Tour At A Glance

Cost:

3199.00

Deposit:

1000.00

Single Room Supplement:

250.00

Tour Code:

Fairly relaxed, but occasional walks on rough tracks and steeper climbs. Seasickness prevention essential for pelagic boat trip.

Group Size:

Seven plus Leaders

Orange-breasted Sunbird Cape Sugarbird Blue Crane Black-browed Albatrosses Bokmakierie Spotted Eagle Owl Cape Bunting Southern Double-collared Sunbird Black Harrier

South Africa - Best of The Western Cape

Date: 29th October - 10th November 2019 [SPACES]
Leaders: Paul Roberts & Brian Van der Walt

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
Fly London/Cape Town.
 
DAY TWO
Following our arrival in Cape Town on our overnight flight from London, we are met by our friend and local guide Brian Vanderwalt for lunch before organising our kit ready for our first afternoons birding at the Strandfontein Sewage Works! This is an excellent site for getting to grips with most of the waterbirds found in the cape, and we can expect close views of all of the ducks - Red-billed and Cape Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Shouthern Pochard, Maccoa Duck and the stunning Hottentot Teal. Flocks of Greater Flamingo, Caspian Terns, Hartlaub's Gulls, Spotted and Water Thick-knees, Purple Swamp-Hen and much much more can also be expected. Certainly we will see many species here that we will become familiar with during the tour, such as Pied Crow, White-necked Raven, Yellow-billed Kite, Sacred, Glossy and Hadeda Ibises, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary and Levaillan't Cisticola. From here we will be
 transferred to our accommodation at Greenpoint near the Cape Town Waterfront.

DAY THREE
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is only a short drive from our accommodation, and nestled on the lower slopes of Table Mountain it offers some superb birding and the chance to get close views of many of the sought-after cape endemics. This includes the canaries - Forest, Brimstone and Cape Canary are all here, and the sunbirds - Orange-breasted, Southern Double-collared and Malachite. The impressive protea gardens are also home to the wonderful Cape Sugarbird, and flocks of Swee Waxbills might also be found. The gardens are good for raptors, with Booted Eagle, Forest and Steppe Buzzards, African Harrier-hawk, African Goshawk, Black and Red-chested Sparrowhawks all being possible. A pair of Spotted Eagle Owls often nests in the gardens - not what you would expect to find sat on the ground amongst a flower border! From here we head north, through some excellent saltwater habitats north of Cape Town. The iconic views back to Table Mountain provide a backdrop as we bird around marshy pools for Purple and Black-crowned Night-Herons, Black Crake, Lesser Flamingo, Reed Cormorant, Red Bishop and the scarce White-backed Duck. Little and White-rumped Swifts also nest nearby, and the whole area is great for ibis, wading birds and wildfowl in general. We return to Cape Town via the wheat lands of Philadelphia – see a variety of Larks [including Large-billed], Pipits, Bishops and Weavers. These lands are also home to South Africa’s National bird - the Blue Crane - as well as Capped Wheatear, Banded Martin and endemic Jackal Buzzard. Overnight Cape Town.

DAY FOUR
Today we head north and have a chance to revisit some areas from yesterday for waterbirds in the Malkbos area, and in particular checking a couple of beaches for White-fronted Plover, and the endemic Cape and Crowned Cormorants. The Strandveld is our main destination for the first part of the morning though, a coastal dune belt with low shrubby vegetation which supports another selection of birds including several endemics. White-throated and Yellow Canaries, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Red-faced, Speckled and White-backed Mousebirds, Yellow Bishop, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-Chat and Bokmakierie are all found in this coastal terrain. Grey-winged Francolin can also be found in a couple of locations here. Heading north we will enjoy some excellent birding at the West Coast National Park. Here an extensive area of Coastal Fynbos encircles the Langebaan Lagoon which at its southern end has South Africa’s largest salt marsh. In summer Langebaan hosts the largest number of migrant shorebirds in South Africa which can be conveniently viewed from the well-positioned hides. Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Knot, Turnstone and Greenshank will be familiar visitors from the northern hemisphere, supplemented in style by the beautiful Marsh Sandpiper, South African Shelduck and an outside chance of Terek Sandpiper or Greater Sand Plover. The strandveld here supports White-backed Mousebird, Layard’s Titbabbler, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Penduline Tit, Grey-winged Francolin, Sickle-winged Chat, Bokmakierie and Long-billed Crombec. Two of the most sought-after birds in the park though are the endemic Black Harrier and Southern Black Korhaan, both of which we will spend time looking for before we arrive at our accommodation in Langebaan. Overnight Langebaan village.
 

