Photo and Birding Tour South Africa: Western Cape, and Kruger National Park extension September 2020/2021

Upcoming Tours:

 

(Click on the + or on the date for prices )

01 - 11 September 2020

Tour Costs

Price: Main tour: R57,337/ $3,952 / £3,042 / €3,637 per person sharing; Kruger National Park extension: R30,492 / $2,102 / £1,618 / €1,934

Single Supplement: Main tour: R9,100 / $627 / £483 / €578, Kruger National Park extension: R5,023 / $347 / £267 / €318

* 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.

01 - 11 September 2021

Tour Costs

Price: Main tour: R60,204 / $4,151 / £3,194 / €3,820 per person sharing; Kruger National Park extension: R32,017 / $2,207 / £1,699 / €2,031

Single Supplement: Main tour: R9,555 / $658 / £507 / €606, Kruger National Park extension: R5,274 / $363 / £280 / €335

* 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.

Tour Details

Duration: 11 days
Group Size: 4 – 7
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.

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 (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Laundry
Personal expenses such as gifts

Dominic's BioDominic's Bio

South Africa Birding Photo Tour – Western Cape, and Kruger National Park  extension September 2020/2021

 

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 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 to 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, the 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 for and try to 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 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 in which we will have just spent time, 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 one of our standard birding tours.

En route to the Garden Route, in the Agulhas Plains, we have a great chance at finding the fine-looking Cape Mountain Zebra, the striking Bontebok, and many wondrous birds such as Secretarybird, White Stork, Denham’s Bustard, loads of Blue Cranes (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 at 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

Depending on arrival times today we should have some time to enjoy some late-afternoon photography in the golden light. We will probably pop down to Boulders Beach and visit the African Penguin colony, where we should also come across Cape and Crowned Cormorant, African Oystercatcher, and perhaps a few terrestrial species in the nearby scrub.

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 2. Hottentots Holland and False Bay

Today we will spend the day to the east of Cape Town in the Hottentots Holland mountains, where we will be targeting a number of Cape endemics. The drive from Simon’s Town is a spectacular one; the route straddles the coastline with dramatic fold mountains on the opposite side. During the drive we may get lucky with sightings of whales in False Bay, including Bryde’s and Southern Right Whales.

Our first stop will be at the quaint coastal town of Rooi Els, where we will search the rocky mountain slopes for Cape Rockjumper. Other important birds to look for on the mountain slopes include Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes, Cape Siskin, Ground Woodpecker, and perhaps Verreaux’s Eagle overhead. The thicker fynbos nearby will be searched for Cape Sugarbird (frequently posing on top of Protea flowers), Orange-breasted and Malachite Sunbirds, Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, and Karoo Prinia.

We will then head around the corner to Betty’s Bay to explore the beautiful Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. Here the birds are often very approachable, allowing for great photographic opportunities. Sunbirds abound in these gardens, including Amethyst, Southern Double-collared, Orange-breasted and Malachite. We should also have the opportunity to become acquainted with Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat, and Fiscal Flycatcher.

After enjoying lunch in the gardens we will head to the rocky coast at Stony Point to visit another African Penguin colony; however, the target here will be Bank Cormorant. Four species of marine cormorant breed here (Bank, Crowned, Cape, and White-breasted Cormorants) and often give you a chance to photograph them as they fly back and forth feeding chicks or constructing nests.

If time allows, we will pop into Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary on our way back to Simon’s Town. This area represents the best wetland birding around Cape Town, and we will aim to photograph flying Flamingos (both Lesser and Greater) in the golden afternoon light with Table Mountain and the Hottentots Hollands Mountains serving as beautiful backdrops. Other waterbirds to be enjoyed here include South African Shelduck, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, and many other common aquatic species. If we run out of time this afternoon we can head back here the following day.

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 3. Cape Peninsula

Today will be spent birding and photographing on the Cape Peninsula. We will start the morning by heading south to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where we will visit the most southwesterly point of the African continent. The views of False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are truly impressive, and from here we can also enjoy Cape Cormorants nesting on the cliffs below us along with the odd Peregrine Falcon. We may do a sea watch for various seabird species from the cliffs, when we should be able to pick out Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, and perhaps an albatross or two! Around the reserve we will also keep a lookout for Cape Grassbird, Cape Siskin, Cape Bunting, and Fiscal Flycatcher. Common Eland, Africa’s largest antelope, should be encountered during our time in the reserve as well as good numbers of Common Ostrich.

In the afternoon we will head to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, where we will wander around the picturesque gardens with Table Mountain serving as a stunning backdrop. In the gardens we should find African Olive Pigeon, Cape Bulbul, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape, Brimstone, and Forest Canaries, and the tiny and colorful Swee Waxbill.

Overnight: Mariner Guest House, Simon’s Town

Day 4. West Coast National Park

After a few great days around Cape Town we will head to the scenic west coast to look for a different suite of birds occurring in the strandveld vegetation. We’ll start with some farmland birding around Darling in the glorious early-morning light. Hopefully Blue Cranes will pose for us while European Bee-eaters in their small colony here are often a little more edgy. We’ll search the adjacent strandveld for Cape Clapper Lark, Grey-backed Cisticola, Southern Black Korhaan, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Cloud Cisticola, and Pearl-breasted Swallow. The wheat fields are normally alive with birds, and we can expect to also find Pied Starling, Yellow Canary, African Hoopoe, Red-capped Lark, and Capped Wheatear.

Next we will head farther north along the coast to West Coast National Park. We will try to time it right so that we arrive at the Langebaan Lagoon at a time when the shorebirds are close to the various hides on the lagoon. Here we can expect to see thousands of Palearctic shorebirds, which should still be showing some breeding plumage at this time of year. Species to look for include Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Grey and Common Ringed Plovers, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, and occasionally Terek Sandpiper. Of the resident shorebirds we should find White-fronted, Kittlitz’s, Three-banded, and Chestnut-banded Plovers.

The strandveld throughout the park will be explored for Grey Tit, Long-billed Crombec, Chestnut-vented Warbler, White-backed Mousebird, Bokmakierie, Cape Penduline Tit, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Weaver, and our most important target, the graceful Black Harrier.

After leaving the park and before checking into our accommodation in Langebaan we should have time to look for the resident pair of Verreaux’s Eagles just outside of town (if we run out of time today, we will ensure that we try the next morning).

Overnight: Le Mahi Guest House, Langebaan

Day 5. West Coast and Tankwa Karoo

This morning we will leave early to explore the farmlands north of Langebaan. Some of the specials we’ll look for here include Blue Crane, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cape Long-billed and Large-billed Larks, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Sickle-winged and Ant-eating Chats, and perhaps Lanner Falcon.

After a great morning’s birding we will stop at a nearby salt works to try improve our photos of Chestnut-banded Plover as well as Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Black-necked Grebe, Red-necked Phalarope, and other shorebirds. Heading farther inland (approximately a three-hours’ drive) we will travel through some spectacular mountain passes before eventually dropping back down into the vast, dry plains of the Tankwa Karoo, where we will be based for the next two nights.

Overnight: Tanqua B&B, Route 355

Day 6. Tankwa Karoo

The Tankwa Karoo is an endemism hotspot with many of the species we will encounter here being restricted to these endless and seemingly barren plains. Looks, however can certainly be deceiving, as we will spend the day hunting down many of these Karoo-adapted specials. The open plains will be searched for Karoo Korhaan, Karoo Eremomela, Burchell’s Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Greater Kestrel, Black-eared Sparrow-Lark (highly nomadic), Tractrac and Karoo Chats, Rufous-eared Warbler, and a host of lark species including Karoo Long-billed, Karoo, Spike-heeled, Large-billed, and Red-capped Larks. In the dry river beds we should be able to find Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Pririt Batis, Dusky Sunbird, and Acacia Pied Barbet. We will also spend some time exploring rocky outcrops, where Cinnamon-breasted Warbler will be our primary target along with Layard’s Warbler, Pale-winged Starling, and perhaps even Black-headed Canary. In the evening we will take a night drive to look for Freckled and Rufous-cheeked Nightjars and perhaps some of the Karoo’s rarer nocturnal mammals.

