South Africa: Premium Kruger and Escarpment Birding and Wildlife Safari


Dates and Costs

 

09 – 17 September 2021

Price: R69,795 / $5,156 / £3,713 / € 4,277 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R11,400 / $842 / £607 / € 698

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to base price when making final payments.

 

22 – 30 August 2022

Price: R75,379 / $5,568 / £4,010 / € 4,619 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R12,540 / $926 / £667 / € 769

 

22 – 30 September 2022

Spaces available: 7

Price: R75,379 / $5,568 / £4,010 / € 4,619 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R12,540 / $926 / £667 / € 769

 

09 – 17 September 2023

Price: R81,409 / $6,013 / £4,330 / € 4,988 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: R13,794 / $1,019 / £734 / € 845

 


Tour Details

Duration: 9 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Nelspruit, South Africa
Tour End: Nelspruit, South Africa

Please also note that we have other versions of this tour available. For example, we also have a version that explores the extreme north of the Kruger National Park, which increases driving distances but allows us to find birds that are very localized in South Africa (but more common in Mozambique, farther north). Please ask us for more details.


Price includes:

All accommodation
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 9)
Unlimited bottled water
Expert tour leader
All entrance & conservation fees
All ground transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Open Safari Vehicle use in Kruger NP & Sabi Sands GR

Price excludes:

International/domestic flights (to/from Nelspruit)
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)

Premium Kruger and Escarpment Birding and Wildlife Safari
September 2021/2022/2023/August 2022

 

Centered between the edge of the impressive Drakensberg escarpment and the bushveld of the Greater Kruger, this is a tour for those who want the ultimate African mammal safari experience while also seeing a huge diversity of birds. This tour should yield African Elephant, Lion, Leopard, loads of antelope species, Nile Crocodile, and many of the other megafauna (plus many small mammals too) that sub-Saharan Africa is famous for. We don’t neglect the birds, of which a disproportionate number of these are brightly colored, charismatic, and spectacular, along with a few southern African endemics and many raptors thrown in. To whet your appetite, we should come across multiple species of bee-eaters, rollers, kingfishers, hornbills, eagles (including Bateleur), vultures, owls, turacos, weavers, storks, and a myriad of others. The Kruger National Park itself boasts some 500 bird species!

Kruger National Park birding toursThe Kruger is a major stronghold of the Vulnerable (IUCN) Southern Ground Hornbill.

 

The tour as detailed below is great for first-time visitors to South Africa, or Africa, as it focuses on the bird-rich and mammal-rich southern parts of the Greater Kruger. We ensure we spend time in both the Kruger National Park and the exclusive Sabi Sands Game Reserve, to give you the best possible ‘safari’, with a combined focus on the birds and mammals. Game drives on open-sided safari vehicles, in both the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands are the order of our days here, as we track down as many birds and mammals as we can. In addition, this area is also relatively close to the major hub of Johannesburg, which is South Africa’s largest city, and is easily accessed. The combination of a never-ending stream of mammals, including The Big 5, and some excellent introductory African birding will leave you wanting more.

Kruger National Park birding toursMassive African Elephants are a regular feature in the Kruger.

 

This tour starts and ends in Nelspruit, the gateway to the Kruger – readily accessed by a short domestic flight from Johannesburg. From Nelspruit, we venture up onto the edge of the magnificent Drakensberg escarpment for two days, and focus our attention on the forests, grasslands and wide panoramic views. Following our time here, we descend into the biodiverse-rich lowveld and call into the Kruger National Park. Staying inside the National Park means we are primed to maximize on the plethora of birds and mammals that call this vast area home. We end this tour off a short distance away, in the exclusive Sabi Sands Game Reserve, located in the Greater Kruger conservation area, bordering on the national park. Here a more personalized safari awaits you, complete with arguably an even more complete suite of mammals, with good chances for some of the scarcer mammals such as African Wild Dog and Cheetah.

This tour is timed specifically to be at the start of the austral (southern hemisphere) spring, when the bush is at its least dense, making wildlife viewing excellent, and when the daily temperatures are comfortable.

Kruger National Park birding toursWe stand a good chance of seeing the highly sought-after African Wild Dog on this tour!

 

You can combine this premium birding and wildlife safari, with a number of our southern Africa tours: First off is our preceding Cape Endemics, Namaqualand Wildflowers and the Kalahari Birding Tour – a more bird-oriented trip targeting the endemic species of western South Africa. Secondly, is our Kalahari Mammal and Birding Tour, which follows after this Kruger tour, and is a great complementary tour with similar interests – where we focus on the rare and unique mammals (and birds) of the Kalahari region. And thirdly is our Western Zimbabwe Birding and Mammal Safari – which is another excellent complementary tour, focusing on the wildlife of the world-renowned Hwange, Motobo and Mana Pools National Parks, along with the exquisite Victoria Falls – one of the seven wonders of the world.

