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KwaZulu-Natal Mountains 4-Day Birding Tour

Midlands & Drakensberg

Scheduled Dates

  • 24 − 27 July 2023

  • 22 − 25 August 2023

Or alternate date on request. 

Introduction:

This KwaZulu-Natal birding focused adventure within South Africa explores the hilly midlands and the mountain regions of this species rich province abundant in endemic and special birds, wildlife species and splendid scenic beauty. Our primary destinations is the glorious winding Sani Pass regions of the Drakensberg mountain range, part of the spectacular Maloti-uKhahlamba Park, a World Heritage Site.

This birding and wildlife tour explores a tremendous altitudinal range that starts near sea level and extends to 2,900masl, thus offering the opportunity to explore varied habitats supporting a broad array of species. Habitats we venture into include grassland, wetlands and riverine areas, mountains and cliffs, rocky slopes, indigenous scarp and mist belt forests, and man-made forest and gardens.

We set a sightings goal of 200+ bird species in the summer months and 180+ bird species in winter. On the mammal front, we hope to see upwards of 20 species, with an array of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies also to be found, as well as many delightful orchid and protea species across the varied habitats.

This safari both commences and ends at King Shaka International Airport in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Tour Highlights:

  • A birding day trip by 4x4 up to the Lesotho border via the extraordinarily scenic Sani Pass, which forms part of the majestic Maloti-Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site where we are based for 2 nights.

  • Birding the lush grasslands, misty wetlands, leafy forests and bubbling streams of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands for 1 night.

  • Hunt for numerous endemic and special and red-listed bird species.

Itinerary and species

This safari both commences and ends at King Shaka International Airport or Umhlanga Rocks in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Day 1: Durban to Creighton, Coleford and Sani Pass

On Day 1 we visit a multitude of areas, beginning with the Creighton area and the magnificent vlei at Cloleford Nature Reserve, where we target numerous endemic and red-list species including Yellow-breasted Pipit, Wattled Crane, Striped Flufftail, African Grass Owl, Secretarybird, Mountain PipitShort-tailed PipitDenham’s Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Red-winged Francolin, Shelley’s FrancolinCoqui Francolin and many others. On the mammal front, some of what we can expect includes Black Wildebeest, Oribi, Red Hartebeest, Grey RhebokSouthern Reedbuck and Blesbok. We then head through Underberg to the Himeville area where we spend our first night.

AccommodationMkomazana Mountain Cottages (or similar), Sani Pass

Day 2: Sani Pass

On Day 2 we undertake a guided 4x4 mountain expedition up and down the breath-taking Sani Pass and explore the greater region, before spending our second night at the same mountain setting accommodation. Here we focus on the multitude of bird endemics and specials, with the main targets being Drakensberg Rockjumper and Gurney's Sugarbird. Other treats include Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle-OwlCape and Bearded Vultures, Southern Bald Ibis, Bush BlackcapBuff-spotted FlufftailRed-chested FlufftailBarratt's Warbler, African Rock Pipit, Grey-winged Francolin, Buff-streaked ChatDrakensberg SiskinLayard's Warbler, Fairy FlycatcherSentinel Rock-ThrushFan-tailed Grassbird, Sickle-winged ChatMountain Wheatear and many other delights. Some mammals to search for include Eland, Spotted-necked Otter, Chacma BaboonWater MongooseGrey Rhebok and Southern Reedbuck.

AccommodationMkomazana Mountain Cottages (or similar), Sani Pass

          Birding up Sani Pass                       Snow birding Sani Pass              Secretarybird in the landscape

Day 3: Himeville, Marutswa Forest, Midmar and Karkloof

On Day 3 we rise early and bird the Himeville region en route to Marutswa Forest in search of the critically endangered Cape Parrot, and others like Knysna TuracoOlive Bush-Shrike, Yellow Woodland WarblerWhite Starred Robinand Chorister Robin-Chat before continuing to Midmar Dam Nature Reserve in search of Black-rumped ButtonquailShort-tailed PipitMarsh OwlAfrican Marsh Harrier, and the more diminutive African QuailfinchWing-snapping Cisticola and Pale-crowned Cisticola. In winter, we may also enjoy Buffy PipitBlack-winged Lapwing and Eastern Long-billed Lark. We then proceed the short distance to the mist belt grasslands, wetlands and mist belt forests of Karkloof, where we search for 3 crane species, namely Wattled, Grey-crowned and Blue Cranes, Red-chested Flufftail and African Rail amongst others. We spend our last night in a cozy mistbelt country cottage. Some mammals to search for include Common Duiker, Spotted-necked Otter, Samango (Blue) Monkey and Vervet Monkey.

AccommodationThistledown Country House (or similar), Karkloof

Day 4: Karkloof to Durban

Our Day 4 we embark for Benvie Gardens to search for Orange Ground Thrush, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Forest BuzzardAfrican Emerald CuckooChorister Robin-Chat, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Mountain Wagtail and others before returning back to the large coastal city of Durban, where we end our great adventure. 

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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 numerous forest types, wetlands, grassland, mountains and cliffs, which host numerous regional endemics, threatened and endangered bird and mammal species, as well as great floral diversity that include orchids and proteas.

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

 

Tour tempo: The tempo of our Birding and Wildlife Tours are typically medium-paced, with optional 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 wildlife-watching friends.

Expected weather conditions: Subtropical and mostly hot during the day in the summer, and cooler in the evenings, with a chance of mist. Rain is possible, usually in the form of powerful summer convection thunderstorms, and cool wet weather is possible in the event of a cold front moving up from the south in the winter months, with frost and even snow possible at high altitudes. On a climate level, the region falls in the summer rainfall region, with an average rainfall of between 700mm and 1,100mm per year. Temperatures range from -5˚C in winter to 32˚C in summer, with an average maximum of 28˚C and an average minimum of 10˚C. The driest month is July, the most rainfall falls in January, and the warmest is in February. 

Optional extension: An optional tour extension is available to also include:

  • Wakkerstroom – add 2 days by heading into the renowned and abundant Mpumalanga highland and wetland region of Wakkerstroom.

  • Zululand and Maputaland – add another 4 days exploring the savanna, woodland, coastal forest, seashore and estuaries of this incredibly species rich region, that also host amazing large mammals, including the Big 5.

 

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

  • Dates:  

    • 24 − 27 July 2023.

    • 22 − 25 August 2023.

    • Or other date on request.

  • Validity: 01 January 2023 – 31 December 2023.

  • Duration 4 days, 3 nights.

  • Price:  ZAR 15,500 per person sharing; and ZAR 1,300 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:  At King Shaka International Airport in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

  • Distance:  Total driving distance (including around sites) = 790km.

 

Tour Includes:

  • Private wildlife and birding 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;

  • Specialist guide fees – 1 day Sani Pass 4x4 Tour.

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.

Guiding guests up Sani Pass in the Drakensberg
Sani sighting
Sani Pass snow birding
Ntsikeni Secretarybird
Cape Parrot feeding in Magoebaskloof
Orange Ground-Thrush in Woodbush Forest
Drakensberg Rockjumper male up Sani Pass
White-starred Robin
Mountain Wagtail at Debengeni Falls
Knysna Turaco in Wilderness National Park
Sloggett's Ice Rat up Sani Pass at Lesotho border
Olive Woodpecker Sani Pass
Greater Painted-Snipe
Amur Falcon female in Wakkerstroom
Cape Rock-Thrush in Golden Gate National Park near Clarens
Buff-streaked Chats signed.jpg
Klaas Cuckoos in Dullstroom
Sickle-winged Chat signed.jpg
African Black Ducks in Phophonyane Falls in Eswatini
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