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Birdwatching in South Africa
Birdwatching in South Africa
Birdwatching in South Africa

South Africa birdwatching

South Africa: Where to go for great birdwatching

South Africa has the highest number of endemic bird species in mainland Africa. Birding in the Cape is particularly good due to the sheer variety of flora found in the Cape Floristic Region. Furthermore, as many South Africans are keen birdwatchers, the resources about birds and information available are usually excellent.

The flora of the Cape is particularly special because South Africa is the meeting point of two of the world's six floral kingdoms; the paleotropical and the capensis (Cape Floristic Region). The Cape Floristic Region is the smallest floral kingdom in the world; it's the only one to be contained entirely within one country. Around 9,000 plant species grow here, and roughly 69% of those are endemic. This variety and level of endemism of flora is mirrored in a spectacular array of birdlife.

For a good example of the Cape Floristic Region, look to De Hoop Nature Reserve where you will find the 'fynbos' ('fine-bush') shrub-lands which are so characteristic of this region. The endemics here include many 'fynbos specials' - like the Cape siskin, Cape sugarbird and the hottentot buttonquail. De Hoop is just one of many great Cape destinations for a birdwatching holiday in South Africa.

For vegetation and birds more typical of the rest of Africa, head to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, in the north of the Cape. With plenty of game it is renowned for its raptor activity, and species of note here include the white-backed vulture; cape vulture; tawny eagle; pygmy falcon; rednecked falcon; and the distinctive bateleur. You may also see the highly localised, endemic red lark (if you're lucky!)

Other endemic birds of South Africa include the Knysna scrub-warbler, Knysna laurie, forest canary, protea canary and African rock pipit. Birding in South Africa offers incredible variety with the chance to tick off over thirty endemics.

Ecca Lodge

Kwandwe is an attractive destination for South Africa birdwatching as the guiding is good and it is home to many key species like black storks, martial eagles and the stunning blue cranes, South Africa’s national bird, after which the reserve was named.


Twee Rivieren

Visit Kgalagadi on your South Africa birdwatching break to see over 250 species of bird, and two-thirds of Southern African raptor species. More colourful varieties include lilac-breasted rollers, crimson-breasted shrikes and the African hoopoe.

Augrabies Restcamp

A wide variety of habitats can be found at Augrabies Falls, including riverine vegetation, reedbeds, cliffs, acacia thickets and rocky scrubland. Thus, the park has over 180 species and will appeal to those on a birdwatching holiday in South Africa.


The Opstal

Hosting many African birds including the last breeding colony of Cape vultures in the Western Cape, De Hoop is fantastic for birdwatching in South Africa. Spot ostrich, African harrier-hawk, wading birds, etc. on guided walks around the De Hoop Opstal's vlei and coast.


Garden Lodge

The vast diversity of the fynbos vegetation at Grootbos attracts a real range of birds, making this is a good stop as part of a trip focusing on birdwatching in South Africa. Expect plenty of colourful sunbirds, Cape sugarbirds, black harriers and kestrels and many others.


The Opstal

Hosting many African birds including the last breeding colony of Cape vultures in the Western Cape, De Hoop is fantastic for birdwatching in South Africa. Spot ostrich, African harrier-hawk, wading birds, etc. on guided walks around the De Hoop Opstal's vlei and coast.


Savute Under Canvas

The Savuti Marshes are renowned for birdlife densities, particularly from mid-December to March, when flocks of yellow-billed storks, African spoonbills and pink-backed pelicans make this a great time for birdwatching in Botswana.


Okonjima Plains Camp

Okonjima boasts birdlife typical of Namibia's Central Highlands. The guided or self-guided walks pass by a variety of watering points, including dams, lakes and even bird-baths – making a lovely addition to a Namibian birdwatching break.

Cornerstone Guesthouse

Although Cornerstone is a town B&B it is a great stop on a self-drive, birdwatching tour of Namibia. Walvis Bay Lagoon with its plentiful waterfowl is just a short drive away while Swakopmund itself is a perfect base for a guided birdwatching tour.