DAY FIVE
After checking a local quarry for a breeding pair of Black Eagles this morning, we head into the wheat fields of Vredenberg in search of the highly localised Cape Long-billed Lark, with a supporting cast of Large-billed Lark, Anteating Chat and Jackal Buzzard. We also visit a grassland reserve managed by the Kirsetnbosch Botanical Garden, and here we might find such specialised birds as Cloud Cisticola and Cape Longclaw as well as lots of Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, Capped Wheatear, Banded Martin, Blue Crane and even Secretary Bird! The Berg River Estuary at Velddrift has a large saltworks and we round off the morning here looking for the localised Chestnut-banded Plover. Other species noted here might include Kittlitz's Plover, African Fish Eagle, African Hoope, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Water Thick-knee, Lesser Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet and European Bee-eater. After lunch, we spend the afternoon on the road, heading to Ceres which will be our next base. Overnight Village Guest House, Ceres.
 
DAY SIX
Today we head eastward through the mountains to the Tanqua Karoo. The word Karoo is derived from a Khoi word meaning thirst land which perfectly describes a remote area of semi desert with stark, geologically interesting landscapes. The succulent Karoo is comparatively rich in birds - particularly after rains – and botanically has the highest diversity of succulent plant species in the world. Of the birds seen, about 35 will be Southern African endemics, with about 20 of these endemics which are not seen on Cape Peninsula. The desert chats – Tractrac, Sickle-winged and Karoo Chat are all possible as are Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo and Yellow-bellied Eremomela’s, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Thick-billed, Karoo, Spike-heeled and Red-capped Larks, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, Cape Penduline Tit and Cinammon – breasted Warbler. We will need a dawn start with a packed breakfast to get the most of this habitat, as it can get very hot in the Karoo. Hopefully we will be in position to see the Cape Clapper Lark perfomring its display flight over the plains and small birds will be more active - Black-headed Canary is sometimes to be found here. A dry river bed hosts African Reed and Namaqua Warblers, and in dry gorges we should seek the wonderful Fairy Flycatcher and elusive Pirit Batis. We drive into the Karoo as far as an incredible 'cafe bar' which is 200km from the next town but offers and excellent lunch and free Wifi! Spike-heeled Lark is often to be found in the low karoo scrub around this area. It will be very hot by early afternoon, so we return to Ceres for some downtime before heading out into the field again before dusk. Brian has a drinking spot in the nearby hills where we can hopefully see Protea Seed-eater coming to drink as well as Streaky-headed Seed-eater, and several other species of small fynbos passerines. If present, we will round off the day by viewing a roost of Lesser Kestrels, long disntance migrants from Southern Europe. 
Overnight Village Guest House, Ceres.

DAY SEVEN
Today is essentially a travelling day but with several birding opportunities along the way. If we have missed any species in the Karoo, we do have the opportunity to revisit some areas there this morning to try again. Otherwise we will begin making our way south to Swellendam, and we can expect around four hours of driving to get there.Arriving early afternoon, we will check in to our accommodation at Honeywood Farm, which lies on the fringe of the Grootvadersbosch State Forest and offers some excellent birding opportunities. We will take a birding walk around the forested grounds, to look for Greater and Lesser Honeyguide, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Crow, Olive Thrush, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Batis, Olive Woodpecker, Fiscal Flycatcher and Rameron Piegon. After a hearty meal of local cuisine on the verandah of the main house, overlooking the forest, we will take a stroll by torchlight to listen and look for the local African Wood Owls. Overnight Honeywood Farm, Swellendam.

