This subtropical tour provides a representative sample of the very best that African birding can offer. Huge numbers of species will be seen (the typical bird list for this adventure is in the range of 400 species), and we will also find large numbers of South African endemics. Apart from yielding hundreds of bird species, this dream African experience also provides the possibility of seeing Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, African Elephant, White and Black Rhinoceros, Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Giraffe, multiple antelope species, and many other mammal species, as well as breathtaking scenery. We also often get feedback that the accommodation on this tour is great!
Southern Bald Ibis is one of our target species on this tour.
We start this birding safari in Durban on the east coast of South Africa, bounded by the warm Indian Ocean. Durban must be one of the “birdiest” cities on earth, and we spend time looking for subtropical coastal species before heading inland to the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and the foothills of the imposing Drakensberg area of the Great Escarpment, where temperate forest and high grassland birds abound. The rare Cape Parrot is one of the targets (which, interestingly, cannot be found on our Cape birding tour despite its name), as are the beautiful Green Twinspot, two super Zoothera species (Spotted and Orange Ground Thrushes), Narina Trogon, the spectacularly marked Green Twinspot, and, last but not least, the Vulnerable Blue Swallow (what a truly spectacular-looking hirundine!). We then ascend the heights of the Drakensberg into Lesotho via the Sani Pass, an amazing road that gives access from the base of the escarpment right up to the high plateau at 10,000 feet (over 3,000 meters), with different endemics appearing as elevation increases – near the base are birds such as Bush Blackcap, then as one ascends Gurney’s Sugarbird, Ground Woodpecker, Sentinel Rock Thrush, and the shining, metallic Malachite Sunbird appear, followed eventually by high-plateau species including Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, and Bearded Vulture.
Zululand, probably the most bird-diverse corner of South Africa, is next on our agenda, and not only does it have a great many species, but there are several very localized ones, basically only occurring here and in southern Mozambique – e.g. Pink-throated Twinspot, Lemon-breasted Canary, and Neergaard’s Sunbird. This also is big mammal country and one of the world’s strongholds for Black and White Rhinoceros, very good for Leopard, and hosting a variety of mammals not likely to be seen in Kruger – including Nyala, Samango Monkey, the absolutely tiny Suni antelope, etc.
One of the east coast specials we should find on this tour — Pink-throated Twinspot.
We then ascend to the legendary (among birders seeking endemics) Wakkerstroom highlands, and eventually we reach the Kruger National Park, one of the world’s greatest game parks, which also has a bird list of over 500 species.
Before flying home out of Johannesburg we sample an area which gives access to some Kalahari-type birds, meaning we usually add a large number of species to our already large bird list right at the end of the trip – these include such beauties as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, and many others.
The February tours can be combined with our Western Cape, South Africa, 12-day Birding Adventure tour.
The October tours can be combined with our preceding Kruger National Park and Escarpment and Western Cape, South Africa, 8-day Birding Adventure tours for an in-depth South African adventure, and, following this tour, with our Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls 18-day Birding Adventure tour followed by our Birding Tour Zimbabwe and Mozambique for a stunning 64-day Southern African mega tour.
Your international flight (or local flight if you are joining us from our Western Cape Birding Adventure) arrives in Durban. 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 first day of the subtropical trip, which is also the last day of the Cape trip). It is no problem at all, however, if you have already booked this flight. If we book the flight for you, the cost can just be added to the balance you owe – the flight is usually R1000-R2000 (ballpark).
We always see a great many new birds this afternoon already (a lot of them within our lodge garden), as Durban is certainly a world away from the Cape. “Garden” birds in Durban can include African Crowned Eagle (usually flying over), the spectacular Purple-crested Turaco, various different barbet species (always charismatic and good-looking), and sometimes even Black-throated Wattle-eye. Estuary birding this afternoon, or more likely tomorrow morning, can generate several tern species as well as other shorebirds.
Overnight: Afri-Lala Guest House, Mt Edgecombe
Black-throated Wattle-eye can be seen in coastal forests around Durban.