Twee Rivieren

Visit Kgalagadi on your South Africa birdwatching break to see over 250 species of bird, and two-thirds of Southern African raptor species. More colourful varieties include lilac-breasted rollers, crimson-breasted shrikes and the African hoopoe.


Kwara Camp

The environment at Kwara Camp is incredibly diverse resulting in superb birdwatching. Seasonal floodplains and wooded islands surround camp while papyrus-lined waterways, lagoons, mopane woodland and scrub savannah are all easily accessible.

Birdwatching elsewhere in Africa

Our top ideas and inspiration for Birdwatching in other countries.


Birdwatching in Botswana

Botswana

Much of northern Botswana consists of vast tracts of untouched wilderness with plenty of wildlife...

Birdwatching in Kenya

Kenya

Kenya is a prime destination for a birdwatching holiday at any time of year. Tremendous geographical ...

Birdwatching in Malawi

Malawi

Malawi has a number of species which are rare in the rest of Southern Africa, and birdwatching ...

Birdwatching in Mozambique

Mozambique

Mozambique stretches over 2000km from north to south. It is a lush and varied country, and birding ...

Birdwatching in Namibia

Namibia

The best time for bird watching in Namibia is during the rains - typically between around November ...

Birdwatching in Rwanda

Rwanda

Birdwatching in Rwanda is somewhat overlooked in favour of gorilla-trekking trips. However, birdlife ...

Birdwatching in Seychelles

Seychelles

The Seychelles is a disparate group of islands - some granitic; some coralline - scattered around ...

Birdwatching in Tanzania

Tanzania

With a range of endemic bird species, Tanzania is a great location for a birdwatching holiday. ...

Birdwatching in Zambia

Zambia

Birdwatching in Zambia will reveal a mix of south, east and even central African birds. Birdlife ...

Birdwatching in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Whilst Zimbabwe doesn't have any endemics, it's still great for bird watching. A Zimbabwe holiday ...

Where to see wildlife species in Africa

Maximise the chances of seeing your favourite African animals based on traveller sightings reports from the field.


Buffalo

Buffalo

Syncerus caffer

One of the ‘Big Five’, buffalo earned a fearsome reputation in hunters’ tales. By contrast, big herds of these sociable bovids are placid, but mount formidable defences against predators.

83% SUCCESS

1,222 sightings from 1,467 observations

Where to see buffalo in Africa

Cheetah

Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus

The cheetah is the fastest land animal and the only cat that hunts by pure speed. Found largely in open grasslands, its slim, elegant form is today an increasingly rare sight.

29% SUCCESS

462 sightings from 1,579 observations

Where to see cheetah in Africa

Elephant

Elephant

Loxodonta africana

By far the biggest of the so-called Big Five – indeed, the largest land animal on the planet – the elephant shapes the very landscape it inhabits and is a defining presence on any safari.

90% SUCCESS

1,735 sightings from 1,921 observations

Where to see elephant in Africa

Oryx

Oryx

Oryx sp.

Oryx are impressive antelopes, with a powerful physique and elegant markings set off by rapier-like horns. They cut a distinctive dash in some of Africa’s harshest landscapes.

70% SUCCESS

699 sightings from 1,003 observations

Where to see oryx in Africa

Giraffe

Giraffe

Giraffa camelopardalis

The world’s tallest land mammal, giraffes are herbivores which have evolved many unique adaptations. Their iconic outlines tower above the bush in many of Africa’s wildlife areas.

83% SUCCESS

1,655 sightings from 1,989 observations

Where to see giraffe in Africa

Hippo

Hippo

Hippopotamus amphibius

The territorial calls of the hippo create a signature soundtrack to Africa’s rivers & wetlands. Despite an endearing smile, this aquatic herbivore has a notoriously aggressive disposition.

89% SUCCESS

1,272 sightings from 1,428 observations

Where to see hippo in Africa

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

Crocuta crocuta

The spotted hyena may be thought of as ‘ugly’ and ‘cowardly’. In fact, this versatile and intelligent carnivore is one of Africa’s most fascinating and warrants attention on any safari.

