• Overview
  • Trip Outline
  • Trip Includes
  • Trip Excludes

Richtersveld, Bushmanland,

Augrabies Falls, Namaqualand,Diamond Coast

12 to 24 August 2021

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This fantastic trip combines the sparsely populated semi-desert of Bushmanland with its exciting and highly desirable South African endemic birds with the stark beauty of the vast mountain desert known as the Richtersveld. It also provides a juicy taste of the floral splendour of springtime Namaqualand and the rugged beauty and mystique of the Diamond Coast.

Destinations

The Richtersveld

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The Richtersveld region stretches from Steinkopf and Port Nolloth in the south up to the Orange River and from Alexander Bay to Vioolsdrif. The Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a small part of this, in the loop of the Orange River. This park is in one of the most undeveloped and inaccessible areas in South Africa.

The Richtersveld is a desert of ever-changing vistas-contorted mountains with awe-inspiring names like Mount Terror and Devil’s Tooth, narrow valleys, wide plains and rocks fashioned into bizarre shapes by wind, rain and extremes of temperature. The mountains of the Richtersveld are truly awe-inspiring and lovers of remote places will find endless pleasures in its richness.

Bushmanland

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Bushmanland is most famous in birding circles for hosting one of the world’s highest diversities of larks, with an amazing 14 species occurring regularly. Its stony plains are scattered with low bushes, punctuated by broken country and the occasional dune field.

Namaqua National Park

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As if by magic a tapestry of brilliant colours unfold enticingly along the winding roads of the Namaqua National Park.  Butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies dart around among the flowers, seemingly overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity. Every turn in the road paints an unforgettable picture: valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers that pulse with sheer energy and joy.

The Diamond Coast

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Situated in the north-western corner of South Africa’s rugged Northern Cape is the stretch of pristine coastline aptly named The Diamond Coast. These shores have remained virtually unknown to the public at large as it is within the restricted and previously forbidden diamond mining areas. The valuable mineral treasures hidden within its sands are not the only treasures of the area. The Sandveld has been jealously guarded and is home to many indigenous plants, animals and insects.

Our Trip

We leave Johannesburg bright and early at the start of what promises to be a memorable and rewarding trip. We travel via Kuruman and Upington to our first overnight stop at Kenhardt.

The next morning, we bird the area around Kenhardt, towards Brandvlei which is excellent country for Sclater’s and Stark’s Larks and Burchell’s Courser. Karoo Korhaan and Double-banded Courser may be seen at the roadsides and Black-eared Sparrowlark is often present in the area.

Augrabies Falls

Our next night is spent near the Augrabies Falls, which is enclosed by the Augrabies Falls National Park. The Park is an excellent birding destination with more than 280 species recorded. It is especially good for raptors, with Verreaux’s Eagle being the star attraction as it breeds on the cliffs of the gorge. Several specials are resident, including Ludwig’s and Kori Bustards, Karoo Long-billed, Karoo and Spike-heeled Larks and Rufous-eared, Namaqua and Cinnamon-breasted Warblers. Larger mammals found at Augrabies include Giraffe, Eland, Kudu, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Gemsbok, Klipspringer, Springbok and Steenbok. The main predators are Caracal, Bat-eared Fox and Black-backed Jackal and, with some luck, Leopard may be encountered.

After a morning of sightseeing, game viewing and birding we take our leave of Augrabies and head for Pofadder where we spend two nights at the very comfortable Pofadder Hotel. Pofadder is a stereotypical South African one-horse town. However, the surrounding area offers excellent birding across a diversity of habitats, from arid, rocky gorges and dusty plains to lush riparian vegetation along the Orange River, some 50km north of the town. Birds to look out for include Karoo Long-billed, Stark’s and Sclater’s Lark, Karoo Chat, Burchell’s Courser, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Dusky Sunbird and Black-headed Canary. The giant nests of Sociable Weavers, often with a resident pair of Pygmy Falcons, are common in this part of Bushmanland. We visit the Ghaamsberg and Namies Mountains where we will be looking for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Black-headed Canary, Black-eared Sparrowlark, Karoo Korhaan and Karoo Eremomela. The prize for this area, however, is the richly coloured dune form of the Red Lark which is, in fact, one of the commoner birds in the area.

