Western Cape Birding
Starting in Cape Town, we take you through national parks, epic birding hikes and more to see some of South Africa's wonderful bird species.
Endemic Species in Breathtaking Scenery
Situated on the south-western tip of Africa, the Western Cape is bordered by the Indian Ocean (to the south) and the Atlantic Ocean (to the west). It is a region of breathtaking scenery, featuring the transection of a diversity of habitats that offer a rewarding birding experience. See a number of endemic species while taking in the sights. See below for a day-by-day outline!
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Tanqua Karoo National Park
Addo Elephant Park
A South African Experience You Will Never Forget
Day 1 - Cape Town
On arrival at Cape Town International airport you will be met by your guide and transferred to Lezard Bleu guesthouse where you can settle in and relax for the balance of the day (bed and breakfast basis).
Day 2 – Table Mountain
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 two cable cars in operation take 5 to 10 minutes to reach the top of Table Mountain, travelling at a speed of about 10m (33ft) per second.
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 2000 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. Time permitting we will spend the balance of the day exploring Cape Town and surrounds. Overnight Lezard Bleu Guesthouse (bed and breakfast basis).
Day 3 – Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to Cape point
Our day begins at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – one of the world’s leading indigenous gardens on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. 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. From here we depart southwards along the peninsula, visiting a number of coastal localities, 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 Cormorant. Cape Gannets hunt off-shore, while African Black Oystercatcher forage on the shoreline. We make our way southwards to Cape Point, crossing over to Simonstown, famous for being the most accessible site for African Penguin. Approximately 1100 pairs breed here. 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, and much more.
If time allows we can include a visit to the scenic Cape of Good Hope. 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. Return to Cape Town and overnight at Lezard Blue Guest House (bed and breakfast basis).
Day 4 – Cape Town and surrounds at leisure
Today can be spent exploring Cape Town and its surrounds. Cape Town is a city of many attractions, a mix of cultures, landscapes, architecture, lifestyles, customs and scenery. Cape Town offers you mountains, beaches, sea, rivers, wind and a wonderful climate. Your guide will be able to advise you on options for the day. Overnight Lezard Blue Guest House (bed and breakfast basis).
Day 5 – Cape Town to Langebaan
Morning departure from Cape Town. 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. Dinner and overnight Langebaan Guesthouse.
Day 6 – Langebaan to Tanqua Karoo National Park
Morning birding activity at Langebaan and surrounds. In the mid afternoon we will make the drive through to the farming village of Ceres, gateway to the Tanqua Karoo. Dinner and overnight in the Tanqua Karoo National Park.
Day 7 – Tanqua Karoo National Park
Just two southern African regions have been bestowed the honour of designation as Biodiversity Hotspots by Conservation International. One is of course the Cape Floral Kingdom, and the other the Succulent Karoo. For those whose image of the south-western Karoo is a shimmering wasteland to be endured as briefly as possible en route to Cape Town or Johannesburg , this may come as a surprise. Though - the remarkable endemism and diversity of the Succulent Karoo flora (at its most spectacular from August to October) is its most renowned aspect, the Karoo as a whole naturally has a great deal to offer the birder. With no less than 18 endemics almost wholly restricted to it, the Karoo is an essential destination for any birder visiting southern Africa, as well as a potential source of exciting new species for hardened locals. We will enjoy a full days birding in this unique environment. Dinner and overnight in the Tanqua Karoo National Park.
Day 8 – Tanqua Karoo National Park to Karoo National Park
Morning departure for Karoo National Park. The Great Karoo is a vast and unforgiving landscape of which the Karoo National Park is but a small portion. Being the largest ecosystem in South Africa, the Karoo is home to a fascinating diversity of life, all having adapted to survive in these harsh conditions. Karoo National Park is dominated by the lofty Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains, where many species that originally occurred here now occupy their former ranges. The Karoo National Park has a wide variety of endemic wildlife. Many species have been relocated to their former ranges - such as black rhino and buffalo, as well as Cape mountain zebra. Over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle find sanctuary within the park. Dinner and overnight Karoo National Park.
Day 9 – Karoo National Park
Full day exploration of Karoo National Park.
Day 10 – Morning departure for Addo Elephant Park.
Deep within the shadows of the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region of the Eastern Cape lies the Addo Elephant National Park. Here, the evenings are punctuated by the strident howl of the black-backed jackal, and the francolin's call heralds each new dawn. Safe from relentless persecution in the past, the grey leviathans of the bush now roam in peace. The original Elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only eleven elephants remained in the area - today this finely tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 450 elephants, Cape buffalo, black rhino, a variety of antelope species, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo. And their Addo has only just begun. with plans to expand the 164 000 ha Addo National Elephant Park into a 360 000 ha mega-park
Afternoon Game drive in Addo. Dinner and overnight Addo Restcamp.
