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crested-barbet.jpg Optional Extension to the Grasslands of Wakkerstroom: 15 nights + 3 day optional extension, starting in Cape Town and ending in Johannesburg. An all embracing and unforgettable Medley of Bird and Mammal Experiences. Starting with Table Mountain and Cape Town and ending with the Kruger National Park and the Limpopo Valley, this itinerary is aimed at birders who want to experience the very best of South Africa’s  birding combined with  its scenic beauty and diversity of  animal and floral kingdoms.
An ideal ‘intro’ to Southern Africa, this very special tour is intended as a private, fully guided tour for a maximum of 6 persons. Because we specialize in customized private tours, we can change the itinerary or accommodations to suit your particular preferences, e.g. length of tour, luxury accommodation, routing…

Table Mountain stands astride the Cape Peninsula as a universally recognized landmark associated with days past of exploration and more recently its biodiversity of life and natural beauty, situated on the south-western tip of the African continent. It is a landscape of floral beauty that is home to a host of highly localized SA endemic bird species such as the Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. To the south of Cape Point the warm Agulhas and cold Benguela currents converge to create a nutrient rich offshore pelagic environment providing some of the most spectacular seabird viewing in the world. To the north beyond the barrier of mountain chains lies the Great Karoo – a semi- arid thirst land in its own right and host to a wide diversity of natural delights. This is the Western Cape and the start of a two part journey into the interior of Southern Africa…

Part two of the journey starts with our arrival in Johannesburg, the City of Gold. You will journey north along roads less traveled in search of totally new wildlife experiences as additions to your already incredible species list for the Western Cape. Not only will you be struck by the diversity of wildlife on offer but you will enjoy the striking beauty of bushveld birding at its best as well as the thrill of the chase looking for mega listings such as the Big Six Birds – Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill and, if very lucky, Pel’s Fishing Owl. And there is added thrill of possibly seeing some of the Big Five mammals – Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Rhino and Elephant

This tour is best done in our summer months when you can expect well over 400 bird species!!

ITINERARY IN BRIEF:

Tour starts in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg

DAY 1
Fly into Cape Town International Airport where you will be met by your birding guide

DAY 2
Offshore Pelagic trip subject to prevailing weather conditions. Overnight in Simon’s Town

DAY 3
Bird the greater Cape Peninsula and adjacent areas. Overnight in Simon’s Town.

DAY 4
Head north up the West Coast birding the Coastal Park and estuary areas as well as the unique dune belt vegetation. Overnight on the West Coast.

DAY 5
Journey east across the wheat belt to the Cederberg mountain range and the rain shadow beyond. Overnight at a Game Lodge in the heart of the Tanqua Karoo

DAY 6
Bird the rocky terrain and the arid Karoo in search of highly localized endemics. Overnight at the Game Lodge again.

DAY 7
Explore the forested slopes of the Langeberg mountains. Overnight on a Guest Farm on the edge of the Grootvadersbosch Forest

DAY 8
Travel across the Agulhas Plain to De Hoop and De Mond Nature Reserves. Overnight on the Guest Farm.

DAY 9
Return to Cape Town via the Hottentot Holland mountains and fly to Johannesburg. Overnight north of Pretoria.

DAY 10
Depart for Northern Drakensberg via a selection of birding sites along the Great North Road. Overnight in a lodge on the forested slopes of Magoebaskloof

DAY 11
Drive to Letaba Camp in the central region of the Kruger National Park.

DAY 12
Travel north to Punda Maria Camp in the north of the Park, renowned for excellent birding.

DAY 13
Bird the loop road to the Luvuvu river. Overnight at Punda Maria.

DAY 14
Leave the Park for a one night stay near the Zoutpansberg mountains.

DAY 15
Bird the Great North Road southwards to Nylsvlei Nature Reserve. Overnight at a country lodge.

DAY 16
Bird the morning and head back to Johannesburg International to connect with the outbound flight home.

OPTIONAL EXTENSION:

DAY 17
Depart Johannesburg for the highlands of Wakkerstroom in search of a suite of highly localized grassveld endemics. Overnight in Wakkerstroom.