Black-headed Canary (leucolaema)
Black-headed Canary (leucolaema)

Our next destination is Naries , a beautiful hideaway on the edge of the Spektakelberg between Springbok and Kleinzee. Using Naries as our base we pay a visit to Namaqua National Park, near Kamieskroon. Our route takes us into the heart of spectacular spring floral displays that provide such a colourful, yet ephemeral façade to a fascinating region. Within a radius of 60km one finds four different regions, each with its characteristic rock formations and natural flowers, developing at their own pace during the flower season to eventually display a kaleidoscope of colour – multi-coloured carpets stretching as far as the eye can see. We spend two nights at the superb Naries Namakwa Retreat in charming cottages, offering a unique experience amid spectacular scenery.

 

We take our leave of Naries and start our journey to the Richtersveld wonderland. Our routing takes us through the Richtersveld Community Conservancy and we travel via the little towns of Eksteenfontein and Kuboes to the Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. This is a harsh and unpredictable land where water is scarce and life-sustaining moisture comes in the form of early morning fog which rolls in from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, sustaining a remarkable range of small reptiles, birds and mammals. A staggering assortment of plant life, some species occurring nowhere else, is to be found here, with gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and quaint “halfmens” keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape. Birding in the Park is very rewarding and many of the dry western specials can be found. These include Ludwig’s Bustard, Bradfield’s Swift, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Orange River White-eye, Karoo Eremomela, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-Tit, Tractrac and Sickle-winged Chat and Stark’s, Sabota and Karoo Long-billed Lark. Raptors are well represented, with Booted Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk occurring regularly. A night excursion into the hills surrounding the camp may yield Cape Eagle-Owl if we are very fortunate. We spend our first two nights in the Park in fully equipped chalets in Sendelingsdrift rest camp, overlooking the Orange River. Our next night is spent at the stunning Tatasberg Wilderness Camp beside the Orange River, a place that is difficult to beat for its virtuoso setting. From the camp, one gets a broad view of the river and some mountains on the Namibian side.

Built in a similar style to the chalets at Tatasberg, Gannakouriep, Wilderness Camp  is situated within a rocky valley in the south-west of the park. Here we spend our final two nights in the magical Park. The camp is situated in the dry interior and has an outlook just as soulful as at Tatasberg, though completely different. Here we spend our final two nights in the Park. The camp is situated in the dry interior and has an outlook just as soulful as at Tatasberg, though completely different.

We leave the Park and head southwards towards Alexander Bay, en route to Port Nolloth. Alexander Bay, some 90km north of Port Nolloth, is a diamond mining town belonging to Alexkor. We visit the Orange River mouth and its associated wetlands. The river mouth, mudflats, marshlands, islets near the mouth, and adjacent pans provide a sizeable area of sheltered shallow water suitable for concentrations of wetland birds, which use these habitats for breeding purposes or as a stopover on migration routes. The bird population can be as high as 20000-26000 individuals.  Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Black-necked Grebe, Chestnut-banded Plover, Caspian and Damara Terns, Little Bittern and Maccoa, and African Black Ducks are some of the more interesting species which may be found. We spend one night in a charming guesthouse on the seafront. Our primary birding targets for Port Nolloth are Barlow’s and Cape Long-billed Larks. Both species occur in dunes around Still Bay, a few kilometers north of Port Nolloth. Birds along the coastline include Bank and Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, and various species of waders.

We travel from Port Nolloth, via Kleinsee and Springbok, to our final overnight stop near Vanrhynsdorp. Kleinsee is surrounded by Namaqualand’s coastal plain, known as Strandveld. The coastal strip consists of white sand and rocky outcrops. Vegetation grows to an average height of 30 cm and includes a variety of succulents and hardy shrubs. Birding includes walks along the coast, around an estuary and in the nature reserves. Approximately 115 bird species have been recorded. Top birds for the area include Kori and Ludwig’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, African Black Oystercatcher, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Penduline-Tit, Cape Long-billed Lark and Black-headed Canary. The Buffels River estuary’s wetland area teems with aquatic birds, waders, warblers, weavers, and more.

