Trip report: South Africa, Cape to Kruger (Sep-Oct 2011) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens and Scott Watson.

Few countries in the world are able to reveal stunning landscapes, diverse habitats, large numbers of both birds and mammals, while at the same time travelling in comfort, and eating great food. There was no Drakensberg extension portion on this tour so our tally of an impressive 431 species of birds and an amazing 57 species of mammals means everyone involved was left smiling.

It is easy to smile with tour highlights such as; up close and personal moments with African Penguins, being 30 miles out at sea amongst thousands of Albatross and Petrels, getting to know the Chacma Baboon, the quiche-muffin-Turaco combination in Wilderness, heart pounding moments with Red- chested Flufftail, Aardwolf at night in the Karoo, storm birding in Wakkerstrom, and seeing the big 5 including two Leopards within our first couple hours in Kruger NP.

This trip covers lots of ground in order to find most of South Africa’s endemic birds while at the same time exploring dramatically changing habitats. We systematically moved through these habitats picking up the changing of the species along the way. Starting in the botanically ultra-diverse Fynbos of the Cape, we then moved east into moist Afro-tropical forests, the southernmost of its kind in Africa. Next a dramatic change occurs as you move north away from the coast through the door of Swartberg pass and into the semi-desert of the Karoo. Flying to Johannesburg we visit two key habitats in the eastern portion of the country. First the endemic-rich Highveld grassland around Wakkerstrom, second the famous bushveld of Kruger National Park where Elephants and termite mounds become part of the landscape. Throw a pelagic trip in the mix and we have covered it all. All of these changes are designed so that we not only get the endemics of South Africa but also a good cross-section of the birdlife this country has to offer. On top of that, mammals seemed to be particularity friendly on this tour from the wide array of antelope to the incredible big cats.

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