Birding safari holidays in South Africa

Birding safari holidays in South Africa_Narina Trogon The narina trogon in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

South Africa is a superb bird watching destination. The national checklist comprises around 840 species, and includes the world’s largest bird (ostrich) and what is reputedly its bulkiest flying species (kori bustard) along with a dazzling variety of birds of prey, ranging from the largely terrestrial secretary-bird to the charismatic African fish eagle and macabre Lappet-faced vulture. It also supports a dazzling array of colourful bee-eaters, turacos, parrot, rollers and waxbills.

Birding safari holidays in South Africa_Kori Bustard A kori bustard in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

There are several sites in South Africa where a moderately skilled birder could tick 100 species in a day. Foremost among these – and an excellent overall introduction to African birds - is the Kruger National Park, though some would argue that it is outranked by iSimagaliso Wetland Park. But rewarding birdwatching can be enjoyed anywhere in South Africa, even in the suburbs of Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Of particular interest to visiting birders are the 35 species more-or-less endemic to South Africa (some have a range extending into the small bordering kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho) and several other near-endemics with a range that extends a small way into Namibia and/or Botswana. Good sites for these localised species include the Western Cape, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg and Pilanesberg/Madikwe.

Birding safari holidays in South Africa_Sunbird Southern double-collared sunbird in the Western Cape | Credit: Jaime MacArthur

Avian variety is greatest in the southern summer (Nov-Mar) when several resident species assume a colourful breeding plumage and dozens of migrant species arrive from Europe or elsewhere in Africa. Several good regional field guides can be bought at any decent bookshop in South Africa.


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uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

The majestic Drakensberg mountains | Credit: Joe Cornish Africa’s largest protected montane wilderness - the 2,500km2 uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park extends for a full 200 km along the border of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho, and incorporates several dozen peaks with the highest rising to 3,000m. Its name combines the isiZulu uKhahlamba (“Barrier of Spears”) with the Afrikaans…

The Panorama Route

The Panorama Route is a geological extension of the Drakensberg A popular add-on to Kruger safaris but also well worth exploring in its own right, the Panorama Route is a loose circuit of mostly natural attractions associated with the towering cliffs that divide the highveld around Sabie and Graskop from the lowveld of the Kruger Park and Mpumalanga’s provincial capital Mbombela…

South Africa in December

December is a wonderful time to take a cruise around Table Bay in Cape Town | Credit: Xpert Shuttle Johannesburg and the highveld is hot by day, cool at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Cape Town and the Western Cape is hot by day, cooler at night, and dry. The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, warm at night, and dry. December…

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso encompasses a variety of terrains that make it an important biodiverse region of the South Africa South Africa’s third-largest protected area and oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 3,320 square km iSimangaliso follows the Indian Ocean coastline for a full 220 km north of Lake St Lucia (Africa’s largest estuarine system) to Kosi Bay on the border with Mozambique. It…

South Africa visa requirements and fees

All visitors must present a passport upon arrival at their port of entry. This must be valid until at least 30 days after the end of their intended stay, and must have at least one blank page to accommodate entry and exit stamps. Technically, visitors should also have a return or onward ticket, and be able to demonstrate access to sufficient funds to cover day-to-day expenses for the…

Getting around in South Africa

A good network of domestic flights connects Johannesburg and Cape Town to other major cities such as Mbombela (for the Kruger Park), Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and George (for the Garden Route). Trunks roads are all surfaced and well maintained, so self-drive is a straightforward option, provided you have a valid license. The usual international car rental companies are…

Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

Explore the southern-most city on the African continent, before jetting off to spot the Big Five...

 | Cape Town to Kruger Luxury Holiday (8 days)

Cape Town to Kruger Luxury Holiday (8 days)

Explore two of South Africa's most desirable locations in this whirlwind safari tour...

 | Big Five Safari in the Kruger National Park (3 days)

Big Five Safari in the Kruger National Park (3 days)

Encounter the Big Five safari and discover the elusive leopard...

 | Magical Mauritius and South Africa Honeymoon Safari (11 days)

Magical Mauritius and South Africa Honeymoon Safari

Start your trip in South Africa and finish in Mauritius. Experience the stunning beaches and the Big Five in the Phinda Private Game Reserve. ...

 | Exhillarating Garden Route Adventure on a Royal Enfield Motorcycle (7 days)

Exhillarating Garden Route Adventure on a Royal Enfield Motorcycle (7 days)

Experience the Cape and Garden Route in a thrilling motorcycle safari ...

Mountain Walk | Cape Town, Whale Coast and Victoria Falls Tour (10 days)

Cape Town, Whale Coast and Victoria Falls Tour (10 days)

Experience a safari adventure that combines the very best of Victoria Falls with the undeniable highlights of Cape Town and the Whale Coast....

 | Sabi Sands and Okavango Delta Big Five Tour (8 days)

Sabi Sands and Okavango Delta Big Five Tour (8 days)

Explore the famous reserve that offers exceptional game viewing and sight the elusive Sitatunga antelope in the Okavango ...

 | Luxurious South Africa and Zambia Honeymoon Safari (10 days)

South Africa and Zambia honeymoon

Explore the romantic Atlantic Ocean with it's multi-cultural heritage and a Big Five safari in the Sabi Sands, finally ending off at Victoria Falls from the Zambian side...

 | The Ultimate Big Five South African Safari (7 days)

The Ultimate Big Five South African Safari (7 days)

Get the best possible chance to see the Big Five wildlife in the iconic Kruger National Park and Manyeleti Game Reserve ...

 | Thornybush Game Reserve Safari (4 days)

Thornybush Game Reserve Safari (4 days)

Enjoy the city life in Johannesburg and track the Big Five in the Thornybush Game Reserve...

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