After further birding in the Durban area, where we’ll spend quite a lot of time getting to grips with a whole new suite of species, we’ll eventually start heading inland. We may spend some time birding the Oribi Gorge for the likes of Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker (rare), Chorister Robin-Chat, Grey Sunbird, and a host of others. As we head toward the foothills of the Drakensberg, where we will spend two nights near Underberg at the base of the Sani Pass, we may try for the likes of Blue Swallow and other ‘mistbelt grassland’ species. (The swallows have become fairly rare in South Africa, and, depending on their recent whereabouts, we may only try for them on day 4.) The higher elevations in the Underberg region present us with completely new habitats – largely high-altitude grassland (with spectacular, displaying Southern Red Bishop, Red-collared Widowbird, and the most extravagant of all, Long-tailed Widowbird, being a real feature of the rolling-hill landscape). Patches of temperate forest occur in the more secluded valleys protected from fires – here we find some very localized species not occurring in the subtropical coastal forests.
Overnight: Sani Valley Lodge, Himeville
This is one of the most spectacular birding adventures one can embark on. We spend a very full day, taking along picnic breakfasts and lunches, ascending the Sani Pass, which gives amazing access to most of the Drakensberg endemics within the space of a single day. The “barrier of spears” (as the Drakensberg is known to locals) is impressive, to say the least, and the scenery today is amazing as we gradually ascend from the foothills to the plateau. Birdlife changes as altitude increases – Drakensberg Prinia, Bush Blackcap, and Cape Grassbird of the lower thickets (consisting largely of ouhout or “old wood”, a bush species that looks older than it is because of its gnarled bark) are replaced by Malachite Sunbird and Gurney’s Sugarbird in the higher Protea belt (also with Ground Woodpecker and rock thrushes on the slopes here), which are eventually replaced by Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit (rare, though), Drakensberg Rockjumper (common and confiding), Drakensberg Siskin, and Bearded Vulture on the relatively flat plateau within Lesotho. After a long day we eventually come down the mountain again for a well-deserved dinner (and a toast to all the endemics).
Overnight: Sani Valley Lodge, Himeville
Drakensberg Rockjumper should be encountered on our day up the Sani Pass.
We’ll spend a lot of the morning birding the midlands for the beautiful Blue Swallow, Southern Bald Ibis, Black-winged Lapwing, Secretarybird, Denham’s Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Narina Trogon (and other forest birds), and last but not least Cape Parrot. On occasion we do manage to locate breeding pairs of Wattled Crane in the Himeville area as well (on our October tours); however, they too have become scarce and are nomadic in the region. We’ll then travel northward (usually via Durban again) to the small town of Eshowe, where some tantalizing birds lurk.
Overnight: Birds of Paradise B&B, Eshowe
A couple of the sites we’ll bird today (such as Amatikulu Nature Reserve, the Raffia Palms Monument, Dlinza Forest, and Ongoye Forest) are on the subtropical coast, whereas others are in the cooler midlands closer to Eshowe, where we’re spending two nights. Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Crowned Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, and a variety of canopy species (e.g. Grey Cuckooshrike and with some luck Scaly-throated Honeyguide) are the prized species accessible at the canopy tower at Dlinza Forest. We’ll be sure also to spend time walking the trails below, as this is one of the best places anywhere for the stunning Spotted Ground Thrush. Ongoye Forest is the only site for the “Woodward’s” subspecies of Green Barbet, plus this is also an excellent place for Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Brown Scrub Robin, and a great many other temperate forest birds.
For Spotted Ground Thrush Dlinza Forest usually produces the goods.
The coast from Mtunzini southward to Amatikulu is good for Collared Pratincole, a vegetarian vulture (Palm-nut Vulture), Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, and Red-backed Mannikin (the last three mentioned are seed-eating birds that often mix in quiet and easily overlooked ground-feeding flocks). Swamp Nightjar is sometimes encountered.
Overnight: Birds of Paradise B&B, Eshowe
We basically clean up on Eshowe/Dlinza Forest birds before heading northward to the small, wild town of St Lucia, where Hippopotamus can occasionally roam the streets at night and Thick-tailed Greater Galagos (bushbabies) certainly cry from the trees lining the main street. It’s an incredibly rich area for birds, mammals, and all kinds of other wildlife. Excellent garden and park birds of this leafy village include African Pygmy Kingfisher, the spectacular Livingstone’s Turaco with its impressive crest and bright, crimson wings, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Rudd’s Apalis, Woodward’s Batis, Lemon Dove, and various cuckoo species such as the small, shining-green Klaas’s Cuckoo.
Overnight: St Lucia Wetlands Guest House, St Lucia
An east coast endemic — Rudd’s Apalis.