DAY EIGHT
This morning we rise early and enter the forest park to look for some of its specialist residenents. Marginal habitats support Neddicky and Black Saw-wing while the forest edge is a great place for Bar-throated Apalis and Olive Bush-shrike. Once inside the forest, slow walking along the trails, listening carefully and looking for movement is the tactic most likely to yield results. Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher is a star attraction, but we also have a chance of the elusive Narina Trogon here. Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Red-necked Francolin, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis and Forest Canary are all possible. We return to the farm for lunch, and to take a short break before our afternoon birding session which will take us south into a very different habitat - the Agulhas Plains. Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-chested Cuckoo and African Crowned Eagle [which has a nest here] can be looked for on our way out of the park. Once on the plains, we will be looking for open ground birds such as Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and Karoo Korhaan. We might also find the endemic Cape Vulture and riverbeds may host Klaas's and Diderick Cuckoos attracted by large numbers of breeding birds. Cape Weaver, Red and Yellow Bishops are likely to be common, but we should also keep a lookout for Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Namaqua Dove and Larklike Bunting. We return to the farm for dinner and a good nights sleep! Overnight Honeywood Farm, Swellendam.

DAY NINE
Staying in the forest gives us the opportunity for an early morning walk again if we have missed any key species on the previous outing. Likewise we can revist part of the plains if we have failed to find, for example, the Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Denham's Bustard, Karoo Korhaan or Secretary Bird. Mid morning we leave Grootvadersbos though and make our way slowly westwards. We aim to arrive at Harold Porter Botanical Garden near Betty's Bay, in time for lunch. We can then spend time exploring the garden in the afternoon - an excellent place for African Paradise Flycatcher, Victorin's Warbler, Cape Siskin and Swee Waxbill among others. Sometimes Giant Kingfisher or African Black Duck can be found along the river here. Nearby at Stoney Point, the African Penguin colony is sure to delight - despite the smell! This is a beautiful location, where we should also see all the endemic marine cormorants - Cape, White-breasted, Crowned and Bank Cormorant. We continue back to Cape Town and on to Simon's Town, where we will sleep tonight. Overnight Avian Leisure Guest House, Simon's Town.

DAY TEN
An early start today will see us set out from Simons Town on an exciting pelagic trip to the continental shelf approximately 25 nautical miles south of Cape Point. This is a full day pelagic with lunch taken on board and gives us an amazing opportunity to view large numbers of seabirds of 20+ species at close quarters including three species of Albatross. White-chinned Petrel is often the commonest seabird around the trawlers, with Sooty, Great and Cory’s Shearwater, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Sabine’s Gull, Arctic, Sub Antarctic and Pomarine Skuas, Arctic Tern, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels and Shy, Black-browed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross all possible. Cetaceans are also likely and we could encounter mighty Humpback or Southern Right Whales and Common or Dusky Dolphins. We depart Simonstown at 07. 00 and return at approximately 15.30. Overnight Avian Leisure Guest House, Simon's Town.

 


DAY ELEVEN
If we failed to make the pelagic trip due to weather on day ten, then this will be our next opportunity. Alternatively, we will head east again past Somerset West and visit Hottentots Holland and undertake a two/three hour easy mountain walk in search of some of the Cape Mountain Fynbos specials including the fantastic Cape Rock-jumper and Victorin's Warbler. At Rooi Els the mountains literally come down to the sea and provide us with probably the best opportunity on the trip for Cape Rock Thrush, as well as being a superb area for Cape Siskin, Grey-backed Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-winged Starling, Malachite and Orange-breasted Sunbirds. The endemic Ground Woodpecker can sometimes be seen here, too. There is a deliberate element of flexibility in the itinerary at this point, to allow for any other sites around Cape Town to be revisted if necessary for missed species. We may, for example, revisit Kirstenbosch or even make our Table Mountain trip in the afternoon if winds are light. Overnight Cape Town.

DAY TWELVE
We will stay close to Cape Town today and have a fairly leisurely day including a trip on the Table Mountain Cableway if the winds permit. The views from the top, across the city and out to Robben Island, are stunning. There are also Orange-breasted and Malachite Sunbirds, Familiar Chat and Ground Woodpecker on the mountain, as well as the Rock Hyraxes. Table Back down at ground level we will visit the small wetland reserve at Rondevlei. Here a number of hides and screens give the opportunity for close views of waterbirds, inlcuding many wildfowl species - Southern Pochard included. Sometimes it is possible to glimpse Little Rush Warbler, and a Malachite Kingfisher is often to be found. At the other end of the scale, Goliath Heron is an occasional visitor! We will enjoy a late lunch at Kirstenbosch before our transfer back to Cape Town for the early evening flight back to the UK.
 
DAY THIRTEEN
We arrive back in London where the tour will conclude.
 
 

 

 
**Please note that due mainly to the flexibility required for the pelagic trip, the Cape Town/Simon's Town part of the itinerary can run in any order.

 

Additional Information

 

WHATS INCLUDED
Return economy flights London/Cape Town, specified luggage allowance, ten nights accommodation in a variety of hotels and guest houses of a good standard [some shared bathroom facilities], all meals from in-flight meals on day one to in-flight meals on day twelve, ground transport in South Africa, Table Mountain trip, pelagic boat trip, services of leaders and reserve entrance fees.

NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/from London airport and any overnight stay that might be involved, travel insurance, drinks, optional guides tips and any items of a purely personal nature.
 
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. There is not thought to be malaria in any of the areas we visit.
 

 

Tour Reports

 

 2008   2012    2016    2017

 

Flickr Album 2016

 

Testimonials

 

"Thank you so much for a memorable trip and your constant devotion to make sure that we all had the best time . I even made Bobotie for tea last night and I think it's going to be a regular! .....The experience of seeing the seabirds following the fishing boat was priceless to me." M.J
 
"Thanks a million for a really fantastic holiday. It was magic and we enjoyed every moment of it. The accommodation was a level above that we expected and the leaders were brilliant. It was the holiday of a lifetime!"
J. L. & V. R. Hertfordshire.
 
" We just wanted to express our sincere and heartfelt thanks for providing us with birding holiday memories that will live with us for ever. Not only did the two of you find some fantastic birds in large numbers but our total South Africa experience could not have been possible without your dual team input. You both worked tirelessly to make us get the best from our trip, from accommodation, meals to transport everything was superb. You did a truly great job! " J & K H Wirral
 
" I really did enjoy every minute of the holiday and will never forget it.  I would like to thank you and Brian very much for a wonderful time.  Everything was great: the birding [even if I did lose the plot at times!], the weather, the accommodation, the food, the company, the laughs we had, the sites we visited.....  Many thanks to both of you for looking after us as you did.  If you get chance, please pass this onto Brian:  the arrangements were great." C.N. Leicestershire.

"We enjoyed the holiday very much. It was well organized and good value and we particularly enjoyed the pelagic trip" M & J. S.  Kent.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to book a tour to another part of South Africa with you if this is anything to go by. Ashley and Brian made for a great team, the birding was fantastic and the food was some of the best I have ever had on a tour”
P. C. Preston
 
"Just to say a big thanks to Ashley [and Brian] for a great trip to South Africa. I really felt I learnt a lot & had a great time as birds, mammals & company were all excellent" C.H. Orkney
 
"An absolutely outstanding tour. Everything exceeded expectations" P.C. Hertfordshire
 
"This was a great trip!! Brian & Ashley made a great team and worked well together to find and make sure that everyone saw the birds and it was good fun too" B B Oxon

 

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