Greater Limpopo Overview
The Limpopo Province, with its vast unexplored areas and diverse habitats, offers one of the most exciting birding destinations in Southern Africa. Habitats range from vast tracts of montane grassland to afro-temperate forests, bushveld and wetlands.
The Eastern Escarpment (including Magoebaskloof) and the Soutpansberg mountain range create relief in the landscape which allows for the development of afro-temperate forests. The lowland rivers such as the Limpopo, Levubu and Letaba rivers form corridors for species normally associated with coastal forests. Nylsvley is one of the best known wetlands in South Africa and due to its importance for birds has been declared a RAMSAR site.
Many different kinds of woodland and bushveld types are found within the province hosting an incredible variety of birds.
There are a number of species that are easier to find in the Limpopo Province than in the rest of the country. These include Short-clawed Lark, Shelley's Francolin, Grey-headed Parrot, African Broadbill and Crested Guineafowl.
In addition to this, many Central and East African bird species reach their southern-most distribution here and thus will not be found anywhere else in the country. These include species such as Black-fronted Bushshrike, Arnot's Chat, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Racket-tailed Roller, Senegal Coucal and Tropical Boubou.
The province has three National Parks and numerous provincial and municipal reserves within its borders. Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe and Marakele National Parks are visited by hundreds of birdwatchers every year. Provincial Nature Reserves and Municipal Reserves are important sites for bird conservation. For example, Blouberg Nature Reserve is home to one of the largest Cape Vulture breeding colonies in Southern Africa and Polokwane Nature Reserve has healthy populations of Short-clawed Lark.
Because Limpopo Province has tracts of relatively unexplored habitats as well as its more famous sites, intrepid birders are fortunate to have the opportunity to make exciting discoveries wherever they venture.
This is an ideal destination for both the beginner and the experienced birder. The abundance of birds will always make a short trip to the region well worthwhile. The area boasts 35 Southern African endemics and 48 Southern African near endemics. Over 600 bird species have been recorded in the province, of which 420 are resident. The area offers pleasant and easy bird watching.
The GLBR grew out of the original 'Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route'. It now consists of four sub-routes:
It is hoped that as time goes on more areas in the Limpopo Province will be added to the GLBR. Each sub-route is managed and updated by a committee in that area. The GLBR is managed by a Project Manager, employed by BirdLife South Africa.
Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route
The Soutpansberg Mountains and the Limpopo River Valley host over 540 bird species. This tremendous variety of birds makes this a very rewarding birding destination.
Due to a high number of resident species, all year round there is an abundance of birds to see. A visit to the area in winter or summer will always be productive.
The Soutpanberg-Limpopo Birding Route is situated in the northern-most part of the Limpopo Province. This area includes the northern part of the Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe National Park, Venda and the Soutpansberg Mountain Range.
There are a number of very special birds found on the Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route. The Soutpansberg Mountains have well-developed tracts of indigenous forests in which species such as Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Orange Ground-Thrush, Crested Guineafowl and Crowned Eagle can be found.
To the north of the mountain in Arid Mountain Bushveld vegetation Pink-throated Twinspot and Crowned Hornbill are found. The only known patch of Brachystegia Woodland in South Africa is found in this area and species such as Southern Hyliota have been seen here.
Baobab country to the north is home to Mottled Spinetail and the lowland river systems have Lemon-breasted Canary, Pel's Fishing Owl and White-fronted Plover on them.
The western part of the region, towards the Mogalakwena River, is dry with a Kalahari element, thus species such as Southern Pied Babbler, Kori Bustard, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk is found.
We have divided the Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route into nine different birding areas. Each birding area has its own unique character and set of special bird species. Within each area there is also a variety of accommodation options and birding sites to visit.
Eastern Soutpansberg Mountains
Timber plantations, nut orchards and avocado orchards dominate the land use in the Eastern Soutpansberg. Yet nestled in between the agricultural lands are some of the best birdwatching sites in the region. In this area one finds three forest types: Afrotemperate Mistbelt Forest, Semi-deciduous Scrub Forest and Semi-deciduous Mixed Forest.
On the upper reaches of the mountain there are a few patches of Afromontane Grasslands forming a mosaic between the forest pockets. Most of these forests are easily accessible and fall within State Land. Birds like Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Green Twinspot and African Broadbill are mostly found in the Semi-deciduous forest types and Yellow-streaked Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Orange Ground Thrush, Knysna Turaco and Scaly-throated Honeyguide are mostly found in the Mist-belt forests.