We’ll head into this park, where we have to take great care as it is full of Africa’s big mammals, including rhinos and large cats (which of course we’ll try to see!). Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Rosy-throated Longclaw (with some luck), Green Twinspot, Crested Guineafowl, and many other excellent birds will be sought as we head to Cape Vidal.
Overnight: St Lucia Wetlands Guest House, St Lucia
Mkhuze Game Reserve is an amazing place. It’s a tiny reserve, but it boasts a huge bird- and mammal list. We’ll try here for some very localized species that only occur in Zululand and southern Mozambique, such as Lemon-breasted Canary, Neergaard’s Sunbird, and the fabulous Pink-throated Twinspot. Gorgeous Bushshrike is common here but sometimes needs a bit of time to be seen well, as it’s a true skulker in the sand-forest thickets. With luck we might see the wonderful, circular flight display of African Broadbill. Pel’s Fishing Owl is occasionally also seen in Mkhuze but is much more reliable on our Namibia/Okavango/Victoria Falls birding tour. We keep the night drive optional, as some folks prefer to take the time to rest, but let it be known that Leopard and other great mammals, sometimes along with owls, nightjars, and other nocturnal birds, are often seen. Special mammals that can be seen in Mkhuze during the day include the diminutive Suni antelope, the very pretty Nyala, and Black Rhinoceros (although usually sticking to thick cover here, so more easily seen on our Namibia birding tours). We may well also see White Rhinoceros.
Overnight: Main (Mantuma) Camp, Mkhuze Game Reserve
We will have a full day of birding and mammal-viewing in this diverse park. Some species that we may encounter today include Grey Penduline Tit, Common Scimitarbill, Bearded Woodpecker, White-crested and Retz’s Helmetshrikes, Purple-banded Sunbird, and many more.
Overnight: Main (Mantuma) Camp, Mkhuze Game Reserve
The tiny and remarkably colored African Pygmy Kingfisher can often be seen in Mkhuze Game Reserve.
We have a long day of driving today as we ascend from the lowlands of Zululand to the legendary (among birders seeking endemics) Wakkerstroom highlands. This upland village is famed for its amazing birds, including two lark species, Rudd’s Lark (Vulnerable) and Botha’s Lark (Endangered), two small bustard species, namely Blue Korhaan and White-bellied Bustard, Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, South African Cliff Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, African Grass Owl, Marsh Owl, Red-throated Wryneck, Pale-crowned Cisticola, arguably the most beautiful pipit on earth, Yellow-breasted Pipit, and a great many others. Meerkat is also frequently seen in Wakkerstroom.
Overnight: Wetlands Country House & Sheds, Wakkerstroom
This entire day is allocated to Wakkerstroom birding, where we often make use of a local guide for a full or half day.
Overnight: Wetlands Country House & Sheds, Wakkerstroom
We have another long drive today, but the reward is that we’ll eventually arrive in one of Africa’s greatest game parks. The mammal and bird diversity here is staggering. African Elephant, Hippopotamus, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Wild Dog (now extremely rare), both White and Black Rhinoceros, Giraffe, and a stack of antelopes and smaller mammals will be sought. Nile Crocodile is quite common here. The park is absolutely full of birds, including a lot of storks, the most admired one being Saddle-billed Stork, the most grotesque-looking one being Marabou Stork, etc., three hornbill species, various unbelievably colorful starlings, and a mega-diversity of raptors (one of the most beautiful ones being Bateleur, which thankfully is still common in this park, although outside the park it has suffered badly). There is a large number of other eagles and smaller birds of prey in the park also, many vultures (one can often see several species around a lion kill), beautiful barbets, turacos, several bee-eaters, Blue Waxbill, and just so many other wonderful birds.
Kruger National Park has relatively high densities of Leopard.
Day 13. Birding Kruger National Park
We have a full day to look for mammals and birds in this great game park. (Night drives are an optional extra here in Kruger National Park; let us know if you would like to book yourself on one.)
Overnight: Lower Sabie Rest Camp or Skukuza Rest Camp or similar, Kruger National Park
We’ll spend a second full day in this exciting national park, another day to see a good sample of both fascinating mammals as well as amazing birds.
