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13 Nights 14 Days

14 Day North-Eastern South Africa Private Birding Tour

Information:

Departs:

Any date of your choice

Pick-up Location:

Any location in Johannesburg

Drop-off Location:

OR Tambo International Airport - Johannesburg

Passengers:

Private departure for 2 – 6 guests

Price:

Please request the confidential price for this package as rates vary across seasons.

Includes:

  • Accommodation as specified (subject to availability)
  • Meals as specified
  • All transport in air-conditioned vehicles
  • All excursions, sightseeing, bird-watching & game-viewing activities, as described in the itinerary
  • All entry fees, park fees and conservation levies as described in the itinerary
  • The services of a specialist birding guide
  • Local expert bird guides at selected locations
  • Personal copy of “Sasol Birds of Southern Africa”, 4th edition

Excludes:

  • Meals not specified
  • Drinks, gratuities, telephone calls & other items of a personal nature
  • International & domestic flights

Highlights:

  • Rietvlei Nature Reserve
  • Magoebaskloof
  • The Kruger National Park
  • Swaziland
  • Mkhuze Game Reserve
  • The astounding bio-diversity of the St. Lucia Wetlands Park
  • The Wakkerstroom Wetlands

Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1 – Gauteng Province - Pretoria

You are collected at the location of your choice in Johannesburg, and we travel the short distance to Pretoria, the historical capital city of South Africa. Our first destination is the very interesting Rietvlei Nature Reserve, where your trip-list will kick off with some of the many bird species that you will be able to tick off on this varied and interesting tour.

Accommodation: City Lodge Lynnwood
Bed & breakfast basis

Rietvlei Nature Reserve

The 3800 hectare Rietvlei Nature Reserve is located on the outskirts of Pretoria, and is one of very few reserves situated in the high-altitude grassland biome of the central South African highveld. It is home to a number of South African endemics, and provides a very relaxing spot for a few hours' birding. Of added interest is the fact that the reserve also has a number of mammal species, including Rhino, Buffalo, Zebra, Eland, Springbuck and Black Wildebeest. A variety of habitats can be found inside the reserve. The Rietvlei dam and other water bodies host numerous waterbirds, while the reserve is also well known for its vleis (marshes), grasslands and woodland areas. A number of well located hides will allow you to observe some of the many waterbirds that occur at Rietvlei at close range, with some fantastic photograpic opportunities. Commonly seen birds include Little Grebe, White-breasted & Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed & Black Duck, Egyptian Goose, Ant-eating Chat, Pied & Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Longclaw, African Pipit, Cape Wagtail, African Stonechat, Common Fiscal, Thick-billed Weaver, Dark-capped Bulbul, Crested & Black-collared Barbet, Fiscal Flycatcher, Pied, Giant & Malachite Kingfisher, Helmeted Guineafowl, Crowned, Wattled & Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-shouldered Kite, and in summer, large numbers of migratory Amur Falcons.

Days 2 & 3 – Limpopo Province – Nylsvley/Magoebaskloof (IBA)*

An early start is required as we take the N1 highway, also known as the Great North Road, to our next exiting destination, the internationally renowned Nylsvley Floodplain. After some hours birding at this very rewarding site we travel further north to the scenic Magoebaskloof valley, located on the escarpment between the great South African central plateau and the much lower plains of the “lowveld”. We have a full day to explore the Magoebaskloof area, where your guide will contract a expert local bird guide to assist us with locating as many as possible of the specials for which the area has become famous.

Accommodation:Magoebaskloof Hotel
Dinner, bed & breakfast basis

Nylsvley Nature Reserve

The Nyl Floodplain is the largest inland floodplain in South Africa, reaching up to 16 000 hectares when fully inundated. Nylsvley is one of the top birding spots in Southern Africa, with at least 365 species recorded. Over 104 water bird species visit (and many breed) during extensive flooding, which only occurs every three or four years. The floodplain comprises extensive reed beds and grassveld that is adjoined by broadleaved woodland and bushveld. Habitats include short grassy plains, reed beds, stands of long rice grass, open water patches, marshes, acacia savanna and broadleaved woodlands. Nylsvley’s many specials include Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, African Pygmy-Goose, Lesser Moorhen, African & Greater Painted-snipe, European Honey-Buzzard, Western Marsh-Harrier, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Meyer's Parrot, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Black-winged Pratincole, Olive-tree Warbler, African Golden Oriole, Common Whitethroat and Tinkling Cisticola.

