important numbers of a species in some years and almost insignificant numbers in others. The numbers and diversity of waterbirds vary considerably in response to environmental changes. Not only are waterbirds largely absent during periods of high salinity or elevated water levels, but many species are migratory or nomadic, occurring only in defined seasons.

The lakes, pans, and wetlands around Lake St Lucia hold large numbers of Pink-backed Pelican , Great White Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Whiskered Tern, African Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Gull , Cape Shoveler, and Lesser Flamingo. Substantial numbers of Palearctic migrant waders occur in summer, with Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, and Little Stint making up the majority of the visitors.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus bred here in 1972, when some 30,000 birds and 6,000 nests were recorded during favourable shallow-water, high-salinity conditions. iSimangaliso also holds breeding Goliath Heron and the only breeding population of Saddle-billed Stork in KwaZulu-Natal. The lake can support more than 80% of South Africa's breeding population of Caspian Tern and a large proportion of the country's Woolly-necked Stork and Collared Pratincole populations. A number of other important breeding colonies are found here, including the only known colony of Great White Pelicans in south-eastern Africa at False Bay; one of only three Pink-backed Pelican colonies in South Africa at Nsumo Pan; and one of only two South African colonies of Yellow-billed Storks, also at Nsumo Pan.

Overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge.

Included: Breakfast, dinner, transfer, birding activities, and overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge.

Day 11

iSimangaliso Wetland Park – Eastern Shores

The Igwalagwala trail, starting at the end of McKenzie Street, is very productive for an early morning birding excursion, and is an excellent spot for elusive species such as Buff-spotted Flufftail, Woodward's Batis, Brown Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-Shrike, Black-bellied Starling, Narina Trogon, Green Malkoha, Livingstone's Turaco, Red-backed Mannikin, Grey Waxbill, and Green Twinspot.

After breakfast we can explore and bird the Eastern Shores. The Eastern Shores, which stretches from St Lucia town to Cape Vidal, is an excellent birding location, as it is comprised of pristine coastal grassland and patches of coastal dune forest.  Look out for Brown Snake-Eagle and Black-chested Snake-Eagle soaring overhead. Southern Banded Snake-Eagle is best seen perched on dead tree stumps especially close to and around the Mission Rocks turn-off.

There are also a number of new hides that have been built that will add to the birding experience in this reserve. They are also great for viewing hippo and crocodile.

Cape Vidal’s dune forest is one of the best spots for Brown Scrub-Robin and Woodward’s Batis, and can easily be found within the confounds of the campsite and along the forest edges. Green Malkoha and Narina Trogon are often heard calling. Acacia thickets should be carefully scrutinized for Rudd’s Apalis.

Other highly sought after species which occur in this area are Eastern Nicator, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill,  Red-backed Mannikin and Black-Throated Wattle-eye (especially within swampy, moist areas), whilst the highly vocal Livingstone’s Turaco are common. African Wood-Owl can be heard calling at night.

Overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge.

Included: Breakfast, birding activities, dinner, and overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge.

Day 12

iSimangaliso Wetland Park – Western Shores

The Western Shores of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park form part of the Zululand Birding Route and team with birdlife, insects, and butterflies, as well as being home to African Elephant and other game species.

Charters Creek, Fanies Island, and False Bay form part of this area and with dense woodlands and open shores that are home to hard to find bird species such as the Southern Banded Snake Eagle, African Broadbill, Neegaards Sunbird, Pink-Backed Pelican, and Caspian Tern. Fossil deposits of marine species also line the shoreline in certain areas.

Full day birding the Western Shores.

Overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge

Included: Breakfast, all entrance fees and excursions, dinner, and overnight St Lucia Eco Lodge.

Day 13

Cape Town

Morning departure for King Shaka International Airport for your flight to Cape Town.

There can be few natural global icons that can compare in scenic grandeur to the awe-inspiring sight of Table Mountain straddling the Cape Peninsula and overlooking the mother city of Cape Town. This impressive bastion of sandstone rising to over 1000m and dating back 200 million years is flanked east and west by Devil's Peak and Lion's Head. Both peaks tower in sentinel-like capacity overlooking Robben Island (of Nelson Mandela fame) and the lucrative trade routes to Europe and the Far East.

For centuries, Cape Town's strategic position as a half way stopover was known as the 'Tavern of the Seas'. This was due not only to the wide range of fresh provisions and fine Cape wines and brandies but also to the hospitality and friendliness of the resident Capetonian community towards visitors from abroad – a tradition that has endured to the present day.