Overnight: Satara Rest Camp or similar, Kruger National Park
Today we spend the best part of the morning still within the Kruger National Park, using as much time as we can to pick up birds and mammals that we may have missed until now. We normally exit the park at either Phabeni or Paul Kruger Gate and start our ascent to the rolling, high altitude grasslands of Dullstroom. Dullstroom birding can be very rewarding; all three crane species can sometimes be found, along with Cape Eagle-Owl, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Eastern Long-billed Lark, and a great many other specials.
Overnight: Linger Longer Country Retreat, Dullstroom
The large and impressive Cape Eagle-Owl.
The final destination of the trip is the Rust de Winter/Pienaarsrivier area, which is within easy striking distance of the Johannesburg airport (1.5 hours when no traffic). This is a well-known birding area where Kalahari-type birds abound, giving our list a large boost right at the end of the trip. Kalahari Scrub Robin, Black-chested Prinia, the unbelievably bright Crimson-breasted Shrike, one of the most striking babblers of the world, namely Southern Pied Babbler, many different bee-eaters, and (as always) a host of other birds await us.
Overnight: Zenzele River Lodge, Rust de Winter
We spend the last full day of the tour exploring some drier thornveld scrub habitat, where we will add a host of new species. Depending on conditions we will normally bird the Zaagkuildrift road to the Kgomo-Kgomo floodplain (normally flooded during our February tours, which allows us to try for some elusive crakes and warblers). The floodplain and surrounds can produce a host of waterfowl as well as the likes of Kittlitz’s Plover, Black-winged Pratincole, Temminck’s Courser, Capped Wheatear, Shaft-tailed Whydah, and many others.
Overnight: Zenzele River Lodge, Rust de Winter
The tiny and cute Scaly-feathered Weaver is often seen at Zaagkuildrift.
Your international flight can depart any time after 3 p.m. today, but we will use the morning to add birding en route.
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.
This is a sample trip report. Please email us (email@example.com) for more trip reports from this destination.
In the fall of 2011 my wife and I did a 28 day bird watching tour of South Africa with Birding Ecotours. Birding Ecotours was recommended by our Canadian agent, Tours of Exploration. Both of our driver/guides were excellent and our group of 5 saw well over 500 species of birds and over 60 species of animals as well as a large number of amazing endemic plants. The tours were well planned and run and came off without a hitch. The guides were very patient and accommodating and allowed us to change the schedule when we were in areas of great interest. Along with showing us the amazing natural history of South Africa our guides also explained the cultural history which made the trip special. We hope that we will have the opportunity to will travel with Birding Ecotours again in the near future.
Otto Peter — Canada
Your passport must be valid for a period of at least six months after the date of your arrival in South Africa. Please make sure that there is at least one full empty page available in your passport. Please also bring a photocopy of your passport, to be kept in a different location from your passport, in case of loss.
Generally not required, but please check for your nationality.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against accidents, medical conditions, illness, loss of valuables, luggage, etc., and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds.
General Global Assistance is one option: https://www.generalitravelinsurance.com/
HEALTH / MALARIA
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/south-africa for health information about traveling in South Africa.
No vaccinations are required for South Africa; however, it is recommended that you are up to date with Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, and polio. Please keep in mind that if you have not had any of these vaccinations, you should make sure that you have been inoculated at least six weeks prior to your trip for the vaccination to take full effect.
There is no malaria in most parts of South Africa except in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal and the low altitude areas of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. But please see https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/malaria because some of our tours lead through parts of the country where malaria does occur.
We strongly recommend taking malaria prophylactics when in Zululand or Kruger – see the malaria map at the Centers for Disease Control website – when we’ll be in a malaria area. Any one of the following three drugs are highly effective (albeit not 100 percent due to resistant strains of malaria) as malaria preventative measures:
Mosquito repellent, long trousers/jeans, and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at night when malaria (Anopheles) mosquitos bite, are advised in addition to the drugs.
In the unlikely event that one still contracts malaria after taking anti-malaria drugs and other precautions, the disease can still be easily treated if diagnosed soon after symptoms develop: suspect malaria if ‘flu-like symptoms develop within a few months after visiting South Africa. If it is malaria it can be treated with an alternative to the prophylactic that you chose.
Please make sure that you are covered with medical insurance in case of an emergency while on this trip. Without insurance the cost of medical care can be extremely high. Please notify us at the time of registering for this tour of any medical conditions you think we should know about (including allergies, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.). This will greatly help us to cater to your needs.
WATER / FOOD
South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa were it is safe to drink the water in the major cities and eat unpeeled fresh vegetables and salads. But we supply bottled water as most visitors prefer this.
South African Rand (ZAR or simply R). Currently US$ 1 is about ZAR 14.3 (Jan 2020), but it fluctuates widely.
Traveler’s checks are difficult to cash. You need to visit a South African bank to cash traveler’s checks and pay a commission. You’re better off using a debit or credit card, which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get South African rand. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted and to a lesser extent American Express, including for drawing cash from ATMs. We will be able to exchange or draw money at the airport upon arrival and regularly during our tours at ATMs.
Note: US dollars, Canadian dollars, pound sterling, and euros cannot be used for purchases.
South Africa is a land of great physical contrasts, from mountains and forests to grasslands and semi-deserts. The country does have four seasons – summer, fall, winter, and spring – only they are reversed from the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere; summer: December to February, fall: March to May, winter: June to August, spring: September to November.
South Africa experiences a high degree of sunshine with rainfall about half of the global average, increasing from west to east, and with semi-desert regions in the north-west. While the Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall, most of the country experiences summer rain. Subtropical South Africa has summer thunderstorms, so please be prepared for rain, even though there is not likely to be much.
For our major tours, those to the Western Cape and to Subtropical South Africa, which are run in February/March and October, weather conditions are the following:
February/March is late summer/early fall, and often it will be hot, but high in the mountains it can get surprisingly cold even in summer (so please do bring layers). March is one of the rainiest (but birdiest) months, but since South Africa is generally a dry country, rain rarely seriously interrupts the birding.
October is spring, so there are elements of winter or summer weather – with luck the weather will be mild and in between throughout! It is usually mild to warm or even hot at this time of year, and maximum temperatures can vary from about 20–30 oC. Nights should be mild, but there is a small chance of slightly below freezing temperatures especially high in the Drakensberg (e.g. Dullstroom and Lesotho) – even snow is a possibility. So please be prepared for all weather possibilities from a little below freezing to quite hot. Spring is unpredictable.
The Cape pelagic can be cold and wet or warm and very sunny, so be prepared with layers of clothing, waterproofing, as well as sunglasses and sunblock/sunscreen (reflection off the sea can burn eyes and skin severely).
Be aware that accommodations are often not heated like they are in North America, Europe, etc.
Kindly be prepared for all kinds of temperatures, from cold to hot. For more details please see https://www.gov.za/about-SA/geography-and-climate.
It is 220-240V. If you intend to recharge camera batteries etc. in your hotel room you will need an international adapter (for three round prongs in a triangular pattern, ITA Type M, or occasionally the European plug, ITA Type C).
Lighting tends to be low wattage, so you might like to bring a good quality torch/flashlight if you like reading in bed! A good torch preferably with a good beam will also be useful if you fancy joining us for a night walk or drive. All the places we will stay will have electrical outlets for chargers and laptops.
Occasionally there might be a period of load shedding/rolling blackouts, and when the country struggles to generate enough power this can occur several times a week, usually for two to five hours at a time. Those with CPAP machines thus need to bring backup batteries.
Note: Please check all equipment that you plan on charging to see if it is 110/120–220/240V compatible. If that is the case you only need an adaptor to plug your plugs into. If your equipment is only listed as 110-120V then you will need a converter to convert the electric current to 220-240V.
LENGTH OF DRIVES
There may be a couple of days in which there are long drives – say five hours without stops. Most days involve far less traveling.
In Kruger National Park as well as in a number of other national parks and game reserves it is illegal to alight from one’s vehicle because of the presence of large, dangerous mammals such as lions and elephants, so we are restricted to the vehicle except at picnic areas and rest camps. In these reserves we thus spend most of the day in the vehicle, but we also spend some time doing birding walks around the rest camps and picnic areas and staying in bird hides.
CAPE TOWN PELAGIC TRIPS
For the pelagic trip included in the Western Cape tours please see “Preparation for a Pelagic Trip” and “What you will require” at https://www.birdingecotours.com/tour/cape-town-pelagic-trip-1-day/. There is also a lot more information at https://www.birdingecotours.com/pelagic-birding-with-birding-ecotours/.
