Birding Tour South Africa: Best of Cape Town and Beyond — Endemics, seabirds and more


Dates and Costs

 

05 – 12 August 2022

Provisionally closed for new bookings –
do e-mail us ([email protected]) if you want to be waitlisted, added to a similar 2022 tour we still have openings for, or if you have a group of 4-8 and want a bespoke version of this birding tour

 

* Please note that these currency conversions are calculated in real-time, therefore are subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base prices when making final payments.

 

07 – 14 October 2022

Spaces Available: 5

Price: R38,634 / $2,543 / £1,918 / €2,254 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R6,125/ $403 / £305 / €357

These prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.

 

07 – 14 October 2023

Price: R40,665 / $2,676 / £2,019 / €2,373 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R6,737/ $443 / £335 / €393

These prices assume a group of 8, but we typically guarantee the departure even with a smaller group.


Recommended Field Guide

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


Tour Details

Duration: 8 days
Group Size: 8 (rarely 9)
Tour Start: Cape Town
Tour End: Cape Town


Price includes:

Meals
Accommodation
Entrance fees
Guiding fees
All transport while on tour

Price excludes:

All flights
Personal insurance
Alcoholic beverages
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Laundry service
Personal expenses such as gifts

Best of Cape Town and Beyond Endemics, seabirds and more
October 2022/2023/ August 2022 (Pre-tour for IOCongress)

 

South Africa must surely rank as one of the best value destinations on the entire African continent. The combination of superb accommodation, excellent infrastructure, great food, wonderful South African hospitality, impressive and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most popular countries in the world to bird in. The tour begins in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cape Town, where we will search for a host of avian endemics found nowhere else but in the fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom (the richest place on earth for plants). While in Cape Town we will also do a pelagic trip, enjoying the great numbers and diversity of seabirds which visit the southern tip of Africa. After a few days birding around Cape Town we then head northward up the west coast and finally head inland through rugged mountain ranges into the Tankwa Karoo, another of Africa’s great endemic hotspots.

Cape Birding toursThe endemic Cape Sugarbird is one of our targets on this trip.

 

We begin this tour with a Cape pelagic trip, where we invariably find four albatross species and always hope for an additional rarer one like Wandering Albatross. Then we hope to encounter some very enigmatic birds: Watch a weird little warbler, a desert bird that skulks, disappear into a rock crevice, namely Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, one of the Cape’s strangest endemics and one of the toughest of the many Karoo endemics to see well. Cape Rockjumper has a beautiful call, striking colors, a boisterous personality and a terribly limited distribution around Cape Town. A terrestrial woodpecker, Ground Woodpecker, and African Penguin are also found on the spectacular Cape Peninsula. What more can you possibly ask for?

Cape Birding toursCape Rockjumper is one of the two species making up the rockjumper family; we normally encounter it on this tour.

 

But this trip is not only full of localized avian endemics but also of spectacularly famous scenery, such as the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, and Table Mountain. All in all, our 8-day Cape tour is full of localized endemics, spectacular scenery, and so much more. This is where Birding Ecotours started as a company in 2002, and nowhere else do we have as much experience as in the Cape.

The Western Cape is the most important endemic bird area on the entire African continent. It is a truly essential area for any serious birder because of its sheer number of endemics. Pelagic trips off Cape Town also rank as among the finest in the world (with at least four albatross species, Cape Petrel (seasonal), and many more on the rich trawling grounds near where two oceans meet). The Cape is also a spectacularly scenic area, with the rugged Cape Fold Mountains that come right down to the sea, white sand beaches, sea cliffs on the Cape Peninsula, and beautiful vineyards. Close inshore Southern Right Whales (seasonal) plus a lot of other mammals, spectacular carpets of flowers (seasonal), and the most plant-diverse biome on earth (even richer than the Amazon!) are major attractions that are easily seen incidentally, while not jeopardizing our chances of finding all the birds. We recommend at least a week in the Western Cape. The aim of our standard (set departure) 8-day tour (but we can custom-make a trip of any length) is to find a majority of the endemics of this province, with many other species as an unavoidable byproduct (plus, as always, an amazing overall experience), and of course a lot of pelagic and other seabirds. To find the endemics we budget adequate time in each strategic ecosystem – the fynbos, Langebaan Lagoon, and the Karoo.

