Kruger to Canyons Birding Sites
The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route has been divided into seven areas:
The route starts at Graskop and the top of the Blyde River Canyon from where it meanders along the course of the panoramic Canyon before plunging down through the Abel Erasmus Pass, the only known breeding site of the rare Taita Falcon in South Africa, and into the Lowveld. The drop in altitude from 1730 to 250 meters above sea level gives rise to a multitude of breathtaking views of a Tufa waterfall, wooded valleys and the expanse of open savanna below.
Blyde River Canyon
God's Window is known for its amazing views from the top of the Drakensberg escarpment over the Lowveld. On a clear day it is possible to see over the Kruger National Park in the west onto the Lebombo mountains on the border with Mozambique.
||Three Rondavels Lookout Site|
Three Rondavels lookout site is dominated by montane grassland which host a number of high altitude species not found elsewhere on the route. Species include Wing-Snapping Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola, Levaillant's Cisticola, Broad-Tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-Streaked Chat, Familiar Chat, Mocking-Cliff Chats.
The Swadini Dam is situated at the mouth of the Blyde River Canyon. The dam is fairly steep sided but yields specials such as African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron, Half collared Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck and the occasional Bat Hawk.
||Bourke's Luck Potholes|
The site is situated on afromontane grasslands similar to the area at the Three Rondavels lookout point. Typical birds encounters include Wing-snapping Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Yellow- throated Longclaw, Cape and African Wagtail, Buff-streaked and Familiar Chat, Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Red and Yellow bishops.
Abel Erasmus Pass
||California Tribal Area|
The California Tribal area is not really a bird site but is one of the most reliable places at which to encounter Southern Bald Ibis on the route.
||Strydom Tunnel, Hoedspruit|
The R527 road which meanders through the Abel Erasmus Pass and the Strydom Tunnel offers some of the best raptor birding on the route. Sheer cliffs hem the road in and provide roosting sites for a number of different species whilst thickly wooded valleys offer a different habitat type supporting a wide range of species.
||Manoutsa Vulture Colony|
The Manoutsa Vulture Colony, situated on the cliffs of the Drakensberg Escarpment, holds up to 660 pairs of the vulnerable Cape Vulture making it the fourth largest colony in the world.
||Hippo Pools Resort|
Hippo Pools Resort is situated on the banks of the Olifants River and includes riverine habitat and mixed bushveld. A number of different raptor species occur in the area including the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl which is confirmed as occurring on the property.
||Ba-Phalabora Nursery Dam|
The Ba- Phalaborwa Nursery Dam is a sewage and storm water catchment dam that blocks overflow from entering the Kruger National Park water system. A fantastic bird hide is located on site.
||Sasavona Bird Hide|
The Sasavona bird hide is situated near Lulekani and offers a wide variety of Bushveld and water birds. The mass of water present during the summer months fast disappear as mid-winter approaches transforming the site into a mosaic of puddles and ponds. Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Grey, Purple and Goliath Herons frequent the site.
||Selati River Bridge|
The Selati River Bridge just outside Phalaborwa is an ideal spot to stop on the way to Shona Longa Resort or to the Olifants River Barrage. A number of kingfisher species can be seen including Giant and Pied as well as bee eaters such as Little and White fronted.
The Silonque Road which takes one out of Phalaborwa to two Masorini Bush Lodge (Birder Friendly Establishment) provides a good opportunity for raptor viewing and general birding.
||Vulture Restaurant (Grietjie Private Nature Reserve)|
The Grietjie Private Nature Reserve is home to the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route Vulture Restaurant. It is situated 20 km south of Phalaborwa and is easily accessible and open to the public. The Vulture Restaurant is surrounded by Lowveld Rugged Mopaneveld and offers some exciting Bushveld birding.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park covers 19,685 kilometers and is the 10th largest game reserve in the world. It has 3000 kilometres of road, 23 rest camps and a host of excellent picnic sites, walking trails, 4x4 routes, hides and massive dams.
A remarkable new initiative involving the Kruger National Park is the creation of a fence free park that allows animals to migrate freely across national borders. In May 2002, Kruger, Coutada 16 (in Mozambique) and Gonarezhou (in Zimbabwe) formally merged into the 35 000 square kilometre Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, one of the largest game reserves in the world.
The big game viewing in Kruger rivals that of any reserve in Africa with large elephant buffalo and lion populations being relatively easily seen. Every year over a million visitors tally up in the region of 520 bird species.
Birding is best in the summer months (November to March) with the arrival of summer migrants but a remarkable amount of birds can be seen in the winter months (May – July). Birding is fantastic throughout the park but the northern area is host to a number of species that are on the edge of their southernmost range and do not occur elsewhere in South Africa. A birding trip to Kruger National Park should be on the agenda of any birder in South Africa.
||Letaba Rest Camp|
The camp is well spread out with the highlight being a paved footpath which runs along the northern perimeter through broad leaved riparian vegetation and then back along roads skirting the southern perimeter of the camp offering the chance to see a number of species within the confines of the camp as well as out on the Letaba River floodplain.
||Mopani Rest Camp|
Mopani Rest Camp is a relatively new rest camp situated in the central/northern portion of the park in the relatively less active Mopani woodland area. The camp itself is attractively situated on a hillside overlooking the pioneer Dam.
||Olifants Rest Camp|
The Olifants Rest Camp is situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Olifants River and surrounding Mopani dominated woodland. A number of species can be easily found within the camp including Red winged starling, Yellow bellied greenbul, Mocking cliff chat and a number of different sunbirds.
||Satara Rest Camp|
The Satara Rest Camp is situated in Knob thorn and Marula dominated open savanna and offers a wide range of bushveld and grassland bird species including Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Harlequin Quail, Kurrichane Buttonquail and Secretary Bird A couple of hours walking around the camp itself can yield a surprisingly high number of species including Bennett's Woodpecker, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Woodland Kingfisher, Burchell's Starling, Groundscraper Thrush.
||Mariepskop Nature Reserve|
The Mariepskop Nature Reserve is located against the slopes and on top of the Drakensberg escarpment. This small and isolated pocket of fynbos harbours an extraordinary diversity of plant species that attract birds that are hard to see elsewhere on the Birding Route such as Gurney's sugarbird, Greater double-collared sunbird and Cape canary.
||Hans Merensky Nature Reserve|
This small provincial park is an attractive birding spot because of (self-guided) walking opportunities in the absence of dangerous game. Along the river you can find Green-Capped Eremomela, Brown-headed Parrot and a number of kingfisher, bee-eater and heron species.
||Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve|
The Lekgalameetse ("The place of much water") Nature Reserve sits at the base of the Drakensberg Escarpment between Tzaneen and the Able Erasmus pass and is known for its spectacular forests and rolling grasslands. This is a good site to see Black Saw-wing Swallow and other montane grassland species like Wing-snapping; Croaking and Wailing Cisticola, Denham's Bustard, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-Streaked Chat, Broadtailed Warbler and Malachite Sunbird.