Package Tour - Birding in Natal Tour - 8 nights Code ESS8
This birding tour takes you through a range of different ecosystems over a 9 day period, giving you an excellent chance to see all the birdlife South Africa has to offer. The tour starts off on the south coast, exposing you to coastal and riverine species of bird. You will be based at the Umtumvuna gorge, expanding the type of habitat you will be able to explore, key species such as the ‘brown scrub-robin’, ‘knysna woodpecker’ and ‘olive bush-shrike’ reside here. We then move onto the grasslands and thornveld of central KZN in the Tugela river basin. Key species to be seen are the ’African crowned eagle’ and ‘cape longclaw’. Ending in the renowned Kruger National Park with a massive 507 confirmed bird species! Of the 900 or so bird species found in South Africa you will be exposed to areas that contain 75% of that list, the rest is up to lady luck ...
At a Glance
Day 1: Durban International Airport to Umtumvuna River Gorge
Pick up from Durban International airport and drive 1 hour down the coast to the Umtumvuna River Gorge and nature reserve. This southernmost nature reserve in KwaZulu-Natal is a botanical paradise consisting of an interesting stretch of riverine forest and steep rocky cliffs. Bordering the Umtamvuna River, the 3 247 hectare reserve boasts a fine display of flowers in springtime. Both the Cape vulture and fish eagle breed in the reserve and 250 other bird species have been recorded. Bushbuck, serval, baboon, samango monkeys, blue and grey duiker and common reedbuck occur in the reserve.
Welcome drinks and snacks will be served at sunset on the viewing deck above the gorge before having supper back at the B&B.
Overnight: Vuna Valley Venture
Day 2: Vuna Valley
Take an early morning hike through the gorge reserve; relax as the beauty of Africa gets hold of your soul. On your return you will be greeted by the smell of a cooking breakfast on the banks of the Umtumvuna River. Take the rest of the day to explore your surroundings or just chill by the river. That afternoon you will go out on the water for a canoe paddle up stream, listen to the birds as their calls echo off the towering cliffs above you. It’s a more relaxed paddle on the way back as you simply drift with the current and take in the wonder of your surroundings. Once again we make our way to the top of the gorge to tick off some grassland birds, before ending at the deck to watch the sunset. Dinner will be served back at Vuna Valley out on the balcony.
Overnight: Vuna Valley Venture
Day 3: Vuna Valley to Zingela
After breakfast it’s on to Zingela, probably the most amazing place on the planet. You’ll be transferred in 4 by 4 over a small mountain range and into the Tugela River Valley, say goodbye to civilization as you descend into the valley which is a wilderness area. Meaning all the animals and wildlife found there is naturally occurring, no fences keep them there they have moved to this area to escape the presence of man!
You will be served a genuine bush lunch on arrival and then have time to relax whilst the sound of the river running by soothes you. We then take a small hike along the river and explore this new ecosystem, ticking off new species of bird all the time ...
Have dinner under the stars that night, where the only sounds are running water and the noisy silence of the African bush.
Overnight: Zingela River Lodge, you will not be staying in a chalet, rondavel or tent. Each en-suite design is unique and has been built in unity with its immediate environment.
Day 4: Zingela
It’s an early rise as we set out in search of some new species. Catch ‘the dawn chorus’ as the male birds go about chirping and whistling to re-establish their territories. Stop along the way to take in your surroundings and have small snack before moving on. Return to a hearty breakfast on the banks of the river and have the rest of your day free to do with as you please. That afternoon we will take a game drive up into the hills and explore the outer boundaries, as well as the birdlife this area has an abundance of animals who roam these territories.
Overnight: Zingela River Lodge
Day 5: Zingela to Jozini Dam
Today is a heavy travelling day so you will wake relatively early and leave Zingela straight after breakfast. We make our way back to Durban and then head north to Pongola ending at Shayamoya Lodge over looking Jozini dam. Enjoy sundowners on the deck overlooking the valley and dam, then sit down to a wonderful meal at the lodge. Perhaps if you are lucky you may even get a visit from their resident spotted eagle owl.
Shayamoya Lodge, the thatched chalets are built of local wood and stone and blend deliciously into their wild surrounding. Well-manicured pathways link the chalets with the central lodge. While strolling from the chalets, you may come across duiker, zebra and guinea fowl that roam around the lodge. Getting even closer to nature, enjoy the experience of taking a steamy outdoor shower under the stars. Each chalet is beautifully finished with attention to detail, such as the custom made basins and brass taps in the bathrooms.
Overnight: Shayamoya Lodge
Day 6: Jozini Dam to Kruger National Park
Have breakfast on the lodge balcony and then leave for the Kruger National Park. We drive through the country of Swaziland to arrive at the southern most gate to the reserve, Crocodile Bridge. The Kruger is one of the largest conservation areas in the world and gives you the best chance to experience all that Africa has to offer. From the BIG 5: lion, leopard and elephant, to the endangered: cheetah and wild dog or the 507 species of birds that you came to see!
You’ll travel through the park until you reach your camp for the night, here you will check in and relax. Later we go out on a late afternoon game drive to get as much of this amazing reserve as we can.
Supper will be in the way of a traditional South African braai (barbeque) after which, spend the evening round the camp fire listening to the sounds of the African bush!
Lower-Sabie rest camp; on the banks of the Sabie River is one of the few perennial rivers to flow through the Kruger National Park. Visitors cannot but feel soothed by the view towards the river and the Lebombo Mountains beyond. In this rest camp the plenitude of nature is very evident, eloquently symbolised by the mighty sycamore fig, which provides generously for the livelihood of many birds and insects. Not only do these giants produce fruit at least twice a year, but different trees produce fruit at different times, extending the gifts of life over many months. Watching the endless procession of animals coming to drink at the Sabie River establishes a sense of one's own place in the eternal cycle.
Overnight: Lower- Sabie Rest Camp
Day 7: Lower Sabie
We’ll leave on an early morning drive to maximise the amount of viewing, after all there are many birds to tick off and then of course the animal abundance and the ever presence of the BIG 5 will keep you well occupied. Get some down time during the heat of the day or spend it in the indigenous gardens of the camp.
We’ll have a late snack lunch while your guide prepares a pooitjie Kos for your supper and you’ll leave just before sunset on a night drive. This will be conducted by the park rangers and will give you the chance to see some nocturnal birds such as owls and nightjars! On your return to the camp supper will be served, a slow boiled stew in a cast-iron pot prepared just the way the ox-wagon drivers of yester year did.
Overnight: Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Day 8: Lower Sabie
Today you embark on a truly unique experience; you’ll leave at dawn in the safe hands of one of the park rangers and hike through the wilderness. This will give you the opportunity to get down to ground level and pick the brain of somebody who spends day in and out in this type of habitat and will be able to find some unique species for you!
Once again we’ll do an afternoon drive and try to move into areas and habitats that we haven’t been, giving you every chance of seeing something new.
Supper will be back at camp, where we can spend our last night round the camp fire discussing the days gone past. Some star gazing after supper will go down well as you reflect on the beauty of Africa.
Overnight: Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Day 9: Lower Sabie to Johannesburg Airport or your hotel
We rise early and drive 2 hours through the park, giving you one last chance to see some more birds and perhaps the elusive leopard before exiting the park and making your way across to the Johannesburg airport.