Magoebaskloof

The Magoebaskloof area is a picturesque mountainous region speckled with pristine Afro-montane forest patches. Spectacular forests play host to a number of southern Africa's forest specials making the area a very attractive birding destination. Two of the most worthwhile forests in the area are the enormous Woodbush and the smaller Swartbos Forests. Specials in the Magoebaskloof area include Cape Parrot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Orange Ground-Thrush, African Olive-Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, Lemon Dove, Black Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike and Green Twinspot. Not to be missed is the spectacular Debegeni Falls where one can walk around and enjoy a picnic. Look out for Mountain Wagtail patrolling the falls and African Dusky Flycatcher darting from tree to tree.

Day 4 – Limpopo Province – Northern Kruger National Park (IBA)*

Today the next leg of your birding adventure starts as we travel down the escarpment, and through to warm lowveld to enter the world famous Kruger National Park. The Kruger National Park is probably the single finest birding locality in Southern Africa. Due to its sheer size and diversity, it supports a unique combination of wilderness areas, varied habitats, easy road access, and comfortable amenities, together with a wide variety and concentration of bird species and big game animals. The park is situated in the north-east of South Africa, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe, in an area locally known as the “lowveld”. As one of the largest parks in Africa, it covers an area of more than 20 000 square kilometers, and is roughly 350 km long and 60 km wide. For the birder, the high diversity and density of bird species is the great attraction. The wide range of habitats is responsible for a bird list of over 500 species, while the productivity of these habitats is such that many species occur in abundance. The Park is especially good for large raptors which are rare outside of extensive conservation areas, while many other scarce and migrant species are attracted to it's unspoilt wilderness. The Kruger National Park should be on the agenda of any birder visiting South Africa. Our first night will be spent at the Letaba Restcamp, which is located in the northern region of the Park, from where we will make our way southwards, travelling inside the Park itself. Accommodation in the Kruger Park is in comfortable, air-conditioned en-suite bungalows, and all meals can be enjoyed in the newly improved camp restaurants.

Accommodation:Letaba Restcamp
Room only basis

Please note:

There are newly renovated restaurants in all the Kruger Park restcamps, and in order avoid our guests having to pay inflated “set-menu” prices, we have decided to exclude all meals while in the Park. Meal choices will therefore be completely flexible, which means that each guest can eat, and pay for, as much or as little as he or she prefers.

Letaba Rest Camp

Located on the banks of the Letaba River, within Mopani dominated savanna. The character of Letaba Camp depends heavily on the tall shady trees (Sycamore Fig, Natal Mahogany, Sausage Tree and Apple Leaf), expansive lawns and indigenous gardens where tame Bushbuck wander. The camp is well spread out with the highlight being a paved footpath which runs along the northern perimeter through broad leaved riparian vegetation and then back along roads skirting the southern perimeter of the camp offering the chance to see a number of species within the confines of the camp as well as out on the Letaba River floodplain. Birds to look out for include Bennett's and Bearded Woodpecker, Orange Breasted and Grey Headed Bush Shrike, White Bellied and Marico Sunbird, Crested Barbet, Blackheaded Oriole, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Black Eyed Bulbul.

Day 5 – Mpumalanga Province – Central Kruger National Park (IBA)*

Our route continues south, past the beautifully located Olifants Restcamp, where we will stop for breakfast and some time to explore the camp on foot. We then travel further south to the centrally located Satara Restcamp, where the next night is spent. The open plains around Satara are especially well known for the large numbers of predators that occur here.

Accommodation: Satara Restcamp
Room only basis

Olifants Rest Camp

Situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Olifants River and surrounding Mopani dominated woodland. A number of species can be easily found within the camp including Red-winged starling, Yellow-bellied greenbul, Mocking Cliff Chat and a number of different sunbirds. There are a number of look-out points which are ideal for watching raptors as they catch updrafts. Raptors which can be seen include Gabar Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby, Crowned Eagle and the occasional Bat Hawk.