Cape Birding toursCape Petrel is usually seen on our pelagic trip on our 8-day Cape tour.

 

The October departures can be combined with our preceding Kruger National Park and Escarpment Birding Safari  and then with our following Subtropical South Africa Birding Tour: Comprehensive Eastern South Africa for a 38-day  South African adventure, and, following that, with our Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls 18-day Birding Adventure for a stunning 46-day Southern African mega tour.

The August 2022 tour is a pre-tour provided by Birding Ecotours for the International Ornithological Congress in Durban. It can be combined after the congress with our extension to the congress, Kruger National Park and Escarpment Birding Safari August 2022.

 

Itinerary (8 days/7 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Cape Town

This is the day you need to arrive in Cape Town – any time during the day at your leisure. You will be met at Cape Town International Airport and transferred to our comfortable guesthouse in the leafy Cape Town suburbs. We should hopefully have some time to start with some local birding this afternoon – probably birding one of the many impressive wetlands nearby, or perhaps the forests on the slopes of Table Mountain. Species to look for include Great White Pelican, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, and Maccoa Duck among many other waterfowl species. Some of the more elusive species we will search for are Little Bittern, African Snipe, African Marsh Harrier, Malachite Kingfisher, four species of reed-associated warblers, and other waterbirds. The forested areas host species such as African Olive Pigeon, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush and African Dusky Flycatcher. In the neighboring fynbos we should come across the first of many South African specials, such as Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Cape White-eye.

Overnight: Newlands, Cape Town.

Cape Birding toursThe comical African Penguin is always a highlight in any Cape birding trip!

 

Day 2. Pelagic trip (or Cape Peninsula and False Bay birding)

Today is an early start as we embark on a Cape pelagic trip (weather-permitting, otherwise we will spend the day around the Cape Peninsula and False Bay). Soon after leaving the harbor we normally come across large flocks of Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets heading out to sea to fish for the day, along with the occasional African Penguin. The coastline is incredibly rugged, yet eerily beautiful, with the sharp mountains rising right from the shore. Once we start transiting away from land the serious pelagic birding soon begins as we start seeing good numbers of Sooty, Great, and Cory’s Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels, and the odd Storm Petrel (Wilson’s and European being most common). As we head farther out we will be on the lookout for trawlers, which attract huge numbers of seabirds. If we do find a trawler it normally has a cloud of seabirds behind it, particularly when the nets are being hauled in. Here we can expect to find Shy, Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Cape Petrel, Brown Skua, and occasionally Great-winged Petrel. We will always be on the lookout for Spectacled Petrel, Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses, and Wandering Albatross which, although considered rare, are seen with some frequency off the Cape.

Cape Birding toursAlbatrosses such as this Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross are usually seen on our Cape pelagic.

 

Other marine life to search for include Humpback and Bryde’s Whales as well as Long-beaked Common Dolphin and, if we are extremely lucky, Killer Whale! If possible/already decided, please let us know if you do not want to join the pelagic.

Overnight: Newlands, Cape Town.

 

Day 3. Birding the Cape Peninsula and False Bay (or pelagic trip)

Today we plan to visit excellent sites such as the beautiful Hottentot Holland mountain range and Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, one of Cape Town’s best waterbird sites. We start the day with an early departure (we’ll take breakfast packs along to enjoy later) heading east toward the Hottentot Holland mountains and particularly the small village of Rooi Els. To get to this picturesque village we have to traverse one of the most scenic drives in South Africa along the False Bay coast. First, we drive parallel to an extremely long white beach bordering the Cape Flats that separate the mountainous Cape Peninsula from the inland Cape Fold mountain ranges. Then we reach an area where impressive mountains meet the sea to begin a truly stunning marine drive. Our primary target for the day is Cape Rockjumper, which only occurs in the Cape Fold Mountains. Rooi Els is perhaps the easiest and most accessible spot to see the rockjumper, and our success rates are high. Other species to find here and nearby include Ground Woodpecker, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Siskin, Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird, and many others. We may be lucky with a flyover of the pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that breeds in the area.

We then head to the small town of Betty’s Bay, where we visit the picturesque Harold Porter National Botanical Garden and enjoy lunch after a walk around the gardens. In the gardens we should find African Dusky and African Paradise Flycatchers, Black Saw-wing, Swee Waxbill, Yellow Bishop, and Brimstone, Cape, and Forest Canaries.

Cape Birding toursThe subtly beautiful Forest Canary.

 

We will also be sure to include a visit to the nearby Stony Point African Penguin colony. In addition to the penguins, Stony Point also has numbers of breeding Cape, Crowned, and Bank Cormorants – all offering excellent and close-up views!

On our way back to Cape Town we will visit Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, which offers Cape Town’s best wetland birding. Species to look for here include South African Shelduck, Hottentot, Red-billed, and Cape Teals, Maccoa Duck, Cape Shoveler, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, African Swamphen, and a number of other waterbird species.

Overnight: Newlands, Cape Town.

 

Day 4. West Coast Birding

Today we head north of Cape Town and travel along the west coast. The strandveld vegetation is subtly different and, with the habitat change, results in a different mix of bird species. We will stop off in some farmlands en route to look for Blue Crane, Pied Starling, Cape Clapper Lark, Capped Wheatear, Cape Longclaw, Pearl-breasted Swallow, and the endemic Cape subspecies of Cloud Cisticola. Birding the strandveld habitat around the West Coast National Park and its surrounding areas will hopefully produce Cape Penduline Tit, Grey Tit, White-backed Mousebird, Bokmakierie, Karoo Scrub Robin, Yellow and White-throated Canaries, Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Black Korhaan, and the striking Black Harrier. We will also spend time at a few of the strategically positioned bird hides along Langebaan Lagoon, one of Africa’s most important shorebird stopover sites. Here we hope to find an assortment of Palearctic shorebirds as well as resident shorebirds, such as Chestnut-banded, White-fronted, and Kittlitz’s Plovers, with the possibility of Western Osprey and African Fish Eagle overhead. We may have time to look for Langebaan’s resident pair of Verreaux’s Eagles this afternoon; if we run out of time we will look for them tomorrow morning.

Overnight: Le Mahi Guest House, Langebaan.

Cape Birding toursThe majestic Blue Crane is commonly encountered on this tour.

 

Day 5. Transfer to the Karoo

We often start this day by birding some of the farmlands north of Langebaan for a few more endemics that are unlikely to be found elsewhere on the trip. Our primary targets this morning will be Cape Long-billed Lark and Sickle-winged Chat; however, we should also find Large-billed Lark, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Blue Crane, Ant-eating Chat, and perhaps Namaqua Sandgrouse. After our early-morning birding we head inland through some spectacular mountain scenery. But we have to get to the eastern (rain-shadow) side of the mountains to get to the famed (among birders) Karoo. The Karoo exhibits an amazing level of endemism, as the species need to adapt to the incredibly harsh conditions. This makes for spectacularly exciting birding for any serious birder who has never visited this particular semi-desert.

Overnight: Tankwa Karoo/similar.

 

Day 6. Birding the Karoo

Today we will have a full day of Karoo birding. Dry, rocky gorges will be explored for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (a truly bizarre rock crevice skulker) as well as Layard’s Warbler, Grey Tit, Fairy Flycatcher, and Booted Eagle overhead. In the riverbed vegetation we will look for another special, Namaqua Warbler. The dry plains will be birded extensively for a number of exciting species such as Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary, White-throated Canary, Karoo and Tractrac Chats, Karoo, Karoo Long-billed, Spike-heeled, and Large-billed Larks, Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Burchell’s Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, and many others.

Cape Birding toursMany species occur here that have ‘Karoo’ in their names – such as this Karoo Lark.

 

We will head out this evening to search for Freckled and Rufous-cheeked Nightjars and any other exciting nightlife we may encounter.

Overnight: Tankwa Karoo/similar.

 

Day 7. Transfer to Cape Town

After some early-morning Karoo birding, searching for anything we have missed over the last couple of days, we head out of the Karoo and back toward Cape Town. On our way back we will stop on a beautiful mountain pass to search for Protea Canary and Victorin’s Warbler and may get lucky with a flyover Verreaux’s Eagle.

