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Cape Town to Garden Route 6-Day Birding Tour

Cape Town – Rooi-Els – Hermanus – Platbos – Cape Agulhas - Grootvadersbosch - Wilderness

Scheduled Dates

  • ​26 − 31 August 2023

  • 14 − 19 November 2023

Or alternate date on request. 

Introduction

This Cape Town to Garden Route 6-day birding tour will lead you along the Cape south coast from through the glorious Overberg region and along the spectacular Garden Route to Wilderness in the east. We will also explore the Kogelberg mountains and the region from Hermanus to Gansbaai, as well as the flourishing forest past Swellendam. The tour focuses on several different geographic areas and varied habitats that host a wide range of species, including many coastal and seashore birds, including birding the southern tip of Africa.

We set a sightings goal of 250+ bird species in the summer months and 210+ bird species in winter, many of them resident endemics and specials. On the mammal front, we hope to see upwards of 30 species, with an array of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies also to be found, as well as many delightful orchid and protea species across the greatly varied habitats.

Top 20 birds: Cape Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Fynbos Buttonquail, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Protea Canary, Cape Eagle Owl, Knysna Woodpecker, Forest Buzzard, African Penguin, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Southern Black Korhaan, Damara Tern, Victorin's Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Karoo Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Southern Tchagra.

Tour Highlights:

  • The probability of seeing over 40 the of country's 69 endemic bird species, as well as many red-listed species and specials.

  • Birding a multitude of varied habitats supporting diverse bird species including fynbos, thicket, rhenosterveld, lowland Afrotemperate forest, coastal forest, mountain passes, gardens, wetlands and riverine areas, estuaries, sandy beaches and rocky shores.

  • Glorious scenic drives along the exceptionally picturesque Clarence Drive, Hermanus coastline, De Mond and the Garden Route, offering seabird and sea mammal sighting opportunities.

  • Birding the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas.

Itinerary and species

This safari both commences in Cape Town and ends in George or at George Airport.

Day 1: Cape Town, Rooi-Els, Betty's Bay, Rooisand to Hermanus

On Day 1 we depart Cape Town in an easterly direction and first stop in at the Paardevlei pan, which has previously offered us over 70 bird species in 2 hours, including White-backed Duck, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, African Snipe, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black Sparrowhawk, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Pied Avocet, Black Crake, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, and endemics such as Jackal Buzzard, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Karoo Prinia, Cape Spurfowl, Cape Weaver, Cape Bulbul, Cape Grassbird, Fiscal Flycatcher and Grey-backed Cisticola.

We then meander along the breath taking Clarence Drive coastal road beneath the magnificent Hottentots Hollands Mountains on one side and the east coast of False Bay. This is the start of the Whale Route and one the most beautiful scenic drives in South Africa. We next stop at the hamlet of Rooi-Els, where our primary targets are Cape Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Siskin, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Rock Thrush, Grey-backed Cisticola, Verreaux's Eagle, Cape Eagle Owl, Yellow Bishop and Cape Bunting. Here we may also spot Klipspringer, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax and even (Cape) Leopard.

We then head to Betty’s Bay to visit Stoney Point for its African Penguins and numerous other shoreline specials, including Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, African Oystercatcher and Cape Gannet offshore.

We enjoy lunch here and then advance to the productive Rooisand Nature Reserve and its extensive vlei environment in search of waders and rallids. Possible new additions here include Victorin’s Warbler, African Marsh-Harrier, Western Osprey, Great White PelicanCape Longclaw, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern and numerous other tern species, Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Great Egret and African Spoonbill. Should time allow we will pop into the Vermont Salt Pan as well. 

We then head through to the glorious coastal town of Hermanus, where we spend our first night.

AccommodationWhale on Main B&B, Hermanus

       Macassar Estuary mouth          Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve                  Montagu Pass

Day 2: Fernkloof, Kleinrivier to Platbos Forest

On Day 2 we set off early for the remarkable Fernkloof Nature Reserve, located in the Kleinrivier Mountains behind Hermanus. Here we look to add Protea CanarySentinel Rock ThrushBlue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Swee Waxbill, Klaas's Cuckoo, Olive Thrush, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Speckled Mousebird, Red-faced Mousebird, Neddicky and African Paradise Flycatcher, while still getting a second look at many of the other endemics. The reserve ranges in altitude from sea level to 824m, and comprises 0.002% of the Cape Floral Kingdom but contains 18% of its plants in just 18 square kilometres. No other place on earth will you find so many different species growing in such close proximity - more than 1250 species of plant have thus far been collected and identified in the reserve.

