Photo and Birding Tour South Africa: Western Cape, with extension to Kruger National Park September 2019

Tour Details

Duration: 11 days
Group Size: 4 – 7
Date Start: September 01, 2019
Date End: September 11, 2019
Tour Start: Cape Town
Tour End: George

Photo tours are slightly more expensive than equivalent non-photographic birding tours because we keep more empty seats in the vehicle — for camera gear.

The dates for the Kruger National Park extension are September 11 – 15 2019.

Tour Costs

Price: Main tour: R54,607 / $4,066 / £3,220 / €3,575 per person sharing; Kruger National Park extension: R29,040 / $2,162 / £1,713 / €1,902

Single Supplement: Main tour: R8,667 / $646 / £511 / €568, Kruger National Park extension: R4,784 / $356 / £282 / €313

* 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.



Price includes:

Meals
Accommodation
Entrance fees
Guiding fees
All transport while on tour
Bottled water through the entire tour

Price excludes:
All flights
Flight George – Kruger for the extension
Personal insurance
Drinks
Tips
Laundry
Personal expenses such as gifts

Dominic's BioDominic's Bio

South Africa Birding Photo Tour – Western Cape, with Kruger NP  extension 2019

South Africa’s Western Cape Province is scenically stunningly beautiful and hugely varied – from rocky sea cliffs and impressive mountains rising straight out of the sea to everything from moist temperate forests through to semi-desert, peaceful lakes, and a great deal more.

We begin our Cape birding photo tour in one of the world’s most scenically spectacular cities, Cape Town. The growth of this city is constrained by imposing geographical features – Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, and of course the sea – the whole of Cape Town is on a stunning-looking peninsula that was once an island. The Cape Peninsula is full of localized endemics restricted to the world’s most plant-diverse floral kingdom, the Fynbos Biome (which has more plant species per unit area than even the Amazon). Some of these endemic birds restricted to the fynbos biome are dazzling; they include the likes of Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird with its incredibly long tail, and many others. The nearby False Bay coast hosts one of the Cape’s most sought-after birds, the charismatic Cape Rockjumper – along with Cape Rock Thrush, Sentinel Rock Thrush, and many others. We’ll also look for seabirds, such as African Penguin, Cape Gannet, and more. The Cape is also famed for whale watching – southern right whales in particular come very close inshore (seasonal).

After a few days around Cape Town itself we head up the West Coast, which is much drier and has a whole new suite of birds (and other wildlife) we will try to photograph. In the West Coast National Park and other great sites we hope to encounter Common Ostrich, Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Penduline Tit, Grey-winged Francolin, and other stunning (and often very localized) birds. We will also look for new mammals, such as the West Coast endemic Heaviside’s dolphin, strange rock hyrax (which looks like a large rodent but is more closely related to elephants!), and others.

We then head inland to the Karoo semi-desert. This area has even more endemics than the Cape Peninsula (fynbos biome), and we will look and try and photograph various larks, Black-headed Canary and other canaries, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, and all the others. There is also a chance of encountering some great mammals, which could even include something like a caracal or an aardvark (both these require a huge dose of luck!).

Eventually we head back to the coast – but this time the East Coast. After crossing imposing mountain ranges, which form rain-shadows that actually create the semi-desert we will have just spent time in, we fairly abruptly find ourselves in a different world in amazing contrast to the arid Karoo – here we see green forests and beautiful lakes. This is the Garden Route – an idyllic area you truly will not want to leave. You could spend two weeks just here, photographing birds and other wildlife, and of course the stunning scenery. However, the aim of this tour is to introduce you to the diverse habitats of the entire Western Cape Province. We do this at a pace suited to wildlife photography, though, and rush around a bit less than on a standard birding tour.

En route to the Garden Route, in the Agulhas Plains, we have a great chance at finding the fine-looking Cape mountain zebra, striking bontebok, and many wondrous birds such as Secretarybird, White Stork, Denham’s Bustard, loads of Blue Crane (South Africa’s stunning national bird), some localized endemics such as Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Southern Tchagra – and, as always, loads more.

In the Garden Route itself we’ll probably find the jewel-like Half-collared Kingfisher, the gorgeous (there is no better word for it) Knysna Turaco with its green body and scarlet underwings, and a rich diversity of other birds – plus some nice mammals, as always.

You can either fly or drive (5 hours) back to Cape Town from the Garden Route, or you can fly from the Garden Route to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport for a 5-day extension to one of Africa’s greatest game parks, the Kruger National Park. Here we have a good chance at photographing the “Big Five”, as well as a host of other, smaller mammals. Kruger is one of the richest national parks for mammals on the entire African continent. What’s more, it also has over 500 bird species, most of which are extremely easy to see in the dry woodlands and savanna – you will see multiple species of brightly colored and spectacular rollers, bee-eaters, storks, eagles, vultures, hornbills, and more.

 

Itinerary (11 days/10 nights)

Day 1. Cape Peninsula

Birding photography

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 2. Cape Peninsula

Birding photography.

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 3. Cape Peninsula

Birding photography.

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 4. West Coast National Park

Drive one hour north of Cape Town to the West Coast National Park area, birding photography.

Overnight: Le Mahi Guest House, Langebaan

Day 5. Tankwa Karoo

Scenic drive (3 hours) inland, birding photography.

Overnight: Village B&B, Ceres, or Tanqua B&B, Route 355

Day 6. Tankwa Karoo

Spend a full day in the Tankwa Karoo semi-desert, which is full of localized birds found nowhere else in the world.

Overnight: Village B&B, Ceres, or Tanqua B&B, Route 355

Day 7. Agulhas Plains

A 3.5-hour drive to the east, birding photography.

Overnight: Pride of Africa B&B, Agulhas

Day 8. Agulhas Plains

Birding photography.

Overnight: Pride of Africa B&B, Agulhas

Day 9. Garden Route

A 2.5-hour drive further east, birding photography

Overnight: Wilderness Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, Garden Route National Park

Day 10. Garden Route

Birding photography.

Overnight: Wilderness Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, Garden Route National Park

Day 11. Departure

A 20-minute drive to George airport for a flight back to Cape Town, or a 5-hour drive back to Cape Town, or a flight to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport for the Kruger National Park extension.

 

Kruger National Park extension

 

(Day 1 of the extension is the same as Day 11 of the main tour.)

Days 11 – 15.  Kruger National Park

A few days photographing Africa’s “Big Five” as well as small animals and a host of birds – many of them extremely photogenic (spectacular, large, and tame – e.g. hornbills, barbets, storks, birds of prey, etc.).

Overnight: Rest camps, Kruger National Park

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.

Download Itinerary

Diane and I participated in an amazing 12 day Western Cape Bird watching tour through Birding Ecotours in the fall of 2011 with Mark Harrington as our driver/guide. Mark was a very pleasant, good humoured, knowledgeable guide whose knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Western Cape area was outstanding. He was able to identify all of the birds we saw very quickly and took the time to make sure that all of our group was able to clearly see and identify each new bird or animal. As well his knowledge of the cultural history of
South Africa made the trip an excellent learning experience for both of us. He was able to smooth over any rough patches in the tour and made all of us feel special. We hope that in the future that he can be our guide again.

Otto Peter — Canada

Important explanation about the default vehicles we use on our southern African tours:

Whereas the standard birding-tour vehicle in East Africa is the popup-roof stretch Land Cruiser, in southern Africa these are extremely rare and not usually legal except within some parks. Open safari vehicles, on the other hand, are commonly seen in southern African parks but can’t be used outside the parks, and they are extremely unpleasant to be in when the weather is bad even inside the parks. The only tried-and-tested tour vehicle available in southern Africa that allows us to cover the ground we need so we can find the greatest diversity of birds (and other wildlife), and which is comfortable in all weather, is legal, has proper air conditioning, and does not make the overall tour price exorbitant, is the 13-seater Toyota Quantum when we have 6-8 (rarely 9) tour participants (or similar 7-10-seater vans when we have smaller group sizes). In areas where we are not restricted to the vehicle during the tour (such as in the Cape) we usually use unmodified standard Quantum vans – everyone gets out of the vehicle when we see a good bird or animal. In areas in which we are at times restricted to the vehicle because of the presence of dangerous megafauna including lions, elephants, and more (such as the Kruger National Park) we typically use a Quantum van with modified windows for better viewing of birds and other wildlife. In Kruger (and sometimes in Etosha) National Parks we usually do include a day or two in open safari vehicles as part of the tour price. Optional night drives (at nominal cost) in open safari vehicles are available at most southern African parks (including Kruger) for those who have less of a focused interest in birds (as these are operated by the park’s guides, who usually focus mainly on the “Big 5”). You can speak to the tour leader about joining these night drives, but in our experience some tour participants prefer not to join them, and hence we leave them as an optional extra for those willing to pay a (small/nominal) extra fee.

Even the tried-and-tested Toyota Quantum (or similar) vans we use fall far short of being ideal (small windows that are quite low, etc.), and we truly wish there were something better available without breaking the bank. But we use the best available vehicles, and we ensure that everyone has a fair turn in and near the front of the vehicle – we typically swap seating positions daily, but in the parks we can swap positions four times a day as necessary. The vehicles we use are by far the best vehicles available at a reasonable price. All the birding tour companies use the same vans unless their tours have a narrow focus just around Kruger/nearby or another park. It’s a big problem in South Africa that the East African style safari vehicles are, simply, unavailable, except for a handful of very old, shaky ones (and usually in East Africa they don’t have air conditioning anyway, are extremely slow between sites, and, in short, have a different suite of disadvantages). We use the very best vehicles we can without making our trips much more expensive than anyone else’s, but we also feel we have to be clear about what to expect before the tour, hence this note. If you are worried about the vehicle then please:

  • kindly ask further questions (before booking the tour)
  • consider a private tour which will be a lot more pricey, but since you’re not sharing with other tour participants you can always sit at a large window. If a whole group wishes to upgrade a tour and is willing to pay a large extra price, if given enough notice we are able to rent a very special vehicle – the cost is extremely high so the tour becomes a premium, rather than a standard, tour.

While we generally allow a window seat for every passenger and like to have at least a couple of free seats available for birding gear etc., it’s better to ask us about the specific tour to be sure what is the case. For photography trips the per-person price is higher because we leave more empty seats available as more tour participants have bulky camera gear!

It is our philosophy only to have one vehicle per tour as it invariably gets very frustrating when one vehicle sees a bird or animal and the other vehicle misses it! And our group sizes are small – maximum of eight (rarely nine). The tour prices would be very high and uncompetitive if we had a second vehicle and driver-guide with twice the guide’s accommodation, food, fuel and toll costs, considering the small group sizes on our tours. Again, if you request a private tour, we can take two or even three vehicles or absolutely whatever you request – a private tour is different. (It is illegal for us to have any person without a local driver’s license and professional driving permit to drive passengers who are paying to be on a tour, so we can’t even suggest that a tour participant drives a second vehicle to allow more space and window seats).

Western Cape and Subtropical South Africa Trip report March 2017

This is a sample trip report. Please email us (info@birdingecotours.com) for more trip reports from this destination.