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Birds and Whales Itinerary

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 wonderfully 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 and Malachite Sunbird.    

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


Days 2-5

During these four full days in Cape Town, we will explore various birding sites and other attractions. 

Cape of Good Hope Reserve (destined for recognition as a World Heritage Site) is the south-westernmost tip of Africa, rich in history and botanical diversity.  Over 1 000 species of plants occur 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 habitat, ranging from rocky hills and cliffs to beaches, open sea and 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).  

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

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

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.  

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. 

One of the undoubted highlights of our visit will be a pelagic trip.  Rich in nutrients, the cold Benguela current around Cape Town supports one of the highest concentrations of seabirds in the world.  Althogether, up to 30 species of seabirds can be seen on a single trip, with Black-browed, Grey-headed and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Southern, Northern Giant, Pintado, Wilson’s Storm, Soft-plumaged and White-chinned Petrels, Great and Sooty Shearwaters, and Arctic and Subantarctic Skuas being the most obvious.    

A visit to the Western Cape would not be complete without tasting its fabulous wines.  In between our bird watching trips, we will visit the wineland area.  Here, we will have the opportunity to sample and buy Cape wines and experience the rich historical and architectural tradition of the area.  In their lovely restaurants with superb views over picturesque vineyards and valleys, we will tantalize our tastebuds with good food and fine wine.  You will particularly enjoy a visit to a couple of wine estates, where wine tasting is combined with cheese or chocolate tasting.  

During our stay in Cape Town, we will also 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 stop at the Harold Porter Botanical GardenHere, we will explore different parts of this fabulous garden, where we should get good views of some fynbos endemics, such as Cape Batis, Cape Siskin, Cape Bulbul, Cape White-eye, Cape Canary, Protea Canary and Sombre Greenbul.  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 are two fynbos endemics, the Cape Rockjumper and Victorin's Warbler. 


Day 6

We will leave Cape Town today and travel north to do the famous Tanqua Karoo Loop.   Tanqua Karoo is one of the most ancient desert systems of the world.  The parched brown expanses, dominated in places by succulent plants and aloe escarpments, and punctuated by low hills, provide superb conditions for sought-after dry endemics, such as Cape Rock Trush, Cape Siskin, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Karoo Scrub-robin, Namaqua Warbler, Karoo Korhaan and Karoo Eromomela.  We will stop at several places to search for these birds.

As we leave Karoo in late afternoon, we enter the Ceres valley, the area that produces the finest fruit in the country.  The orchards of fruit trees will form a picturesque landscape.  Verreaux’s Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are quite easy to spot here in this open countryside. 

We will spend a night in the guest house on the outskirts of Ceres. 


Day 7

Today, we will make our way to Veldriff, a small fishing village situated on the Berg River estuary.  The estuary holds a rich diversity of waterbirds, is excellent for rarities and supports the highest density of migratory waders on the East Atlantic Flyway.  My PhD involved studies of various aspects of migratory waders at the Berg River estuary, so you will have an insight into the area from a prime source!  Apart from the array of migratory species, we will also be able to get good views of various resident waders including five species of plovers (Kittlitz’s, Three-banded, Chestnut-banded, White-fronted and Blacksmith) and Water and Cape Thick-Knees.  Other birds associated with wetland habitat include flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, herons, egrets, ibises, a great array of wildfowl, African Sea Eagle, three species of kingfishers, warblers, weavers, bishops and many more.

Our accommodation for the night will be chalets, beautifully situated on the bank of the Berg River.  Here, lovely views stretch over the intertidal mudflats from your private veranda. 


Days 8-10

Veldriff will be our base for the next three days, from which we will undertake various trips to explore this varied and rich land.

One of the trips will take us through the superb Cederberg mountains, which offer interesting birding in addition to marvelous mountain landscapes.  The Cederberg mountains are famous for its Rooibos Tea, Cape Cedars and provide the greatest legacy of rock art found anywhere in the world, with over 2500 sites.   

We will undertake a lovely “safari tour” in an open vehicle around the Rooibos tea estate situated in the foot hills of the Cedeberg Mountains.  As we drive along the rugged gravel tracks through countryside covered in the indigenous fynbos and great rock formations, we will be able to get a quick glimpse of, most sought-after Black Harrier, a spectacular Pin-tailed Whydah or magnificent Southern Black Korhaan, amongst others.   

On our way back, we will visit a bird island at Lambert’s Bay, home to 14 000 breeding pairs of Cape Gannets, a small population of African Penguins and Cape Fur Seals.   The island is connected to the mainland via a narrow causeway.  The Cape Gannet colony here represents 7% of the global population of this species and is one of only six colonies in the world, but the only one within an easy access. 

Veldriff is also a good base to visit a number of important nearby wetlands including Verlorenvlei and the internationally recognized West Coast National ParkThe latter covers an extensive area of lagoons, saltmarshes and reedbeds and it is a best spot in the country for migratory waders which gather here in their thousands.  Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Knot, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit are amongst most common, whereas Curlew (eastern race), Greater Sandplover and Terek Sandpiper are scarcer but regular.   The park 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 species.  We will spend the whole day exploring the park and have a lovely lunch at the park’s headquarters. 


Day 11

After a leisurely morning and birdwatching on the farm, we will depart for Cape Town, where a visit to the vibrant Victoria and AlfredWaterfront will conclude our stay in South Africa.   Originally built as a harbour in the 19th century, today the V&A Waterfront isrenowned as one of the most successful marine developments in the world.  Great restaurants and cafes offer fantastic food, Africandance troupes and jazz buskers create a unique atmosphere and curios shops provide the best selection of African craft in the city. You will be given free time to soak up this unique atmosphere, before our three-course meal in one of the best seafood restaurantsin Cape Town.  We will leave for the airport in late afternoon to catch our flight home. 


Tour Report 2004; 2009

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Table Mountains

Whales

Southern Right Whale

Baboons

Steenback

Cape Sugarbird

Cape Eagle Owl

White Pelecan

Flamingo

White Pelecan

Penguin

Pied Kingfisher

Sacred Ibis

Coot

African Aquinga

African Ganet

Cape dwarf Cameleon

Long-tailed Whidah

Shrike

Grassbird