The Gifberg Pass connects Vanrhynsberg with the top of the Matsikamma Mountain. The Pass breasts a flat-topped mountain called Maskam that forms part of the Matzikamma mountain range. The Gifberg also has some of the most well-preserved rock art in the whole of the Western Cape. We spend the last night of our trip at a charming guest farm in the heart of the Gifberg.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and after an exhilarating and soul-enriching experience we must head for Cape Town and our return flight to “civilization”.

This 14-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned Double Cab 4-wheel drive vehicle. 

Itineraries

Day 1

Date : August 12, 2021

Johannesburg-Kenhardt

Early morning departure from Johannesburg.
Travel via Kuruman and Upington to Kenhardt, arriving late afternoon.
Overnight at guest house in the town.

Day 2

Date : August 13, 2021

Kenhardt-Augrabies

Early morning birding around Kenhardt.
Depart after breakfast for Augrabies, via Kakamas.
Bird on route and arrive at Augrabies around lunchtime.
Afternoon sightseeing and birding in Augrabies Falls National Park.
Overnight at farm guesthouse near the Park.

Day 3

Date : August 14, 2021

Augrabies-Pofadder

Early morning birding, game viewing and sightseeing in Park.
Depart after brunch for Pofadder.
Bird on route and arrive at Pofadder around lunchtime.
Afternoon birding in vicinity of town.
Overnight at Pofadder Hotel.

Day 4

Date : August 15, 2021

Pofadder area

Morning birding in Koa Dunes and Namies Mountains.
Afternoon visit to Onseepkans border with Namibia.
Overnight at Pofadder Hotel.

Day 5

Date : August 16, 2021

Pofadder-Naries

Early morning birding around Pofadder.
Depart after breakfast for Naries, via Springbok.
Visit Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok and arrive at Naries in the early afternoon.
Afternoon birding and overnight at Naries Namakwa Retreat.

Day 6

Date : August 17, 2021

Naries-Namaqua National Park

Early morning birding walk around Naries.
Depart after breakfast for Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon.
Rest of day spent birding and flower watching in Park.
Late afternoon return and overnight at Naries Namakwa Retreat.

Day 7

Date : August 18, 2021

Naries- Richtersveld National Park

Early morning birding around Naries.
Travel via the Spektakel Pass and Kleinsee to Port Nolloth.
Birding in the dune fields outside Port Nolloth before visiting the Orange River mouth at Alexander Bay, en route to Richtersveld National Park.
Arrive late afternoon and overnight at Sendelingsdrift Rest Camp.

Day 8

Date : August 19, 2021

Sendelingsdrift area, Richtersveld National Park

Day spent exploring surrounding area.
Overnight at Sendelingsdrift camp.

Day 9

Date : August 20, 2021

Sendelindsdrift-Tatasberg

Early morning birding around camp.
Depart after breakfast for Tatasberg, via Akkedis Pass and De Hoop campsite.
Early afternoon arrival and overnight at Tatasberg Wilderness Camp.

Day 10

Date : August 21, 2021

Tatasberg-Gannakouriep

Early morning birding around camp
Depart after breakfast for Gannakouriep.
Arrive early afternoon and overnight at Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp.

Day 11

Date : August 22, 2021

Gannakouriep area

Day spent exploring area, including visit to Kokerboomkloof.
Overnight at Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp.

Day 12

Date : August 23, 2021

Gannakouriep-Port Nolloth

Early morning departure from camp.
Travel via Helskloof Pass and the Richtersveld Conservancy to Port Nolloth on the Diamond Coast.
Afternoon birding and overnight at guest house in McDougalls Bay.

Day 13

Date : August 24, 2021

Port Nolloth-Vanrhynsdorp-Gifberg

Early morning birding in dune fields near Port Nolloth.
Depart after breakfast and travel via Springbok and Garies to Vanrhynsberg area.
Afternoon spent sightseeing and birding on the Gifberg Pass.
Overnight at Guest Farm.

Day 14

Date : August 25, 2021

Gifberg-Cape Town -Johannesburg

Early morning birding around farm.
After breakfast depart for Cape Town International airport for mid-afternoon flight to Johannesburg.

Includes

Transport, all meals and accommodation, guiding, conservation fees and entrance fees.

Flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

Excludes

Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature.