Whether going in search of the elusive Pel’s fishing owl or watching flocks of queleas take off over grasslands, birdwatching is one of the great joys of a safari. By combining different locations in South Africa and Botswana, our guests will enjoy a diverse birdwatching experience.
The national parks and reserves we visit in South Africa and Botswana include wetland, grassland, woodland, savannah, and semi-desert; each one offering a smorgasbord of bird species to spot. A number of endangered and endemic birds occur in pockets of the Okavango Delta, Khwai, and the Kruger National Park making this an exciting and rewarding activity.
Moremi is a protected part of the central and eastern Okavango Delta and includes excellent birdwatching locations like Khwai River and Xakanaxa, all of which can be visited on full day safaris from Mankwe.
Khwai is a mixture of river, marshes, floodplains, riverine trees, acacia, and tall mopane forest. During the changing of the seasons, different birds are prominent, but one can reliably see aquatic birds including the vulnerable wattled crane. In the dry season (June to October), Khwai is a good place to spot raptors, such as the martial eagle, bateleur, and Verreaux’s eagle.
The swampy areas of Xakanaxa are home to coucals, rails, crakes, and swamp-hens among many others, and Chief’s Island is where one might chance seeing an African skimmer, specifically around September and October. Plus, Xakanaxa is the access point for our boat cruise activities, which opens up a whole new world of water-bird watching.
Some areas of the Delta have wide, deep lagoons, while others are defined by networks of swampy channels. Birdwatching from the water is the best in this area as boating and mokoro cruises offer the chance to see reed birds like warblers, weavers, kingfishers, and bishops.
Pygmy geese, ducks, jacanas, egrets, herons, and storks are among the hundreds of water birds guests will see from the water. The pallid harrier is one of the rare and special sights to look out for, as is the slaty egret, which is considered a Delta lifer.
Active heronries in large fig trees along the water’s edge are home to gregarious aquatic birds who gather to breed alongside each other, creating a true spectacle between August and November. Of course, the Pel’s fishing owl is one of the most sought after birds in the Delta.
The 365 000-hectare concession in which Mankwe and Tuskers are located spans a vast territory of acacia, mopane woodland, numerous open pans, and semi-arid sandveld. Away from the permanent presence of water, the habitat – and therefore the birdlife – is different to that of the waterlogged Moremi and the Delta.
Game drives in the private concession offer the opportunity to see plenty of commonly occurring species like hornbills, barbets, wood hoopoes, starlings, bulbuls, and rollers. Shrubland birds like lark, pytilia, camaroptera, cisticola, and firefinch are also some to look out for, as are the commonly occurring raptors, such as brown snake eagle, tawny eagle, bateleur, and a number of endangered vultures. And keep an eye out for heaviest flying bird, the kori bustard, which is a special feature in the area.
The Kruger National Park is one of the largest in the world and it spans a variety of habitats, meaning its birdwatching potential is high. During summer, more than 200 migrant species arrive, almost doubling the species number in the park between November and February.
Bundox Safari Lodge is located nearest the Orpen gate of the Kruger and often full day safaris will take guests along the seasonal Timbavati riverbed and via mixed grasslands to Satara. This is a fantastic birding route in the park (among a number of others), and guests will have a good opportunity to see the following frequently spotted species:
Southern ground hornbill, red-billed quelea colonies, marabou stork, plenty of large birds of prey including Wahlberg’s eagle, martial eagle, African hawk eagle, brown snake eagle, steppe eagle, bateleur, and many more. These parts of Kruger are also great for rare sightings of kori bustard, red-crested korhaan, double-banded sandgrouse, and the commonly occurring Natal spurfowl.
Here, there are mountains, rocky landscapes, the bustling presence of the Olifants River and bushveld savannah. There are roughly 250 bird species that occur here, and many of them can be seen from our base at Bundox Explorer Camp.
Grey-headed bush shrike, black-headed oriole, crested francolin, Swainson’s spurfowl, helmeted guineafowl, crested and black-collared barbet, white-browed scrub robin, and many others are frequently seen and heard around camp and out on game drive. There are plenty of insect-eating birds and red-billed oxpeckers follow the antelope, buffalo, and other large herd animals as they move through the grass.
The presence of the Olifants River brings an unbeatable element to the birdwatching in this part of the Greater Kruger. Fish eagles can be seen and heard, while pied, giant, malachite, and woodland (in summer) kingfishers are frequently seen on the riverbanks. Goliath heron, African spoonbill, saddle-billed stork, and many, many more gather near and in the gently glowing river.