Flock to Marion is an incredible opportunity. Please book this amazing value trip to a remote sub-Antarctic Island directly with BirdLife South Africa here. Please also see our blog about Flock to Marion here. This cruise starts in Cape Town on 25 January 2021 and ends in Durban on 1 February. Birding Ecotours is offering a series of extensions to this cruise in the Western Cape, detailed here, and two pre-tours or extensions to this cruise in KwaZulu-Natal, detailed below.
The IOC Congress from 14-20 August 2022 is coming to South Africa, specifically Durban, and we’re offering the same pre-tours and extensions in the Western Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal as we’re offering for Flock to Marion. The KwaZulu-Natal tours are shown below and the Cape tours are shown here.
Birding Ecotours is offering two pre-flock and two pre-congress (the latter also available as extensions) terrestrial birding tours targeting KwaZulu-Natal and Drakensberg endemics and specials, a 5-day tour around Zululand followed by a 3-day tour to the Drakensberg. If you join both trips you’ll basically have birded the area for most of its important specials, but you can also join either tour as a stand-alone trip. These are conservation trips, and we donate a percentage per trip to BirdLife South Africa for their conservation work; the percentage increases as the number of tour participants increases.
We are also running bird-photography-based versions of these same tours; when booking please specify if your emphasis is on photography and we’ll add you to that group.
Price R13800 per person, assuming 5-8 paying participants (there will be a surcharge for smaller groups), single supplement R2800
Day 1. Durban to Dlinza, Ongoye, and Mtunzini, overnight Eshowe
We will collect you between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. from wherever you’re staying in Durban, then transfer to Eshowe. We will begin at Dlinza Forest, an incredibly exciting mid-altitude birding forest. We’ll be looking for such star birds as Spotted Ground Thrush and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon. Other targets include Red-backed Mannikin, Green Twinspot, Yellow-rumped and Red-fronted Tinkerbirds, Grey Cuckooshrike, Trumpeter Hornbill, Ashy Flycatcher, White-eared Barbet, and Narina Trogon. The forest is a great spot for the diminutive Blue Duiker.
Spotted Ground Thrush
From here we transfer to the fabled Ongoye Forest, looking for Striped Pipit en route. The prime target here is Green Barbet, a subspecies (“Woodward’s Barbet”) occurring only in this forest and disjunctively on the Rondo Plateau in southeastern Tanzania, but we will also pursue African Emerald Cuckoo, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, and Yellow-streaked Greenbul. Occasionally Black-rumped Buttonquail flushes from the lush rolling grasslands surrounding the forest, and we will search for Fan-tailed Grassbird (Broad-tailed Warbler).
We’ll also visit humid coastal areas such as Amatikulu Nature Reserve and the Raffia Palm Monument near Mtunzini. Here we hope to find species such as Palm-nut Vulture, Swamp Nightjar, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, Red-backed Mannikin, and a host of others.
Day 2. Dlinza to St Lucia, estuary, night drive, overnight St Lucia
We head northward to the wild town of St Lucia, where we’ll spend a further two nights. Here Hippopotamus sometimes roams the streets at night and Thick-tailed Greater Galago (Bushbaby) makes its loud call at night from trees lining the main road.
Stopping on the St Lucia bridge we search for Eastern Golden and Southern Brown-throated Weavers and perhaps Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. We’ll spend time birding the forest patches around the village, searching for the endemic Rudd’s Apalis, Brown Scrub Robin, and Woodward’s Batis. We expect to find such amazing birds as the magnificent Livingstone’s Turaco, Purple-banded Sunbird, Green Malkoha, Crested Guineafowl, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Southern Yellow White-eye, and perhaps Buff-spotted Flufftail (of course more easily heard than seen, but this is one of the better areas to get visuals on this mega-skulker).
We will take an afternoon trip to St Lucia Estuary to search for waterbirds such as Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, Yellow-billed Stork, Pied Avocet, Caspian Tern, and Hottentot Teal. This site is a hotspot for vagrants, and with good fortune we might tick a vagrant tern or wader.
In the evening we will take a night drive along the Eastern Shores of St Lucia in an open safari vehicle, using spot lights; this is great for mammal viewing including Common Reedbuck, Waterbuck, African Buffalo, the legendary Aardvark (rarely), Serval, and Hippopotamus (feeding on land), with chances of Water Thick-knee and Swamp Nightjar.
Day 3. Eastern Shores of St Lucia, overnight St Lucia
An early morning departure takes us up the Eastern Shores. This part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an unforgettable experience for its scenery, habitats, and biota. In most austral summers the pans offer chances of great species such as Collared Pratincole, Fulvous Duck, Senegal Lapwing, White-backed Duck, Rufous-winged Cisticola, and Lesser Jacana. This is the best place in southern Africa to search for Southern Banded Snake Eagle and its more common relative. Brown Snake Eagle.
We progress through wonderful countryside of coastal grasslands interlaced with freshwater pans to the dune forests on 200-meter-high sand dunes. Here Red Duiker, Bushbuck, and Samango Monkey are common. These forests also host east coast specials such as Green Twinspot, Woodward’s Batis, Rudd’s Apalis, and Green Malkoha.
At night we will search the surrounding forests for Thick-tailed Greater Galago (Bushbaby) and African Wood Owl.