It is, for many since the first naturalist arrived in the 17th Century, the unique and very special combination of plant and animal communities that have evolved and successfully adapted to the seasonal hardships of cold wet winters followed by hot dry summers and south easterly winds that characterize the spectacular beauty of the south western tip of the African continent.

Little has changed to alter the unique biodiversity of the Cape Peninsula in recent years due to the inaccessible nature of the mountainous terrain and strict conservation measures and management policies aimed at securing the well-being of the natural environment for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. The combination of a winter rainfall pattern and sandy acidic soils support an amazing variety of over 9,000 flowering plants within the globally acclaimed 'Cape Floral Kingdom'. This extensive biome is today home to a unique suite of reptiles, amphibians, insects, mammals and bird species for the visiting naturalist and birder to enjoy at leisure while traversing across a broad spectrum of very different habitats. A biodiversity hotspot at the south-westernmost tip of Africa, it offers over 70% of Southern Africa's endemic birds and world-famous pelagic birding.

Afternoon birding around Cape Town.

Overnight local Cape Town guest house.

Included: Breakfast, flight, birding activities, and overnight local Cape Town guest house.

Day 14

Cape Town – Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch

Morning departure for Table Mountain for the ascent via aerial cableway to the top. 

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway takes visitors to the summit of Table Mountain in under 10 minutes. The cable car’s rotating floor and huge windows ensure that all passengers get a 360-degree aerial view as they head up the mountain.

The cableway was first launched in 1929. Since then, many upgrades have taken place, and today the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has state-of-the-art facilities and a well-established safety record. 

The height of Table Mountain (at its highest point) is 1085m (3560ft) and the views from the top reach all the way to Robben Island and beyond.

There are a number of short walks that you can take once on the top of Table Mountain, including the Dassie Walk (great views north, west and south), the Agama Walk (a popular route that gives you 360-degree views of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula) and the Klipspringer Walk (wonderful views along the plateau).

Table Mountain is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to about 2,000 species of plants (more than the number found throughout the entire British Isles), most of them fynbos, which forms one of the world’s six plant kingdoms all on its own.

Afternoon Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden visit.

Although it is one of the leading western cape tourist destinations, with over 650,000 visitors a year, Kirstenbosch still manages to offer a worthwhile diversity of forest and cape mountain Fynbos birding in a truly beautiful, relaxed and easily accessible environment. It remains the best spot close to Cape Town to see some of the more common mountain fynbos and forest endemics, and also supports a number of other species not easily seen elsewhere on the Peninsula. 

The mountain fynbos endemics, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird, are prolific in the cultivated protea and erica patches in the southwestern corner of the gardens. Cape Spurfowl, Cape Batis, and Southern Boubou are also common. The endemic Forest Canary is sometimes present – be careful though to separate it from the superficially similar immature Cape Canary. Cape Grassbird is often heard and seen. If you wish to venture up Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge you may be rewarded with Cape Siskin at the top, and with the distinctive call of Knysna Warbler along the way.

Overnight local Cape Town guest house.

Included: Breakfast, all entrance fees and excursions, and overnight local Cape Town guest house.

 

Day 15

Cape Town - Val du Charron

Nestled at the foot of the Groenberg mountain, the town of Wellington lies in the picturesque Bovlei valley on the banks of the Kromme River. The majestic Hawequa Mountains are silent sentinels on its eastern border. Val du Charron offers luxury accommodation in Wellington, on a working Wine Estate in the heart of the Bovlei valley.

Birding en-route to Val du Charron.

Overnight Val du Charron.

Included: Breakfast, transfers, birding activities, and overnight Val du Charron.

Day 16

Depart for return flight home

Cape Town to Johannesburg return flight

Morning departure for Cape Town International Airport for your return flight to Johannesburg.

Included: Breakfast, transfer, and flight to Johannesburg.

**END OF MAIN TOUR**

EXTENSION OPTION: Enjoy a 4-Day Extension in the Cape Region!

Cape Town Area Extension

Day 16

Wellington to West Coast National Park

Morning departure from Val du Charonn. 

Our first site of interest today is the West Coast National Park, including the globally important wetland sites of the Berg River Estuary and Langebaan Lagoon. Large numbers of waders spend the northern winter here and we will check for Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover and Eurasian Curlew, as well as Kittlitz’s and the localised Chestnut-banded Plover.

In addition to the shorebirds, these areas also support large numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler and other waterfowl. The surrounding short, coastal vegetation (Strandveld), is home to the endemic Southern Black Korhaan, Gray-winged Francolin, Southern Grey Tit, Southern Penduline-Tit, Karoo Lark, Capped Wheatear, Fiscal Flycatcher and the magnificent Black Harrier, surely one of the world’s most attractive raptors.

