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Birds, Mammals & Flowers

Day 1

After an early morning arrival to beautiful Cape Town, where the dramatic Table Mountain dominates the landscape, we will be transferred in our minibus to a lodge situated on the fynbos-covered slopes of the Clovelly mountains.  A solar-heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi are a great addition to the attractive garden overlooking the valley.   We will spend four nights here. 

In the afternoon, we will visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the finest botanical gardens in the world, beautifully situated on the slope of Table Mountain.  Here, we will have our first introduction to an array of native plants, many of which are pollinated by birds and we should see our first endemics, including the Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Sombre Bulbul, Black Saw-winged Swallow, Rameron  Pigeon and Swee Waxbill.

We will conclude our first day in South Africa with a lovely meal in one of the many upmarket restaurants in town.

Days 2-3

The Cape of Good Hope Reserve is rich in history and botanical diversity, with over 1,000 species of plants occurring here, eleven of which are found nowhere else on Earth.  We will spend the whole morning birding in the reserve and walk to the south-western most point of Africa.  With its diverse habitats, ranging from rocky hills, cliffs, beaches and open sea to vast expanses of fynbos, the Cape of Good Hope provides good access to a number of endemics and localized birds and mammals. The latter include Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboon, Genet, Lynx and eight species of antelopes, including the Bontebok, once considered to be the rarest antelope in the world. The Chacma Baboons hold their territories on the side of the road in the reserve and it is almost inevitable that we will encounter some of them (Chacma Baboon troops on the Cape Peninsula are the only protected population of this species in Africa).  

Strandfontein Sewage Works are one of the top ten coastal sites for waterbirds in the country and we will spend some time exploring them.   Apart from outstanding number of wildfowl, we will be able to see an array of other interesting species, including flamingos, waders, gulls, terns and many passerines. 

At Boulders, we will visit a colony of globally threatened African Penguins.  Over 3 000 of them nest on the secluded sandy beaches which they share with sun-bathing humans!

Intaka Island is another wetland and a bird sanctuary, and although situated in the middle of residential development, hosts an exciting number of many interesting species.   From there we will hop to Rietveli, another nature reserve in the middle of the residential area, where in sight of Table Mountain we will be able to observe a number of waterbirds, including spoonbills, cormorants, flamingoes, pelicans and many more.

Visits to various birding sites around Cape Town will also take us to the very summit of Table Mountain, where a lovely view stretches over Cape Town harbour and the city itself.  Here good views of White-necked Raven and Familiar Chat are almost guaranteed.

A visit to the Western Cape would not be complete without tasting its fabulous wines.  In between our bird watching trips, we will visit a couple of wine estates, where we will have the opportunity to dine and sample Cape wines.

Day 4

Today, we will explore the Overberg area and undertake a whale-watching trip at Gansbaai.   The trip will take us around Dyer Island inhabited by 14 000 penguins and cormorants and the Geyser Rock which is home to 60 000 Cape Fur Seals.  At this time of the year, seeing the Southern Right Whale is guaranteed and there is a possibility of encountering Humpback and Bryde’s Whales.  The area is also famous for Great White Sharks which are seen on 80% of the trips.  This is probably the only place in the world where one can view an impressive whale and a Great White Shark on the same boat trip.

On our way to Cape Town, we will wind our way along the scenic coastal drive via Rooiels and up the historic Sir Lowry's Pass in the Hottentots Holland Mountains overlooking False Bay. Residing here is a secretive fynbos endemic, the Cape Rockjumper, which we will make an effort to find. 

Day 5

We will leave Cape Town today and travel North, to the internationally recognized West Coast National Park, which covers an extensive area of lagoons, saltmarshes and reedbeds.  It is the best site in the country to see Black Harrier and we will not leave the area without getting a good look at this magnificent bird.  The Postberg Reserve within the park is only opened during the spring and produces the best display of spring flowers close to Cape Town.  We will spend the whole day exploring the park and its surroundings. Encounters with Springbok, Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Bontebok and Eland are all possible.

Day 6             

We will continue North today with a short stop on the banks of the Berg River estuary, where a number of waterbirds reside, including the endemic Chestnut-banded Plover.  From here, we will make our way to Lambert’s Bay.   A bird island, now connected to the mainland, is home to thousands breeding pairs of Cape Gannets and a small population of penguins.  The handsome and localized Heaviside’s Dolphin and Cape Fur Seal come close to the shore here.

We will conclude our day in a unique open-air restaurant where the walls are formed by ancient rocks and concave cliffs.  Here, you will enjoy a wide selection of traditional South African dishes.  We will then proceed to ClanWilliam, famous for its Rooibos Tea and Cape Cedars, both of which occur naturally here and nowhere else.  The surrounding Cederberg mountains provide the greatest legacy of ancient rock art found anywhere in the world. 

