15 Hotspots That Explain Why Birders Flock To South Africa

15 Hotspots That Explain Why Birders Flock To South Africa

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South Africa’s many protected wildlife parks and bird sanctuaries help make it one of the top destinations in the world for bird watching. But it’s also one of the world’s best kept secrets, which means — in theory anyway — you get great birding without horrible crowds.

Of the more than 820 bird species (including some splits that aren’t even universally recognized yet), 40 species are endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Another 110 species are endemic — or near-endemic — to Southern Africa.

Helping birders get to the birds is an excellent network of internal airline routes, well-developed road systems and plenty of car rental companies. Add to that the country’s 10,000-strong birding community, which provides professional bird guides.

Check out these 15 hotspots that explain why birders flock to South Africa.

Source: FatBirder

This article originally appeared in AFKTravel.

marakele bird
Courtesy of Derek Keats/Flickr.com

Marakele National Park

In the northern province of Limpopo, Marakele National Park has mountains that makes you question whether you’re really in Africa or the Grand Canyon. Many birds like Cape vultures and Bennett’s woodpeckers (above) can be seen in this area, though no obnoxious laughing can be heard from this small bird.

karoo park
Courtesy of Ian White/Flickr.com

Tankwa Karoo National Park

This mouthful of a national park is home to namaqua sangrouse (try pronouncing that) along with hundreds of birds such as barn swallows, grey tits and pale-winged starlings. The best time to go is between August and October — peak birding season.

Courtesy of Axel Buhrmann/Flickr.com

Kogelberg Nature Reserve

Because of this nature reserve’s immense flower population, many birds are attracted to its colorful landscape. When you’re done admiring the feathered creatures, it can’t hurt to stop by the coastline to look for whales or dolphins (if there are birds flapping around on the water, chances are, there are some sea creatures nearby).

cape rock bird
Courtesy of Matthew Wrdgway/Flickr.com

Hottentots Holland Mountains

This mountain range near Cape Town’s coast is rich in wildlife, especially the birds. The Cape rock jumper (above) can be seen giving dirty looks to fellow birds. The birds on the receiving end of the jumper’s stink eye are probably shoebill storks or secretary birds.

Courtesy of fabulousfabs/Flickr.com

West Coast National Park

North of Cape Town is an untouched national park full of frolicking ostriches. It has been declared by BirdLife International as an Imporant Bird Area, so ornithologists, this is your cue to plan your visit. Not to mention, large groups of flamingoes hang out in the lagoons, along with African oyster catchers and penguins.


Table Mountain National Park

Table Mountain National Park not only has lush vegetation and historical spots, but many winged creatures have taken a liking to it as well. Many birds from small Egyptian geese to giant ostriches wander in this beautiful expanse.

kalahari eagle
Courtesy of James Black/Flickr.com

Kalahari Desert

This desert is an excellent spot for bird lovers to get their fix. Several owl species, kestrels, falcons and this Bataluer eagle (above) sit calmly on the highest trees, waiting for an unsuspecting meerkat to wander by.

secretary bird
Courtesy of Europ/Flickr.com

Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park

Designated the oldest nature reserve in all of Africa and home to the largest population of white rhinos, Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park is easily overlooked for its fabulous birds. The most sensational sighting you can have at this park is of the secretary bird (above), which has super-strong legs and a nervous gait.

mala mala
Courtesy of Brian Fitzharris/Flickr.com

Mala Mala Game Reserve

Lilac-breasted rollers have got it and they flaunt their colors at Mala Mala Game Reserve near Kruger Park. Although this park is private, you can book in advance for a guided safari to see the feathery critters in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, the price to stay at the lodge is not cheep cheep.

Courtesy of Derek Keats/Flickr.com

KwaZulu Natal

I know what you’re thinking … but despite what you may believe, this bird is not sporting an Elvis wig. He is the real deal. This crested guineafowl can be found serenading “Hunka Hunka Burning Love” to his fellow chicks throughout KwaZulu Natal province in Eastern South Africa.

Courtesy of S9-4pr/Flickr.com

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Bordering South Africa and Botswana, this park is home to red dunes and big sky, drawing birds that thrive in its dry riverbeds. Predatory species such as buzzards, eagles and goshawk (above) circle around the sweltering hot sands to look for dehydrated and weak prey. If the unfortunate animals already bought the farm, it’s much easier for the birds to begin their feast.

kruger bird
Courtesy of Derek Keats/Flickr.com

Kruger National Park

South Africa’s most famous national park is home to countless birds of all colors and sizes. Levaillant’s cuckoo (above), the saddle-billed stork, the kori bustard and the lappet-faced vulture will fly over you and make you feel like a character in a “Snow White” flick.  Be sure to book one of Kruger’s many available safari tours.

sabi sand
Courtesy of David Berkowitz/Flickr.com

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Near Kruger National Park lies another fantastic spot with an abundance of birds — Sabi Sand. Many vultures can be found perched atop trees looking for a meal. This reserve has  lodges you can book to stay in overnight, so you can get an early start. The best bird viewing is at sunrise. After all, the early bird gets the worm.

mountain zebra
Courtesy of Ludovic Hirlimann/Flickr.com

Mountain Zebra National Park

Where there are zebras, there will be birds. At Mountain Zebra National Park in Eastern Cape province you will find secretary birds, blue cranes and Ludwig’s bustards frolicking in the bush. Why not kill two birds (figuratively please ) with one stone and see both wild zebras and their winged friends?

boulders beach
Courtesy of Leyla.a/Flickr.com

Boulders Beach, near Cape Town

You mean you can see wild penguins without freezing your socks off at the South Pole? Just head over to Boulders Beach in Simonstown near Cape Town and be blown away by the gorgeous serene waters and waddling birds in tuxedos. Yes, you can sunbathe and swim alongside them although we can’t promise you won’t be pecked.