Day 1, Fri 1 Oct:this is the day you need to arrive in Cape Town – any time during the day. You will be met at Cape Town International Airport and transferred to Afton Grove B&B. Time-permitting, we may already start some birding today. O/N Afton Grove B&B.
Day 2, Sat 2 Oct: after an early breakfast, we embark on a pelagic trip (weather-permitting; otherwise Cape Peninsula and False Bay birding) departing from Simonstown (where we will find African Penguin), and going 30-50 km out to sea. En route, we pass the magnificent Cape Point – really spectacular when seen from the sea. Our first pelagic species are usually Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel (with the occasional Spectacled Petrel), followed soon by sometimes both species of Giant Petrel.
Further out, a minimum of four albatross species, Pintado and other petrels, several storm petrels (two species are usually common), shearwaters and many others are observed. We almost always find at least one trawler, and it is around these fishing boats that huge congregations of albatrosses and other seabirds create an amazing spectacle. We also often encounter marine mammals such as Bryde’s Whales on these pelagics. O/N Afton Grove B&B.
Day 3, Sun, 3 Oct: Cape Peninsula and False Bay birding (or pelagic trip if postponed due to the weather). We begin our Cape Peninsula birding at the Constantia Greenbelt, where the most strategic species is the endangered, localized, skulking, Knysna Warbler. This warbler has a really beautiful call, but is rather disappointing in appearance. While looking for this bird, we may find Buff-spotted Flufftail (with luck), African Olive (Rameron) Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, the attractive Cape Batis and other good birds.
After about an hour birding here, we will visit the nearby Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of the most beautiful places anywhere, and full of birds. Here it is quite easy to find some important fynbos endemics such as Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird, while Cape Francolin, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Cape Thrush, Cape Robin-chat, Swee Waxbill (with luck) and a whole host of other quality birds entertain us. Many raptors are possible here and at other sites we will visit – including Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, several exciting accipiters, Jackal Buzzard (endemic), Forest Buzzard (endemic), Peregrine Falcon, Rock (Common) Kestrel and others.
After birding these beautiful gardens, we depart for Rooiels. To get to this village, we have to traverse one of the most scenic drives in South Africa along the False Bay coast. First we drive parallel to an extremely long white beach bordering the “Cape Flats” that separate the mountainous Cape Peninsula from the inland Cape Fold mountain ranges. Then we reach an area where impressive mountains meet the sea to begin a truly stunning marine drive, where Southern Right Whales come close inshore to calf.
The main target bird at Rooiels is the charismatic and localized Cape Rockjumper. But, we should also find Cape Siskin, Cape Rock-thrush and many more. On our return to the Cape Peninsula, time-permitting (else later in the itinerary) we can bird the superb Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary for a plethora of herons, reed-associated warblers, waterfowl, shorebirds, African Black Oystercatcher, African Purple Swamphen, Great White Pelican, Greater Flamingo African Marsh Harrier and (as usual) many others. O/N Afton Grove B&B.
Day 4, Mon, 4 Oct: West Coast birding. Today we begin an exciting birding journey northwards from Cape Town. We hope to find Black Harrier, Chestnut-banded Plover, Cape Penduline Tit, Cape Clapper Lark, Cape Long-billed Lark, Grey-wing Francolin, Southern Black Korhaan and other specials in addition to a tremendous shorebird spectacle. Langebaan Lagoon is one of Africa’s most important shorebird stopover sites, and there are good hides (blinds) from which to observe the spectacle. We may also find Osprey, African Fish Eagle and many others. O/N Glennfinnan Guest House, Langebaan.
Day 5, Tue 5 Oct: Today we head inland over the magnificent Cederberg Mountain Range. On the way, we have an excellent site for the tough Protea Canary. On the summit, we have a second chance for Cape Rockjumper on the off-chances that it was missed at Rooiels. We may also find Ground Woodpecker, European Bee-eater and other spectacular species. But we have to get to the eastern (rain-shadow) side of the mountains to get to the famed (amongst birders) Karoo. Here, almost every species encountered is endemic, so it makes for spectacularly exciting birding for any serious birder who has never visited this particular semi-desert. O/N Village B&B, Ceres, or Tanqua B&B.
Day 6, Wed 6 Oct: A full day of Karoo birding. The pickings here include the likes of Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (a truly bizarre rock crevice skulker), Namaqua Warbler, the lovely Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary, White-throated Canary, Fairy Flycatcher, Southern Grey Tit, Karoo Chat, Sickle-winged Chat, Tractrac Chat, Karoo Lark, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Large-billed Lark, Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Burchell’s Courser, Double-banded Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove and many others. O/N Village B&B, Ceres.
Day 7, Thu, 7 Oct: we will drive back to Cape Town, birding at Paarl en route for fynbos species and waterbirds we are still missing. A night back on the Cape Peninsula will give us time to find some of the Cape’s more difficult species. O/N Afton Grove B&B.
Day 8, Fri, 8 Oct: today we drive eastwards to Africa’s southern-most point, where we begin birding the superb Agulhas Plains and Overberg. Here, flat plains and gently rolling hills separate the southern-most tip of the African continent where two oceans meet, from Cape Fold Mountains further inland. These plains are one of the few areas where Secretarybird and Denham’s Bustard are still common. They are also the most important stronghold for South Africa’s magnificent national bird, Blue Crane. White Stork is common in late summer. Extremely localized endemics such as Agulhas Clapper Lark, Agulhas Long-billed Lark and others lurk here.
We will also visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve, which protects a large tract of highly threatened lowland (as opposed to mountain) fynbos. Here we will see lots of waterbirds, Southern Tchagra, plus we may encounter close inshore Southern Right Whales, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok and other mammal specials of the Cape. Time permitting, we can visit De Mond Nature Reserve, an excellent site for the rare, localized, diminutive Damara Tern. O/N Pride of Africa B&B, Agulhas.
Day 9, Sat, 9 Oct: we will spend most of the day birding the Agulhas Plains. In the afternoon, we will head to our B&B adjacent to a lovely temperate forest at the base of the Langeberg Mountains. This forest is inhabited by such sought-after birds as Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Olive Bush-shrike, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and of course many more. The forest fringes host the localized Victorin’s Warbler (it is great fun trying to out-smart this vocal but skulking species), Forest Canary, Cape Siskin, Swee Waxbill and more. An night trip to the edge of the forest usually yields African Wood Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar. O/N Honeywood Farm.
Day 10, Sun, 10 Oct: we drive eastwards for 3 hours to the beautiful Garden Route, where a large diversity of birds can be found in idyllic surroundings. We’ll start looking for some birds that are quite widespread through large tracts of Africa, but which are nevertheless sought-after because they are so elusive – things like African Finfoot and Red-chested Flufftail (we often get great views of this skulker around here). Other star birds we look for in the Garden Route include Knysna Turaco (endemic), Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Chorister Robin-chat (endemic), White-starred Robin-chat and a host of others. And, the Garden Route is the only place in South Africa where certain species - such as the endemic Forest Buzzard and Half-collared Kingfisher - are common. O/N Ebb & Flow, Wilderness National Park.
Day 11, Mon, 11 Oct: a full day looking for the rich diversity of species the Garden Route has to offer.
Day 12, Tue, 12 Oct: fly (or drive) back to Cape Town.
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