Once back in Cape Town we will have part of the afternoon to bird at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The gardens here are incredibly beautiful, complete with Table Mountain as a backdrop. In the beautifully maintained gardens we will look for Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird feeding on Protea flowers, while Cape Spurfowl, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Swee Waxbill and Lemon Dove should all be seen while walking around the gardens.

Overnight: Newlands, Cape Town.

Cape Birding toursProtea Canary — a Cape endemic

 

Day 8. Departure

We may have time to do some final birding along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain before you catch your flight to Durban to join our Subtropical South Africa tour or your international flight to leave Cape Town.

For those joining both the Cape and Subtropical trips, the Birding Ecotours office plans to book the one-way flight from Cape Town to Durban for everyone (on this, the last day of the Cape trip, which is also the first day of the Subtropical trip). It is no problem at all, however, if you have already booked this flight. If Birding Ecotours books the flight the cost can just be added to the balance you owe – the flight usually costs R1000-R2000 (ballpark).

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

Download Itinerary

Best of Cape Town and Beyond Trip Report

7 – 14 OCTOBER 2019 

By Dominic Rollinson 

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT


The endemic Cape Siskin put on a show for us at Rooi Els.

 

Overview

 

This short Cape tour was designed to provide a snapshot of what the beautiful Cape has to offer. The Cape has an incredibly high level of avian endemism (mostly due to the unique Fynbos vegetation found here), and it was many of these endemics that we spent our time searching for. This tour also has a lot more to offer than just the birding; the food and accommodation are top class, the scenery is at times breathtaking, and the weather is mostly perfect.

During this eight-day tour we managed an impressive bird list of 222 species (plus an additional 11 species heard only), including many South African endemics and near-endemics, such as African Penguin, Cape Gannet, Bank, Cape, and Crowned Cormorants, Jackal Buzzard, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Spurfowl, Blue Crane, Ludwig’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, Large-billed, Cape Long-billed, and Karoo Larks, Cape Rock Thrush, Karoo, Sickle-winged, Tractrac, and Ant-eating Chats, Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Grassbird, Cape Penduline Tit, Karoo Eremomela, Cinnamon-breasted, Namaqua, and Rufous-eared Warblers, Fairy Flycatcher, Pririt Batis, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary, and Cape Siskin.

African Penguins were seen at their breeding colony at Stony Point.

 

During our travels we also came across a few interesting mammal species, with the highlights being Bontebok, Gemsbok, Common Eland, Cape Grey Mongoose, and Cape Porcupine.

 

Detailed Report 

 

Day 1, 7th October 2018. Arrival in Simonstown

With most clients only arriving later in the day we did not do a great deal of birding today. However, we did manage to visit Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where recorded a number of coastal species such as African Penguin, African Oystercatcher, Greater Crested Tern, Crowned and Cape Cormorants, and Hartlaub’s Gull. In the vegetated patches we also found Speckled Mousebird, Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia, Cape White-eye, and Cape Robin-Chat. Later in the afternoon we headed to some nearby wetlands, which had some good birding. Here we found Malachite Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed (Long-tailed) Cormorant, Fiscal Flycatcher, Malachite Sunbird, Southern Masked and Cape Weavers, and a few impressive male Pin-tailed Whydahs. When we arrived back at our accommodation in Simonstown we picked out a distant Brown Skua over False Bay. In the evening we enjoyed a great meal with the anticipation of a full week’s birding around the Cape ahead of us!

 

Day 2, 8th October 2018. Day trip to the Betty’s Bay area

We were on the road before sunrise this morning to ensure we could be at our first birding spot in the glorious early-morning light. We arrived at Rooi Els in good time and soon began our hunt for the elusive Cape endemic, Cape Rockjumper. While searching for rockjumpers we came across a number of other good birds along our walk, including Cape Bunting, Cape Spurfowl, African Black Swift, Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel, Cape Grassbird, Neddicky (Piping Cisticola), Grey-backed Cisticola, Victorin’s Warbler (heard only), Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, and Cape Siskin. It took a while, but eventually a pair of Cape Rockjumpers showed well, and soon after that a Ground Woodpecker showed itself too (well spotted, Rudolf!). Unfortunately a calling Sentinel Rock Thrush, higher up the slope would not play along! A quick seawatch had a few White-chinned Petrels and Cape Gannets but not too much else unfortunately.

