Limpopo Tourist AttractionsManoutsa Vulture Colony
Where? near the JG Strijdom Tunnel on a farm called Manoutsa, Hoedspruit District, Limpopo
South Africa's fourth largest Cape Griffon vulture colony roosts on the sheer cliffs of the Drakensberg escarpment near the JG Strijdom Tunnel on a farm called Manoutsa.
Vultures need cliffs in order to breed, something the Kruger National Park lacks. It is a commonly held belief that the Manoutsa colony are the same birds sighted in Kruger. From Manoutsa to the Orpen Gate is some 80 km – no great shakes to the average vulture that easily clock up over 1 000 kilometres in search of a meal.
Up to 660 pairs of the vulnerable Cape vulture nest on Manoutsa's cliffs at a time. To see them you need do little more than train your binoculars on the cliffs a few kilometres from the JG Strijdom tunnel. Stay long enough and you will also catch sight of Verreaux's eagle and the Cape eagle-owl, African harrier-hawk, and Wahlberg's eagle – for birders, this is one of the top raptor sighting spots in the province (the escarpment is an IBA for raptors).
Manoutsa farm, if you want to visit, is accessible from the R527. The owners are very much involved in preserving the colony and sensuring that the vultures remain as undisturbed as possible. To reach the colony is a good hour's walk or climb.
In 1989 the colony was declared a Natural Heritage Site.
The Cape griffon, or Cape vulture, is dark brown with pale wing coverts and a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres. They are the largest raptor in Africa. To give you an idea of their contribution, a group of 50 vultures can strip a carcass in just 20 minutes, although they need a good wind, or a long runway, in order to launch themselves into flight after feeding.
Listed as 'vulnerable', they are one of the most endangered birds in Africa, faced with extinction and have experienced a steep decline in population over the last few decades. Their biggest opponent is mass accidental poisonings, the result of farmers poisoning carcasses to kill leopards and jackals they believe prey on their livestock.