DAY 18
Full day spent birding the grassland areas and wetlands in the Wakkerstroom area. Overnight in Wakkerstroom

DAY 19
Bird back to Johannesburg International to connect with the outbound flight home

ITINERARY IN FULL:

DAY 1:  Cape Town

Link up with your birding guide in the arrivals hall and travel through to Simon’s Town. After settling in we cross the Cape Peninsula to pick up on the Atlantic seaboard with Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, White-breasted (Great) Cormorant and Crowned Cormorant in mind. Other sightings along the rocky shore include Greater Crested Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, African Black Oystercatcher, White-fronted Plover, Pied Kingfisher and Little Egret. Heading towards Cape Point through the scenically delightful Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve we will search for Grassbird, Spotted Prinia, Gray-backed Cisticola, Cape Bulbul, Familiar Chat, Cape Francolin and Rock(Common) Kestrel. Taking a side route to the coast we will search for Malachite Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Bunting, Cape White-eye and Red-winged Starling. From the heights above Cape Point itself we will scan for Peregrine Falcon and Cape Siskin as well as passing pelagic seabirds. Next stop will be the famous Boulder’s Coastal Park where we will enjoy close up views of African Penguin coming ashore in the late afternoon. Overnight in Simon’s Town.

DAY 2:  Pelagic Trip

Our weather dependent pelagic trip starts at 07.00 with the deep sea trawling grounds some 35 nautical miles south west of Cape Point our destination for the day. On the way out we will encounter Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater. Soon after rounding spectacular Cape Point itself we can expect our first sighting of Shy Albatross and either of the two Yellow-nosed Albatross (Atlantic & Indian). Crossing birds could include Sooty and Manx Shearwater, Cory Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Sabine’s Gull, Artic Tern, Wilson’s and European Storm Petrel. All being well the sighting of an active trawler or pole boat could add Black-browed Albatross, Northern & Southern Giant Petrel and Spectacled Petrel to the pelagic list. Other possibilities for February include Great-winged Petrel, Great Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Sub-Antarctic Skua and Pomerine Skua. Dolphin, Whale, Turtle, Cape Fur Seal and the odd Sunfish sighting could add a further dimension of excitement to the day. Overnight in Simon’s Town.

DAY 3: Cape Peninsula

Birding commences with an early start for Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in search of Olive Pigeon, Southern Boubou Shrike, Cape Batis, Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing Swallow, African and Black Goshawk, Olive Thrush, Sombre Bulbul, Cape Robin Chat, Forest and Cape Canary, Knysna Scrub Warbler, Black & Alpine Swift, Cape White-eye and Spotted Eagle Owl. Later in the morning we will visit a number of wetlands and settling ponds that constitute a clutch of sighting opportunities for Southern Pochard, SA Shelduck, Red-billed Teal, Maccoa and Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveller, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Greater Flamingo, White-throated Swallow, African Pipit, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Le Valliant’s and Zitting Cisticola.
Later in the day we work our way back to Simon’s Town via a small wetland in the hope of picking up on Painted and African Snipe if water levels are right. Overnight in Simon’s Town.

DAY 4: West Coast

An early start to beat the traffic takes us across the Cape Peninsula to the Strandveld of the West Coast in search of Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Gray-winged Francolin, Southern Gray and Penduline Tit, Cape Long-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark, Karoo Lark, Large-billed (Thick-billed) Lark, Gray-backed Finch Lark, Wattled and Pied Starling, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Karoo Scrub Robin, White-throated and Yellow Canary, Orange-throated Longclaw, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cloud Cisticola and Cape Canary. Adjacent wetlands should produce Black Crake and good views of Lesser Swamp(Cape Reed) Warbler. Time spent scanning the exposed tidal flats should deliver Little Tern and a host of assorted shorebirds in the Langebaan Lagoon area and beyond in the Berg river estuary and salt pans where we hope to find Lesser Flamingo and the highly localized Chestnut-fronted Sandplover. We overnight on the coast in a delightful fishing village with early morning views of Heaviside’s Dolphin surfing the waves as a realistic possibility.

DAY 5: Cedarberg Mountains to Tankwa Karoo

Our route eastwards after a morning prospecting about in the Strandveld for species missed the previous day cuts through a mosaic of wheat and barley fields lying fallow at this time of year. We will scan for Blue Crane, Crowned Lapwing and Secretarybird in the remaining grassland areas before ascending the mountains that separate the coastal plain of the Western Cape from the arid Karoo in the rain shadow beyond. Stops along the way could yield Protea Canary and Swee Waxbill. Overnight at a lodge in the heart of the Tankwa Karoo.

