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


Dates and Costs

 

07 – 14 October 2024

Spaces Available: 3

Price: R45,139 / $2,592 / £2,046 / €2,420 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R7,478/ $429 / £339 / €401

 

* 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 2025

Price: R50,104 / $2,878 / £2,272 / €2,686 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R8,301 / $477 / £376 / €445


Recommended Field Guide

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


Tour Details

Duration: 8 days
Group Size: 4 – 6
Tour Start: Cape Town
Tour End: Cape Town


Price includes:

All accommodation
Meals (from dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on Day 8)
Unlimited bottled water
Expert tour leader
All entrance & conservation fees
All ground transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Pelagic outing

Price excludes:

International/domestic flights (to/from Cape Town)
Visas
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

Download Itinerary

Best of Cape Town and Beyond Endemics, seabirds and more
October 2024 / 2025

 

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.

 

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 Rock Thrush, 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 and Cape Canaries.

Cape Birding toursThe cute and beautiful Swee Waxbill.

 

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 may visit Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, which offers Cape Town’s best wetland birding. Species to look for here include South African Shelduck, Blue-billed, 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 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 range of exciting species such as Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary, White-throated Canary, Karoo and Tractrac Chats, Karoo, Spike-heeled, and Large-billed Larks, Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, and many others. The erratic Burchell’s Courser is seen from time to time however sightings of this desert nomad are unfortunately rare and unpredictable. Similarly, depending on unpredictable Karoo rains, Black-eared Sparrow-Lark may sometimes occur in large numbers, however it is only during exceptional years that we see this erratic species, here at its southern extent. We may then head out this evening to search for Freckled and Rufous-cheeked Nightjars and any other exciting nightlife we may encounter.

Overnight: Tankwa Karoo/similar

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

 

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, African Olive Pigeon, Olive Thrush, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis, 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 2023

By Dominic Rollinson 

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

Overview

 

This short but relatively intense Cape birding tour was designed to take in some of the best birding in the general Cape area, including a couple days in the semi-desert of the Tankwa Karoo, while also enjoying some beautiful scenery. The tour started with a few days in Cape Town where we undertook day tours, before making our way up the west coast to Langebaan and inland through the Cederberg Mountains into the Tankwa Karoo, where we targeted many South African endemics and near-endemics. We then ended back in Cape Town where we targeted a few missing species. The trip was meant to include a Cape Town pelagic, however, despite having three full days set aside for our sea trip, we could not get a weather gap and instead had to settle for a trip down to Cape Point where we enjoyed some land-based seabirding and took in the area’s impressive scenery.

Western Cape trip report

Cape Sugarbird gave us the classic ‘sugarbird pose’ in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

 

Over our eight days of Cape birding we racked up an impressive 228 bird species which included many of the Cape’s endemics and specials. Some of our highlights included Grey-winged FrancolinKaroo and Southern Black KorhaansNamaqua SandgrouseAfrican PenguinBankCape and Crowned CormorantsBlack HarrierGround WoodpeckerCape RockjumperFairy FlycatcherGrey TitCape Penduline Tit, nine lark species (including many Black-eared Sparrow-Larks), Victorin’s Warbler (annoyingly only seen by one of the group, despite our best efforts), Rufous-earedCinnamon-breasted and Layard’s WarblersDusky Sunbird and ProteaForest and Black-headed Canaries.

Western Cape trip report

The erratic Black-eared Sparrow-Lark was numerous in the Tankwa Karoo.

 

Detailed Report

 

Day 1, 07th October 2023. Arrival in Cape Town and Kirstenbosch birding

With all members of the group having arrived by the early afternoon, we headed out for our first birding of the tour with a walk around the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The wind was quite strong this afternoon (something we would have to contend with for large periods of this trip) however we still managed to find a good selection of forest- and garden-associated species. Soon after entering the gate we had a dark-phase Booted Eagle high up above our heads which would then continue to show on and off for the remainder of the afternoon. We slowly worked our way through the picturesque gardens (with a stunning view of Table Mountain as a backdrop) and managed to find Cape SpurfowlKaroo PriniaBlack Saw-wingCape BulbulCape White-eyeOlive ThrushCape Sugarbird (lovely looks at a pair), AmethystMalachite and Southern Double-collared SunbirdsForest CanaryCommon Chaffinch (an introduced, yet range-restricted species in South Africa) and Swee Waxbill. The shaded undergrowth of a forested section of the gardens produced the goods with a couple of Lemon Doves which showed well for us. We then headed out for an enjoyable dinner where we excitedly discussed the trip ahead.

