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Western Cape 2021

9 to 19 April 2021

The Western Cape province is geographically diverse with fynbos and renosterveld being the most prolific vegetation types. Other types include afromontane forest, karroid scrubland and the semi-desert plains of the Karoo. The great botanical diversity has resulted in the Fynbos Biome being described as one of the six floral kingdoms of the world.

The variety of bird species is not particularly large when compared to other parts of South Africa but the area hosts a diverse range of sought after and often endemic bird species. The destinations that we will be visiting afford us the best possibility of encountering the majority of these endemic and other “special” species.

We fly to Cape Town for the start of what promises to be a memorable and rewarding trip.

Our first birding spot is Paarl Mountain where we search for the inconspicuous and elusive Protea Seedeater. Other endemics which should prove easier to find here are Cape Sugarbird, Cape Bulbul, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Spurfowl.  Mountain birds include raptors such as Verreaux’s Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and Jackal and Steppe Buzzard.

We also visit Paarl Bird Sanctuary where about 140 predominantly water bird species have been recorded.  Waders are plentiful in summer.

We next head for The West Coast National Park, which incorporates Langebaan Lagoon, the jewel of the West Coast and South Africa’s largest salt marsh.

The Park has become a legendary birding site, best known for the large numbers of migrant waders that crowd the mudflats in summer.  Common summer migrants include Sanderling, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew and Chestnut-banded Plover. Terek Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Greater Sand Plover are quite regularly seen. An added attraction at this time of year is that many migrant waders will be in breeding plumage, donned prior to their journey to the north.  Normally drab Curlew Sandpipers, Red Knots, Little Stints and Grey Plovers are barely recognisable in their strikingly beautiful “breeding gear”.  A number of well positioned hides provide excellent vantage points from which to observe the birds.

We spend two nights in comfortable accommodation inside the West Coast National Park.

During our stay in the Park, we will explore some farmland loops in the area and visit the iconic birding destination of Velddrif, on the banks of the Berg River.

Velddrif is situated some 140 km from Cape Town and is sprawled along the northern banks of the Berg River.  The area around the town encompasses a wide diversity of habitats, including sandy beaches, mudflats, reedbeds, riverine channels and floodplains and is famously rich in birdlife.  The mudflats and saltpans provide the most rewarding birding and have proven excellent for rarities.  These mudflats are believed to support the highest density of waders along the east Atlantic seaboard.  Specials include Chestnut-banded Plover, Little Tern and Red-necked Phalarope

After some early morning birding in the Park, we proceed to our next overnight stay, a charming guesthouse situated on a working farm near Piekenierskloof, between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam.

The next day we visit the Cape Gannet colony at Lambert’s Bay and Kransvlei Poort, a highly accessible and reliable site for Protea Seedeater and Ground Woodpecker. We then head inland, via Citrusdal and Prince Alfred Hamlet to the Tanqua Karoo.

Our home for the next two nights is a enchanting retreat situated near Ceres in the heart of prime Karoo birding country.

The parched brown expanses, aloe-lined escarpments and isolated hills of the Tanqua Karoo provide an apt setting for such sought after dry western endemics as Karoo Eremomela, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Karoo Korhaan and Fairy Flycatcher.  We will be exploring the well-known birding landmarks of Karoopoort, Eierkop and Skitterykloof.  Skitterykloof, a small picnic site, is generally regarded as the best place to find the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, a peculiar and often evasive warbler of arid, rocky hillsides.  Other specials that we hope to find include Pririt Batis, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Tractrac, Karoo and Sickle-winged Chat, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Large-billed, Red-capped, Karoo and Spike-heeled Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary and Grey Tit. Our prospects of finding Cape Eagle Owl, which can be unexpectedly common in many mountainous Karoo regions, are fairly good.

We take our leave of the Tanqua Karoo and travel via Montagu and Barrydale to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, where we spend two nights in a guesthouse at the edge of the forest. The 250ha indigenous forest is the largest in the South-western Cape, and certainly the region’s richest in bird diversity.  Some of the endemics that can be found here are Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Victorin’s Warbler, Forest Canary and Cape Siskin. The Reserve also boasts Narina Trogon, African Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Terrestrial Brownbul and Olive Bush-Shrike.

En route to our next overnight stop at Malgas we visit Bontebok National Park which lies south-east of Swellendam, between the Langeberg Mountains and the Breede River. South Coast Renosterbos dominates most of the reserve, though along the Breede River there are areas of dense riverine vegetation and Acacia Karoo thicket. Specials that we will be looking for are Denham’s Bustard, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Southern Tchagra and, with some luck, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk.

Our accommodation for one night is situated in a sheltered cove on the banks of the Breede River with an island directly in front of the property. This is one of the most unique and pristine locations on the river.