Many species are common in all forest types such as Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-Chat and Crested Guineafowl.The Muirhead Dams (see box for details) is the best place to find Blue-spotted Wood-Dove.
Albasini Dam / Levubu
The Albasini Dam is the biggest waterbody in this area. From the north one can visit the Department of Water Affairs Picnic Site which has a fair bit of waterfront and an extensive piece of sour bushveld (see box for details). Birding around the dam is best done by boat. Birds such as White backed Night-Heron and African Finfoot can often be seen on the dam. There are also many other water birds to be found on the dam and birding here is always rewarding. The vegetation around the dam also offers good birding.
Levubu is a sub-tropical fruit farming area. The little town of Levubu itself is the centre of this area and caters for the farming community in the district. The area is has two major rivers, the Lotonyanda River and the Levhubu river. Both are fringed by Lowveld Riverine Forest and Semi-deciduous Mixed Forest and are alive with birds. Access to the rivers is difficult as much of this area is under private ownership.
The area has an impressive species total of over 300 birds. It abounds with Purple-crested Turaco and African Green-Pigeon. The African Paradise-Flycatcher is a common visitor in the summer and look out for Grey-headed Parrot, which is in the area from August to November.
Kruger National Park (North)
The eastern tip of the Soutpansberg mountains ends near Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park. Habitats in this northern section of Kruger are surprisingly diverse. The low-lying hills around Punda Maria are home to Crowned Hornbill, Mosque Swallow and Eastern Nicator. Tall Mopane and broad-leafed woodland expanding out from the base of these hills holds specials like White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Arnot's Chat and Racket-tailed Roller. In damp, low-lying areas Senegal Coucal, Black Coucal and Little Bittern can be seen.
One of the most exciting areas in which to bird is up in the north, along the Levubu river. Here specials such as Pel's Fishing Owl, White-crowned Lapwing, Bohm's and Mottled Spinetail, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Lemon-breasted Canary are to be found. This is the best area to find Dickinson's Kestrel. Scarce species found in the past here include Sooty Falcon and River Warbler.
The northern part of the park, previously closed to the public, has now opened up as a concession area, allowing access to the Limpopo River itself. You will need to book with Wilderness Safaris to get into this area. Recommended drives are the Mahonie Loop (S99), S60 and S61, S58 and S52 near Shingwedzi. Try to do an early morning visit to the Levubu River Bridge and Pafuri Picnic Site up near Crooks Corner. Detailed maps and park information can be found at the park gates and on the SANParks website www.sanparks.org.
North Eastern Venda
Northeastern Venda stretches from Thohoyandou across to the Kruger National Park boundary and up north to the Limpopo valley.The vegetation type that dominates the North Eastern Venda area is Arid Mountain Bushveld and Mopane Woodland. Along all the major rivers one will find Lowveld Riverine Forest with elements of Semi-deciduous Forest. This is also the area where the isolated patch of Brachystegia Woodland is found.
This area is relatively poorly known, as the roads are bad and the area is quite remote, but has in the past come up with the most interesting birds. Look out for Southern Hyliota, Crowned Hornbill, Pink-throated Twinspot, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove. More common species are: White-browed Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and Golden-breasted Bunting. At the Sagole Big Tree there is a chance of seeing Mottled Spinetail and some out-of-range Miombo specials at the Gundani Brachystegia Woodland.
Eastern Limpopo River Valley
The Eastern Limpopo River Valley is the area that stretches from Crooks Corner in the Kruger National Park to Musina. Much of the river is not as accessible as the Western part (described below).
However access to the river itself is possible if organized in advance through the concession area in the northernmost part of Kruger and through other private farms that border on the river (see boxes for details).
On the river one can find the two largest owls in Southern Africa: Pel's Fishing-Owl and the Verreaux's Eagle-Owl. The river also provides a corridor for the Trumpeter Hornbill and Lemon-breasted Canary. The wide-open sandy river bottom is ideal habitat for the White-fronted Plover, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Comb Duck, Spur-winged Goose and Saddle-billed Stork. One often sees the Bateleur, Lappet-faced Vulture and African Hawk-Eagle soaring in the skies above the river valley. The gallery forest on the banks of the river has Meyer's Parrot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Trumpeter Hornbill, Retz's Helmet-shrike and Black-throated Wattle-eye.