We then moved around the corner to Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay, where we wandered around the beautifully kept, indigenous garden. Highlights here included Cape Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher (heard only unfortunately), Sombre Greenbul, Black Saw-wing, Olive Thrush, African Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow Bishop, Brimstone and Cape Canaries, and a magnificent pair of soaring Verreaux’s Eagles, which gave us prolonged views.

For our lunch stop we enjoyed another fantastic meal at the Stony Point penguin colony (one of only two mainland African Penguin colonies), where we saw many comical African Penguins, a few African Oystercatchers feeding on the rocks, and good views of a large colony of breeding Bank, Crowned, Cape, and White-breasted Cormorants nearby.

In the early afternoon we made our way back toward Simonstown but made sure that we had enough time left for a visit to Strandfontein Sewage Works, which is surely one of the top birding spots around Cape Town. Soon after arriving we were inundated with new birds, thousands of Greater Flamingos (with smaller numbers of Lesser Flamingos), a wide range of waterfowl species (Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed and Maccoa Ducks, Cape Shoveler, Cape, Hottentot, and Red-billed Teals, and Southern Pochard) and a few common Palearctic shorebirds. Other species which took a bit more work to find included Black-necked (Eared) Grebe, White Stork, Spotted Thick-knee, Grey-headed Gull, Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Intermediate Egret, and Glossy Ibis. In the surrounding scrub and reedbeds we found Black-winged Kite, Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers, Cape Longclaw, and Cape Weaver.

The beautiful Orange-breasted Sunbird is common in mountain fynbos of the Cape.

 

Day 3, 9th October 2018. Cape Peninsula birding

Unfortunately due to strong winds and swells our pelagic trip was called off today. However, that meant that we had more time to bird the Cape Peninsula and target a few species which generally require a bit more effort to find.

Our first stop for the day was the Zeekoevlei wetland, where we managed to find Black Crake, Black-crowned Night and Purple Herons, African Spoonbill, and African Darter. Afterwards we drove around the corner to Rondevlei Nature Reserve, where we spent a few hours exploring the wetland from the various well-positioned hides. Rondevlei has a different mix of wetland bird species from Strandfontein Sewage Works, and hence we managed to add a number of new birds to our trip list, including Great Crested Grebe, African Swamphen, Little Bittern (fleeting glimpses), African Marsh Harrier, African Reed Warbler, Greater Striped Swallow, and Red-faced Mousebird.

Next was the world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden for a very different mix of species. We spent a good couple of hours walking around these beautiful gardens, with Table Mountain as a backdrop, and managed to find some great birds.  Highlights of our time here were Lemon Dove, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bulbul, Swee Waxbill, Forest, Brimstone, and Cape Canaries, and a really vocal Klaas’s Cuckoo, which annoyingly would just not show itself. The resident Spotted Eagle-Owls also showed really well for us and posed for photographs.

The resident Spotted Eagle-Owl showed well at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (photo Rudolf Koes).

 

Day 4, 10th October 2018. West coast birding

This morning we headed out early to bird some wetlands not far from Simonstown before coming back for breakfast at the guest house. The early morning’s birding did not produce too much but did get us our first Southern Boubou of the trip.

After breakfast we packed the vehicle and headed north to the west coast, where we were to spend the day birding. En route to West Coast National Park we birded some farmlands and strandveld vegetation just outside the park and had a really productive couple of hours there. Some of the highlights from our time here included Blue Crane, Martial Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Southern Black Korhaan, White-backed Mousebird, African Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Greater Honeyguide, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Cardinal Woodpecker, Bokmakierie, Red-capped Lark, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, Capped Wheatear, and Karoo Scrub Robin. A quick stop at a patch of nearby grassland had us adding Large-billed Lark, Cape Longclaw, and Cloud Cisticola.

Once in the West Coast National Park we headed to Abrahamskraal bird hide, which overlooks the only freshwater in the park. Here we found Yellow Canary, Cape Weaver, African Swamphen, Black Crake, and White-throated Swallow, and, just as we were leaving, we had amazing views of an incredibly confiding African Rail.  Later in the afternoon we stopped at Seeberg hide, which overlooks some mudflats within the huge Langebaan Lagoon. Here we found an assortment of shorebirds, including Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Grey, Common Ringed, Kittlitz’s, White-fronted, and Three-banded Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, and Common Greenshank. The tern roost had large numbers of Greater Crested, Caspian, and Sandwich Terns and a single Common Tern. Other good birds seen throughout the park included Cape Penduline Tit, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Grey-winged Francolin, and great sightings of at least two Black Harriers!

 

Day 5, 11th October 2018. West Coast to Tankwa Karoo

For those who were keen to join we left on a predawn mission to look for displaying Cape Clapper Larks. Unfortunately, there were none calling in the area, and so we headed back for an early breakfast at the guest house before making our way farther north up the west coast. En route to the farmlands of Vredenburg we stopped around Langebaan, where we found a number of displaying Cape Clapper Larks as well as Cape Long-billed and Karoo Larks and Southern Black Korhaan. The farmlands proved really productive with sightings of Blue Crane (dozens!), Spotted Thick-knee, Capped Wheatear, Namaqua Dove, Grey Tit, Banded Martin, and Sickle-winged Chat, with sighting of the day going to a distant Ludwig’s Bustard.

Southern Black Korhaan was seen on the west coast.

 

After leaving the farmlands we stopped briefly at a salt works in Velddrif, where we added Chestnut-banded Plover (many), Red-necked Phalarope, and Pied Kingfisher before we headed inland toward the Tankwa Karoo. Before crossing the mountains into the Tankwa Karoo Betty brought the car to a halt, as she had spotted a Secretarybird that provided us all with fantastic views of one of the weirder-looking birds on the planet. We also found another new bird en route in form of Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark. Before dinner some of us managed to hear the distant call of a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar; unfortunately the bird could not be seen!

 

Day 6, 12th October 2018. Tankwa Karoo birding

Today we had the full day to bird the vast open plains of the Tankwa Karoo; always an exciting prospect when you understand just how many special birds are on offer here! First thing in the morning we headed into the plains, where we soon found Karoo Eremomela, Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo and Tractrac Chats, Karoo Korhaan (heard only), and Spike-heeled Lark. Before breakfast we thought we would give a nearby gorge a try for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. Alfonso produced the goods soon after we jumped out the car, as he had spotted a pair of warblers working their way along the scree slope. This was definitely the shortest time I’ve ever spent looking for this species, which can give you the runaround for hours. Other good birds seen here included Fairy Flycatcher, African Reed Warbler, White-throated Canary, Layard’s Warbler, Mountain Wheatear, and Dusky Sunbird. Around our accommodation we found a very obliging pair of Nicholson’s Pipits (a recent Long-billed Pipit split). The morning couldn’t have started much better!

White-throated Canary was common in the Tankwa Karoo.

 

After a hearty breakfast we headed north into the plains toward the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Birding was a little slower during the heat of the day, but we did accumulate a number of new birds throughout the afternoon, including Pale Chanting Goshawk and Greater Kestrel perched up on electricity pylons, Pririt Batis, Acacia Pied Barbet, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler in dry riverbeds, and Ant-eating Chat and Lark-like Bunting in the open plains. In the Tankwa Karoo National Park we came across a number of larger game species including Gemsbok, Springbok, and Steenbok.

In the late afternoon we tried a large reedbed for views of Red-chested Flufftail; however, we had to be content with just hearing them for now! In the evening we went for a night drive, but unfortunately the wind was blowing strong and the best we could do was to hear distant Freckled Nightjars and Western Barn Owl.

 

Day 7, 13th October 2018. Tankwa Karoo to Cape Town

This morning we headed back to the reedbeds to have another crack at Red-chested Flufftail. As we arrived at the site we flushed a couple of African Snipes and then began the vigil of waiting for the flufftails to show themselves. After a long wait a couple of us managed brief views of a single male Red-chested Flufftail as it briefly crossed the path.

Waiting for a flufftail!

 

On our way out of the Tankwa Karoo we had great sightings of a single Verreaux’s Eagle as it flew by low over the road. The Tankwa Karoo is notoriously tough-going on cars and tires, and up until now I had been fortunate, after dozens of trips, to never have a flat tire. Unfortunately it seemed my luck had run out today; we had three flat tires while making our way back through the Tankwa Karoo, which cut into our birding time. Thankfully at one of the tire-change stops a Black-headed Canary decided to show itself and at the next a Diederik Cuckoo; however, it did mean that we had run out of time (and tires) to look for Protea Canary on our way home.

Once we had made it back to Cape Town we did some forest birding in the late afternoon to look for anything we had missed during our time around Kirstenbosch. We added a few new birds in form of African Goshawk, Common Chaffinch and African Olive Pigeon. Later in the evening, after our final dinner of the trip, we headed out once more to search for African Wood Owl and were rewarded with good views of a confiding pair.

 

Day 8, 14th October 2018. Departure

After a fantastic week of birding around the Cape unfortunately the tour came to an end this morning. As we were packing the vehicle an African Harrier-Hawk flew by briefly before we headed to the airport, where some of us would be carrying on to join our 18-day Subtropical South Africa tour starting in Durban later that afternoon.

Cormorants, such as this Cape Cormorant, were seen well at Stony Point.

 

 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.

‘My sister and I used one of our 2 and a half days in Cape Town to do a birding tour of the Peninsula including the Cape of Good Hope. I had great communication with our guide, Dom, before the tour and he picked us up right on time at our hotel. It was an excellent day. Dom is very knowledgeable and good company. It turned out he was at Magee Marsh in Ohio the same time I was this year! The weather was glorious and we got to see lots of SA endemics plus a Humpback Whale and a lifer sewage pond! I would recommend Birding Ecotours and Dom Rollinson to anyone birding in South Africa.’

Jean


‘I am writing to you to send a formal review of our birding day tour with Dominic Rollinson on May 18,2021. Matt and I are not bird experts by any means but we do enjoy watching and tracking the various species of birds back home here in the Houston, Texas area. It is very relaxing and very enjoyable learning new things about all of the beautiful feathered friends out there! While planning our South African adventures last year, we certainly knew that we had to spend one day learning about and hopefully seeing many of the beautiful birds of South Africa.

Dominic Rollinson, our truly knowledgeable and awesome birding guide provided Matt and I with a truly unique and genuinely wonderful birding experience!

Our day started around 7:30 am with a prompt arrival for pick up at our hotel in Camps Bay. We headed on to our first destination for the day, Rondevlei Nature Reserve and Cape Flats wetlands. Here we were able to observe various birds such as the Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Karoo Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, and Bar-throated Apalis. There were other birds around the various waterways including the Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Shoveler, and Little Swifts. The highlight was seeing our first sunbird!

The next stop on our day adventure was the Strandfontein sewage works. Here we were able to see Blacksmith Lapwing, Hartlaub’s Gull, Cape Spurfowl, Cape and Reed Cormorants, Black-necked Grebe, Hadeda and African Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose, and many other species of various water fowl.

Our next stopping point was the peaceful, beautiful and extraordinary Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens! It is here that we saw an abundance of feathered friends! We saw Cape Bulbul, Forest Canary, Cape Sugarbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds galore, feeding on the beautiful candelabra aloe flowers, and even a beautiful male Malachite Sunbird! Other sightings included the Sombre Greenbul, Common Waxbill, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush and Cape White-eye.

Our final stop of the day was at almost sunset overlooking the coast in Clifton. Here we caught a glimpse of African Oystercatchers, Bank and Crowned Cormorants, and the beautiful sunset to cap off a really special day!

Dominic Rollinson provided us with in-depth knowledge and a greater understanding of the various birds, wildlife and ecosystems that make up the areas in/around Cape Town and South Africa! Our expectations for the day were not only met but greatly exceeded with Dominic guiding us along the way! Matt and I truly had a blast and would highly recommend Dominic Rollinson as a birding guide!

Thank you,’

Matt and Chris

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