After meeting and greeting we will head up the coast to Eshowe. During the transfer we will have time for birding, although we will make it an easy day, giving you time to rest a bit after your long international flight. In the afternoon we can start birding the Dlinza Forest with its splendid canopy tower and aerial boardwalk.
We will stay for 2 nights in Eshowe B&B. Eshowe B&B offers (5) units all with their own entrance, set on a large property in a quiet cul-de-sac, Eshowe B&B is most popular with birders - not only for the expert advice available from the hosts - but also for the information, maps and birding checklists provided in all the rooms.
Day 2 - Birding in the Dlinza Forest and trip to nearby Mtunzini.
Mtunzini is a bird watchers paradise and is renowned as one of the few places where one of South Africa's rarest birds of prey, the Palm-nut Vulture, is found. These birds feed on the fruit of the Rafia Palm which produces its fruit once every twenty years before dying. Visitors can enjoy a walk through the lush vegetation at the Rafia Palm Monument, which features a raised boardwalk that meanders through to the magnificent palms.
After some morning birding around Eshowe, we head to the famed Lake St. Lucia, which has a phenomenally rich assemblage of waterbirds, forest birds, grassland birds, and others in its great variety of different habitats. When we arrive at our accommodation, we’ll immediately start birding –Livingstone’s Turaco, Lemon Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Rudd’s Apalis, and other spectacular forest birds have actually become garden birds here. In the afternoon we will take a boat-ride on the St Lucia Estuary. This is the best way to see water birds around Estuary. Yellow-billed Storks, Fish Eagles, Goliath Herons, flocks of Pelicans, Terns and Lesser Flamingo may be seen. Yellow-billed Stork and Woolly-necked Stork, Caspian Tern, and a variety of waders including Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover and Pied Avocet are also found here. The bridge area is a good spot for seeing Mangrove Kingfisher, Banded Martins and Wire-tailed Swallow.
With over 800 Hippo's in the St Lucia lake system, you are sure to come face to face with these creatures too!
We will stay for 3 nights at St. Lucia Kingfisher Lodge. The St Lucia Kingfisher Lodge has only seven luxury air-conditioned suites, each with their own private (fully furnished) patio overlooking the tropical estate, tea/coffee making facilities, a fully licensed bar fridge, pure Egyptian Cotton linen of the highest quality, and four poster mosquito nets - purely for that romantic feel that Africa always evokes.
We have 2 full days to bird around St. Lucia and the Estuary. On one of these days we will enter in the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site and drive up to Cape Vidal. That day we will leave early with a packed breakfast. We are bound to stumble across White Rhino and other megafauna en route to Cape Vidal, which is one of the best sites for Green Twinspot, the elusive Southern Banded Snake Eagle, and the attractive Crested Guineafowl – far more exotic in appearance than its more common cousin, the Helmeted Guineafowl. There are of course many other birds, such as Green Malkoha, Red-backed Mannikin, etc. The rare and local Samango monkey also occurs at Cape Vidal along with the more widespread vervet monkey.
Today we’ll drive to the small but magnificent Mkhuze Game Reserve, which boasts 420+ bird species as well as a plethora of mammals, including black and white rhinos and leopard. Time-permitting, we may look for Pel’s Fishing Owl before entering the reserve. After dinner, we can embark on a night drive. Mkhuze night drives quite often yield leopard, and there are chances of seeing several owl, nightjar, thick-knee, and courser species.
African Broadbill with its bizarre display flight, Pink-throated Twinspot, and other tantalizing endemics, plus a phenomenal diversity of other species. Mkhuze is one of the richest sites for birds on the entire African continent. We will also have a reasonable chance of finding the diminutive suni antelope in the Sand Forest. After our early morning bird walk we will embark on birding drives in search of a whole host of exciting species – we will bird woodland, savanna, and wetland areas. While looking for birds there is also an excellent chance of stumbling across white rhino (and possibly the rarer black rhino) and nyala, as well as other mammals that are difficult to find in most other game reserves.