If you do not stay at one of the accommodation establishments, then you will spend much of your time travelling through Mopane Woodland or Mixed Bushveld. An interesting road to travel is the Malaladrift/Musina road that follows the Limpopo River, crossing a number of its tributaries and passing through small patches of farmland. Take the drive slowly, stopping frequently along the way, and you will find it rewarding.
Western Limpopo River Valley
The western part of the Limpopo River Valley stretches from Musina to Platjan opposite Botswana. There are a great number of access points to the river, the easiest being through Mapungubwe National Park.
Mapungubwe is situated opposite the Shashe River confluence and offers visitors a number of birding facilities (see box for details). Various private farms on both sides of the border (see boxes for details) offer excellent birding along the Limpopo River.
A visit to the Den Staat wetlands, which is one of the best water-bird sites in the country, can be organized if you stay at one of the private establishments in the area (see boxes for details).
In the Tuli area of Botswana you can also book onto guided wilderness trails, which will give you the best of the birding and the wildlife of the area (see box for details).
Two habitat types dominate the Limpopo valley; these are Lowveld Riverine Forest and Mopane Woodland. On the plains, around the river the area is dominated by Mopane Woodland and is broken by extensive Woodland and is broken by extensive patches of Acacia thickets in the low lying parts and Commiphera dominated vegetation on the rocky outcrops.
Gallery Forest on the riverbank is home to Woodland Kingfisher, African Mourning Dove, Broad-billed Roller, Senegal Coucal, Meve's Starling and Pel's Fishing-Owl. On the plains on either side of the river are Swainson's Spurfowl, Red-crested Korhaan, Southern Ground Hornbill and Secretarybird.
North Western Flats
Due to its proximity to the Kalahari, this is the driest area of the region. It is well worth the visit as it offers some very special birding and species one would not easily find in other parts of the region. Species such as the Southern Pied Babbler, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Grey-backed Sparrowlarks, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Kori Bustard, Burchell's Sandgrouse and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk are found here.
The Mogalakwena River is the main river in this region and is fringed by Lowveld Riverine Forest offering cool relief to the dry surroundings. Birds to be found on the river include a wide variety of Cuckoos, Owls and Bee-eaters. The Verreaux's Eagle-Owl and, if you are lucky, Pel's Fishing-Owl can also be found.
The Woodland and is broken by extensive patches of Acacia thickets in the low lying parts and Commiphera dominated vegetation on the rocky outcrops. Gallery Forest on the riverbank is home to Woodland Kingfisher, African Mourning Dove, Broad-billed Roller, Senegal Coucal, Meve's Starling and Pel's Fishing-Owl. On the plains on either side of the river are Swainson's Spurfowl, Red-crested Korhaan, Southern Ground Hornbill and Secretarybird.
Western Soutpansberg Mountains
This area has spectacular mountain scenery and it is one of the most beautiful parts of the region. When you stay at one of the establishments here you can relax, breathe deeply and enjoy your seclusion from the world. The vegetation is a dominated by Arid Mountain Bushveld with patches of Afrotemperate Forest, Sour Bushveld and Afromontain Grasslands.
All the establishments in this area have marked trails through the mountains, which you can do by yourself or be guided by your hosts. The area is also worth visiting for its special wildlife, which includes Leopards, Samango Monkeys and Red Duiker. The wide variety of habitat types allows for good birding. The area has a number of breeding African Crowned Eagle. The mountain tops are good areas to see Gurney's Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird. It is worth looking out for Red-chested Flufftail here.
This area is not quite as dry as the other bushveld areas in the region, as it falls between the open flats to the west and the wetter areas to the east. Mixed Bushveld dominates the vegetation.
A wide variety of warblers, waxbills, widowfinches and robins can be seen here. Orange-winged Pytilia and even Short-clawed Lark have been seen in the southeastern part of this area.
Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route
The Capricorn-Letaba birding route stretches from Polokwane in the west to the Great Letaba River beyond the Letsitele valley in the east. The route runs just a few degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn, mainly along the R71 road which links the towns of Polokwane, Haenertsburg, Tzaneen and Gravelotte.