Day 11 – Full day exploring Addo Elephant Park
Addo's birding opportunity covers excellent habitat contrasts between dense thickets of spekboom interspersed with open grassy areas and wooded kloofs (particularly in the Zuurberg region). Now that the park has expanded to include Darlington Lake , Woody Cape , the coastal islands and the Alexandria Forest , a variety of other habitats swell the birding potential of the park. In and around the Addo rest camp Karoo Scrub Robin and Cape Robin-Chat , Bokmakierie, Southern Tchagra, Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Bunting are prominent, with Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Spectacled Weaver, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbird also easily found. A trip into the game viewing area will not produce a plethora of birds, but Bokmakierie will once more be prominent, and Martial Eagle, Black Korhaan, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Black-headed Heron and Secretarybird may well be seen. In the wooded kloofs of the Zuurberg, African Crowned Eagles breed. Forest species typical of the Eastern Cape, such as Olive Bush Shrike, Yellow throated Woodland-Warbler and Cape Batis can also be searched for. Dinner and overnight Addo Restcamp.
Day 12 – Knysna
Knysna`s history is interwoven with its rich natural heritage; the surrounding indigenous forests. Towards the end of the 18th century, European stock farmers and woodcutters had established themselves in the district. For many years the forests were mercilessly robbed of its rich resources, supplying timber to the furniture, construction and mining industries.
Extensive destruction of the forests occurred due to indiscriminate harvesting of timber. Fortunately, measures were put into place to preserve and maintain the forests: the indigenous state-owned southern Cape forests were closed from 1939 to 1967 to allow regeneration. Today the forests are managed according to strict conservation principles and harvesting is done in a responsible and ecological sensitive manner, so you may purchase wood items in good conscience
The Knysna area consists out of Knysna, Sedgefield, Brenton, Noetzie, Rheenendal, Belvidere and Buffalo Bay. The area is one of the most scenic in the world and offers beaches, lakes and lush forests to play in.
Overnight Pumula Lodge in Knysna.
Day 13 – Birding and exploring the Knysna area
Waterfowl and waders occur in abundance at several locations. Woodbourne Pan, opposite the Leisure Isle causeway on George Rex Drive, is host to a multitude of different species, depending on the tides and on the time of year: Ducks (Cape and Hottentot Teal), Egyptian Geese, Herons, Sacred Ibis, Hadeda, Spoonbills, Rails, Ruffs and Curlews flock to this sheltered and idyllic pond. Upper Langvlei and Rondevlei are wildlife reserves; of 95 species of waterfowl recorded in South Africa, 75 can be seen in this small locality. Bird hides and trails around the lakes provide an opportunity to observe, amongst others, Spurwing Geese, Coots, Ospreys, Fish Eagles and the rarer Narina Trogon.
The endangered Oyster Catcher is much in evidence on the beaches in the Goukamma Nature Reserve. Kingfishers and Fish Eagles may be seen up the Knysna and Goukamma Rivers. Francolins, Rameron Pigeons, the Knysna Warbler (one of South Africa’s rarest birds) can be found in abundance, whilst Fynbos species, such as Sunbirds, Seed Eaters, Sugarbirds and grass birds can be found in the Kranshoek area. Dinner and Overnight Pumula Lodge
Day 14 – Swellendam area
Swellendam, straddling the N2 national road a two-and-a-half hour drive east of Cape Town, marks the westernmost occurrence of several bird species. It is also the third oldest town in South Africa, and consequently boasts numerous fine Cape Dutch buildings. Rather improbably, it was the capital city of a mini-republic for three heady months in 1795, when its citizens declared independence and appointed a president! Overnight Aan de Oever Guesthouse.
Day 15 – Swellendam
Full day birding and exploring the Swellendam area – this will include an excursion to the Marloth Nature Reserve. Overnight Aan de Oever Guesthouse.
Day 16 – Hermanus
Morning departure for Hermanus. Hermanus lies along the Walker Bay on the south coast of the Western Cape, It is located about 115 km southeast of Cape Town and is connected to the Mother City by the R43 highway (or coastal R44 scenic route) and N2 motorway. The R43 continues to Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of Africa. Hermanus is 40 km 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. Overnight Hermanus B&B.
Day 17 – Hermanus to Cape Town
Morning and afternoon exploration of the Hermanus and surrounds. Departure for Cape Town for your return flight.
We enjoyed laughter, sunsets, elephants tussling and drinking water, hippos in St. Lucia estuary, dipping our toes in the Indian Ocean and so much more. It truly was a wonderful, memorable visit that will linger inside us forever. Thank you Outdoor Africa!
THANK YOU OUTDOOR AFRICA for providing me with the experience of a lifetime. Toby customized the trip based on our specific preferences and abilities. Hayden was truly a wealth of knowledge about all things South African and I learned to really appreciate nature in a way that I never had before.
We could not have had a better trip! My husband worked with Toby Brown in the U.S. who then coordinated with Hayden Elliott over in SA. We had three weeks with Hayden driving us the entire time. His knowledge of the area, animals, birds, etc. was amazing.