Is it ‘Bird Watching’ or ‘Birding’….?

South Africa is known for its dramatic landscapes, wide open spaces, cultural experiences, its tumultuous history and historical sites and of course, its wildlife.  But did you know that South Africa also boasts around 850 bird species?

For avid birders, there is no shortage of holiday options to choose from that include not just superb accommodation but incredible wildlife and bird watching opportunities too.

Guests at Kariega Game Reserve in Port Elizabeth have the opportunity to spot an incredible 350 different bird species including the impressive martial eagle.  Ask about a comprehensive list of their bird species list.

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This amazing internationally renowned ‘Big Five’ malaria-free private game reserve is family owned and managed and offers an unforgettable safari experience at great value. A natural extension to Cape Town and the Garden Route, Kariega Game Reserve comprises 10000 hectares of pristine wilderness incorporating the picturesque Kariega and Bushmans rivers, a unique feature.

Kariega’s landscape spans across 5 different eco systems, resulting in extremely high game carrying capacities which results in Kariega’s game viewing and birding experience being unsurpassed in the Eastern Cape.

Kariega’s stunning beauty and rivers offer dramatic views and vistas resulting in unforgettable game drives and a diversity of unique activities including guided bush walks, river cruises, canoeing, fishing and visits to the nearby beaches.

Guests enjoy a choice of 5 uniquely different luxury lodges to suit all needs – ranging from 4 to 5-star – namely: Settlers Drift, River Lodge, Ukhozi Lodge, Main Lodge and The Homestead.

For most people who are not “birders”, the concept of birding may seem a bit strange! Bird watching, or birding, as most people call it can be one of the most enjoyable activities while on safari. This is especially true for nature guides and guests who travel on safari often, who enjoy the extra challenge that birding brings with it, compared with general game viewing. The fact that birding can be rather challenging is what makes it appealing, and birders may sometimes find themselves pushing their limits to get a better view of a bird, like ‘freezing’ their position for uncomfortably long periods of time in the hope that the bird comes out to show itself!Kariega Game Reserve

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Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve, located in the Tankwa Karoo just 2 and half hours from Cape Town,  is home to an abundance of bird, flora and game species.  Not only is it the place to be for stress-free contemplation, but it is also the ideal place for bird-watchers to view the return of bird species that previously inhabited the area.  Some of these bird species include the Lesser Flamingos and the African Fish Eagle.

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Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve is situated under 2.5 hours from Cape Town, in the vastness of the majestic Tankwa Karoo. With thick wooded Acacia river beds and magnificent golden mountains on the horizon, Inverdoorn provides the ultimate tranquil Big Five safari experience with exceptional birding opportunities.

Safaris on its 10 000 hectare wildlife conservancy are offered on a day trip option or overnight stay with game drives presented by highly qualified rangers in traditional 4 x 4 vehicles.

Four and five star accommodation is offered in the premier Ambassador Collection (suites or chalets) or a variety of Lodge rooms.

Inverdoorn is furthermore acclaimed for its Cheetah Rehabilitation programme and guests have the opportunity to learn more about this renowned project when on safari, with a Cheetah Educational.  At night time the Karoo stars feel tangible, while guests gather around the boma fires and pools to share their safari stories.

‘The real joy has been to see, as the eco systems have normalised, species coming back to the area. We have a lot of birding groups coming through to Inverdoorn and while they are with us they always do a trip into the Tankwa Karoo National Park where birders can see arid-area specials such as Burchell’s Courser, Karoo Long-billed Lark and Tractrac Chat.’ – Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve

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Three Tree Hill Lodge, in the Northern Drakensberg, offers nature walks as part of their guided experiences offering.  Rewarding in both summer and winter months, Three Tree Hill guests are given a bird list of over 250 bird species for use during their time at the lodge.

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Against the magnificent backdrop of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, and overlooking the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, lies Three Tree Hill Lodge. This Fair Trade certified lodge, places great emphasis on Sustainable Responsible Tourism and offers spectacular scenery, locally grown farm-style country food with superb hospitality. It is the ideal environment in which to unwind and be rejuvenated.