Overnight: Tanqua B&B, Route 355

Day 7. Agulhas Plains

After some early-morning photography in the Tankwa Karoo we will leave the dry plains and head southeast to the Agulhas area, where we will have two nights before continuing further east. The drive (roughly 3.5 hours) is another picturesque one as we make our way through the Cape Fold Mountains. We will keep a lookout for Ground Woodpecker and Verreaux’s Eagle during the drive. Then we will spend some time birding the wheat fields in the Agulhas area, which are good areas for Denham’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Cape Crow, Cape Long-billed Lark, and Blue Cranes (usually in large numbers).

Overnight: De Hoop Collection, De Hoop National Park

Day 8. Agulhas Plains

We will visit the beautiful De Hoop National Park, which has good numbers of antelope and some great birding too. Common Eland, Bontebok, and Cape Mountain Zebra are normally seen easily and can be quite confiding. Top birds to look out for include Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Secretarybird, and Black Cuckooshrike. We will visit some impressive dunes that overlook the Indian Ocean, where we should see Southern Right Whales, which come to this stretch of the coastline to calf in winter and spring. We may also get views of Cape Vulture, which has a large breeding colony nearby.

Overnight: De Hoop Collection, De Hoop National Park

Day 9. Garden Route

We’ll take advantage of the morning light to try to improve on photos from the last couple of days before we drive (roughly three hours) further east to the forests and wetlands of Wilderness. En route we will keep a lookout for Forest Buzzard, which is sometimes seen perched on roadside pylons. We should have time this afternoon to visit one of the many wetlands in the area, where we could find African Snipe, African Fish Eagle, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, and other waterbird species. We may also see small groups of Red-necked Spurfowls feeding on the roadside.

Overnight: Kingfisher Country House, Wilderness

Day 10. Garden Route

Today we will spend time among the various wetlands and forests in the Wilderness area. We will probably start the day at few wetlands, where we may get lucky with sightings of the elusive duo of Red-chested Flufftail and African Rail. We will then walk a few trails through beautiful forest along the Touws River. This will be our first bit of true forest birding on the trip, and there should be many new birds to find. The skulking Knysna Warbler will be searched for in thick tangles of undergrowth, while we could even get incredibly lucky with a sighting of Buff-spotted Flufftail, although it puts Knysna Warbler to shame with its ability to remain hidden. Other forest species to look out for include Back-backed Puffback, Black-headed Oriole, Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Green-backed Camaroptera, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-bellied Starling, Green Wood Hoopoe, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, and possibly the most beautiful of them all, Knysna Turaco. In the evenings we may get lucky with sightings of African Wood Owl.

Overnight: Kingfisher Country House, Wilderness

Day 11. Departure

Depending on flight times this morning we may have time for some last-minute forest birding, targeting anything we may have missed over the last couple of days. George Airport is only a 20-minute drive from Wilderness, where you can take a flight or a five-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

This extension offers a few days of photographing Africa’s “Big Five” as well as small animals and a host of birds – many of them extremely photogenic. Of the big and obvious species we will look for Kori Bustard, Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Saddle-billed Stork, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Southern Ground Hornbill, and Lappet-faced Vulture, while the smaller, more colorful species include Greater Blue-eared Starling, Lilac-breasted Roller, Grey-headed Bushshrike, White-browed Robin-Chat, and a host of kingfishers, barbets, hornbills, and weavers.

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

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.