The next day we visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve which incorporates 36 000ha of lowland fynbos and coastal dunes east of Cape Agulhas, including a low fynbos clad mountain (Potberg) and a coastal lake.  The Potberg mountain hosts the Western Cape’s last breeding colony of Cape Vultures, and the reserve also has Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Greater and Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, , Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk and African Harrier-Hawk. Capped Wheatear, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Secretarybird, Southern Black Korhaan and Black Harrier inhabit the short grass areas.  The rocky coastllne is frequented by good numbers of African Black Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Turnstone and Grey Plover, whilst the large, irregularly shaped lake attracts a large number and an excellent diversity of waterfowl and waders.

We now head westwards through the Overberg region. The gravel roads through the Overberg wheatlands produce a surprising diversity of birds, including Black Harrier, Blue Crane (in great numbers), Denham’s Bustard, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Karoo and Southern Black Korhaan, Long-billed Pipit and Horus Swift.

Our last port of call is at Pringle Bay where we spend our final two nights. Birding spots that we will be visiting in the vicinity are Rooi-Els, Stony Point and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens.

Rooi-Els is a reliable site for Cape Rock-jumper which can be seen hopping about feverishly on the boulders in the late afternoon and early morning.  Other species often seen here are Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Rock-Thrush, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Siskin and Verreaux’s Eagle.

Stony Point is one of only two mainland African Penguin colonies.  Bank Cormorant also breeds here alongside Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants.

The 200 ha Harold Porter Botanical Gardens has almost 100 species on its bird list.  Endemics found here are Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Siskin, Victorin’s Warbler, Ground Woodpecker and Cape Rock-jumper.  Protea Seedeater also occurs and the elusive Cape Eagle-Owl is resident in the garden.  A spot near Arabella Country Estate, is proving to be a reliable site for Hottentot Buttononquail.

Depending on the requirements of the group we may also visit Tokai Forest in Cape Town in search of Chaffinch and Constantia for Knysna Warbler.

We bid farewell to the Fairest Cape and fly back to Johannesburg after an unforgettable trip.

This 11-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive.

Itineraries

Day 1

Date : April 9, 2021

Johannesburg-West Coast National Park

Early morning flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Visit Paarl Mountain en route to West Coast National Park.
Afternoon birding and overnight in West Coast NP.

Day 2

Date : April 10, 2021

west Coast National Park-Velddrif-West Coast National Park

Early morning birding from hides and vehicle in West Coast NP.
After brunch head for Velddrif area for wetland and farmland birding.
Afternoon return to West Coast NP and overnight in Park.

Day 3

Date : April 11, 2021

West Coast National Park-Piekenierskloof area

Early morning birding in West Coast NP.
After brunch head for Rocher Pan and Verlorenvlei for birding en route to Piekenierskloof.
Afternoon birding at Kransvlei Poort and overnight at farm guesthouse near Piekenierskloof.

Day 4

Date : April 12, 2021

Piekenierskloof-Lamberts Bay-Tanqua Karoo

Early morning birding at Kransvlei Poort.
After breakfast head for Lamberts Bay and visit Cape Gannet colony on Bird Island.
Travel via Citrusdal and Prince Alfred Hamlet to our overnight accommodation in the Tanqua Karoo.
Overnight at farm guesthouse.

Day 5

Date : April 13, 2021

Tanqua Karoo

Day spent birding in the Tanqua Karoo
Overnight at farm guesthouse.

Day 6

Date : April 14, 2021

Tanqua Karoo-Grootvadersbosch

Early morning birding on farm
Depart after breakfast for Grootvadersbosch via Montague and Tradouw Pass.
Afternnon birding in Grootvadersbosch forest.
Overnight at guesthouse near forest.

Day 7

Date : April 15, 2021

Grootvadersbosch

Morning birding in Grootvadersbosch forest.
Afternoon birding along farmlamd loops around Swellendam.
Overnight at guesthouse near Grootvadersbosch.

Day 8

Date : April 16, 2021

Grootvadersbosch-Malgas

Early morning forest birding in Grootvadersbosch.
After breakfast head for Malgas on the Breede River.
Afternoon birding along Overberg farmland loops.
Overnight at Malgas guesthouse.

Day 9

Date : April 17, 2021

Malgas-De Hoop-Pringle Bay

Early morning birding around Malgas.
Depart after breakfast and visit De Hoop and De Mond Nature Reserves en route to Pringle Bay.
Afternnon birding at Stony Point and Rooi-Els.
Overnight at guesthouse near Pringle Bay.

Day 10

Date : April 18, 2021

Pringle Bay

Early morning birding at Rooi-Els.
Rest of day spent birding in surrounding area, including Harold Porter Botanical Gardens
and Bot River lagoon.
Overnight at guesthouse near Pringle Bay.

Day 11

Date : April 19, 2021

Pringle Bay-Johannesburg

Early morning birding at Rooi-Els.
After breakfast, head to Cape Town for birding in Kirstenbosch Gardens, Tokai Forest etc.
Mid-afternnon flight to Johannesburg.

Includes

Return airfare-Johannesburg/Cape Town /Johannesburg.

Ground transport, all meals, accommodation, guiding, entrance fees, and specified activities.

Excludes

Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature.

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