2-day Tankwa Karoo Loop


Tour Costs

Price: on request

Single Supplement: on request


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 2 days
Tour Start: Cape Town
Tour End: Cape Town

2-day Tankwa Karoo Loop

 

We fetch you from your hotel in the early morning and head through spectacular scenery to the beautiful town of Ceres (2.5 – 3 hours’ drive from Cape Town). Ceres is the gateway to the Karoo. The Karoo happens to be one of the greatest endemic hotspots on the entire African continent, and almost everything will be new to birders who haven’t yet visited these parts.

On the way to Ceres we may also find some exciting non-Karoo endemics such as Verreaux’s Eagle, Victorin’s Warbler, Protea Canary, and many others.

Our Karoo-proper birding will start at a canyon near Katbakkies, which is a famed site for the bizarre, crevice-skulking Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. But this canyon is also full of other incredibly exciting species, such as the beautiful Fairy Flycatcher, Pale-winged Starling, Mountain Wheatear, Layard’s and Rufous-vented Warblers (Tit-babblers), and a host of other rock- and mountain-associated species.

We will then head onto the vast flat plains for a completely different suite of endemics, including Karoo Korhaan, Tractrac Chat, Karoo Chat, Karoo Eremomela, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rufous-eared Warbler, Grey Tit, Karoo Lark, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Large-billed Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, and many others. Booted Eagle is relatively common here in these dry parts of the south-western Cape.

By the time we reach the lovely and very hospitable Tankwa B&B our chances of finding Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Warbler, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, and Dusky Sunbird (with luck), and the rare and declining Burchell’s Courser, will have markedly increased.

Night drives at the Tankwa B&B sometimes generate Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Cape Eagle-Owl (with lots of luck), Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackal, Caracal (with luck), and good numbers of other small mammals.

After spending the night at the Tankwa B&B we continue birding for the whole of the next day before eventually arriving back in Cape Town. Our aim is to find almost all the Karoo endemics.

We can extend this trip to three days, in which case we could find some very difficult fynbos endemics such as Protea Canary, Cape Rockjumper, and others, in addition to all the Karoo species. The additional day would involve birding picnic areas and the summit of the rugged Cederberg mountain range.

 

Recommendation

This 2-day trip forms part of our longer Best of Cape Town and Beyond birding tour. We recommend combining this 2-day trip with the 2-day Agulhas Plains trip and/or a 1-day West Coast or Cape Peninsula birding tour, if you have more than two but less than eight days available. To really clean up on South African birds, we recommend the 8-day Best of Cape Town and Beyond birding tour plus at least a portion of the Namaqualand and Kalahari birding trip, plus our 2-week Subtropical South Africa birding tour.

 

The guide for day trips is allocated only after you have booked, as all of them are run as private trips. But we always use the country’s top birding guides.

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South Africa: 3-Day Tankwa Karoo Birding Tour Report


18 – 20 JANUARY 2022

 

By  Dominic Rollinson

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Tankwa Karoo ReportRufous-eared Warbler is relatively common in the plains of the Tankwa Karoo.

Overview

The semi-desert of the Tankwa Karoo hosts a number of South African endemics and near-endemics which form the focus of birding trips to the area. A Tankwa Karoo birding trip is unlikely to produce a large species list, however what few species are encountered are mostly specialists which are adapted to living in the harsh semi-desert conditions. Some of the important species we saw on this particular tour included Cinnamon-breasted, Rufous-eared, Namaqua and Layard’s Warblers, Karoo Eremomela, Karoo Korhaan, Karoo, Large-billed, Spike-heeled and Karoo Long-billed Larks, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Black-headed Canary. After the three days of birding, we had a decent list of 95 species which included many of the dry-country specials that we were after.

Tankwa Karoo ReportA small group of the cute Karoo Eremomela was seen well.

Detailed Report

Day 1, 18th January 2022. Cape Town to the Tankwa Karoo

We left the bright lights of Cape Town before dawn and were met by some very unseasonal weather in the form of low clouds and spots of rain as we drove along the Dutoitskloof Pass and arrived at our first scheduled birding stop. We would be targeting a few mountain fynbos specials here and managed birds such as Jackal Buzzard, Cape Siskin, Cape Bulbul, calling Cape Grassbird, Neddicky, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Sugarbird and the prize for the morning, a (relatively) showy Victorin’s Warbler. Unfortunately, our major target, Protea Canary, would not show for us.