The August 2022 tour is an extension provided by Birding Ecotours for the International Ornithological Congress in Durban. It can be combined, preceding the congress, with our pre-tour to the congress, Cape Town and Beyond: Endemics, seabirds and more tour in August 2022.

 

Itinerary (9 days/8 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Nelspruit and transfer to Mount Sheba

This tour begins in Nelspruit, where we meet at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. This small airport is serviced regularly by domestic flights from Johannesburg on a daily basis. We ask participants to arrive at the latest by early afternoon (3pm). Following your arrival, we embark on a 2-hour drive to our first destination, Mount Sheba Lodge. Time permitting, we may be able to explore the lush grounds of this expansive lodge, getting our first taste of the common birds of the area– which may include the likes of the endemic Drakensberg Prinia, along with Cape Batis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Swee Waxbill.

Overnight: Mount Sheba Lodge, Pilgrim’s Rest

Kruger National Park birding toursThe glorious Narina Trogon is a target in the forests at Mount Sheba.

 

Day 2. Birding the escarpment

Today will be spent birding and exploring various parts of the Drakensberg escarpment. We’ll likely start off birding in the lush montane forests that surround Mount Sheba on foot. Many exciting and colorful species occur here, and we’ll try to track down the likes of Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Orange Ground Thrush and White-starred Robin, amongst others. The montane grasslands found above the forests are also home to more special birds, and here we’ll have chances for the likes of Red-winged Francolin, Blue Crane (South Africa’s national bird), Denham’s Bustard, Buff-streaked Chat and Malachite Sunbird. We will then likely call in at various panoramic stops in the area, such as God’s Window and the breath-taking Three Rondawels view sites. While taking in the views of the dramatic mountains, we’re likely to see various birds, and we’ll keep an eye out for species such as Cape Vulture, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Cape Rock Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, Lazy and Wailing Cisticolas and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. This area is also home to one of Africa’s rarest birds, the small but powerful and extremely fast Taita Falcon. This species has become increasingly more difficult to see in recent years, but we’ll keep our ears to the ground on latest sightings.  Our afternoon will likely be spent further exploring Mount Sheba and surrounds.

Overnight: Mount Sheba Lodge, Pilgrim’s Rest

Kruger National Park birding toursThe edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment here supports small numbers of the very rare Taita Falcon – however, we’ll need an extreme amount of luck to see this bird!

 

Days 3 – 5. Kruger National Park

We have a final morning birding around Mount Sheba, searching for any species we may still need (see Day 2 above). We will also try for some of the trickier specials of the area, such as Southern Tchagra. We then descend the escarpment to the “lowveld”, a mega-diverse wildlife region, in which is found one of Africa’s greatest game parks, the massive Kruger National Park. We will base ourselves for three nights within the Kruger (usually at the Skukuza Rest Camp, as the birds and mammals occurring in and around the camp are arguably unequalled in the park, but may vary depending on availability). We will have the use of a private, open-sided safari vehicle during our time in the park, which enhances your experience of the birds and mammals, giving you unrivalled views while in the park.

The park has a staggering bird diversity, and we are bound to find a number of these during our visit. Being one of the last major conservation areas in South Africa, large species that require vast amounts of wild, undisturbed habitat thrive here – these include a wide range of raptors from vultures to eagles to accipiters, along with storks, bustards and others. Common and characteristic raptors include White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle and African Fish Eagle. We will also keep our eyes peeled for some of the less conspicuous raptors such as Hooded, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vultures, the majestic Secretarybird, and smaller species such as Dark Chanting Goshawk and Lizard Buzzard. Further examples of these larger birds include Saddle-billed and Marabou Stork, Kori Bustard and Southern Ground Hornbill.

We will also encounter a number of the ‘typical’ bushveld species as we traverse the park. Species that are likely include Swainson’s Spurfowl, Grey Go-away-bird, Purple-crested Turaco, Red-crested Korhaan, Burchell’s Coucal, Red-faced Mousebird, Green Wood Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, African Grey, Southern Red-billed and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Lilac-breasted Roller, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Little and White-fronted Bee-eaters, Crested Barbet, Bearded, Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Parrot, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Brubru, Magpie Shrike, Black-headed Oriole, Long-billed Crombec, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Arrow-marked Babbler, Greater Blue-eared and Burchell’s Starlings, Red-billed Oxpecker (often of various mammals), White-throated Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub Robin, Scarlet-chested and Marico Sunbirds, Red-billed Buffalo, Spectacled and Lesser Masked Weavers, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-billed Firefinch, Blue Waxbill and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Kruger National Park birding toursWe’ll keep an eye open for White-headed Vulture whilst in the Kruger.