This intimate, luxury 24 bedded lodge is owner- managed by Simon & Cheryl Blackburn whose passion and enthusiasm for Africa’s wildlife, history and culture is immediately evident when you visit. You are welcomed into their home, and invited to experience the warm hospitality, and relaxed atmosphere in their four-star family-run lodge. A myriad of activities are available from the lodge, which include Anglo-Boer War battlefield tours, horse trails, game walks, hiking, mountain biking and birding.

The lodge has three two-bedroomed family cottages, which offer spectacular views of the surrounding hills and six double cottages suitable for couples and single travellers.

‘Grassland dominates this area, while protea parkland is found higher up on the crests and spurs. This huge protected area of the Drakensberg holds almost all the remaining alpine and sub-alpine vegetation in KwaZulu Natal. The summits are generally rocky with bare patches of shallow soil and rock sheets near the escarpment. The catchment areas range from veld and marshes to intricate streams and river courses. With this incredible diversity of vegetation types, Three Tree Hill is a wonderful place for birding.
Summer months offer a splash of colours, as families such as the whydahs and widows don their breeding plumage. Large flocks of red-billed quelea fill the fields in search of grass seeds. Equally large flock sizes of Amur falcon line the telephone wires, anticipating enough rain to release winged termites. The dry winter months show the aloes in flower, attracting a myriad of nectar and insect feeding birdlife.
Whether you are an armchair birder, or a serious twitcher exploring hills at 5 am, or just enjoying the landscape from the deck of your cottage, Three Tree Hill offers it all.’ – Three Tree Hill Lodge

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Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve in the heart of Zululand in Kwazulu-Natal boasts nearly 430 resident species of birds.  Mkuze Falls and its wetlands are a haven for sightings of some of the most beautiful and spectacular birds in Africa including the Secretary Bird.

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Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve is one of only two Private Game Reserves in the region where you can view the ‘Big Five’ as well as nearly 430 species of birds are resident.

Overlooking the Mkuze Waterfall, the lodge features 8 luxurious thatched Chalets and 1 Safari Suite, accommodating guests in utmost comfort and style. All Chalets are built on raised wooden platforms and the spacious veranda of each unit provides fantastic views of the river, the waterfall and the surrounding hills. The Safari Suite is ideal for honeymooners or those who want to experience something a little extra.

Guests are invited to join the open-vehicle safaris with experienced field guides and rangers who also conduct bird, bush and game walks on request. Enjoy two game drives daily in this Private Big Five Reserve. The spa centre is run by a fully qualified massage therapist and beautician and offers the various treatments to help guests unwind and relax in the tranquillity that is Mkuze Falls.

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A variety of waders and the palm-nut vulture are regulars at Thonga Beach Lodge where guided bird watching is available.

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Credit: Dr George Hughes

Thonga Beach Lodge is set on the pristine shores of the Maputuland Coast, KwaZulu-Natal. This 24 bed luxury lodge is the ideal place to discover one of Africa’s last unspoilt wilderness beaches.

It is a magical place of coastal forests, grasslands, bush, shimmering lakes and exquisite sandy beaches. Its crystal clear, warm waters offer South Africa’s best snorkelling and excellent off-shore SCUBA diving and excellent birding opportunities. Guided birding, scorpion and spider walks and turtle tracking are offered in season.

The 12 thatched bush suites offer either Ocean or Forest Views with Deluxe Ocean Views room sporting private plunge pools. The suites are positioned to afford maximum privacy & minimal environmental impact.

Excellent cuisine is enjoyed al fresco on the dining deck or beach deck overlooking the sea. This is an ideal choice for honeymooners, families, SCUBA divers or anyone who wants to simply relax. A civilized distance from civilization.

‘Bird watching at Thonga Beach Lodge offers the choice of watching sea birds from the beach deck, foraging in the rock pools at low tide or running along the shore chasing the ghost crabs.  Take a walk through the coastal dune forest and you’re likely to come across a myriad of forest species. In the grasslands at Lake Sibaya, you’ll be entranced by the beautiful orange throated long-claws, fish eagles and flocks of flamingos.’ – Thonga Beach Lodge

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Whether your preference is to call it ‘bird watching’ or ‘birding’, bird enthusiasts are spoilt for choice when it comes to options in South Africa.  Contact a Thompsons Africa consultant on email info@thompsonsafrica.com to make a booking.

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