DAY 6: Tankwa Karoo

A mixture of mountain fynbos habitat and rocky ridgelines adjacent to the semi-arid Karoo will be systematically covered in search of Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Trac Trac and Karoo Chat, Verreaux’s and Booted Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Karoo and Spike-heeled Lark, Pale-winged Starling, Yellow Canary, Layard’s Titbabbler, Pirit Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Cinnamon-breasted and Namaqua Warbler, Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear, Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-faced Mousebird, Southern Masked Weaver, Karoo Green Eremomela and Rufous-eared Warbler as our prime targets for the day. Overnight at a lodge in the heart of the Tankwa Karoo.

DAY 7: Swellendam/Grootvadersbosch

Our journey takes us further east through the succulent Karoo and the spectacular Cape Folded Mountains to relic patches of indigenous forest fringing the south facing slopes of the Langeberg mountain range. Birding along the way will embrace a number of localized opportunities as well as time in the late afternoon to bird the forested area and streamside vegetation on a private farm. Overnight near the Grootvadersbosch Forest Reserve.

DAY 8: Agulhas Plain

After an early breakfast we head out onto the sprawling Agulhas Plain in search of Blue Crane, Karoo Korhaan, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Jackal Buzzard, Crowned Lapwing, African Pipit and Cape Vulture in the vicinity of De Hoop Nature Reserve. Here we will look for Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Spotted and Water Thicknee, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Hoopoe. We will scan the open expanse of water and shoreline for a host of water and shorebirds. Aside from the birdlife we can expect to see the endangered Bontebok and comical Gray Rhebok as well as Africa’s largest antelope, the Eland.  Our route takes us on to De Mond to search for Caspian and the diminutive and highly localized Damara Tern before heading back across the Agulhas Plain to Swellendam for the night. If conditions prove suitable we will try for Fiery-necked Nightjar and Wood Owl after dark. Overnight back at Grootvadersbosch.

DAY 9: Cape Town – Johannesburg

Early morning sees us birding the main forest in search of Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Gray Cuckooshrike, Cape Batis, Dusky Flycatcher, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Forest Canary, Olive Pigeon, Swee Waxbill, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Olive Woodpecker and Brown-hooded Kingfisher before returning for a late morning breakfast. Our route to Cape Town International takes us via Rooi Els where we will search for Cape Rockjumper and Victorin’s Warbler before connecting with our early evening flight to Johannesburg. Overnight at a City Lodge along the Great North Road beyond Pretoria.

DAY 10: Northern Drakensberg

Route north takes us to the edge of the Northern Drakensberg Escarpment via a selection of birding stops including the Polokwane Game Reserve where we will look for Short-clawed Lark, Rattling and Tinkling Cisticola, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Northern Black Korhaan, Cape Vulture, Bushveld Tree Pipit, Ant-eating Chat, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Scaly-feathered Finch, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Marico Flycatcher, Burnt-necked and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. We then journey north to the edge of the escarpment where we will search for Gurney’s Sugarbird in stands of Protea before settling into a country guest house set in indigenous forest for the night.

DAY 11: Kruger National Park

We will explore the immediate area in the morning searching the forest patches for Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Chorister and White-starred Robin, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-streaked Bulbul and with luck Green Twinspot. After a mid-morning breakfast we will leave for the Kruger National Park checking on a Bat Hawk day roost before leaving the forested escarpment for the tapestry of savanna woodland of the Lowveld. Once within the park our pace slows as we soak up the super abundance of bird and mammal sightings en-route to Letaba Camp. Bird sightings along the way are rich and varied and include a host of bushveld birds such Bateleur, Black-breasted and Brown Snake Eagle, White-backed Vulture, Tawny and Wahlberg Eagle and Marabou Stork the mega size category as well as Magpie Shrike and Lilac-breasted Roller. As we approach the camp itself we will check the riverine bush for Crested and Natal Francolin, Southern Yellow-billed and Gray Hornbill, Mourning and Green-spotted Dove, Gray Turaco, Burchell’s Coucal, Lilac-breasted and Purple Roller, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black-collared and Crested Barbet, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Red-capped and Heuglin’s Robin Chat, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Spectacled Weaver. Along the river we may see Marabou and Saddle-billed Stork if we are lucky along with Mozambique Nightjars at dusk. After dinner we will search for African Scops Owl by torchlight before retiring for the night. Accommodation in thatched cottages at Letaba Camp.

