Birdwatching in Southern Africa – Our Top 7 Destinations

|Birdwatching in Southern Africa – Our Top 7 Destinations



For some of us, our birding knowledge extends up to identifying a pigeon or a canary (on a good day). For others, the intricacies and diversity of bird life is colourful and fascinating – this blog is for you.

Africa is the dream birding destination, with its variety of habitats and eco-systems, it is home to thousands of bird species – a colourful array of feathered creatures scattered throughout the country. We have already shared our top seven birding destinations in East Africa, but now it’s southern Africa’s time to shine.

Africa’s southern countries are filled with exciting and unusual birding destinations, these are our top seven.

1. Mkhuze Game Reserve, South Africa 

It is unlikely you’ve heard of this South African game reserve but is undoubtedly one of the country’s top birdwatching destinations. Mkhuze Game Reserve is located to the northwest of iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a world heritage site) and is great for year-round birding. It has a variety of habitats, from acacia savanna and mixed woodland, to a rare sand forest and rocky cliffs. As a result, it is home to over 420 bird species. It is an extremely birder-friendly destination – with easy navigation, good roads and several good hides.

Birds to look for:

  • The Pink-throated Twinspot
  • The Neergaard’s sunbird
  • The Southern banded snake-eagle
  • The Broad-billed rollers
  • Pel’s fishing owl

Best time to visit: Birding is excellent throughout the year.

2. Kruger National Park, South Africa

This world-famous Kruger National Park doesn’t just tick the boxes when it comes to wildlife, it is also a premier birdwatching destination. While the wildlife enthusiasts look out for the Big Five, avid birders seek out the avian Big Six. Excluding the Big Six, you’ve got more than 500 other species to look for. If you’re a serious birder, we recommend you head to the Pafuri and Punda Maria areas where there is an abundance of rare regional species. It’s worth noting that patience is key with birding in the Kruger – 20% of the 500 species are considered rare sightings and many have limited distribution in the park. Kruger is great for close encounters with seven wilderness trails and 11 viewing hides.

Birds to look for (the Big Six):

  • The saddle-billed stork
  • The Kori bustard
  • The martial eagle
  • The lappet-faced vulture
  • The Pel’s fishing owl
  • The ground hornbill.

Best time to visit: Between October and March, when the migrant species arrive and the birding population doubles.

3. The Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is arguably one of the best birdwatching destinations in southern Africa. Often referred to as a birder’s paradise, it is home to a total of 444 bird species Despite not having any endemic species, Botswana is a safe haven for a number of threatened and endangered bird species. Mokoro rides through the winding waterways, fringed with swaying papyrus and palm trees, make for an exciting and unusual birding experience.

Birds to look for:

  • The wattled crane
  • The African fish eagle
  • The African Jacana
  • The slaty egret
  • The red-billed hornbill

Best time to visit: The wet summer season, November to April, is ideal for birding, as this is when the migrant species arrive. However, the dry winter months, July to October, do offer the chance to sight large gatherings of birds around permanent water sources.

4. Chobe National Park, Botswana

The Chobe River is one of Botswana’s best birdwatching destinations with over 460 bird species. Boat trips down the river make for excellent opportunities to view wader and water birds from up close. Chobe is also home to some of the world’s largest flying birds – the kori bustard and the secretary bird. A thrilling spectacle for avid birdwatchers is the migration of carmine bee-eaters atop the backs of the kori bustards.

Birds to look for:

  • The ground hornbill
  • The bateleur eagle
  • The African darter
  • The African skimmer
  • The saddle-billed stork

Best time to go: Birdwatching is great in Chobe throughout the year. However, November to April are best for seeing the migrant and breeding species and large numbers of nesting water birds.

5. Nyanga National Park, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Nyanga National Park is an important and special birding destination in southern Africa. This is because it is part of the Eastern Zimbabwe Endemic Bird Area, a globally significant birding destination. The rolling hills, mixed woodlands, exotic plantations and rivers that categorise the national park are home to more than 300 bird species, several of which are rare or near-endemics. The park is also known as a hiking destination which allows for birding on foot which results in up-close encounters.

Birds to look for:

  • The swee waxbill
  • The Barret’s warbler
  • The blue swallow
  • The Livingstone’s turaco
  • The taita falcon

Best time to go: Birding is good all year round, but November to April is the best time for birding as this is when migratory birds arrive.

6. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia 

South Luangwa National Park is one of the continent’s best birding destinations. Nesting in the floodplains, mopane woodlands and hardwood forests are over 400 species of bird. Birding is exceptional along the river when the steep riverbanks are covered by hundreds of nesting carmine bee-eaters. The pioneer destination of the walking safari, like Nyanga National Park, South Luangwa is a wonderful opportunity to encounter the various bird species close up on a guided walk through the beautiful bush.

Birds to look for:

  • The saddle-billed stork
  • The African openbill
  • The carmine bee-eater
  • Lilian’s lovebird
  • The racket-tailed roller

Best time to go:

The ideal time to go is at the end of the dry season, during the wet months (April to November) when hundreds of water birds arrive before the rains.

7. Walvis Bay, Namibia

Namibia often flies under the radar when it comes to birding destinations. However, it should not be overlooked for its exciting birding opportunities. Thousands of resident and migrant water birds take sanctuary here. With over 150 000 migrant birds spending the summer here, it is southern Africa’s most important coastal wetland. It is renowned for its vast pink flocks of greater and lesser flamingos providing a spectacular contrast against the blue of the sky and water.

Birds to look for:

  • The Great white pelican
  • The broad-billed, pectoral and terek sandpipers
  • The red-necked phalarope
  • The black-tailed godwit
  • The chestnut-banded plover

Best time to go: The best time to visit is between October and April, when the migrant species are present.


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