South Africa Birding Tours

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South Africa (officially the Republic of South Africa or RSA) is arguably the best value destination on the entire continent. The outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, excellent food, wonderful South African hospitality, spectacular and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most pleasant countries in the world to bird in.

As of April 2020, South Africa recognizes 870 bird species (this bird count includes eight species occurring only on the Prince Edward Islands, which are two remote sub-Antarctic Islands belonging to South Africa comprised of Prince Edward Island and the larger Marion Island). The list grows most years as new species get reported. More details of the official South African bird list can be found in our blog on this topic.

While a list of 870 species is moderate compared to, say, Uganda or South American and south-east Asian countries, it’s partly the ease with which these species are seen and the fact that so many of them are dazzlingly plumaged and spectacular that make South Africa so productive as a birding destination. We often used to see well over 500 bird species in three weeks when combining our 1-week Western Cape (think African Penguin, Blue Crane and Cape Sugarbird!) birding tour with our classic 2-week subtropical South Africa birding tour (although we’ve extended this to make it 18 days long now, so as to see even more species and to enjoy the big and small African mammals more). Additionally we also include a boat trip off Cape Town for some pelagic birding, where you can expect high densities of amazing seabirds!

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And, very importantly, South Africa boasts more endemic and near-endemic bird species than any other mainland African country, even more so if the two tiny countries practically contained within its borders (Swaziland – now called Eswatini – and Lesotho) are included. Certain species, such as Drakensberg Rockjumper, are actually found largely in Lesotho and adjacent parts of South Africa (basically the greater Drakensberg area). A lot more about these South African endemic birds is detailed in our South African endemics blog. Our birding tours are of course designed so that you can see the endemics, but we don’t ignore all the other more widespread species. Many of the localized birds and endemics lurk in the Western Cape, the Karoo, Bushmanland, the Drakensberg and Lesotho, and the Zululand coastal belt (these latter species, including Pink-throated Twinspot, also occur in southern Mozambique).

South Africa is a magnificently scenic country. The Great Escarpment, formed mainly by the Drakensberg in the east and the Karoo escarpment in the west, can be immensely spectacular in places. Much of the central parts of the country, including the largest city (Johannesburg), occupy the high-altitude plateau. The coastal plain is generally narrow. Many of the country’s evergreen forests are along this coastal plain or on the eastern escarpment, and there are also some very interesting (from an avian point of view) forest patches in the rolling hills of the Natal Midlands.

South Africa’s climate is mild overall, partly because it’s mainly a temperate country (only the extreme north makes it into the tropics) and partly because the bulk of the country is widespread. The “lowveld” and Zululand do get hot and humid, though, but these are some of the most bird-rich and mammal-rich areas.

South Africa has an incredible diversity of wildlife apart from birds. Due to the large numbers of game reserves it is one of the best countries for African megafauna (including the “Big 5”), but it also hosts a bunch of brilliant smaller mammals. Aardvark is relatively easily seen on our tough-mammals trip to the Kalahari, along with some smaller cats, including Black-footed Cat if you’re lucky. Zululand has Nyala, Suni, and other less-widespread and common mammals.

Are you ready to choose your next South Africa birding tour? Please browse the many birding holidays that we have available for small groups. Or contact our team for more information on our custom tours – which can be created to cater for your tastes and requirements!

Looking for day tours in South Africa? Visit our South Africa Day Tours page. We can run the day tours as birding photo tours as well.

South Africa: Mammal and Birding – The Kalahari September/October 2021/2022/2023

South Africa: Mammal and Birding – The Kalahari September/October 2021/2022/2023

The vast Kalahari area is semi-desert, where some very tough African mammals can be found relatively easily. Moreover, it has a lot of mammals (notably...

South Africa: Flock to Marion and IOCongress – KwaZulu-Natal Pre-tours and Extensions January/August 2022

South Africa: Flock to Marion and IOCongress – KwaZulu-Natal Pre-tours and Extensions January/August 2022

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

South Africa: Flock to Marion and IOCongress – Cape Extensions February/August 2022

South Africa: Flock to Marion and IOCongress – Cape Extensions February/August 2022

Birding Ecotours is offering a series of 1-day and 3-day post-flock and post-congress terrestrial birding trips targeting Cape endemics and specials.

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Testimonials from our tours

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 PeterCanada