Africa Wildlife Safari: Eastern South Africa Part 1
Birding in KwaZulu-Natal, The Place of the Zulu, is an unbelievably diverse experience. 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 South Africa Wildlife Safari and Birding 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 the 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 tour leads on to Eastern South Africa Highlights #2: Escarpment and Kruger, to make for a comprehensive eastern South African birding and wildlife experience.
Top 5 highlights:
- Take a birding day trip up into Lesotho via the incredibly scenic Sani Pass to look for some very special birds.
- Check out the aerial boardwalk and canopy tower in Dlinza Forest, Eshowe.
- Visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of South Africa's World Heritage Sites.
- Go on 4x4 vehicle birding and game drives in Tembe Elephant Park.
- Look for some of Africa's rarest larks in Wakkerstroom, one of the country's endemics hot spots.
Tour in Brief
- Group size: Max of 8 pax; 4 pax per vehicle / guide.Areas visited: Umhlanga, Port Shepstone, Creighton, 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, Drakensberg Siskin, Gurney's Sugarbird, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, Blue 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 South Africa #2 tour to the Escarpment and Kruger National Park, 30th January - 7th February, to create a comprehensive eastern South Africa birding experience. Enquire for more information.
Alternative Tour Name: Eastern South Africa Highlights Part 1: Drakensberg & Zululand