Western Cape trip report

Although common, Cape White-eyes are always a pleasant sight to see.

 

Day 2, 08th October 2023. West coast birding

With the outlook not looking great for our pelagic trip, we headed up the west coast today, to give us another full day in our weather window to try head out to sea. It was another windy day but the birding got off to a good start with a stop at Sunset Beach Pan which held a few White-backed Ducks as well as our first looks at Cape ShovelerYellow-billed DuckGreat Crested GrebeBlack-crowned Night Heron and Southern Red Bishop. Another stop, just around the corner, yielded much the same birds with the addition of African Palm Swift (a localized bird in the Cape) in amongst the many Little and White-rumped Swifts.

A little further north we birded the Silwerstroomstrand area which proved incredibly productive and we soon found our target bird, Black Harrier, which hung around for a while as it hunted low over the strandveld vegetation. Other nice birds seen here included Black-winged KiteAfrican Marsh HarrierWhite-backed MousebirdEuropean Bee-eaterBokmakierieCape Penduline TitCape Clapper Lark (performing their aerial displays), Cape GrassbirdGrey-backed CisticolaPearl-breasted SwallowKaroo Scrub RobinPied StarlingCape WeaverBrimstone (surprisingly, as they are unusual on the west coast) and Yellow Canaries and Cape Bunting. We tried for Grey Tit and Karoo Thrush which had been seen recently in the area but they were seemingly not around this morning.

Western Cape trip report

The bright Bokmakierie was commonly encountered on this Cape birding tour.

 

Next, was a brief stop at Tienie Versveld Wildflower Reserve where we immediately heard Cloud Cisticola displaying, however, seeing the birds was a different story. After a while some of us managed to spot a tiny dot high up in the sky as the males performed their aerial display. Other birds seen in the area included South African ShelduckGreat White Pelican (a distant group of three), Lanner FalconCape LongclawRed-capped LarkAfrican StonechatCapped Wheatear (always a crowd favorite), African Pipit and Yellow Bishop.

We had now taken a few hours to make our way up the west coast and we finally entered West Coast National Park, where we spent most of the remainder of the afternoon. A stop at Abrahamskraal bird hide was particularly busy with birds constantly coming down to the water to drink. Waterbirds included Little GrebeCape ShovelerAfrican SpoonbillAfrican Rail (heard only) and a couple of Lesser Swamp Warblers flitting about in the reedbeds. Other birds seen nearby included Rock KestrelNamaqua DoveBanded Martin and Cape Bulbul.

We then enjoyed a light sit-down lunch at Geelbek Manor House and while waiting for our food, we took a walk around and found African HoopoeCardinal Woodpecker and a single Grey-winged Francolin. As we left the manor house, we were very surprised to see a Secretarybird fly over and land in a distant field, an unusual bird in the park. In the area, we also encountered an impressive Common Eland herd, one of the largest antelope in the world.

To finish off the afternoon in the park, we visited Seeberg bird hide which had good numbers of water-associated species around. Just before arriving at the hide, Catherine spotted a single male Southern Black Korhaan which was a welcome sight. Greater and Lesser Flamingoes were numerous and we enjoyed good looks at these popular birds, while we also found African OystercatcherBlack-winged StiltGreyKittlitz’s and White-fronted PloversEurasian WhimbrelSanderlingCurlew Sandpiper and a suite of tern species including CaspianCommonGreater Crested and Sandwich Terns. We then took the long drive back to Cape Town, enjoying a Puff Adder crossing the road in the reserve, ending a highly successful day of west coast birding.

Western Cape trip report

We had two fantastic Puff Adder encounters on this tour.

 

Day 3, 09th October 2023. Rockjumpers and birding Betty’s Bay

With the wind blowing even worse than yesterday, we had another early start and started making our way east. We stopped at Sir Lowry’s Pass and almost immediately flushed an eagle-owl, unfortunately our views were just too brief to determine whether it was the common Spotted or rare Cape Eagle-Owl. We heard several Victorin’s Warblers however despite a concentrated effort, we could not see any of these singing birds. Bill did manage a look at a bird while we were all facing the other way, but the wind just proved too ferocious to try get looks at these notorious skulkers. While looking for the warblers, we spotted Common and Jackal Buzzards and White-necked Ravens flying overhead.

Due to the intense storm that had ravaged the Cape the previous week, the picturesque Clarence Drive was closed which meant we had to take the long way round to Rooi-Els, however we soon arrived at our spot to look for rockjumpers. The wind was again blowing a gale and it took some time but we eventually managed to find a relatively close pair of Cape Rockjumpers which we all enjoyed scope views of. Other birds encountered here included Orange-breasted SunbirdFamiliar ChatCape Bunting and a calling Streaky-headed Seedeater which soon disappeared as we approached its bush.

Western Cape trip report

The colorful Orange-breasted Sunbird is an abundant resident of mountain fynbos.

 

We had a relaxed picnic lunch at Harold Porter Botanical Garden (without any interference from marauding Chacma Baboons) and afterwards took a (windy) walk around the gardens which did not prove terribly productive. We did however find Cape SpurfowlBar-throated ApalisKaroo PriniaGrey-backed CisticolaSombre Greenbul (well spotted, Ohad), African Dusky Flycatcher and Cape Sugarbird.

Western Cape trip report

The endemic Cape Spurfowl is normally straightforward to find in the Cape.

 

A brief stop at the Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay saw us enjoying the cute and comical African Penguins and we managed to pick out BankCrowned and Cape Cormorants breeding on the nearby rocks.

We decided to bird a rocky ridge near Betty’s Bay in the hopes of finding a few missing specials which proved to a be a good decision, as this spot was slightly sheltered from the wind. Cape Rockjumper showed better than before at Rooi-Els and we also found Ground WoodpeckerCape Rock ThrushCape Siskin (unfortunately missed by some of the group) and calling Neddicky which was determined not to reveal itself to us. After a long, windy day out we headed back to Cape Town, it had been a tough day of birding but our perseverance meant we had seen just about all the day’s major targets.

 

Day 4, 10th October 2023. Cape Point birding and transfer to the west coast

We had been given the bad news the previous evening that our pelagic trip had been cancelled as we could not get a break in the weather, so decided to head down to Cape Point for the morning. The day started with a displaying African Goshawk as it gave its piercing ‘chip’ call high above our heads. We then made our way south along the peninsula (spotting a hunting Black Sparrowhawk en route) and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope National Park (to be greeted by strong winds). We had our picnic breakfast at the actual Cape of Good Hope (the most southwesterly point of Africa) which, despite the strong winds, proved quite enjoyable. There were a number of seabirds out at sea (although I was expecting greater numbers) and some scanning revealed White-chinned PetrelSooty ShearwaterCape Gannet and a single Northern Giant Petrel. The rocks nearby had CommonGreater Crested and Sandwich TernsAfrican Oystercatcher and a large group of Afro-Australian Fur Seals.

We then moved around the corner to Cape Point and took a gentle stroll below the car park (Ed took a run up to the top lighthouse) where we saw Speckled Mousebird, a flyby Ground Woodpecker and had brief views of Cape Siskin. It was then time to head north and soon after leaving the reserve we found a pair of confiding Olive Woodpeckers which we had missed previously.

After the long drive north, checking into our Langebaan accommodation and some time off, we headed back out for some late afternoon birding which proved highly productive. We birded some farmlands en route to Jacob’s Bay and here we found Black HarrierCrowned LapwingLarge-billed and Red-capped LarksBanded MartinPearl-breasted Swallow and a distant pair of Blue Cranes.

We then birded around the small coastal town of Jacob’s Bay where an inspection of the tern roost revealed a single Antarctic Tern in amongst the Greater CrestedCommon and Sandwich Terns, with Ruddy Turnstone and White-fronted Plover seen feeding on the rocks. The surrounding strandveld had some great birds including Spotted Thick-kneeKaroo LarkCape Long-billed LarkWhite-backed Mousebird and Bokmakierie. We then ended the day with a nighttime venture which resulted in good looks at our target bird, Fiery-necked Nightjar.

Western Cape trip report

Spotted Thick-knees were common and confiding in Jacob’s Bay.

 

Day 5: 11th October 2023. Birding the west coast and transfer to the Tankwa Karoo

We started the morning with a delicious sit-down breakfast before we headed to the local quarry where it did not take long for our target bird to appear, a majestic pair of Verreaux’s Eagles. We had a quick spin around Jacob’s Bay again in the hope of improving our views of Grey-winged Francolin but had to settle for a showy Grey Tit.

We then continued our way up the west coast and stopped in at the salt works near Velddrif which was, as usual, full of birds. In very little time, we racked up a good bird list, many of which were new birds for the tour including Cape TealBlack-necked GrebePied AvocetChestnut-banded PloverRuffCommon SandpiperRed-necked PhalaropeCommon GreenshankAfrican DarterReed CormorantBlack-crowned Night HeronGlossy IbisAfrican SpoonbillAfrican Marsh HarrierPied Kingfisher and European Bee-eater.

After a quick pit stop in town, we hit the long road to the Tankwa Karoo and crossed through the southern end of the Cederberg Mountains (our lunch stop producing a Long-billed Crombec), enjoying the impressive views along the way. The drive was mostly quiet until we crossed the Katbakkies Pass where things started to heat up (both the birding and the temperature). Within a fairly short period of time we had found Layard’s WarblerProtea CanaryPale Chanting Goshawk and a small group of Black-headed Canaries before we descended into the plains of the Tankwa Karoo and took it easy for the remainder of the afternoon. We decided to do a night drive that evening which was not terribly productive, although we did get nice views of Spotted Eagle-OwlKlipspringer and Scrub Hare and enjoyed the spectacular astronomical display out here in the wilderness, far away from any light pollution.

Western Cape trip report

Black-headed Canaries, such as this juvenile, were abundant around the Tankwa Karoo.

 

Day 6, 12th October 2023. Tankwa Karoo birding

We had the full day to explore the dry gorges and plains of the Tankwa Karoo today and had a long list of target birds to aim for. We started the day by birding around our guest farm and the nearby Skitterykloof which added many of our dry country targets. Not far from the accommodation, we found Karoo LarkKaroo EremomelaRufous-eared WarblerKaroo ChatNicholson’s PipitWhite-throated Canary and Lark-like Bunting. An hour or so at Skitterykloof yielded Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (which didn’t really put up a fight today) as well as Pale Chanting GoshawkFairy FlycatcherGrey TitCommon Reed WarblerLayard’s Warbler, a pair of flyover Pale-winged Starlings and more Black-headed Canaries.

We then had a lovely sit-down breakfast before heading out into the Tankwa Karoo (armed with lunch packs) for the remainder of the day. With all the rain the area had received over the last few months, the plains were alive with birds and we enjoyed some of the best birding I have ever experienced in the Tankwa Karoo. Our first stop at a dry acacia-lined river bed soon added Pririt BatisChestnut-vented Warbler and Namaqua Warbler with repeat views of Fairy Flycatcher and White-throated Canary. Moving further north into the plains we soon started to notice flocks of sparrow-larks flying by and on closer inspection it revealed they were predominantly the highly nomadic and unpredictable Black-eared Sparrow-Lark, as well as smaller numbers of Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks. The Black-eared Sparrow-Larks took some time to get decent views of but eventually we all had excellent views as they went about feeding on the ground.

Western Cape trip report

It’s always special to see nomadic Black-eared Sparrow-Larks in the Tankwa Karoo.

 

We kept heading north and ultimately made it all the way into the Tankwa Karoo National Park, along the way we kept adding new birds such as Namaqua SandgrouseGreater KestrelSpike-heeled LarkTractrac ChatDusky Sunbird and a Karoo Long-billed Lark, at our turnaround point. On our way back out of the park, we had a distant sighting of a Secretarybird and a subadult Black-chested Snake Eagle which was the surprise of the day. We had some nice mammal sightings this afternoon too, with SteenbokSpringbok and Gemsbok (Southern Oryx) all being seen well. To finish the day’s birding, we had another lovely sighting of a Puff Adder as it crossed the road. We made it back to our accommodation late in the afternoon and again decided to take the remainder of the day off, after a highly successful day out, with just about all our targets seen.

Western Cape trip report

We had a few good Namaqua Sandgrouse sightings in the Tankwa Karoo.

 

Day 7, 13th October 2023. Tankwa karoo birding and transfer to Cape Town

We had an early sit-down breakfast today before loading up the van and slowly making our way out of the plains of the Tankwa Karoo. We still had a couple targets left over from yesterday and so stopped at a dry river bed where Yellow-bellied Eremomela soon obliged. Next up was Karoo Korhaan which did not take too much work however the scope views were a little distant. Our final stop for some dry country birding was at the Karooport farmhouse where we unsuccessfully tried to turn an Olive Thrush into a Karoo Thrush but did find Acacia Pied Barbet and more Black-headed Canaries.

We drove the scenic Bain’s Kloof Pass on the way back to Cape Town in the hopes of finding Victorin’s Warbler but unfortunately, we could not even hear any birds singing today, despite the glorious weather. We did however finally catch up with an obliging Neddicky, had brief views of Cape Siskin and managed lovely looks at a singing Cape Rock Thrush.

We made it back into our Cape Town accommodation in the early afternoon and took some time off before heading out to Strandfontein Sewage Works for the remainder of the afternoon. Ed decided this was at last his weather window to head up Table Mountain and left the group to enjoy an afternoon on Cape Town’s iconic peaks. As usual, the sewage works were full of birds and we managed to track down most of our missing targets. In amongst the masses of common waterbirds and wildfowl, we found Fulvous Whistling DuckSouthern PochardMaccoa DuckAfrican SwamphenGrey-headed GullWhiskered Tern and Bar-tailed Godwit. We also had better looks at Lesser Swamp Warbler and managed brief views of Little Rush Warbler.

After dinner we had a quick nocturnal birding session to try find a resident pair of African Wood Owls which were a no-show however, we did hear the foghorn-like call of Buff-spotted Flufftail which was quite something to experience.

 

Day 8, 14th October 2023. Cape Town birding and departure

Most of the group’s flights were around mid-morning today and so we had an hour or so before breakfast to see if we could track down any new birds before we made our way to the airport. We birded a nearby river which soon yielded African Black Duck and Malachite Kingfisher and we vastly improved our views of Little Rush Warbler. We then moved to a nearby patch of exotic trees where we had lovely views of a pair of Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks and added an African Harrier-Hawk nearby.

Western Cape trip report

We could not have asked for better views of Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk near Cape Town.

 

We enjoyed a sit-down breakfast back at our accommodation before I dropped off most of the group at the airport for their flights. John only flew out later in the day and so we had a couple hours to bird in the leafy suburbs of Cape Town. Here, we enjoyed a good walk through one of the greenbelts (before John’s long international flight) and added African Paradise FlycatcherBronze Mannikin (an introduced population here in the Cape) and a showy pair of Cape Batises.

This ended a highly successful and thoroughly enjoyable week’s birding in the Cape. Despite the strong wind for large parts of the tour, we managed to find almost all our targets, with the Tankwa Karoo being a tour highlight for most of the group. Thanks everybody for making it such a fun trip.

Western Cape trip report

Large-billed Lark was one of the nine lark species we saw on this Cape birding tour.

 

Bird List – Following IOC (13.2)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, birds seen by the guide only are marked with a (G) after the common name, all other species were seen both by clients and guide.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International. EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near-Threatened.