Satara Rest Camp

Situated in the central Kruger Park, in the middle of a flat plain of tall tree savanna, of which Knob-thorn and Marula are the dominant species. Although there are no major rivers, there are watercourses lined with well-developed trees. The rest camp area is relatively large, and although fairly busy, still very good for birding. Burchell's Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver and African Mourning Dove are common. In summer, Woodland Kingfisher calls prettily and hawks insects in the camp gardens. African Scops-Owl often roost conspicuously in the trees in the camp, particularly in the parking lot outside the shop. The surrounding savanna plains should produce Lilac Breasted Roller, Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Black-bellied Bustard and Swainson's Spurfowl. Sabota Lark, African Pipit and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark inhabit the short grass areas. Other ground-dwelling species of interest that are regularly found in the Satara area are Senegal Lapwing, Bronze-winged Courser and Temminck's Courser. Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrike, and even African Cuckoo can be seen hawking from low bushes. The open savanna habitat with large trees, with a high population density of herbivores and attendant predators, is prime habitat for large raptors. Many of the parks large raptors can be seen in the Satara area, including Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Kills attract White-headed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Hooded Vulture and rarely also Cape Vulture.

Day 6 – Mpumalanga Province – Southern Kruger National Park (IBA)*

We travel even further south to our next restcamp, in the game-rich southern region of the Kruger Park. Our accommodation for our last night in the Park is at Berg-en-Dal Restcamp, which is located near the southern border of the Park, convenient for our journey to Swaziland tomorrow.

Accommodation: Berg-en-Dal Restcamp
Room only basis

Berg-en-Dal

One of the most attractive camps in the Kruger Park. The buildings are set within natural bush, the gardens planted with flowering shrubs and aloes, and the restaurant looks onto a small dam. The camp is surrounded by rocky hillsides covered in a mixed broad-leafed woodland known as Malelane Mountain Bushveld. Birds that may be seen at Berg-en-Dal include Natal Spurfowl, Crested Francolin, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown-headed Parrot, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, White-throated Robin-Chat, White-browed Robin-Chat, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Red-winged Starling, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, Blue Waxbill and African Firefinch.
The dam overlooked by the camp usually hosts resident African Fish-Eagle, which often sit out the day in the dead trees on the dam's far bank. In summer this vantage point is shared with Yellow-billed Kites. Except when rainfall is high, the western end of the dam supports good mud banks and waterside grasses. These mud banks are home to waders and mud probers like Three-banded Plover and Wood Sandpiper, while there are always some Water Thick-knee lurking in the shadows. The grasses attract various seedeaters and Common Waxbill will usually be seen. At night the attraction of the artificial lighting that shines on the waterhole is used by Square-tailed Nightjars to hawk insects.

Day 7 - Swaziland

After a final early morning drive through the Kruger Park we exit the Park and travel to one of the worlds last remaining (and also one of the worlds smallest) constitutional monarchies, the Kingdom of Swaziland - ruled over by the young King, his Royal Highness King Mswati III. Here, in this country of friendly Swazi people, it is almost as if time has stood still. Despite modern cities and an extensive infrastructure of roads electricity and communications, the Swazi culture has over centuries been jealously protected. The night is spent at a charming country hotel, ideally situated for exploring all the attractions Swaziland.

Accommodation: Forester’s Arms Country Hotel
Dinner, bed & breakfast basis

Swaziland

Some 500 species of bird have been recorded in Swaziland, which is a remarkable tally for such a tiny, landlocked country. Depending on the season these species might include: Narina Trogon, Purple Crested Turaco, White-backed vulture, Marabou Stork, Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, Bateleur, White-headed Vulture, Crested Guineafowl, African Finfoot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Bennett's Woodpecker, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Eastern Nicator, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Southern Bald Ibis, Denham's Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing, Knysna Turaco, Ground Woodpecker, Blue Swallow, Chorister Robin, Brown Scrub-Robin, Orange Ground-Thrush, Broad-tailed Warbler, Gurney's Sugarbird, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, African Wood-Owl, Pink-throated Twinspot, Green Twinspot, Marsh Owl, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Buff-streaked Chat, Broad-tailed Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Golden Weaver, Red-backed Mannikin.

Days 8 & 9 - Kwazulu Natal Province – Mkhuze (IBA)*

We south via the Lebombo Mountain range and at the Golela border post cross into the KwaZulu Natal Province, from where the route continues to a charming lodge near the small town of Mkhuze, where the next two nights are spent. We have a full day to visit the nearby Mkhuze Game Reserve, one of the acknowledged birding “hotspots” of South Africa, and a location that may not be missed by any serious birder.

Accommodation: Ghost Mountain Inn
Dinner, bed & breakfast basis

Mkhuze Game Reserve

One of the top birding spots in Southern Africa. It boasts a list of over 450 species, a wide range of habitats, and relatively easy access to most areas. The reserve was proclaimed in 1912 and covers some 40 000 hectares. The camp site near the entrance of the reserve is good for Jameson’s Firefinch, Green-winged Pytilia, Marico Sunbird and Black Stork is often seen flying overhead. The road between the campsite and the main camp can produce Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Striped Kingfisher, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike. The skies at the picnic site near the Kwamalibali hide should be scanned for Bateleur and Lappet-faced Vulture. The Sand Forest includes Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Barred Owlet and Yellow-bellied Greenbul. Purple-crested Turaco, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Woolly-necked Stork, Comb Duck, Lesser Moorhen, Dwarf Bittern, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Red-backed Mannikin, Grey Waxbill and Crested Guineafowl can all be recorded from the two hides. Dwarf Bittern and Greater Painted Snipe occurs in the wetter summer months. Mantuma Rest Camp is a great place to observe Bearded Scrub-Robin at close quarters, as well as Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Collared Sunbird and in summer, Violet-backed Starling.

Days 10 & 11 - Kwazulu Natal Province - St. Lucia (IBA)*

After an early breakfast at the lodge we travel to the nearby Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Game Reserve. Set in the heart of Zululand, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu kings such as Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put in place the first conservation laws. Today the "big five" of African legend stalk the verdant savannah, and as the home of “Operation Rhino” in the 1950s and 60s, the park became world renowned for it’s White Rhino conservation. We spend virtually the entire day travelling from north to south down the length of the reserve. In the late afternoon we exit the reserve at the southern gate, and travel the short distance to the town of St Lucia, located inside the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park. We have another full day in St. Lucia, which will include a visit to the iSimangaliso Wetlands Reserve and Cape Vidal, while a final highlight will be a late afternoon guided boat cruise on the St Lucia estuary.

Accommodation: St. Lucia Wetlands Guest House
Bed & breakfast basis

The iSimangaliso Wetlands Reserve

A world heritage site and one of South Africa’s oldest reserves, established back in 1895. The lake itself covers an area of about 38 000 hectares and is one of South Africa’s most important waterbird breeding areas. The habitats are quite varied from the estuary and it’s floodplains to dune forest, sand forest, coastal thickets, mangroves and grassland (with flooded areas in the summer)- all this allows for a wonderful selection of birdlife with over 420 species recorded in the area. One of the great things about birding around St Lucia are the self guided trails and hides. Birding on foot with waterbuck and reedbuck grazing in the background and hippos snorting from the pans makes for an extra special birding experience.

St Lucia Village and Estuary

Look out for Yellow-billed Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Caspian Tern, and a variety of waders including Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover, Pied Avocet and Mangrove Kingfisher in the winter months. Goliath Herons can normally be found here as well as big flocks of pelicans and terns. Birds such as White-eared Barbet, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, African Dusky Flycatcher and Black-bellied Starling are easily seen in the big trees around town as well as the usual Collared & Olive Sunbirds and Red-capped Robin-Chats.

On the road to Cape Vidal

Look out for Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagles, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle , Narina Trogon, Rudd’s Apalis, White-starred Robin, Olive Bush-Shrike and Rosy-throated and African Broadbill.

Days 12 & 13 - Mpumalanga Province – Wakkerstroom (IBA)*

After breakfast we travel inland to the once sleepy town of Wakkerstroom, which in the last few years has become one of South Africa's premier birding destinations. The area is blessed with three major bird habitat types - wetlands, grasslands and forests, and this, together with a wide altitudinal range increases the birding opportunities with relatively little effort required from the birders themselves. The Birdlife South Africa Tourism and Training Centre is located in Wakkerstroom, and here we will contract a expert local bird guide to assist us with locating as many as possible of the specials for which the area has become famous.

Accommodation: Forellenhof Guest Farm
Bed & breakfast basis

Wakkerstroom

World-renowned as a reliable stakeout for such elusive specials as Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Crane, Ground Woodpecker and Blue Korhaan. All five of the South Africa’s species of Harrier visit Wakkerstroom at certain times of the year. Other species to look our for include Secretary Bird, Amur Falcon (summer), Grey and Red-winged Francolin, Eastern Long-billed and Spike-heeled Lark, Bush Blackcap and Cape Bunting.

Day 14 – End of tour

After and early breakfast we depart and travel back to Johannesburg, where you are dropped off in the late afternoon at the location of your choice.

* I.B.A.

Important Bird Area, as defined by Birdlife International

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