South Africa Birding Safari
Drakensberg Siskin, Sani Pass

Introduction:

With the Western South Africa Birding Safari tour just completed, it’s now time to tackle the Eastern side. Note that the two back-to-back tours can be done together to form a South African Endemics mega-tour. Alternatively, they can be done as stand-alone tours.

South Africa is extremely rich in endemic birds. It’s home to 75 endemics and near-endemics. And there are two bird families that are essentially endemic. These are the Rockjumpers and the Sugarbirds. They are  shared only with the small land-locked countries of Lesotho and eSwatini. In his outstanding book, The Birder’s Guide to Africa (ISBN978-0-620-71725-0), Michael Mills rates it as the top African country in 3 out of 5 categories, and number 2 in one of the other two categories. And the large number of endemics and near-endemics play a large part in this high rating. Thus, the endemics and near-endemics are the main focus of our two endemics tours. For global birders this gives the chance to see almost all of the endemics and a large proportion of the near-endemics in one go. Now that’s a pretty awesome goal!

Areas covered:

Our eastern South Africa Birding Safari starts in Umhlanga, near the port city of Durban. From there we do Sani Pass in the Southern Drakensberg. Next up is Eshowe and Dlinza Forest. We then move on to St Lucia on the Indian Ocean coast. Heading north we visit Tembe Elephant Park. Wakkerstroom and its first-class birding is next up. And then we visit the Kruger National Park. After that it’s the misty forests of Magoebaskloof. And finally, we have a last stop in Polokwane. The tour then ends off in Johannesburg.

Accommodation:

The accommodation is of a medium-plus standard. It includes several guest houses, a tented safari lodge, national park chalets and a small hotel. Importantly, all accommodations have en-suite facilities, and are clean and comfortable.

The birding:

Endemics are the name of the game! Our South Africa birding safari covers most of the birding hot-spots of the eastern side of South Africa. These spots have been chosen on the basis of their special birds and geographic location to create a concise route. This route is designed to maximise the chances for the endemics. These endemics include: Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Bush Blackcap, Cape Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Parrot, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Blue Korhaan, Chorister Robin-Chat, Knysna Turaco, Buff-streaked Chat, African Rock Pipit, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Drakensberg Prinia and many others. Exciting near-endemics and other specials include: Blue Crane, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Vulture, Lammergeier, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Bokmakierie, Plain-backed Sunbird, African Broadbill, Secretarybird, Livingstone’s Turaco, Southern Ground Hornbill, Orange Ground Thrush, Narina Trogon, Short-clawed Lark and many others.

The mammals:

Although this is primarily a birding safari, there are plenty of mammals and other wildlife to see. For example, these include the classic African big game species such as: Elephant, African Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, South African Giraffe and Hippopotamus. In addition, one can expect to see a range of Antelope, plus some smaller species such as various Primates, Honey Badger, Black-backed Jackal, various Mongoose species and others. In addition, there’s a range of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects to be seen.

In conclusion, this South Africa Birding Safari offers the more serious birders a real chance at bagging most of the endemics of eastern South Africa. The pace is quite fast, as there’s a lot of ground to cover, so it’s not really suited to the more casual birder. But for serious birders, combining our two endemics tours offers a real chance to ‘clean up’ on South Africa’s specials.

Have a look at our Western South Africa Endemics safari. And more casual birders who would like to do a similar route have the perfect alternative in Eastern South Africa Highlights #1: Drakensberg & Zululand

20 November – 5 December 2020 (15 nights / 16 days)
19 November – 4 December 2021
18 November – 3 December 2022

Starts in Umhlanga near Durban on the first morning of the tour. Participants should ideally overnight in Umhlanga on the night before the tour starts (this cost is not included). We are happy to arrange this accommodation. Tour ends in Johannesburg on the late afternoon of the last day of the tour in time for evening transcontinental flights. Please check with us before booking any flights.

2020: ZAR 65 500 per person sharing, ZAR 7 100 single supplement
2021: ZAR 71 125 per person sharing, ZAR 7 325 single supplement
2022 prices coming soon!

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

Includes
• Accommodation
• All meals
• Ground transport
• Bottled water in Lawson’s vehicle whilst travelling
• Entrance fees
• Personalised checklists
• Specialist guide fees

Excludes
• All airfares
• Travel and medical insurance
• All drinks
• Optional excursions where applicable
• Gratuities
• Items of a personal nature

Note
• 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.

*Go on an exciting day trip up Sani Pass into Lesotho, looking for endemics such as Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Ground Woodpecker and many others.

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

*Visit the iSimangaliso (‘Place of Wonder’) Wetland Park.

*Go on open-sided vehicle safaris in Tembe Elephant Park.

*See the range-restricted Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks in Wakkerstroom.

*Go on open-sided vehicle birding drives in the Kruger National Park.

*Go birding in the mist-shrouded forests of Magoebaskloof.

Group size: maximum of 8 participants; 4 participants per guide / vehicle.

Areas visited: Karkloof, Sani Pass, Eshowe, St Lucia, Mkhuze, Wakkerstroom, Kruger National Park, Magoebaskloof and Polokwane.

Expected weather conditions: the interior will by hot and mildly humid this time of year. The Kwazulu-Natal region will be hot along the coast, and also with a chance of rain.

Tour tempo: medium-plus to fast paced.

Accommodation standards: medium; guest houses and National Parks accommodation.

Birding in brief: excellent variety of habitats and bird species, strong focus on birding.

Top birds: Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Rudd’s Apalis, Bearded Vulture, Pink-throated Twinspot, African Cuckoo-Hawk, Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Blue Korhaan and Short-clawed Lark.

Mammal viewing: although not strongly focussed on mammals, a good selection of game is possible with African Buffalo, African Elephant, Southern Giraffe, Eland, Sloggett’s Ice Rat, Lion and Leopard.

Other wildlife and attractions: scenic Drakensberg Mountains, Kruger National Park and iSimangaliso Wetlands Park.

Add-ons: this tour can be combined with the Western South African Endemics set-departure, 5th – 15th November 2016 / 10th – 20th November 2017.

Click the link to access the digital itinerary:

Eastern SA Endemics 2020

Eastern SA Endemics 2021

File Name: 11-2016_eastern_sa_endemics.pdf

(At the end of the feedback form): “As you can tell from the above, one very happy client!”

Alex Randall, UK, after Eastern SA Endemics 2016.

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