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Bushmanland is a poorly defined area, bounded roughly by the Namaqualand highlands in the west, the Orange River in the north, and the towns of Kenhardt, Van Wyksvlei, Calvinia and Loeriesfontein in the east and south. Most of the rain, unlike that in Namaqualand and the Cape Floral Kingdom, falls in summer. The best times of year for birding are the transitional seasons: bird activity is normally good in spring and autumn, and there is relief from the bitter nights of midwinter and the scorching heat of summer. Although many species here are nomadic and move around unpredictably in response to rain and seeding grasses, it is quite possible to find the majority during a short visit, using the sites described below.

Glancing at a map, you may be forgiven for thinking that this is a water-filled area, but all the ‘blue lakes’ shown are in fact relics of previous ages of plenty, and are today just shimmering, dusty expanses which hold water only in years of exceptional rainfall. Indeed, these promising blue patches are more suited for motor racing than any kind of aquatic activity — the parched and desolate expanse of Verneukpan near Kenhardt is rather improbably remembered as the site of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s 1929 attempt, in his Bluebird, to break the world land speed record.

Besides the overwhelming feeling of freedom these seemingly endless open spaces provide, there are few tourist attractions in Bushmanland. Yet, despite the diversity of endemics found here and the fact that the region is highly regarded by discerning birders, it has been poorly treated by bird-finding guides and almost all the information given here has never been published before.

Bushmanland can be conveniently combined with a Namaqualand loop (see p.97), or even a visit to the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (p.107). Those with limited time can see all the Bushmanland specials in the vicinity of the desolate little town of Brandvlei (‘burning lake’), a mere seven hours’ drive from Cape Town. However, those with an affinity for huge, near-empty landscapes and desert birds will enjoy three to four days here.

One excellent circular route is along the N7 north from Cape Town to Vanrhynsdorp, and then on east to Calvinia and up to Brandvlei. Bird around Brandvlei for a full day before heading north to Kenhardt, with the option of including a Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (p.107) loop at this point. From Kenhardt, travel west to Pofadder and Aggenys, where you can easily spend a day birding. Leaving Bushmanland, proceed into Namaqualand (p.97), spending a day around Springbok, with an excursion to Port Nolloth. Travel south through Namaqualand, perhaps incorporating some West Coast birding (p.41) en route to Cape Town.

Much of Bushmanland is partitioned off as private sheep farms. Good birding can be had at the roadside, but please ask permission before exploring farms. Away from the main arteries of the N14 and R27, there are long, desolate sections of unsurfaced road. Beware of travelling too fast on these deceptively safe-looking stretches, and please remember never to brake hard, even if there is a bustard at the roadside! Make sure that your spare wheel is in working order; an emergency tyre repair kit is recommended. Take plenty of extra water as the summer days can be exhaustingly dehydrating. Warm clothes are essential in winter, when night temperatures regularly drop below freezing.

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4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09