51% SUCCESS

1,000 sightings from 1,963 observations

Where to see spotted hyena in Africa

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

Parahyaena brunnea

This largely solitary scavenger is one of the more elusive and little-known of Africa’s carnivores. Shaggier than its spotted cousin, it occurs only in the arid southwest of the continent.

16% SUCCESS

123 sightings from 766 observations

Where to see brown hyena in Africa

Leopard

Leopard

Panthera pardus

The most numerous of Africa’s big cats, leopard occur across many habitats, from wild tracts to populated areas. Their grace and their elusive nature make them a unique safari drawcard.

45% SUCCESS

919 sightings from 2,043 observations

Where to see leopard in Africa

Lion

Lion

Panthera leo

Lions are at the top of the food chain and also most safari wish-lists, but with their numbers falling fast, any encounter with these majestic apex predators always feels like a privilege.

79% SUCCESS

1,431 sightings from 1,802 observations

Where to see lion in Africa

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

Diceros bicornis

The black rhino is the smaller and rarer of Africa’s two rhino species but has the more fearsome reputation. Shy and heavily persecuted, it tends to stick to cover.

29% SUCCESS

284 sightings from 980 observations

Where to see black rhino in Africa

White Rhino

White Rhino

Ceratotherium simum

The white rhino is the largest and most numerous of the world’s five rhinoceros species. They are larger, easier to see and generally more approachable than the black rhino.

42% SUCCESS

233 sightings from 554 observations

Where to see white rhino in Africa

Wild dog

Wild dog

Lycaon pictus

African wild dogs are among the continent’s most compelling animals. Much misunderstood, these rare, tie-dyed canids are amazingly efficient hunters with a fascinating social life.

31% SUCCESS

413 sightings from 1,325 observations

Where to see wild dog in Africa

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Connochaetes sp.

Superficially bovine in appearance, wildebeests are known for their spectacular migrations sometimes in huge numbers. These resilient animals are some of Africa’s most successful herbivores.

64% SUCCESS

1,157 sightings from 1,817 observations

Where to see wildebeest in Africa

Pangolin

Pangolin

Smutsia sp.

Pangolins appear to be more pine cone than animal in their unique armoury of scales. These nocturnal, ant-eating oddities are not only highly elusive but also increasingly rare.

2% SUCCESS

31 sightings from 1,621 observations

Where to see pangolin in Africa

Aardvark

Aardvark

Orycteropus afer

The aardvark is one of Africa’s most bizarre and enigmatic animals. A shy, nocturnal termite-eater, signs of its presence may be scattered about the bush whilst sightings remain elusive.

3% SUCCESS

48 sightings from 1,705 observations

Where to see aardvark in Africa

Eland

Eland

Taurotragus oryx

Africa’s largest antelope, eland are culturally important from prehistoric rock art to modern game farms. Though widespread, they are also shy so sightings are uncommon and often fleeting.

45% SUCCESS

669 sightings from 1,483 observations

Where to see eland in Africa

Meerkat

Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

These highly sociable little mammals have an endearing appearance and comical antics. Found in the drier areas of Southern Africa, close encounters are a sought-after experience.

19% SUCCESS

40 sightings from 207 observations

Where to see meerkat in Africa

Zebra

Zebra

Equus sp.

The zebra is a quintessential African animal: the horse in stripy pyjamas at the end of every child’s A–Z. There are three species, of which the plains zebra is much the most common.

83% SUCCESS

1,868 sightings from 2,244 observations

Where to see zebra in Africa

Roan antelope

Roan antelope

Hippotragus equinus

Africa’s second largest antelope and one of its most handsome, with a powerful build and distinctive markings, roan are wary of people, but renowned for their bravery against predators.

24% SUCCESS

253 sightings from 1,046 observations

Where to see roan antelope in Africa

Sable antelope

Sable antelope

Hippotragus niger

Perhaps Africa’s most beautiful antelope, sable are renowned for their combative nature, even holding off lions. Shy and restricted in range, sightings of sable are always special.

21% SUCCESS

218 sightings from 1,033 observations

Where to see sable antelope in Africa

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