We then venture to the Platbos Forest Reserve, which conserves a Lowland Afrotemperate forest remnant and Agulhas limestone fynbos on the slopes of the Baviaanspoort Hills near Gansbaai. The forest is filled with ancient trees, some of which are over 1000 years old. Along the way we stop to scan the Uilenskraal Estuary to survey for Antarctic Tern and other. We spend our third night in this area. Our main targets at Platbos are endemics such as Protea Canary, Knysna Woodpecker, Forest Buzzard, Southern Tchagra, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Clapper Lark, Large-billed Lark, Swee Waxbill, Victorin’s Warbler, Forest Canary and Cape Siskin. Others to look out for include Olive Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, Olive Bush-Shrike, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Verreaux’s Eagle, Black Harrier, Lemon Dove, African Black Duck, Southern Pochard, Tambourine Dove, African Olive Pigeon, Karoo Scrub-Robin, White-backed Mousebird, Acacia Pied Barbet White-throated Canary, Yellow Canary and Bokmakierie. While mammal treats here include Caracal, Leopard, Aardvark, African Wild Cat, Cape Porcupine, Striped Polecat, Cape Grysbok, Honey Badger, Grey Rhebuck, Bushbuck, Chacma Baboon, Cape Grey Mongoose, Steenbok and Scrub Hare.

Accommodation: De Uijlenes, Platbos

Day 3: De Mond and Cape Agulhas

On Day 3 we depart Gansbaai in an easterly direction as we make our way through the farmlands and wetlands of the Agulhas Plains and southwards to the magnificent De Mond Nature Reserve. We then head down to Agulhas for our third and final night's stay. The target birds we seek to add in this area are numerous, and include more endemics, such as  Fynbos Buttonquail, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Southern Tchagra, Cloud Cisticola and Southern Black Korhaan.

While the other treats include Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded Plover, African Grass Owl, Karoo Korhaan, Denham’s Bustard, Cape VultureBlue Crane, Secretarybird, Black Harrier, Martial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lanner Falcon, African Fish Eagle, Large-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Capped Wheatear, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-capped Lark, Wattled Starling, Long-billed Crombec, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Nicholson's Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Canary, Lesser Honeyguide, Greater Honeyguide, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Red-chested Flufftail, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Ruddy Turnstone, Maccoa Duck, Blue-billed Teal, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Brimstone Canary, Cape Batis and Red-capped Lark. The mammals to keep a lookout for include Cape Clawless OtterCaracal, Cape Porcupine, Cape Grysbok, Honey Badger, Cape Grey Mongoose, Large Grey Mongoose, Common Duiker, Steenbok and Scrub Hare. Along the beach in the right seasons we will survey for Indian Ocean Hump-backed Dolphin, Southern Right Whale and Hump-backed Whales.

Accommodation: Agulhas Country Lodge, Agulhas

Day 4: Agulhas to Grootvadersbosch Forest

Our Day 4 we continue birding this region in the morning, targeting those species listed above for Day 3 we may have missed. We will tour around Klipfontein Keep, Brandfontein and Soetendalsvlei until late morning. We then proceed eastwards and inland to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, situated at the base of the Langeberg Mountains. It is an extensive wilderness area incorporating 250-hectares of indigenous forest, the largest in the southwestern Cape and certainly the region’s richest in bird diversity. Here we can find good numbers of forest and forest-edge endemics and other desirable species. A number of more characteristically eastern species reach their western limit here. Our endemic birding targets we seek include Knysna Warbler, Victorin’s Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary and Cape Siskin.

Other great birds we seek include Layard’s Warbler, Narina Trogon, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, African Cuckoo Hawk, Olive Bush Shrike, Grey Cuckooshrike, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Giant Kingfisher, African Rail, White-backed Duck, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird, Black Harrier, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.

Mammals to seek include the endemic Bontebok, Eland, Grey Rhebuck and Yellow Mongoose.

Accommodation: Valley's End, Grootvadersbosch

 

    Hermanus from Rotary Way                   Hermanus bay                               Swartberg Pass

Day 5: Grootvadersbosch Forest to Wilderness

We begin Day 5 with further searching of these magnificent forests before we depart for the spectacular Garden Route and make our way to the special holiday town of Wilderness. Here we spend the afternoon searching the lake systems and estuaries of Wilderness National Park for the 4 kingfishers after which the bird hides are named, namely Half-collared Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and Giant Kingfisher, and many other freshwater and estuary mouth species. On the quieter waterways we keep a keen eye out for the elusive African Finfoot and African Black Duck. Then in the riverine forest and forest fringes of the Touw River and the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp we search for Crowned Eagle, Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, African Emerald Cuckoo (summer), Little Sparrowhawk, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, White Starred Robin, Forest Buzzard, Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill, Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black-bellied Starling, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush Shrike, Olive Woodpecker, Bar-throated Apalis, Terrestrial Brownbul, Green-backed Camaroptera, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Streaky-headed Seed-eater and Black-headed Oriole, as well as numerous other more regulars. At night we will listen out for African Wood Owl and Buff-spotted Flufftail.

Accommodation: Fairy Knowe Hotel, Wilderness

             Kogelberg beauty                         Afrotemperate forest                    Garden Route coastline

Day 6: Wilderness National Park and Sedgefield

On our last morning, Day 6, we explore more of these magnificent forest trails to collect anything we may have missed. We then push on to the lake district of Sedgefield to add other waterbirds and rallids, while keeping our eyes on the sky for raptors and other aerial feeders. We will look for African Rail, Black Crake, African Swamphen, African Darter, Red-billed Teal, Pied Avocet and more. In the skies we will watch for Forest Buzzard, African Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk, African Black Swift and Alpine Swift, amongst others. After lunch we head back through Wilderness to George, where we end our great adventure.