From here, we made our way into the drier habitat of the Karoo where a roadside stop to scan a dam produced Lesser Flamingo, Cape Shoveler and a few other common waterbirds. Next, we scanned the dry scrub and acacia stands at Karooport, which yielded Namaqua Warbler, Namaqua Dove, White-backed Mousebird, Pied Starling and White-throated Canary. A large Black Spitting Cobra was seen in some nearby bushes which was a good reminder to watch where we stepped.

Making our way into the Tankwa Karoo proper, we birded the semi-desert plains which proved really worthwhile, and bagged us Pale Chanting Goshawk, Karoo Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Karoo and Tractrac Chats, Karoo Scrub Robin, Rufous-eared Warbler, and a group of three Namaqua Sandgrouse as they slowly walked across the road. After birding the plains we enjoyed our lunch in the shade of some acacia trees at Skitterykloof gorge which had a feeding Fairy Flycatcher giving us great views as it went about its business. We worked the nearby bushes and scrub and managed to find Mountain Wheatear, Long-billed Crombec, Dusky Sunbird, White-throated Canary and some of the group managed brief views of the big target of the area, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler.

We finished off the day with Nicholson’s Pipit close to our accommodation and a scrumptious dinner as we enjoyed a beautiful Tankwa Karoo sunset and a drink. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up which meant our night drive did not produce much of interest besides a couple Scrub Hares.

Tankwa Karoo ReportTractrac Chat was one of the many chat species seen in the Tankwa Karoo.

Day 2, 19th January 2022. Tankwa Karoo birding

We woke early with the exciting prospect of the whole day to bird the Tankwa Karoo. Almost immediately we improved our views of Rufous-eared Warbler and Karoo Lark, while a Grey Tit put in a brief appearance. In a dry rocky gorge, we all got onto the skulking Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and also found Grey-backed Cisticola and Layard’s Warbler nearby. Further up the gorge we managed to find a single Pale-winged Starling. Birding the open plains gave us great views of a small feeding flock of Karoo Eremomelas while the calling Southern Black Korhaan would not show itself. Our last birding stop before breakfast saw us working some palm trees, which yielded large numbers of Yellow and White-throated Canaries and a single Black-headed Canary.

After a lovely sit-down breakfast at our accommodation, we headed north towards the Tankwa Karoo National Park to try and track down a few remaining target birds. As we went further north, we started to see a few more Tractrac Chats, Pale Chanting Goshawks and other common Karoo species such as Karoo Chat, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks and Karoo Scrub Robin. A pair of South African Shelducks were also seen at a small farm dam near to the road. Once in the park we came across a large group of Common Ostriches, with a leucistic bird being a particularly bizarre sight. New birds for the trip included Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Lark-like Bunting, Greater Kestrel, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Pririt Batis, Karoo Long-billed Lark and we had good views of a flyover Booted Eagle. We searched the plains for Burchell’s Courser but despite our best efforts we couldn’t find any of these rare nomads.

Tankwa Karoo ReportA leucistic Common Ostrich was an unexpected sight!

After the long drive back south, we finished the day off by enjoying some birding around our accommodation which produced further sightings of Layard’s Warbler, Bokmakierie, Cape Bunting and Red-faced Mousebird.

Day 3, 20th January 2022. Tankwa Karoo birding and return to Cape Town

Today was our last day in the Tankwa Karoo and we enjoyed the birding around our accommodation and Skitterykloof gorge which produced further sightings of South African Shelduck, Fairy Flycatcher, Grey Tit, Booted Eagle, Karoo Lark, Mountain Wheatear, Rufous-eared Warbler and Yellow Canary.

Tankwa Karoo ReportGrey morph Mountain Wheatears were common in the rocky areas of the Tankwa Karoo.

After another excellent sit-down breakfast, we made our way out of the Tankwa Karoo which did not produce much of interest and then we made another stop at Dutoitskloof area to have a further crack at Protea Canary. Unfortunately, despite another good search, the canaries would not show for us, and we had to eventually give up on this tough mountain fynbos endemic. Good birds seen here did however include Cape Rock Thrush, Neddicky and Bokmakierie. We eventually made it back into Cape Town late in the afternoon after a thoroughly enjoyable three days in the dry and dusty plains of the Tankwa Karoo.

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

‘We chose the 2-day Tankwa Karoo birding trip and had an incredible time. I think we saw just short of 90 different species over the 2 days, including many new species for our bird book, which would have taken us years to find without Dom. It was an incredible experience and Dom’s ability to find birds just by their call is something to marvel at.’

Ashleigh