Day 7

Our journey will take us further North today to Namaqualand which is renowned as one of the prime locations for the annual spring flower displays.  The carpets of wild flowers and their intense colours can be viewed here as far as the eye can see.  Birds encountered en route might include Zitting Cisticola, Karoo Thrush, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Bokmakerie, Ludwig’s Bustard, Black-headed Canary, Black-Breasted Snake Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Gymnogene, Pale-chanting Goshawk and Pale-winged Starling.

By late afternoon, we should reach Augrabies Falls National Park, where will enjoy scrumptious dinner and a good night’s sleep.  

Day 8  

The Augrabies Falls National Park protects the area where the Oramge River changes from a wide to a fast-flowing river and cuts through ancient granites, forming a 60 metres high waterfall (when the river is in flood).  Even more impressive is the 240 m deep gorge below the falls that runs for 18 kilometres. 

We will explore Augrabies Falls National Park in the early morning, where a walk round the gorge and nearby veld might produce an interesting array of species such as Dusky Sunbird, Grey-headed Sparrow, Pririt Batis,  Red-faced Mousebird, Pied Barbet, Alpine Swift, White-throated Swift, Black-chested-Prinia, Orange River White-eye, Lesser Honey Guide, White-throated Canary, Scimitar-Billed Wood Hoopoe and Southern Grey Tit.  The Black Stork and Verreaux's Eagle both breed in the park, and we will keep eye out for them.  A Klipspringer, Small Grey Mongoose, Ground Squirrel and Rock Dassie are also possible here.

We will then undertake a drive to Kgalagadi Transfontier Park with a short stop at Upington for lunch and supplies.  Our journey will take us now through dry and semi-desert landscape but in no time at all the red sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert will emerge.  Species encountered en route might include Pygmy Falcon, Namaqua Dove, Black-eared Finchlark, Grey-backed Finchlark, Larklike Bunting, Marico Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Groundscraper Thrush, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Gabar Goshawk.

Days 9-10

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the largest protected wilderness areas in Africa and the first multinational park, protecting sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert in both South Africa and Botswana. Despite the desolate landscape, the park is teeming with wildlife and it is especially renowned for the seasonal movement of large herbivores such as Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Eland and Red Hartebeest.  Ground Squirrel and Meerkat are two of the park’s more prominent species with Honey Badger, Pangolin and Bat-eared Fox also frequently seen.  But it is the predators that are the park’s biggest attraction with around 200 cheetahs, 450 lions and 150 leopards.  The chances to seeing and photographing one of those are excellent.  We will undertake a night safari drive in search of more illusive nocturnal species such as Black-backed Jackal, Springhare, Scrub Hare, nightjars, Spotted Eagle Owl and Barn Owl.  Similarly, birdwatching is rewarding here with species such as Bru Bru Shrike, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Sociable Weaver, Fawn-coloured Lark, Northern Black Korhaan, Sabotas Lark, Giant Eagle Owl, Kori’s Bustard, Karoo Lark, Rufouseared Warbler, Purple and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Bateleur, Rufous-vented Titbabbler, Wattled Starling, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures, Secretary Bird, Scaly-feathered Finchlark and Red-headed Finch.  

Day 11

After breakfast, we will leave the park and travel south through the vast countryside of Nama Karoo, a very ancient and sparsely populated but fascinating landscape. We will make several stops en route to view the birds, and we should reach our destination, Calvinia, by late afternoon.   Our accommodation tonight comprises lovely Victorian cottages fully restored to their former glory and filled with period furniture.  An unforgettable, candlelit dinner will be served that night in a historic part of the estate (a national monument).  

Day 12

Our journey will take us further south today through the longest uninhabited road in South Africa.  En route, we will stop at the Akkerendam Nature Reserve and the spectacular Nieuwoudtnille Gorge, where spring flowers should still be in full bloom.  As we travel further south, the Cederberg Mountains, will dominate the landscape.  

Our destination for the day is Velddrif, a small fishing village situated on the Berg River estuary.  The estuary holds a rich diversity of waterbirds including waders, flamingoes, pelicans, spoonbills, herons, egrets, ibises, kingfishers and a great array of wildfowl. Nearby bushes are teeming with warblers, weavers and bishops.  

Our accommodation for the night will be a hotel, situated on the bank of the Berg River and overlooking the intertidal mudflats.   

Day 13

After a leisurely morning and birdwatching on our doorstep, we will travel back to Cape Town for our three-course meal in one of the most renowned restaurants in Cape Town, before leaving for the airport to catch our flight home.

Tour Report 2004; 2009

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Cape Town

Proteas in Cape Town

Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Cape Sugarbird

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Masked Weather

Spotted Prinia

Cape White-eye

chestnut-banded Plover

African Penguins

Black Oystercatcher

Cape Eagle Owl

Cape Gannet colony

Cape Dwarf Cameleon

Blue Cranes


Plain Zebra