Day 4. St Lucia to Mkhuze, overnight Msunduze
An early morning departure from St Lucia takes us to False Bay Park, another part of the extensive iSimangaliso Wetland Park, searching en route for the localized endemic Lemon-breasted Canary. We hope to get to False Bay Park early to search for a rich trove of species. There is the iconic African Broadbill, the endemic and stunningly pretty Pink-throated Twinspot, the endemic Neergaard’s Sunbird, and a swathe of other species such as White-throated Robin-Chat, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Grey Sunbird, Eastern Nicator, Pale Flycatcher, and Bearded Scrub Robin.
In the afternoon we visit a nearby wetland area to add to the waterbirds on our list and perhaps find Broad-billed Roller.
We proceed to our Msunduze overnight site set among fever trees.
Day 5. Mkhuze Game Reserve, return to Durban
Again we have a very early start and head to Mkhuze Game Reserve. Mkhuze is a mega-diverse part of the world, and our bird list should also include a spectacular number of more common bushveld birds in addition to the very localized species which are our main targets. Here too a range of mammal species can be enjoyed, including Nyala and the rarely seen Suni.
At Mkhuze we can find the endemic Neergaard’s Sunbird, but there is also a rich haul of species such as Pink-throated Twinspot, Crested Guineafowl, Eastern Nicator, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Woodland Kingfisher, Bearded Woodpecker, Burnt-neck Eremomela, and Black-bellied Bustard.
The wetland shelter Goliath Heron, African Pygmy Goose, African Openbill, Lesser Jacana, and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.
We will leave after midday to reach Durban around 6 p.m.
Price R5800 per person, assuming 5-8 paying participants (there will be a surcharge for smaller groups), single supplement R1400
Special requirements are passport and a warm jacket/waterproof in case of bad weather in the highlands. We’ll fetch you from Durban and transfer through the Natal Midlands to Himeville (gateway to the Sani Pass), where you will spend two nights. Within two days you’ll ascend from sea level to over 3000 meters.
Day 1. Durban to Himeville, overnight Himeville
After collection we drive to the midlands, passing through the forest to an arboretum. As we pass through grassland areas we have the chance of seeing Blue, Grey Crowned, and Wattled Cranes. Long-tailed Widowbird is common, while hillsides provide a chance for Buff-streaked Chat and Wailing Cisticola. A forest patch gives an opportunity for Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Knysna Turaco, Olive Woodpecker, Forest Canary, and Olive Bushshrike. At the arboretum we will search for Orange Ground Thrush (the best place in South Africa to search for this elusive species) and Lemon Dove.
Day 2. Sani Pass and Lesotho, overnight Himeville
An early start will take us up South Africa’s most spectacular pass, the Sani Pass. It is one of the world’s most exciting birding routes, which provides opportunities for four of the most-restricted-range species in Southern Africa: Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Mountain Pipit, and Bearded Vulture.
We begin at wetlands close to Himeville, looking for Half-collared Kingfisher and African Yellow Warbler. We will stop for Bush Blackcap, Drakensberg Prinia, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Red-throated Wryneck, Brown-backed Honeyguide, and other denizens of the lower reaches of this pass. Higher up the vegetation changes from Ouhout thickets to Protea savanna and grassland, where Ground Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, and the superb Malachite Sunbird are quite common. Depending on early summer rains and burning, there is a chance of Fan-tailed Grassbird and the very difficult Short-tailed Pipit.
As we go higher we will search for Barratt’s Warbler, the Sani Pass being one of the best places to find this species. Higher altitudes above the treeline, just before reaching the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho, are perhaps the most exciting part, as the charismatic Drakensberg Rockjumper and Drakensberg Siskin start putting in an appearance. As we cross the border into Lesotho we earnestly start looking for the truly magnificent Bearded Vulture, along with Sentinel Rock Thrush and Mountain Pipit. Several Karroo species reach the north-eastern edge of their range here, including Grey Tit, Fairy Flycatcher, African Rock Pipit and Layard’s Warbler. At any altitude we could encounter the beautiful, scarce, and localized Southern Bald Ibis.
We return to Himeville for the night.
Southern Bald Ibis
Day 3. Natal Midland forests and grasslands, return to Durban
Another early start takes us to another forest, where we target Cape Parrot and also White-starred Robin and Chorister Robin-Chat. Careful searching may produce Olive Bushshrike, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, and even Lazy Cisticola on the edge. And with luck, perhaps, we’ll see African Goshawk or Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk overheard.
We continue to Highover Wildlife Sanctuary to try for the rare Blue Swallow and other cryptic and difficult species. In the grasslands we will search for Black-rumped Buttonquail, Fan-tailed Grassbird, and Black-winged Lapwing, as always dependent on conditions. Other sightings might include Pale-crowned Cisticola or Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk overhead.
We then proceed back to Durban, where we’ll arrive at around 6 p.m.
Just a quick note today to let you know that mom (Eleanor) and I had a fantastic day with Dylan. First of all it was a great comfort to meet someone at the airport from the area who knows how to go about things. Dylan provided us with a splendid introduction day to the common bird families and antelope (plus a mongoose) at Rietvlie which was exactly what we needed after being cooped up on a plane for so long! He also capably described things about each family and then the species we were seeing. What surprised me was how knowledgeable he is about other species around the world which makes it easy for him to relate to our knowledge base. We had a splendid day talking about all sorts of things. You guys are doing everything right -Bravo! Your website came up first in a Google search and it’s very inviting which encourages an inquiry. Chris, you got back to me right away, and Dylan followed up with answers and then read perfectly what we needed. Thank you so much! I will most definitely recommend you to anyone coming to this part of Africa. Keep up the good work! Dylan, thank you! I look forward to coming back some day
Kim Hartquist, Rochester, New York, USA
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