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 for a birding safari.

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, making it a perfect destination for your African safari. 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.

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Testimonials from our South African birding tours

“Our guide, Dominic Rollinson, was exceptional in every way. Of course, he had an unbelievable knowledge of where and how to find the birds. Additionally, he was a real pleasure to be with. He was happy to answer any question and his knowledge of South Africa really enhanced our experience. The itinerary was thoughtfully planned and we were able to see a huge variety of birds. The accommodations he choose were comfortable and interesting and the food was consistently delicious. We can't say enough good things about Dom and the trip!”

Wendy and Karen

“In the fall 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

“Birding Ecotours company and SA office staff
I can highly recommend booking a trip through Birding Ecotours South Africa. The Birding Ecotours staff is professional, the e-mail responses fast and all questions receive detail replies. Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours forwarded excellent advice to me on how to start world birding, which countries to visit in order to find a high number of birds over a short period and which bird book(s) to use for a country. Birding Ecotours’ newsletters provide further information on upcoming trips, details on areas (e.g. East African birding), on target birds per trip, as well as regarding birding books available for countries or areas. Trip reports (forwarded upon request) allow one to mentally prepare regarding number of possible birds, endemics per country and difficulty or travel time of a trip. The Birding Ecotours’ Facebook postings include snippets from current trips with photos as well as spaces available on future trips. The single supplement for Birding Ecotours’ trips is in most cases lower than other tour companies, which makes for safe as well as affordable travelling.”

Lisl

“We chose the 2-day Tankwa Karoo birding trip and had an incredible time. I think we saw just short of 90 different species over the 2 days, including many new species for our bird book, which would have taken us years to find without Dom. It was an incredible experience and Dom’s ability to find birds just by their call is something to marvel at.”

Ashleigh

“Dylan is one of the word's top African guides. I would recommend him to others and, having been with him on several trips, would not hesitate to go with him again.”

Jay

“I was really happy to hear that Dylan would be my guide again, on this tour, which was my second with Birding Ecotours. I was not disappointed. Not only is he an excellent guide, he is also really personable and easy to get along with. I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone interested in the Birding Ecotours trips.”

Alma