 

Wetland areas in the park are also usually well-attended and brimming with life, species that we’ll likely find include White-faced Whistling Duck, Water Thick-knee, Black-winged Stilt, White-crowned Lapwing (on some of the larger rivers only), Three-banded Plover, African Jacana, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Striated, Grey and Goliath Herons, Great Egret and Hamerkop. The rest camps within the park are also generally a great place to see owls, with Pearl-spotted Owlet, Western Barn and African Scops Owls widely distributed, with African Barred Owlet a bit more localized. These are only a small example of some of the species we’re likely to see during our time in the park.

Kruger National Park birding toursThe near-endemic White-throated Robin-Chat occurs in the denser stands of woodland.

 

On the megafauna side, we should also encounter large numbers of African Elephant, Lion, White and, with much luck, even Black Rhinoceros, Giraffe, African Buffalo, Spotted Hyena, a plethora of antelope species, Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, and many small mammals, such as Common Warthog, mongooses, etc. We would, however, require much luck for Leopard or Cheetah. Our time will be spent slowly driving and exploring the myriad of roads that cover the southern part of the park, notching up birds and mammals as we go, along with some walks around the rest camps. Optional night drives (at your own cost) are also available, and provide you with chances at some of the scarcer nocturnal creatures that inhabit the park, such as African Civet, Large-spotted Genet, White-tailed Mongoose and perhaps even Serval, along with giving you opportunities to see nocturnal birds as well; more commonly seen species are Spotted Eagle Owl, and Square-tailed and Fiery-necked Nightjars.

Overnight: Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park (or similar)

Kruger National Park birding toursWe’ll search for White Rhino (complete with Red-billed Oxpecker) whilst in the Kruger.

 

Days 6 – 8. Sabi Sands Game Reserve

The previous three days exploring the Kruger National Park serve as an excellent introduction to your African safari experience. For these next three days, we transfer a short distance to the private and exclusive Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The Sabi Sands needs no introduction and is famous for its exceptional wildlife encounters, especially cats. Bordering on the Kruger National Park, and located in the Greater Kruger conservancy, with no fences between the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands, this area is densely populated with wildlife, and offers you the ‘ultimate’ African safari.

We will base ourselves at an exclusive lodge set deep within the heart of the Sabi Sands, from which we can explore this private reserve. The ‘Big 5’ abound here, and sightings of them are almost guaranteed – these are Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, African Buffalo and (White/Black) Rhinoceros (although Black Rhinoceros does remain the trickiest of them to find). Although named for being the five most dangerous animals to hunt many years ago, these are generally the pinnacle of game and mammal sightings in Africa, and are often the most prized. While we would have likely seen some of these mammals in the Kruger National Park already, our views, encounters and experiences of these animals in the Sabi Sands will not be easily bettered. In addition, however, we also have good chances at finding some of the other scarcer mammals and predators in the area, with Cheetah and African Wild Dogs high on our wish-list as well.

Kruger National Park birding toursWe stand an excellent chance of seeing Leopard in the Sabi Sands.

 

As usual, while we’re out in the wilderness, birds and birding will not take a backseat, and this diverse area hosts a great many species too. A similar suite of species that are found in the park can also be expected, but the birding here will be easier, due to the combination of both the open-top vehicles present (not allowed in the Kruger National Park), and being able to walk more readily with guides (not allowed in the Kruger National Park). Both of the above allow us to more easily seek out some of the trickier bushveld species, which can often prove difficult in the park. Species we’ll keep our eyes peeled for include; Coqui Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Purple Roller, Bennett’s Woodpecker, White-crested and Retz’s Helmetshrikes, Flappet Lark, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Bearded Scrub Robin, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and White-browed Robin-Chat, amongst others. The large Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl can also be more readily seen in the Sabi Sands.

Overnight: Umkhumbe Safari Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Kruger National Park birding toursThe large Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl occurs in the area, often roosting in tall riverine woodland.

 

Day 9. Departure 

We have our last morning game drive, followed by a group breakfast, before transferring to the nearby Nelspruit, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, where this tour ends at midday.

Please also note that we have other versions of this tour available. For example, we also have a version that explores the extreme north of the Kruger National Park, which increases driving distances but allows us to find birds that are very localized in South Africa (but more common in Mozambique, farther north). Please ask us for more details.

 

 

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

Kruger National Park and Escarpment Trip Report October 2019

This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

Chris,

Our trip was wonderful! Dylan was great. Top notch birder and guide. Patient, kind, thoughtful, understanding. Best birding ears ever! He found us so many great birds! My count is 430, more than I had expected for the entire trip! Great views as well. He worked hard to get the birds and get us in position for photos. My best decision was hiring Birding Ecotours.

Cheers, more later. Off to Vic Falls now…
Bob

Bob & Terrie Davis — Idaho, USA

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