An interesting geographical feature of this route is its varying altitude. Polokwane lies on a plateau at approximately 1300 masl, further east lies the escarpment of the Northern Drakensberg and Wolkberg mountain ranges where the altitude reaches 2300masl. The route then drops down into the lowveld where the altitude is approximately 480masl at the Letaba River. These extreme variations in altitude result in a great range of vegetation types within a relatively small area. It is within these diverse habitats that over 500 bird species are to be found.
The open thornveld habitat of the Polokwane plateau supports a great variety of both Bushveld and Kalahari-type birds. Typical species here include Crimson-breasted Shrike, African Wren-Warbler, Short-clawed Lark and Black-faced Waxbill.
Just before reaching the foothills of the Drakensberg and Wolkberg Mountains, one passes through the outcrop strewn Mamabolo Bushveld. These granite inselbergs hold many rock-dwelling species including the northern-most population of Southern Bald Ibis.
In the Northern Drakensberg and Wolkberg sections of the route, birders enjoy vast tracts of montane grassland, which is Blue Swallow territory and houses other sought after species such as Broad-tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola and Drakensberg Prinia.
The afro-montane forests of Woodbush and Magoebaskloof offer amongst the best forest birding in the country with specials like Brown Scrub-Robin, Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Barratt's Warbler, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, and Orange Ground Thrush. While the eastern lower slopes and valleys of Magoebaskloof provide reliable sites for the elusive Bat Hawk and Green Twinspot.
The Tzaneen area is well known for its sub-tropical fruit industry and the interesting mix of lowland habitats here support a wide range of species including Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, White-browed Robin-chat and Purple-crested Turaco.
The Lowveld region around Letsitele and along the Letaba River has habitats including Mopani Woodland where Arnot's Chat is resident. There are many lowveld rivers with their associated riparion forest habitats where the likes of Greater Blue-eared Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Thick-billed Cuckoo can be found.
This is also one of the prime raptor areas in the region.
This is the most westerly region of the CLBR that extends from Polokwane to the Wolkberg and Northern Drakensberg mountain Ranges. The area has an average altitude of 1300 masl and is the driest area of the birding route.
The habitat is characterised by open savannah with scattered Acacia and broadleaved trees and includes the Polokwane Plateau Bushveld and Mamabolo Bushveld vegetation types. Granite outcrops and riverine thickets provide diversity in the vegetation and bird species in this area.
The unique bird species to look out for, amongst almost 350 species in this area, include Short-clawed Lark, Northern Black Korhaan, Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Black-cheeked Waxbill. The dams and associated wetlands here, attract a wide variety of waterfowl and shore birds and regularly produce rarities like Pectoral Sandpiper or Western Marsh-Harrier.
This is the route's mountainous area and is made up by the Wolkberg and Northern Drakensberg mountain ranges, where the altitude reaches 2300 masl. The high annual rainfall of the area results in lush afromontane forest and rolling montane grassland habitats. Unfortunately most of the grasslands have been lost to commercial forestation, but patches of this unique habitat and its diverse inhabitants still occur around Haenertsburg and in the Wolkberg Wilderness Area.
These grasslands support a small population of Blue Swallow, as well as, Gurney's Sugarbirds, Malachite Sunbirds, Broad-tailed Warbler, Redwinged Francolin and Striped Flufftail. The afromontane forests are amongst the most extensive and beautiful in the country, with the Woodbush, Grootbosch, Swartbosch and Black Forest forming an interconnected band of pristine habitat along the eastern and southern slopes of the escarpment.
In these forests, look out for specials like Cape Parrot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and African Crowned Eagle.
This area encompasses the lower reaches of the Wolkberg and Northern Drakensberg mountain ranges and the hot sub-tropical regions around the Tzaneen Dam. The altitude in this area ranges from 900masl to about 650masl, with the habitat changing from afromontane to semi-deciduous forest and lush tropical vegetation. Various rivers that originate in the escarpment flow into the Tzaneen dam, the largest body of water on the route, with the Letaba River being the most dominant and flowing out of the dam through the area.
This area is alive with birds; watch out for Purple-crested Turaco, African Green Pigeon, White-browed Robin-Chat, Broadbilled Roller and Half-collared Kingfisher. This area also has the highest concentration of confirmed Bat Hawk breeding sites in the country, with four nests. In this transition zone, between the afromontane and the true lowveld bushveld, birders have a chance of finding all sorts of surprise birds. Historical recordings of Blue-throated Sunbird and Blue-spotted Wood Dove exist for this area.