We will stay for 2 nights at Wakkerstroom Wetlands Country House. Wetlands Country House is set on six hectares of breathtaking grasslands and wetlands, within 100 metres of Martin’s Dam, which feeds the river that forms the boundary to the property. The en-suite bedrooms , complete with fireplace and own private wooden deck are overlooking Martin´s Dam
Day 10/11/12/13 - Kruger National Park
After some final early morning birding around Wakkerstroom we head for one of Africa’s greatest game parks, the Kruger National Park! This park has a staggering bird diversity, and we are bound to find multiple species of each of the following groups: hornbills, barbets, rollers, bee-eaters, kingfishers, cuckoos, storks, eagles (including the amazing Bateleur), vultures, owls, weavers (including Red-headed Weaver), turacos, and many others. As a byproduct of our marked focus on birding, we should also encounter elephant, lion, giraffe, buffalo, a plethora of antelope species, hippopotamus, crocodile, and many small mammals, such as mongooses, etc. We will, however, require much luck for leopard or cheetah.
To get an impression of this vast African Wilderness have a look at the map (from Siyabona Africa – Birding Krugerpark).
We will enter the park via Crocodile Bridge in the South-east and stay for four nights in 2 different locations.
2 nights in Lower Sabie Restcamp, with huts, tents and bungalows. We will stay in bungalows. The Sabie River borders the camp. The vegetation exists of large riverine trees and the sycamore fig tree, which attracts many birds and animals. Because of the great quantity of water and sweet grass, Lower Sabie Rest Camp attracts a large numbers of game, which cannot be found anywhere else in the park.
2 night in Skukuza Restcamp. This is the largest camp of the Kruger National Park. Here we will also stay in bungalows. Skukuza Restcamp is situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River. Well foliaged, with lofty trees along the river’s edge.
After a final morning of birding in Kruger, we will depart for the escarpment. Here, we will look for one of Africa’s rarest birds, the small but powerful and extremely fast Taita Falcon. This species was only recently discovered as a breeding bird in South Africa, but this site is probably the most reliable place on earth to find it at present. As usual, we may find all sorts of other birds, including Mocking Cliff Chat, Lanner Falcon, Cape Vulture, etc. We’ll then head further west, eventually arriving at one of South Africa’s premier grassland endemic birding sites, Dullstroom. Here, we may find Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Secretarybird, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Cape Eagle Owl, and others.
Day 15 – Departure Day - Start of the Extension to the Cape
Morning birding around Dullstroom, before making way back to Johannesburg for international departures, or a connecting domestic flight to Cape Tow, for the start of the extension (see below).
Day 1 – Arrival at Cape Town
We expect to arrive around midday. Time-permitting, we may already start some birding today – we can bird one of the Cape Peninsula’s fine wetlands (Intaka Island, Rietvlei or Rondevlei). Here we will look for Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo, a host of shorebirds, Cape Teal and Maccoa Duck among many other waterfowl, Little Bittern, and many other herons, three grebe species, Greater Painted-snipe, African Snipe, four species of reed-associated Warblers, and other waterbirds. While looking for waterbirds (or even while driving to our B&B) we should also find good numbers of terrestrial endemics, including Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, and Jackal Buzzard.
Birds are abundant at Kirstenbosch, particularly in the Garden – more than 125 species have been recorded. Look out for the Sugarbird, Sunbirds and the African Dusky Flycatcher
We will stay 2 nights in Le Mahi, Langebaan. This Guest House, earned the 2015 Certificate of Excellence of Trip advisor. Located at short distance of the Langebaan Lagoon. The Lagoon also offers nature lovers a wide variety of activities and things to do. Experienced bird watchers and birders clubs unanimously agree that the area is one of the best places to view hundreds of indigenous and migratory bird species. The rich wetland area attracts up to 70 000 migrating birds each summer who grace the shores to breed and feed. Birds come from as far away as Siberia and Greenland to feed on the plankton rich wetland area. Langebaan Lagoon is an important natural heritage site for South Africa and has been acclaimed as a Ramsar site due to its uniqueness. There is also a large population of various types of mammals and buck which roam the veld and is easily spotted at the right time of day, mostly in the Postberg section of the park.