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Birding Seasons Bird Clubs
Itineraries Internet Birding: Cape BirdNet and SA BirdNet
Health Safety & Travel Recent Sightings
Birding Etiquette Reporting Sightings
Further Reading  

We hope to promote ecotourism in Cape Town and beyond into Africa. We would be glad to answer any quiries you might have on birding, natural history or travel in the Western Cape along the Western Cape Birding Routes, in southern Africa or in the Indian Ocean Islands. Please feel free to email

Birding Seasons

The best time to go birding in the Western Cape is springtime. This is because the majority of the region receives its rain in winter, and the animals and plants must use the small window of opportunity to breed while temperatures are sufficiently high and moisture is still in good supply. Birding picks up significantly towards the end of August, and the very best birding months are September to December. However, the weather at this time of year is unpredictable, as the winter rains often linger. Spring is also the time to witness the West Coast and Namaqualand flower displays, with the peak flower season varying from late August to late September (p.99).

Good birding continues into the summer, although things slowly become less active when water supplies dwindle as this hot, dry season progresses. In contrast, Bushmanland, the Nama Karoo and the Kalahari experience summer thundershowers, resuscitating the grasses and revitalizing the birdlife. Autumn is thus the best birding season in these regions, although spring is also very productive. As autumn progresses into winter, pelagic birding off the Cape becomes increasingly exciting (see the monthly table on p.35), but the persistent, rainy cold fronts that buffet the coastal area in midwinter can make birding impossible for days at a time.


Foreign birders visiting the western portion of South Africa as part of a longer tour around the country will need a very bare minimum of five days based in Cape Town. Those interested in exploring Namaqualand, Bushmanland or the Kalahari will clearly need more time. Good loops through these areas would ideally need at least three days each, plus additional driving time if travelling to the Kalahari from Cape Town.

Those in Cape Town on business and with only a few hours to spare can still see a good selection of Cape specials at sites close to the city. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (p.15) is undoubtedly the best such locality: it is a mere 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Furthermore, it is easily accessible by public transport (consult Cape Town Tourism, p.136). Other good localities within 30 minutes of the city are the Strandfontein sewage works (p.26), Kommetjie (p.21), Boulders Beach (p.24) and even the Atlantic shoreline right outside the city centre (p.31) – within walking distance of the Waterfront. For those with three or more days to spend in Cape Town, we would recommend a day each on the Cape Peninsula, the Tanqua Karoo, and either the West Coast or the Overberg region. A very desirable addition would be a day out at sea (Seabirding).

While an ideal visit to western South Africa would encompass most if not all of the routes we describe in this book, this is clearly not practical for those with limited time. Here (below) we propose two itineraries for the serious birder, aiming to maximise coverage of endemic species. We can amend these itineraries based on the desired focus and length of your tour. Please contact us.

One-week itinerary
Day 1: Cape Peninsula: Kirstenbosch, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders
Day 2: Seabirding boat trip
Day 3: West Coast
Day 4: Cape Peninsula in morning: Constantia Greenbelt. Then to Ceres via Paarl and Bain’s Kloof.
Day 5: Ceres – Tanqua Karoo – Cape Town
Day 6: Overberg: Sir Lowry’s Pass, Overberg farmland loops to De Hoop, Swellendam
Day 7: Overberg: Grootvadersbosch, return to Cape Town

Two-week itinerary
Day 1: Kirstenbosch, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders (Cape Peninsula)
Day 2: Seabirding boat trip
Day 3: Sir Lowry’s Pass – De Hoop – Swellendam (Overberg and South Coast)
Day 4: Grootvadersbosch – Cape Town (Overberg and South Coast)
Day 5: Cape Town – Darling and West Coast National Park
Day 6: West Coast – Kransvlei Poort– Brandvlei (West Coast and Bushmanland)
Day 7: Brandvlei – Kenhardt (Bushmanland)
Day 8: Kenhardt – Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (Bushmanland and Kalahari)
Day 9: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park
Day 10: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park
Day 11: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park – Pofadder (Kalahari and Bushmanland)
Day 12: Pofadder – Port Nolloth – Springbok (Namaqualand)
Day 13: Springbok – Kamieskroon
Day 14: Kamieskroon – Cape Town

If you wish to visit the Garden Route forests, it is equally possible to continue on to them from Swellendam. One can then link to the central Bushmanland region via Swartberg Pass and the Karoo National Park, rather than from the West Coast as above, and instead visit the West Coast in a day trip from Cape Town.

Health, Safety and Travel

Please consult local tourist information offices (see p.136) for further information on the topics discussed below. None of the sites covered in this book are unusually dangerous, although we do urge visitors to be
cautious and alert, particularly in Cape Town and on the Cape Peninsula, as birders’ inevitable need to carry conspicuously valuable equipment makes them potential targets for casual muggings. Sites that are perhaps best not visited alone are Strandfontein sewage works (p.26) and Sir Lowry’s Pass (p.60), although years of birding activities at these sites have yet to result in any incidents. Petty theft is common; never leave bags or birding equipment unattended on car seats.

Visitors may be relieved to hear that there is no malaria in the region covered by this book, although it has been recorded previously in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (p.107; enquire before visiting). Should you be lucky enough to see a snake or scorpion, please be cautious as some species are potentially dangerous.
Road infrastructure in South Africa is excellent, and none of the routes recommended in this book require a four-wheel-drive vehicle. However, there might be potential driving hazards in rural areas for those unaccustomed to unsurfaced roads. We refer the reader to pp.77 and 87. If you need to travel long distances in the Northern Cape, please be sure to carry a good water supply in case of breakdowns. In the latter respect, be aware that mobile phone coverage in remoter areas is far from complete.

A wide range of accommodation is available across most of the region, especially in the coastal areas; consult tourist information for further details (p.136). Accommodation in the national parks and most nature reserves is superb and great value for money. All small rural towns have service stations and basic, inexpensive hotels, and many have municipal campsites. Tap water in towns is invariably potable. Public transport is limited, often unsafe, and best avoided.

Birding Etiquette

With the ever-increasing popularity of birding in South Africa, there is inevitably pressure on certain well-visited sites. While the roadside often provides excellent birding in rural areas, please ask permission at the nearest farmhouse if you would like to enter private land. Playback of bird calls is a very helpful birding tool, and limited tape playing is unlikely to have a detrimental effect in most cases. However, we urge birders to refrain from excessive playback, especially during the breeding season and at popular sites such as those for Knysna Warblers on the Cape Peninsula (p.19), and Cinnamon-breasted Warblers at Katbakkies (p.79).

Information - Further reading

Lists of recommended field guides and other references and useful contacts appear on pp.135 and 136.

Bird Clubs

Local birders are encouraged to join the Cape Bird Club, currently Africa’s largest bird club, and one of 20 regional branches of BirdLife South Africa (see Useful Contacts, p.136). This is a friendly and informal club; regular club activities include a monthly evening meeting in Newlands (Cape Town) and numerous monthly half-day outings and other events. All members receive a quarterly magazine. The Cape Bird Club and BirdLife South Africa are committed to the conservation of birds and their habitats.

Internet birding

The local e-mail list, Cape BirdNet, provides an active forum of over 400 birders for local observations, rarity updates, trip reports and local birding events in the region covered by this book (to join, see "Recent Sightings"). E-mail lists provide the visitor with all sorts of helpful titbits for trip preparation. You may also wish to join SA BirdNet, a similar birding forum serving the whole of southern Africa (to join, contact

Recent Sightings

Click on direct link to Cape BirdNet postings

The local e-mail list, Cape BirdNet, provides an active forum of over 400 birders for local observations, rarity updates, trip reports and local birding events in the region covered by this book. E-mail lists provide the visitor with all sorts of helpful titbits for trip preparation and the very latest sightings from the region.

To join instantaneously, send a blank email to

To view the up to date emails on the web, browse to: (when prompted for a password, you will need to "Sign Up" with Yahoo! and choose your own password).

Reporting sightings

Please report all sightings of colour-ringed birds, and ring numbers from dead birds, to SAFRING (see p.136). Birders can also contribute to other valuable projects run by the Avian Demography Unit. If you see any species that are either very rare or not recorded for this region, please contact the local or national rare bird committees via the Cape Bird Club and BirdLife South Africa respectively (p.136).

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© Birding Africa 1997-2009
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