This is the most easternly section of the CLBR with an altitude of less than 650masl. In this area, with its Mopani woodland and sour bushveld, there is a host of birds not found anywhere else on the route. Special birds like Arnot's Chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo and Stierling's Wren-Warbler can be found here.
More common species like Greater Blue-eared Starling, Woodland Kingfisher and White-crested Helmet Shrike will also only be found in this area of the CLBR. The Proximity to the larger conservation areas of the lowveld also makes this area good for the larger birds like raptors and storks. White-headed and Hooded Vulture and Bateleur Eagle are examples of the birds that you should continuously be scanning the sky for. The riverine areas along the Letaba River act as a conduit, drawing birds like White-backed Night-Heron, Saddle-billed Stork and African Openbill Stork into the area.
Waterberg-Nylsvlei Birding Route
The Waterberg-Nylsvei Birding Route covers the vast Waterberg mountains and the surrounding areas. It contains the largest inland flood plain in South Africa, the largest Cape Vulture breeding colony in the country, four provincial reserves and over 150 000 hectares of other private reserves. This area is the only place in the Limpopo Province where you can see the rare Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, as well as the Blue Crane, Barrow's Korhaan and Stanley's Bustards, while enjoying vast wide open spaces and spectacular scenery. The area has the added attraction of being close to Gauteng and the O.R.Tambo International Airport, and it is in a Malaria-free part of the province.
The key attraction of the WNBR is the spectacular Nylsvei floodplain when it is in flood. This 16 000 hectare floodplain, which floods every 3 to 4 years, has been registered as a RAMSAR site due to the importance it has for waterfowl in South Africa.
Of the 365 bird species recorded in the Nylsvei area, 104 are water birds and, of those, 87 breed here in the wet years. Specials to look out for include Little; Dwarf and Eurasian Bittern, 15 species of duck and goose, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen as well as seven species of Crake and Rail, to mention a few.
Besides the waterbirds, the bushveld surrounding Nylsvei also offers great birding, with 8 species of Owl being recorded and a chance of seeing the spectacular Orange-breasted Bushshrike and Crimson-breasted Shrike amongst the 200 other bushveld species found here.
The Waterberg Mountains hold a host of suprises for birders with White-backed Night Heron and Finfoot found along the Mogol and Phalala rivers, as well as Blue Crane, Barrow's Korhaan, Stanley's Bustard and Eastern Clapper Lark being found on the Plateau. There are over 485 breeding pairs of Cape Vulture in the Marakele National Park. Gurney's Sugarbirds, Buff-streaked Chat and Striped Pipit are found on the top of the highest peak in the Waterberg which is accessible to sedan vehicles via a concrete road.
The north-eastern escarpment of the Waterberg has the most spectacular scenery on the route and the Masebe Provincial reserve and the Telekishi community trail in this area offer the best chance of seeing Verraux's Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Lanner Falcon and Rock Kestrel as well as Short-toed Rock Thrush.
The south-western part of the route is the main stake-out for Yellow-throated Sandgrouse in the country. The hundreds of kilometres of Limpopo River along the Botswana border are largely unexplored and hold Pied Babblers, Sociable Weavers, Black-cheeked Waxbill and a host of other birds usually only encountered in the western part of Southern Africa. There are also Pel's Fishing Owl, Meyer's Parrot, Great Sparrow and a host of other surprises for birders in this vast and unexplored area.
The Mokolo dam, Doorndraai dam and D'Nyala Provincial reserves are interesting, unexplored birding sites, adding wetland habitats amongst the vast bushveld areas of this fantastic Birding Route.
This area covers about 16,000 ha from Modimolle to the west of Mokopane, on the Springbok Flats below the Waterberg. The habitat is dominated by the biggest seasonal flood plain in South Africa surrounded by mainly thornveld and a few patches of broad-leaved woodland. The Nyl River floods every 2 to 3 years and is then one of the biggest water bird breeding areas in South Africa. In the dry years the bushveld birding still makes this a worthwhile stop for birders.
This area is defined by the Waterberg Mountains that stretches over a fairly large area and include a very diverse set of habitats that include montane grassland up to 2,000m, bushveld areas, broad-leaved woodland, rocky hills and wooded valleys along permanent rivers. This results in a very diverse bird list and to find specific species it is necessary to get into the micro-habitats within the area. For example the top of Marakele has montane species like Buff-streaked Chat, Gurney's Sugarbirds and Cape Rock-thrush, while the bottom of the same park has bushveld species like Southern Boubou and White-helmet Shrike.
The grassland on the higher parts of the mountains have Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and a range of Cisticolas. The rivers of the Waterberg are good places to look for African Finfoot, White-backed Duck and African Black Duck. The predominant vegetation of the Waterberg is deciduous broad-leaved woodland. This habitat can be very productive in summer and you should look out for Black Flycatcher, Grey Penduline-Tit, White-crested Helmet-shrike and Yellow-bellied Greenbul.
This is the area surrounding the Waterberg Mountains to the south and west; an ecotone between the Waterberg broad-leaved woodlands and the drier arid western thornveld. As a result of this crossover of habitats it can be very productive; it is one of the best to look for White-bellied Korhaan and Meyer's Parrot. The south of this area along the PIenaar's River is a great site for River Warbler towards the end of summer and for Pied Babbler and Tinkling Cisticola all year round. The smaller flood plains in the D'Nyala Nature Reserve and at Kgomo Kgomo also hold a good range of breeding waterbirds in wet years. The Mokolo Dam is also a good site to search for the rare White-backed Night-Heron.
The habitat in this area is mainly mixed bushveld with a distinct Kalahari flavour to it, and many of the bird species reflect this as well. Kalahari Scrub-robin, Pied Babbler, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and Marico Flycatchers are all found in this area. The major feature of the area is the Limpopo River and its tributaries. This area has not been extensively birded but many raptors like Lapper-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, African Hawk-eagle and Wahlberg's Eagle are known to breed here. There are also reports of Pel's Fishing Owls and White-backed Night-heron along the Limpopo. Burchell's Sandgrouse are common here and other birds like Great Sparrow, Black-cheeked Waxbill and Violet-eared Waxbill can be found here as well.
Kruger to Canyons
The majority of birders actively plan birding trips to areas where they can either see a large quantity of birds in a short space of time or mega rarities that would not easily be seen elsewhere. The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route offers both these highlights and a captivating wildlife experience to visiting birders.
Contained within the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route are 10 Provincial nature reserves, the world's largest collection of privately owned nature reserves and the world famous Kruger National Park. The route includes three vegetative biomes namely Montane Grassland, Afro-montane Forest, Savanna and a fascinating vegetation unit of Northern Escarpment Afromontane Fynbos with strong links to that of the Fynbos Biome which is restricted to the Western Cape.
This diverse range of habitats provides home to a total of 76 bird families and a staggering 510 species of which 8 are endemic to the region. The Lowveld is a raptor watchers dream destination with approximately 85% of South Africa's raptors being concentrated in this region.
The fantastic road infrastructure and a well established tourism industry, offering accommodation in unparalleled surroundings, provides birders with an excellent platform from which to explore the area.
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.
Once down in the Lowveld the route reaches the town of Hoedspruit where a number of different birding opportunities are presented.
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which includes the Swadini Dam, offers a wide variety of typical bushveld bird species and also includes African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and Green Twinspot.
Mariepskop, which is one of the best kept birding secrets in South Africa, is largely dominated by Afro-montane Forest, but also includes a piece of Northern Escarpment Afromontane Fynbos habitat at the summit. Exploring both habitats assures a treasured day's birding with species such as Orange Ground Thrush, Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Red-necked Spurfowl and Gurneys Sugarbird.
Alternatively one can continue on to the town of Phalaborwa, which as well as offering a diverse range of bushveld birding, has a number of wetlands which is uncharacteristic of the area. The region offers some fantastic bird species such as White-crowned Lapwing, Pel's Fishing Owl and Saddle-billed Stork. Phalaborwa is also a gateway to the central section of the Kruger National Park which has been rated as one of the top birding destinations in Southern Africa with a species list exceeding 500 species.
The rest camps of Mopani, Letaba, Olifants and Satara with their fantastic mixture of bushveld and riparian habitat birding anchor the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route. Look out for species such as African Barred Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Collared Pratincole and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route offers an amazing and diverse number of species within three different biomes supported by well maintained infrastructure and world class accommodation options catering specifically for birders.