Bushveld Birding in the Kruger National Park and the Limpopo Valley
The world famous Kruger National Park is quite rightly the jewel in the crown of South Africa’s many, highly recommended wildlife sanctuaries. For many visitors to SA it is the highlight of their holiday and birders too, will not be disappointed. Conservatively estimated and depending on energy levels, one can expect a 3-4 day mid-winter visit to yield well in excess of 150 species, while in summer this number climbs to over 200 species (Kruger’s 2 million hectares is home to approximately 530 species).
Undoubtedly, the best region of the Park for birding (both in terms of sheer diversity, as well as for select specials) is the far northern Pafuri region, where Pel’s Fishing Owl, Racket-tailed Roller, Grey-headed Parrot, Southern Hyliota, Arnot’s Chat, Meves Starling, Crested Guineafowl, Böhm’s Spinetail, Tropical Boubou and many others are regularly recorded. The Pafuri picnic site alone (an area approximately the size of a rugby field) has, at last count, a bird list of 326 species!
Regardless of your birding requirements, Indwa Birding is well placed to tailor make your personalised birding trip to the Kruger National Park. Having spent literally hundreds of nights in the Park over the last 10 – 15 years, and having birded the area from top to bottom, Mark has built up a thorough knowledge of its many attractions (including its vegetation, mammals and reptiles). With a multitude of accommodation options ranging from luxury private camps in isolated concession areas, to basic self-catering furnished tents / chalets with communal ablution facilities, all tastes and budgets are catered for. In addition, it almost goes without saying that any trip to the Kruger also exposes one to superlative game viewing opportunities as well, including the so-called “Big 5” (lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo).
Other personal favourite sites in the Kruger include the Lake Panic-, Sweni- and Shipandani bird hides, Tamboti Tented Camp and Satara Camp (both situated in the central savanna region of the Park and hence, probably the best “cat country” in Kruger), as well as the prime riverine birding between Lower Sabie and Skukuza (notably at Nkuhlu picnic site) in the South. Mlondozi Dam, just north of Lower Sabie, also offers excellent birding and game viewing, as well as superb views from an elevated look-out.
In addition, the Limpopo Province north of Pretoria and up to the Limpopo River Valley also offers top class birding and can either be explored separately, or in conjunction with a trip to the Kruger. This area has recently, and quite justifiably, become better known as a birding destination with the advent and development of the Greater Limpopo – Soutpansberg Birding Route. Relatively easy access to many of the typical bushveld birds, as well as elusive species such as African Broadbill, Bat Hawk, Senegal Coucal and Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, plus a full-house of forest birds (including the highly endangered Cape Parrot) at Woodbush indigenous forest, all combine to make the Limpopo Province an extremely productive birding region.
Favourite spots include Mapungubwe National Park (magnificent Baobabs, scenery and views into Botswana and Zimbabwe over the Limpopo River), Muirhead Dams and the Magoebaskloof (especially Woodbush forest).
As is the case with Kruger, the Limpopo Province also offers a multitude of birder friendly accommodation options designed to suit all tastes and budgets.
It bears mentioning however, that although the Limpopo Province and the Kruger National Park can become oppressively hot during the middle of summer (temperatures of 40˚C are not uncommon at midday), the spectacle of the summer migrants (and an air-conditioned vehicle!) more than compensate for any discomfort that may be felt. Late afternoon thunder showers (a meteorological spectacle in itself) also help to cool things down in mid summer. Also, the risk of malaria is at its highest in mid to late summer in the Kruger National Park and, generally speaking, some form of prophylaxis is recommended – it remains advisable to consult a travel clinic prior to departure.
If sheer diversity of species, combined with many of the more “sought after” southern African birds, is what you’re looking for from your birding holiday, then one would be hard pressed to match a Kruger / Limpopo getaway (not to mention the pristine bushveld scenery and game viewing opportunities to be enjoyed as well…). Indwa Birding specialises in tailoring guided bird tours to the area, and is able to: