South Africa is among the best regions in the world for birdwatching. Together with Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, it is one of the favourite birding tourism places and it really has some incredible species of volatiles. There are some very rare ones, you might never spot. There are proud birds of prey, shy sparrows, endemic African birds and also penguins. Because you are close to the South Pole, here. So you can have the chance of filming penguins out of their usual frozen habitat. What else could you ask to a birdwatching safari?

South Africa, land of penguins

This part of Africa has a different climate compared to the rest of the continent. You have seasons, here, and cold winters too. This is the last inhabited land before the wide frozen continent of the South Pole and shares part of its special fauna, like penguins, in fact. In order to admire these no-flying birds you shall book trips to some South African islands and to the shores near Port Elizabeth.
Penguins live on Dassen island, St Croix island, Robben island. You will see them also at Algoa Bay, Stony Point and Boulders Beach. If your trip includes Bird Island Nature Reserve you will get the chance to admire both penguins and crowned cormorants also living on this rocky land off Lambert’s Bay. A curiosity about African penguins? They have a nice pink “eyeshadow” around the eyes!

Not only penguins, also vultures and rare birds

Penguins are the most interesting and the funniest attraction for tourists who come birdwatching in South Africa. But besides them you have a great choice of strange, beautiful birds to admire. Birds of prey are also common in South Africa and you find many of them around Capetown, or in its surroundings. Especially the Eastern Cape district is home to the Cape vultures, wonderful giant birds (over 1 meter long, 2.5 meters wingspan!) who live and hunt over the Cape Province mountains.
The best birdwatching safaris, in South Africa, will lead you to Mkhuze Game Reserve where Neergaard’s Sunbirds and Pink Throated Twinspots live. Or you shall admire Lapped Face Vultures and Martial Eagles at Kruger National Park. Baratt’s Warblers, Sugarbirds, Karoo Scrubs usually live over Lesotho Highlands. A very rare bird to meet is a small canary called Red Lark. It is everywhere in the nation’s territory but has weird habits, so it is really difficult to spot it. Lucky the birdwatcher who will succeed in the enterprise!
SA birdwatching 01
photo by nick NJR ZA

What to wear, what to bring

South Africa‘s climate is very similar to Mediterranean Europe’s one. So you should get dressed as if you went to Greece or Southern Italy or Tunis. Light fabric clothes, short sleeved shirts, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats or caps, comfortable shoes. You better use high shoes, or boots, because you will be walking on routes in the wild nature anyway. If you go birdwatching for eagles or vultures, you shall bring jackets and waterproof clothes. The mountains’ weather is often cold, windy or rainy. Never forget your birds guide, binoculars, your cameras of course.

Best period for birdwatching in South Africa

You should book your birding safari during the southern summer, that is October to March. Many migrant birds, birds of prey but also islands’ bird are commonly spotted during the warm months in this time of the year. October is the best time to go birdwatching at Capetown’s territory. The season for admiring penguins on the city beaches is September-October.
SA birdwatching 02
wild land in South Africa