Habitats: Each destination we visit en-route offers unique habitats, extraordinary scenery, and breath-taking beauty, providing you with fantastic photographic opportunities. Habitats we explore include fynbos, thicket, lowland Afrotemperate forest, gardens, wetlands and riverine areas, estuaries, sandy beaches and rocky shores. These host numerous regional endemics, threatened and endangered bird and mammal species, as well as great floral diversity that include a variety of orchids and proteas.

Accommodation: We typically use very comfortable private lodges and country cottages, but should you prefer, luxury lodging options can also be arranged at an added cost.

 

Tour tempo: The tempo of our Birding and Wildlife Tours are typically medium-fast paced, with occasional mid-day breaks (advisable on hot days). If you are a keen photographer, well so are we, and we can offer many opportunities to capture the moments that will make you the envy of your birding photography friends.

Expected weather conditionsThe Mediterranean climate of this region is warm and temperate, with more rainfall received in the winter than in the summer. The temperature here averages 16.5 °C, while rainfall averages around 610 mm per year. The summers are warm, dry, and mostly clear; the winters are cool and partly cloudy; and it is windy year round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 8°C in July to 25°C in January, and is rarely below 4°C or above 29°C. Based on the tourism score, the best time of year to visit Hermanus for warm-weather activities is from late November to late March. The driest month is January, with the most precipitation falling in July. The month with the highest relative humidity is August (78%), and the lowest relative humidity is December (68%).

Optional extensions: Optional tour extensions available include:

  • Cape Town Day Birding Tour – add a day of touring the numerous birding hotspots around one of the world's most beautiful cities, Cape Town.

  • Cape Town Pelagic Birding Tour – add a full-day deep sea pelagic birding tour departing from Hout Bay harbour to experience the best seabirding in South Africa and some of the best anywhere in the world. Expect a multitude of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and many others.

  • Along through the Garden Route to Addo Elephant Park – add a further 4 days by first continuing on to the great birding of Nature's Valley, the Gamtoos River mouth and the 'Big 5' Addo Elephant National Park.

  • Up the West Coast – add a further 4 days by first birding for a day around Cape Town before heading northwards up the picturesque west coast to Langebaan and then inland through the rugged Cederberg mountain ranges into the Tankwa Karoo, another of Africa’s great endemic hotspots.

 

Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.

Tour Summary

  • Date:  

    • ​26 − 31 August 2023

    • 14 − 19 September 2023

    • Or other date on request.

  • Validity: 01 January 2023 – 31 December 2023.

  • Duration 6 days, 5 nights.

  • Price:  ZAR 19,490 per person sharing; and ZAR 2,700 single supplement.

  • Price may be subject to change based on factors beyond our control. 

  • No. of Pax:  Maximum 6 guests per vehicle and per guide.

  • Tour Starts and Ends:  In Cape Town or at Cape Town International Airport.

  • Distance:  Total driving distance (including around sites) = 1,200km.

 

Tour Includes:

  • Private birding and wildlife guide;

  • Accommodation (may change subject to availability, in which case similar will be found);

  • All breakfasts, dinners, tea and coffee;

  • All ground transport – Maximum 6 participants and 1 guide per luxury touring vehicle;

  • Bottled water in vehicles whilst travelling per person per day;

  • All entrance fees, conservation and community levies to parks and reserves;

  • Trip Guide and personalized checklists.

Tour Excludes:

  • All airfares;

  • Airport departure taxes or visa fees;

  • Travel and medical insurance (incl. personal equipment and repatriation) ;

  • All lunches, snacks and drinks (except bottled waters);

  • Optional excursions;

  • Specialist guide fees and activities not specified;

  • Items of a personal nature.

  • Laundry and telephone charges;

  • Tips and gratuities for guides and local restaurants;

  • Anything else not mentioned in “Includes”.

 

Note:

  • Terms and Conditions apply;

  • Minimum of 4 participants per vehicle required to undertake the trip. Should the number of guests change, the cost of the tour and the per person cost will change accordingly;

  • The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of those we may possibly view on the tour, however, none can be guaranteed;

  • This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control;

  • Tour group is responsible for paying for all guide meals;

  • All images taken on tour with Sustain Safaris.

Russians in George signed.jpg
Macassar Estuary
Kogelberg
Montagu Pass
Hermanus signed.jpg
Hermanus bay signed.jpg
Swartberg Pass
Kogelberg Valley
Dap Naude Dam
Storms River Mouth
Cape Sugarbird male
Southern Black Korhaan male
Karoo Korhaan
Cape Rockjumper female
African Wood Owl
Southern Tchagra
Victorin's Warbler
Olive Woodpecker
Knysna Turaco
Greater Flamingoes
Cape Rock-Thrush
Orange-breasted Sunbird3 signed.jpg
Namaqua Sandgrouse male
Lemon Dove signed.jpg
Cape Cormorants nests signed.jpg
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