Common Name Scientific Name
Ostriches (Struthionidae)
Common Ostrich Struthio camelus
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Fulvous Whistling Duck Dendrocygna bicolor
White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca
South African Shelduck Tadorna cana
Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii
African Black Duck Anas sparsa
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata
Cape Teal Anas capensis
Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha
Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma
Maccoa Duck – EN Oxyura maccoa
Guineafowl (Numididae)
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Grey-winged Francolin Scleroptila afra
Cape Spurfowl Pternistis capensis
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Fiery-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus pectoralis
Swifts (Apodidae)
African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
African Black Swift Apus barbatus
Little Swift Apus affinis
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
Bustards (Otididae)
Karoo Korhaan Heterotetrax vigorsii
Southern Black Korhaan – VU Afrotis afra
Sandgrouse (Pteroclidae)
Namaqua Sandgrouse Pterocles namaqua
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove Columba livia
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea
Lemon Dove Columba larvata
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Ring-necked Dove Streptopelia capicola
Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
African Rail Rallus caerulescens
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
African Swamphen Porphyrio madagascariensis
Cranes (Gruidae)
Blue Crane – VU Grus paradisea
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Blacksmith Lapwing Vanellus armatus
Crowned Lapwing Vanellus coronatus
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius
Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris
White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus
Chestnut-banded Plover Charadrius pallidus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Ruff Calidris pugnax
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Grey-headed Gull Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus
Hartlaub’s Gull Chroicocephalus hartlaubii
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Antarctic Tern Sterna vittata
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Penguins (Spheniscidae)
African Penguin – EN Spheniscus demersus
Petrels, Shearwaters, Diving Petrels (Procellariidae)
Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli
White-chinned Petrel – VU Procellaria aequinoctialis
Sooty Shearwater Ardenna grisea
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Cape Gannet – EN Morus capensis
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Reed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus
Crowned Cormorant Microcarbo coronatus
Bank Cormorant – EN Phalacrocorax neglectus
Cape Cormorant – EN Phalacrocorax capensis
White-breasted Cormorant Phalacrocorax lucidus
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
African Spoonbill Platalea alba
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
Secretarybird (Sagittariidae)
Secretarybird – EN Sagittarius serpentarius
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
African Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides typus
Black-chested Snake Eagle Circaetus pectoralis
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii
Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus
African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro
Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris
Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus
African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus
Black Harrier – EN Circus maurus
Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus
Owls (Strigidae)
Spotted Eagle-Owl Bubo africanus
Mousebirds (Coliidae)
Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus
White-backed Mousebird Colius colius
Red-faced Mousebird Urocolius indicus
Hoopoes (Upupidae)
African Hoopoe Upupa africana
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Malachite Kingfisher Corythornis cristatus
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Bee-eaters (Meropidae)
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
African Barbets (Lybiidae)
Acacia Pied Barbet Tricholaema leucomelas
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens
Olive Woodpecker Dendropicos griseocephalus
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus
Greater Kestrel Falco rupicoloides
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Wattle-eyes, Batises (Platysteiridae)
Cape Batis Batis capensis
Pririt Batis Batis pririt
Bushshrikes (Malaconotidae)
Bokmakierie Telophorus zeylonus
Southern Boubou Laniarius ferrugineus
Drongos (Dicruridae)
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Monarchs (Monarchidae)
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Southern Fiscal Lanius collaris
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
House Crow Corvus splendens
Pied Crow Corvus albus
White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis
Rockjumpers (Chaetopidae)
Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus
Fairy Flycatchers (Stenostiridae)
Fairy Flycatcher Stenostira scita
Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)
Grey Tit Melaniparus afer
Penduline Tits (Remizidae)
Cape Penduline Tit Anthoscopus minutus
Larks (Alaudidae)
Spike-heeled Lark Chersomanes albofasciata
Karoo Long-billed Lark Certhilauda subcoronata
Cape Long-billed Lark Certhilauda curvirostris
Black-eared Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix australis
Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix verticalis
Karoo Lark Calendulauda albescens
Cape Clapper Lark Mirafra apiata
Large-billed Lark Galerida magnirostris
Red-capped Lark Calandrella cinerea
Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)
Sombre Greenbul Andropadus importunus
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Black Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera
Banded Martin Neophedina cincta
Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Pearl-breasted Swallow Hirundo dimidiata
White-throated Swallow Hirundo albigularis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Greater Striped Swallow Cecropis cucullata
Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)
Cape Grassbird Sphenoeacus afer
Long-billed Crombec Sylvietta rufescens
Victorin’s Warbler Cryptillas victorini
Reed Warblers & Allies (Acrocephalidae)
Lesser Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus gracilirostris
Common Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Grassbirds & Allies (Locustellidae)
Little Rush Warbler Bradypterus baboecala
Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
Grey-backed Cisticola Cisticola subruficapilla
Levaillant’s Cisticola Cisticola tinniens
Neddicky Cisticola fulvicapilla
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cloud Cisticola Cisticola textrix
Karoo Prinia Prinia maculosa
Namaqua Warbler Phragmacia substriata
Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica
Rufous-eared Warbler Malcorus pectoralis
Cinnamon-breasted Warbler Euryptila subcinnamomea
Yellow-bellied Eremomela Eremomela icteropygialis
Karoo Eremomela Eremomela gregalis
Sylviid Babblers (Sylviidae)
Layard’s Warbler Curruca layardi
Chestnut-vented Warbler Curruca subcoerulea
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Cape White-eye Zosterops virens
Sugarbirds (Promeropidae)
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer
Starlings, Rhabdornises (Sturnidae)
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Pied Starling Lamprotornis bicolor
Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio
Pale-winged Starling Onychognathus nabouroup
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Olive Thrush Turdus olivaceus
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Karoo Scrub Robin Cercotrichas coryphoeus
Fiscal Flycatcher Sigelus silens
African Dusky Flycatcher Muscicapa adusta
Cape Robin-Chat Dessonornis caffer
Cape Rock Thrush Monticola rupestris
African Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Karoo Chat Emarginata schlegelii
Tractrac Chat Emarginata tractrac
Ant-eating Chat Myrmecocichla formicivora
Mountain Wheatear Myrmecocichla monticola
Capped Wheatear Oenanthe pileata
Familiar Chat Oenanthe familiaris
Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea
Amethyst Sunbird Chalcomitra amethystina
Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa
Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus
Dusky Sunbird Cinnyris fuscus
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
Cape Sparrow Passer melanurus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullata
Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Indigobirds, Whydahs (Viduidae)
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Cape Wagtail Motacilla capensis
Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis
African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus
Nicholson’s Pipit Anthus nicholsoni
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Eurasian Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Forest Canary Crithagra scotops
Cape Siskin Crithagra totta
Yellow Canary Crithagra flaviventris
Brimstone Canary Crithagra sulphurata
Streaky-headed Seedeater Crithagra gularis
White-throated Canary Crithagra albogularis
Protea Canary – NT Crithagra leucoptera
Cape Canary Serinus canicollis
Black-headed Canary Serinus alario
Buntings (Emberizidae)
Lark-like Bunting Emberiza impetuani
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi
Cape Bunting Emberiza capensis
Species Seen 223
Species heard only 5
Total species recorded 228