WHAT TO BRING
Casual and informal dress is fine in the hotels. Loose lightweight field clothing works best, with a warm fleece or jacket for cooler weather. Shorts and T-shirts are fine – it’s what the locals wear! You will also need to bring some warmer clothing, certainly a minimum of a warm fleece and a jacket. Rain is always a possibility, so an umbrella and/or rain gear is always useful to have. Early mornings can be chilly in some areas, especially in the Drakensberg/Lesotho/Dullstroom areas, which are at relatively high altitudes, so come prepared.
Sunglasses, sunhat, and sunscreen (rated SPF 15 or higher) are essential. A pair of trousers or a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt should be included to help protect against forest vegetation and the sun. Swimwear can be brought as there are swimming pools at some of the accommodations.
We would recommend lightweight walking boots for when out on foot. You might like to consider sandals for use in the safari vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.
Some roads can be dusty, so please consider bringing a scarf or other measures in case you’re birding along an unpaved road and a car goes past throwing up dust.
Do not forget
Binoculars, prescription drugs (also bring the generic names for these drugs), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellent, camera, flashlight, batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for rechargeable batteries), converter plug set if needed (the electricity supply is 220 Volt, 50 Hz) and plug adapters, alarm clock, money pouch, field guide(s), soft-sided duffle-style luggage (hard-sided luggage is not ideal), daypack/backpack, favorite road snacks
Key Documents and cash
Passports, Travel- or Health Insurance Cards – photo copies of which can be left with our ground agent in case of emergency, Credit cards – Visa and Mastercard are best in South Africa – see earlier, Cash for drinks, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature, etc.
Due to restricted space in the vehicles please consider packing quite lightly. A medium soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) works best for packing in the vehicles. This allows us to better fit the bags. Please bring a daypack for items that you wish to use or need on a daily basis.
We will be visiting areas inhabited by very venomous snakes, although as usual we will be very lucky to see any. Black Mambas are relatively abundant in KwaZulu-Natal. The Boomslang (“tree snake”), an arboreal snake that is highly venomous and for which there is no anti-venom, is quite widespread in South Africa, but it often fails to inject venom because its fangs are set very far back in its head. Puffadders, Berg Adders and Night Adders can be very dangerous because they love to sun themselves in pathways and are extremely lethargic, not moving until accidentally trodden on. Unlike rattlesnakes they give no warning. Cobras, including spitting cobras, also occur in South Africa.
We recommend hiking boots, jeans/long trousers, and a good dose of care to minimize the danger of snakebites. We do not take anti-venom on our tours but will rush you to a private hospital if you do get bitten; your own travel insurance (especially medical insurance) is crucial.
In those game reserves where large predators freely lurk it is illegal to alight from one’s vehicle except in rest camps and picnic areas, for very good reason. The guides will also advise where hippos, crocodiles, etc., roam outside of the game reserves (such as at Lake St Lucia).
When arriving at Cape Town, Durban, or Johannesburg international airports extremely good care of one’s personal belongings should be taken (as in any big city).
South Africa has an incredible 11 official languages, but most South Africans are fluent in English and it is very easy to get around the country using English.
Details of the field guide we recommend the most and of a good app with bird calls and a lot more are at https://www.birdingecotours.com/field-guides-to-africa-and-madagascar-what-to-take-into-the-field/ (scroll down to southern Africa).
Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris and Mathilde Stuart, Struik Publishers. 2015
Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa – a field guide. Edited by Peter Apps. 1996
The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Johnathan Kingdon – Princeton University Press. 2005
Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa by Bill Branch, Struik Publishers. 1998 – excellent
Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by Steve Woodhall, 2005 – the best of those available
Sasol First Field Guide to Butterflies and Moths of Southern Africa by Simon von Noort, 1999
Field guide to Insects of South Africa by Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths and Alan Weaving, Struik publishers. 2004
“The Long walk to Freedom”, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, is a must read.
South Africa Map from ITMB 1: 1,500,000, 2012 edition – you may want to purchase a map before your trip to give you an idea of where we’ll be visiting.
We bird virtually every habitat in South Africa on our many tours, from open ocean to pristine grassland to forests from sea level (subtropical) to temperate (above 1000 meters), to dry woodland, to savanna, to wetlands of all kinds. Our detailed itineraries give a good overview.
Check whether your tour operator is legal in South Africa – please read this carefully.