Drakensberg Rockjumper, Sani Pass
Drakensberg Rockjumper, Sani Pass


KwaZulu-Natal, The Place of the Zulu, is an unbelievably diverse province. The altitudinal variation is extreme, and in a half-day drive one can go from a sub-alpine environment where several peaks reach over 3000 meters above sea-level, right down to the warm shores of the Indian Ocean. In between there’s a transition through the green, rolling ‘Midlands’, studded with wetlands and forest patches, while to the north-east the Maputaland coastal plain becomes progressively more lush and tropical. This diversity results in a large and varied birdlife component, with species to be seen ranging from the awesome Lammergeier at 3000 meters up in the Drakensberg to the equally impressive Palm-nut Vulture foraging for fruit among the giant Raffia Palms of Mtunzini on the shores of the Indian Ocean. This tour begins in the port city of Durban, and then takes in some of the gems of the South Coast, before heading inland to the Drakensberg massif, where the undoubted highlight is a day trip up Sani pass and into Lesotho. From there the route takes us back to the coast, taking in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Sand Forests of Tembe Elephant Park, before a last stop in Wakkerstroom and an end in Johannesburg. The itinerary includes a chance to see all of the province’s specials, as well as a good range of endemics and near-endemics, and a large list of more widely-occurring species. This is a must for the more serious birder and can be combined with Eastern South Africa Highlights #2: Escarpment and Kruger (starting immediately afterwards) to create a comprehensive eastern South Africa birding experience.

16 – 29 January 2021 (13 nights / 14 days) 

Starts in Umhlanga near Durban on the morning of the 16th January 2021. Participants need to overnight in Umhlanga on the night before the tour starts. We are happy to arrange this accommodation. Tour ends in Johannesburg on the late afternoon of the 29th January 2021 in time for evening transcontinental flights. Please check with us before booking any flights.

2021: ZAR 53 320 per person sharing, ZAR 2 575 single supplement

Price may be subject to change based on factors beyond our control. 

• Accommodation
• All breakfasts and dinners
• Lunches at Tembe and on the full day up Sani Pass
• Entrance fees
• Ground transport
• Boat excursion at St Lucia
• Bottled water in Lawson’s vehicle whilst travelling
• Personalised checklists
• Specialist guide fees

• All airfares
• Travel and medical insurance
• Lunches (except at Tembe and on the Sani Pass day trip)
• All drinks
• Optional excursions where applicable
• Gratuities
• Items of a personal nature

• This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.
• The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of the possible ones we may see on the tour, however, none of these can be guaranteed even though every effort will be made where possible to locate them. A full list of possibles appears on your checklist.

*Take a day trip up Sani Pass into Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom.

*Go birding on the Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk in Eshowe.

*Do a birding / wildlife boat cruise at St Lucia.

*Experience open-vehicle birding and game viewing drives in Tembe Elephant Park.

*An incredible range of habitats covered, from the high plateau of Lesotho at over 3 000 meters / 9 840 feet above sea level to the Indian Ocean.

Group size: maximum of 12 participants, 1 guide per 6 participants.

Areas visited: Umhlanga, Port Shepstone, Sani Pass, Eshowe, St Lucia, Tembe Elephant Park, Wakkerstroom.

Expected weather conditions: the coastal regions will be hot and humid, whereas the interior at Wakkerstroom should be warm but pleasant, possibly cool during the evenings. Sani Pass has highly variable weather, as such, a warm jacket and waterproof shell is advised. Rain is a possibility this time of year.

Tour tempo: medium to medium-plus, optional mid-day breaks (advisable considering on hot days), no serious walking.

Accommodation standards: medium to medium plus; guest houses and lodges.

Birding in brief: excellent variety of habitats; a mix of coastal dune forest, Bushveld, altitudinal grassland and mountains.

Top birds: Bearded Vulture, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, Barrow’s Korhaan and Livingstone’s Turaco.

Mammal viewing: good game viewing in areas with special species such as Blue Duiker, Suni, Samango Monkey, Slogget’s Rat and Ongoye Red Squirrel. Tembe and Ndumo offer a good chance for large game such as African Elephant, Lion, African Buffalo and White Rhinoceros.

Special activities included: Boat trip on the St Lucia estuary, day trip up Sani Pass in 4 x 4 vehicles.

Other wildlife and attractions: the Lebombo Mountains, Pongola River floodplain, Nsumo Pan, iSimangaliso World Heritage Site.

Add-ons: this trip can be combined with our Eastern SA Highlights #2: Escarpment & Kruger tour, 2 – 10 February 2019, to create a comprehensive eastern South Africa birding experience. Enquire for more information.

“Leon and John were in all regards fantastic (drivers, organisation, competence, knowledge, friendly with everybody, punctuality, helpful, availability, etc).  Fantastic was as well to travel in 2 vehicles in small groups”. Henry and Suzanne Peyer, Switzerland, after Eastern SA Highlights #1 2014

Join Eastern SA Highlights #1!