DAY 12: Kruger National Park

An early start sees us exploring the camp in search of Green Pigeon and Purple-crested Turaco feeding in the fruiting fig trees. After breakfast we set off for the north of the Park via a series of loop roads. Along the way we will stop off at various lookout points as well as hides along the Letaba river system scanning for Goliath Heron, Great White Egret, Green-backed Heron, Hamerkop, Openbill and Yellowbill Stork, Knob-billed (Comb) Duck and White-crowned Plover.  Our route takes us through ‘Big Game’ country and we will check the smaller antelope for Red-billed Oxpecker and the larger herbivores for Yellow-billed Oxpecker. Open savanna could result in excellent views of Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-bellied Korhaan, Burchell’s Starling and the chance to stop and listen for displaying Flappet Lark. Picnic sites should provide close up views of Greater Blue-eared and Violet-backed(Amethyst) Starling, Green Woodhoopoe, White-bellied Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole and Orange-breasted Bushshrike. As we approach Punda Milia for our overnight stop we will check out the stands of taller Mopani woodland for Arnot’s Chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Kurrichane Thrush, Mosque Swallow, Red-headed Weaver, Golden-breasted Bunting, Southern Black Tit, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and Southern Black Flycatcher. Exploring the camp grounds might turn up White-throated Robin-Chat, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, and Thrush Nightingale calling from heavy cover. Accommodation in thatched cottages at Punda Milia Camp.

DAY 13: Kruger National Park

After breakfast we make our way north to the Luvuvu river where we will check the river for African Finfoot and the corridor of fringing riverine forest for Trumpeter Hornbill, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Collared Sunbird, Meve’s (Long-tailed) Starling, Tropical Boubou, Eastern Nicator, Mottled and Bohm’s Spinetail, Crested Guineafowl, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, White-browed and Bearded Scrub Robin, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Narina Trogon and with luck Crowned Eagle within the raptor mix. Our return takes us through open savanna with the possibility of Monotonous Lark and Dickinson’s Kestrel being added to our list. With luck we could pick up on a termite emergence with Amur Falcon, Western Red-footed Kestrel, Steppe and Lesser-spotted Eagle, Yellow-billed and Black Kite in attendance. Throughout our travels through the Park we will check areas of open grassland for Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier as well as  Harlequin Quail on the roadside verge. Night drive after dinner in search of owls, coursers and nightjars. Return to Punda Maria for the night.

DAY 14: Zoutpansberg Mountains

We set off westwards to the Albasini Dam area where we will settle into comfortable accommodation overlooking the dam itself. The surrounding area is a mosaic of habitats that will be systematically explored in our quest for new sightings. Target birds for the area include Crowned Eagle, Black-crowned and White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, Gray-headed Kingfisher, Red-faced and Croaking Cisticola, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and in the patches of open woodland Red-crested Korhaan. Sunset cruise of lake included. Accommodation in thatched cottages overlooking the Albasini Dam.

DAY 15: Nylsvlei Nature Reserve

After breakfast we take the highway south to Nylsvlei Nature Reserve and book into our accommodation adjacent to the reserve itself. That afternoon we will bird the areas of broad-leafed woodland for Pale Flycatcher, Green-capped Eremomela, Blue and Jameson’s Waxbill, White-throated Robin and Brown Snake Eagle. Stands of Acacia thornveld will be searched for Green-backed Pytilia, Violet-eared Waxbill, Southern Pied Babbler, Scaly-feathered Finch, Barred Wren Warbler, Cape Penduline Tit and Burnt-necked Eremomela, Barred Wren Warbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike and Black-faced Waxbill. Late afternoon will hopefully produce views of Grass and Pearl-spotted Owl as well as views of Lesser Galago as these small primates leave their day roosts to forage for insects in the woodland canopy. Fiery-necked and Rufous- cheeked Nightjars will be looked for on the dust roads after dark. Accommodation in a country lodge in wooded surroundings..

DAY 16: Nylsvlei Flood Plain

Our day starts at dawn with coffee/tea and biscuits on the causeway that traverses across the flood plain itself. Subject to water levels we could be treated to hundreds of waterbirds flighting along the length of the drainage line. Patches of open water with fringing vegetation will be scanned from the hides for Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, White-faced Duck, White-backed Duck, Squacco and Rufous-bellied Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Intermediate and Great White Egret. African Marsh Harrier are not uncommon over the reedbeds. We return to our accommodation for a late morning brunch before making our way south to Johannesburg International Airport for the evening flight home or the three day extension to pick up on the suite of highly localized grassland endemics in the Wakkerstroom area.