Overnight local Cape Town guest house.

Included: Breakfast, all entrance fees and excursions, and overnight local Cape Town guest house. 

Day 17

Cape Point  and Strandfontein

Morning departure from Cape Town. This route will take us southwards along the peninsula, visiting a number of coastal localities. We will be in search of Benguela Current endemics, all of which, except for Damara Tern, are distinct possibilities. Cape and Hartlaub's Gull are widespread around the Cape Peninsula, and may be seen en route to our first stop, Kommetjie. Here, a full sweep of marine cormorants can usually be seen, including Cape, Bank, and Crowned CormorantCape Gannets hunt off-shore, while African Black Oystercatcher forage on the shoreline.

The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve will be next on our list. Here, coastal thicket adjacent to the parking area supports Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Bulbul, Southern Boubou, and Speckled Mousebird. Ostrich, and Bontebok (Damaliscus dorcas dorcas) - a once critically endangered antelope endemic to the Cape - graze in the open near the parking area. Flowering patches here and elsewhere in the reserve attract large numbers of nectarivorous species, such as Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. Rocky places in the reserve are worth searching for the likes of Ground Woodpecker, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Siskinand Familiar Chat.

We wrap up with a visit to Strandfontein Sewage Works, with a vast array of waterbirds. Highlights may include Black-necked Grebe, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller, South African Shelduck, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White Pelican, Greater Flamingo, and Cape Bulbul

Overnight local Cape Town guest house.

Included: Breakfast, all entrance fees and excursions, and overnight local Cape Town guest house. 

Day 18

Hermanus via Rooi Els / Betty’s Bay / Harold Porter Botanical Gardens

Morning departure for Hermanus.

En route we follow the coastline and bird areas such as Rooi Els, Betty’s Bay, and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens.

Rooi Els is one of the best places to find the Cape Rock-Jumper, and hosts a number of other fynbos and Southern African endemics. Situated on the eastern corner of False Bay, Rooi Els holds a huge diversity of fynbos plant species as well as some breathtaking views of the Peninsula and coastline. An added advantage of Rooi Els is its accessibility and opportunities to see some of the coastal species such as the African Penguin.

Harold Porter Botanical Gardens: This small fynbos botanical garden is known as the "little Kirstenbosch", and is situated at Betty’s Bay, about 40kms along the R44 coastal road from Gordon’s Bay to Hermanus. Set at the base of the coastal mountain range, the reserve contains excellent examples of the main local habitat-types, namely coastal bush, fynbos, riverine woodland and montane scrub. The entire area can be easily covered in 3 to 5 hours of strolling through pleasantly laid-out paths and hillside trails. during such a period one could expect to see about 40 species (more in summer), including several cape endemics.

Hermanus lies along the Walker Bay on the south coast of the Western Cape, It is located about 70 miles southeast of Cape Town and is only 25 miles from Gansbaai, a famous spot where one can dive amongst the Great White Sharks. It is also notable that Hermanus still boasts an historic railway station building although eventually no tracks were laid to connect the town to the national network.

An afternoon visit to Fernkloof will end off the day’s birding.  This predominantly fynbos reserve is conveniently situated almost in the centre of Hermanus and gives very easy access to a number of the region’s special species. Specials include: Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Rock-jumper, Cape Grassbird, Victorin's Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Siskin.

Overnight Milkwood Lodge.

Included: Breakfast, all entrance fees and excursions, and overnight Milkwood Lodge. 

Day 19

Hermanus to Cape Town - Return Flight

Morning departure for Cape Town International airport for your return flight to Johannesburg.

Included: Breakfast, transfer, and flight. 

**END OF TOUR EXTENSION**

Travel Solo, With A Friend, A Partner, Or A Group





Cost Of This Tour

Main Tour (Days 1-16) :
    $6,675.00 Per Person (shared)
    $ 7,425.00 Per Person (single)

Cape Town Area Extension (Days 16-19) : 
    $1,695.00 Per Person (shared)
    $ 1,895.00 Per Person (single)

Rates are based on a 4-15 person tour size. Spots are limited! Reserve yours today.

Contact us via the form or phone to get more information and a comprehensive itinerary.

Rate is inclusive of the following:

  • All land transfer and travel
  • All internal flights
  • All meals as stipulated
  • All excursions as stipulated
  • All accommodation as stipulated

Rates do not include: 

  • Excursions not in itinerary
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • All Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities