Gauteng Tourist AttractionsMagaliesberg Birding
Where? Magaliesberg and environs (see details below), North West Province
The Magaliesberg, its mountain and surrounds, is one of the most beautiful spaces for birds to live. It is no surprise that it is an IBA (an important bird area)and that 450 species of bird make the area home, including specials like the Cape vulture, black stork and white-backed night heron.
It is also easily accessible - only an hour and a half's drive from OR Thambo Airport. Filled with short walks, hikes, MTB and horse trails, hot air balloon experiences and a bird checklist second to none, the Magaliesberg is a wonderful space in which to spend a weekend or holiday.
Top birding spots include:
Of the three dams in the Magaliesberg area Hartbeespoort Dam is the most polluted, its banks densely populated and frequented. This does not prevent it from being a birding hot spot and there are several places to see birds. Meerhof picnic grounds, in the Meerhof/Ifafi Conservancy, is a good place to spot dam birds, including the little egret, and bushveld birds in the shade trees. Within the conservancy is a protected area especially for breeding birds, so you may catch a glimpse of fish eagle and grass owl. The dam wall (you can park on the far side of the tunnel) is good for seeing Verreaux's eagles, black eagle, various swifts and other birds that enjoy rocky cliffsides, whilst on the dam bridge you can spot ducks, cormorants and other water birds. Stop at Leopard Lodge and train the binoculars on the cliffs above – over 280 pairs of Cape vulture nest up here.
The nature trails at Vergenoeg Nature Reserve give access to over 200 bird species (great sightings of the Cape vulture from here too) and over 50 indigenous trees. At Van Gaalen's Cheese farm walk the waterways and look out for half-collared kingfisher, white-backed night heron and African finfoot. En route to Pecanwood estate look out on the dam shores for seed eaters, and lapwings. The bird viewing at Oberon picnic and camp site is particularly good. South of the Schurveberg is the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy with access to over 300 bird species.
Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre - De Wildt
There is a Cape vulture restaurant here.
Kgaswane Mountain Reserve
Close to Rustenberg, Kgaswane gives visitors direct access to the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg Mountains. In amongst the protea belts, rolling grasslands and wetlands are over 320 bird species best seen on one of the two trails – the Peglerae day trail (self-guided) and the Summit trail (more challenging, two-day trail). Specials include: Cape vulture, martial eagle, Cape eagle owl, Eurasian hobby and short-toed rock-thrush.
Mountain Sanctuary Park
This private nature reserve, just above the Grootfontein valley, is a hiking haven giving hikers access to 1 000 hectares in which to wander. You are not restricted to trails in this peaceful and quiet reserve. Birding is equally as rewarding as the intimacy with nature, and specials include the African hawk eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg's eagle, lappet-faced vulture and cuckoohawk.
East of Magaliesberg you enter bushveld country, with a unique set of birds and plant species. Rooikoppies Dam, close to Kameeldrift, is a narrow strip of water, its banks mainly farmland and acacia woodland and an excellent space in which to spot bushveld birds.
Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve
This bushveld reserve alongside the Vaalkop Dam, 50 km north of Brits, is home to a combination of waterbirds, waders and bushveld birds – over 340 species. A bird sanctuary has especially been created in 800 of the 2 996 hectares of the reserve.
Borakalalo Game Reserve
Bird watching in this reserve, almost two hour's north of Brits, is exceptional. The mainly acacia woodland and riverine forest habitat along the banks of the Moretele River and alongside the Klipvoor Dam contains a number of bird hides from which you can sight a good number of birds. There are also giraffe, white rhino, leopard and antelope in the reserve.
Pilanesberg National Park
The fourth-largest protected area in South Africa needs little introduction – it is well known as a beautiful space in which to see the Big Five, close to Johannesburg. However, few realise that the park is also a registered IBA (important bird area) that not only gives access to typical bushveld birds and raptors (special: melanistic Gabar goshawk) but also globally and nationally threatened birds like the African finfoot, Bateleur and grass owl and Cape vulture. Yellow-throated sandgrouse are reputed to drink from an accessible waterhole near Sun City's main gate.