EXTENSION:

DAY 16: Wakkerstroom

We overnight at the City Lodge and after an early breakfast set off for the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve to the south of Johannesburg . Here we will look for Long-tailed Widowbird, Red Bishop, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cape Rock Thrush, Black-throated Canary, Red-eyed Bulbul, Chestnut-backed Finch Lark, Pink-billed Lark and Wattled Plover. Heading on we arrive at Wakkerstroom early in the afternoon and check into our accommodation before setting off to search for Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Horus Swift, Golden Bishop, Lesser Kestrel and Amur Falcon. Late afternoon finds us scanning the wetland for Gray Crowned Crane, Black Egret, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Egret, SA Shelduck, Southern Pochard, Hottentot and Red-billed Teal, African Snipe, Black Crake, African Rail and SA Cliff Swallow. As dusk approaches we will switch our attention to locating Swainson’s Francolin, Spotted Eagle and Marsh Owl. Overnight at a lodge in the town of Wakkerstroom.

DAY 17: Wakkerstroom

An early start after tea/coffee and biscuits marks the start of an important day with a mid morning brunch in the field as part of the programme. We start off looking for Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Crane, Blue Korhaan, the highly endangered Botha’s and Rudd’s Larks, Red-capped Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Orange-throated Longclaw, African Pipit, Banded Martin, Mountain Wheatear, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Quail Finch and Eastern Clapper Lark. Later in the day we search for Black-winged Plover, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Red-winged and Gray-winged Francolin, Capped Wheatear, Lanner Falcon, Jackal Buzzard and Secretarybird. In the village we will look for Red-winged and Pied Starling, Bokmakierie, Red-throated Wryneck and Green Wood-Hoopoe. At dusk we return to the wetland to scan for species ‘missed’ the previous evening. Overnight in Wakkerstroom.

DAY 18: Wakkerstroom to Johannesburg

An early morning visit to a patch of relic forest holds the possibility of a Bush Blackcap and Barrett’s Warbler sighting although the latter is notoriously secretive. The surrounding grassland holds Sentinel Rock Thrush, Spotted Thick-knee, Denham’s Bustard and Wailing Citicola as well as Drakensberg Prinia in patches of Ouhout woodland. We return by way of the wetland to pick up on African Yellow Warbler, Le Valliant’s and Little Rush Warbler before packing up and heading off to Johannesburg International Airport for the evening flight out.

Tour details:

For this very special tour, we like to use accommodation specially handpicked for proximity to birding localities as well as standard of comfort and hospitality, in small family-run Guest Houses. In Kruger National Park, the Park accommodation that is used is clean and comfortable. Meals often reflect traditional food and wine so you get to experience the local SA hospitality and culture
Transport: a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle with plenty of room for birders’ luggage!

Pricing:

Our guided tours are cost individually depending on the time of year and number of people on the tour, and are fully inclusive.
Our price includes
  • All accommodation based on 2 people sharing a double or twin-bedded room with private bathroom en suite. Single supplement options are available
  • Three meals per day - breakfast at the establishment, dinner either there or in a local restaurant, and lunch is usually in the field or en route.  We carry 1 litre of bottled water per person per day with us in the vehicle.
  • Entrance fees, activities as per the itinerary
  • A fully registered and experienced birding guide/driver
  • All transport costs in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle with plenty of room for birders’ luggage

Insurances, international flights & visas, and personal items such as phone calls and laundry are not included

Malaria is a risk in the northern parts of the country and you will need to take appropriate anti-malaria precautions.

PLEASE NOTE that Signature Tours’ Standard Terms & Conditions apply.

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David & Tesi, July 2012
Hi Ince,

I wanted to say thanks again for helping give us a spectacular trip to South Africa, and especially the Cape region. It was a trip full of wonders. Every day I think about how amazing it was that I actually saw great white sharks in the wild. We greatly enjoyed your company.

I mentioned that at the natural history museum in San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences, they have an Africa hall and there is a diorama of the Cape region. Here is a picture of it: http://www.zoochat.com/1056/african-hall-rock-hyrax-steinbok-diorama-234071/ The diorama is cool, but the real thing is much better!

I hope that all is well with you and your family.
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