Mammal List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Hyraxes (Procaviidae)
Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis
   
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)
Scrub Hare Lepus saxatilis
Squirrels and Relatives (Sciuridae)
Eastern Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
Old World Mice, Rats and Gerbils (Muridae)
Karoo Bush Rat Myotomys unisulcatus
Old World Monkeys (Cercopithecidae)
Chacma Baboon Papio ursinus
Mongooses and Fossa (Herpestidae)
Cape Grey Mongoose Herpestes pulverulentus
 
Eared Seals (Otariidae)
Afro-Australian Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus
Bovids (Bovidae)
Common Eland Tragelaphus oryx
Gemsbok Oryx gazella
Blesbok (Bontebok) Damaliscus pygargus
Springbok Antidorcas marsuplialis
Steenbok Raphicerus campestris
Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus
 
Total species seen: 13

Reptile List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Tortoises (Testudinidae)
Angulate Tortoise Chersina angulata
   
Vipers (Viperidae)
Puff Adder Bitis ariedans
 
Skinks (Scincidae)
Variegated Skink Trachylepis variegata
 
Agamas (Agamidae)
Southern Rock Agama Agama atra
 
Total species seen: 4

 

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.

Highlights were the days in the Karoo – stunning landscape and some great birds. It was lovely to stay in such a remote farm property with such friendly hosts – I felt we were seeing some of the real South Africa.

John - On Cape Town and Beyond Birding Tour

This tour provided an excellent and thorough overview of the birds of the western Cape, as well as its unique habitats. We were lucky enough to see several species that are nomadic, and were found this year due to good rainfall. Highly recommended.

Bill - On Cape Town and Beyond Birding Tour

For a first visit to Southern Africa – this tour is mandatory! It gives a high chances to see almost all the Cape & Karoo endemics in short time with a great company.

Ohad - On Cape Town and Beyond Birding Tour

The Best of Cape Town and Beyond is a wonderful introduction to South Africa birding. You will experience diverse, interesting, and spectacular habitats where you will find many bird species and an incredible variety of plants.

During our trip, we were able to see 237 species including many endemics. The entire trip was great, with wonderful scenery, lodging and food. Although we were disappointed that the pelagic trip was cancelled due to weather, we certainly could understand! As an alternative, Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope were spectacular. Tankwa Karoo area was very interesting. The landscape was austere, but the bird and animal life was abundant.

Sue - On Cape Town and Beyond Birding Tour

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