Natural History Safari of South Africa is a 14 day / 13 night package tour by Crane's Cape Tours & Travel

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Package Tour - Natural History Safari of South Africa

Categories: Birdwatching / Photographic / Wildlife

Sunday 11th to Saturday 24th January 2015 - Our 14 day Safari of the Western & Eastern Cape takes in a broad interest in the environment. Starting in Cape Town, we spend three days experiencing the wonders of the Cape, including the world famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve –where two great oceans meet, and Rondevlei & Strandfontein Bird Reserves, with their prolific birdlife. We then head north into the Great Karoo, staying at the Karoo National Park for 2 nights with its dramatic Karoo landscape. We spend 5 days in the Eastern Cape, staying in The Mountain Zebra and the Addo Elephant National Parks, where we can view a wide range of game and birdlife. We return to the Cape via the indigenous forests of the Garden Route, where we spend 3 nights. Last but not least, we visit the coastal town of Hermanus, the hotspot of fynbos.

At a Glance

Tour duration
14 days / 13 nights
Min / max group size
3 to 8 people per tour
Tour departs from
Cape Town
No price range submitted

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Cape Town
You will be met at the airport and transferred to your Guest House on the Cape Peninsula, where you will have the opportunity to freshen up after your overnight flight. We start off your stay in Cape Town with a visit to the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where we will be spending the afternoon appreciating these world famous gardens, in a setting of mountain streams, pools and rolling lawns. A walk in these gardens could reward us with sightings of some of the fynbos endemics, like the Orange-breasted Sunbird, the Cape Siskin and the Cape Sugarbird. Kirstenbosch is also a wonderful place to introduce you to the ‘Cape Floral Kingdom’, known as fynbos.

Overnight: Cape Peninsula

Day 2: Cape Town
We will spend a leisurely day experiencing the rugged beauty of the Peninsula with its spectacular coastline and diverse fauna & flora. From the African Penguin colony at Simon’s Town we follow the False Bay coastline to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This reserve was started in 1936 to preserve the indigenous flora of the Cape Peninsula. The 7,750 ha reserve is an excellent example of the wealth of floral diversity in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The Protea, Erica and Restio families are well represented. The fauna of the reserve includes Eland, Zebra, Bontebok, Chacma Baboon and many smaller mammals and reptiles, as well as over 250 recorded bird species. We will go on a botanical / birding walk through the reserve, where we can enjoy studying, identifying, photographing and marvelling at this floral wonder.

Overnight: Cape Peninsula

Day 3: Cape Town
Our first port of call is Rondevlei Bird Reserve in the heart of Cape Town. This Reserve has always been a naturally occurring wetland and is still rich in bird diversity. Birdwatching is from five hides, two observation towers and a series of paths. Waterbirds are well represented here with a few specials including the African Purple Swamphen, Black Crake and the Little Bittern. African Marsh-Harriers can be seen quartering the reedbeds, while African Fish Eagles swoop down on unsuspecting fish. We will also look out for Cape Longclaw, Cape Weaver, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou and Cape Shoveler.

After lunch we will visit the Strandfontein Water Purification Plant (sewage works!) Though the present day bird densities at the Strandfontein Water Purification Plant are the highest in the country, there is still no form of conservation protection on the area. The pressure from housing projects, road developments and the introduction of chemically cleaned waste water make this area a priority for conservation. We will look out for Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Maccos Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck, Greater Flamingo and Red-billed Teal.

Overnight: Cape Peninsula

Day 4: Cape Town to Karoo National Park
After an early breakfast we will be heading for the Karoo town of Worcester, where we will have a leisurely walk around the Karoo National Botanical Gardens. These gardens specialize in the succulents and hardy plants of the Karoo, for example the botterboom, with its papery bark, the thorny Karoo acacia and the many eye catching Aloes.

‘Karoo’ is a San word that means dry. The ‘dry’ Karoo covers nearly one third of South Africa and during earlier times used to be a huge inland lake. The Karoo lies at an altitude of 600 meters above sea level, has a rainfall in places as low as 50mm per annum and the Summer temperature often exceeds 38°C in the shade. It is the flora that sets the Karoo apart from the rest of the country, for faced with such extreme conditions the vegetation has adopted various devices to ensure survival eg: succulents store water in their leaves or roots, and seeds of ephemeral plants lie dormant for years until good rains. Over 50 % of the plant species in the Karoo are endemic to the area. After a picnic lunch in the gardens we will continue north to the heart of the Great Karoo and the Karoo National Park.

Overnight: Karoo National Park

Day 5: Karoo National Park
We will be going on a morning game drive, where Cape Mountain Zebra, Eland, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Kudu, Blesbok and many species of smaller mammals may be sighted. The park harbours 64 species of mammals, over 200 bird species and 59 species of reptiles. Short-toed Rock Thrush, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Mountain Wheatear, Pririt Batis and African Rock Pipit are a few of the birds to look out for. The Park is renowned for it's impressive landscapes and large variety of plants that have adapted to the harsh climate. An interesting inhabitant of the park is the Dicynodont. These herbivorous mammal-like reptiles may be found on a fossil trail near our cottages. There are walks through the ‘karoo scrub’ to enjoy in the afternoon, as well as a bird hide overlooking the water hole. We will go for a late afternoon walk, where we will look out for the miniature Hibiscus flowers, the cancer bush, wild rosemary, Karoo gold and Karoo violet.

Overnight: Karoo National Park

Day 6: Karoo National Park to Mountain Zebra National Park
We will leave the Karoo National Park after an early morning walk. Initially we will be driving through the Great Karoo and then through the hills of the Suurberg. These characteristic hills offer unending views over the plains of Camdeboo, which were immortalised by Eve Palmer in her book ‘The Plains of Camdeboo’. We will be driving through the settler towns of Aberdeen and Graaff-Reinet en route for the Mountain Zebra National Park.

We will spend some time at the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park. Blesbok, Black Wildebeest, Klipspringer and Red Hartebeest are a few of the 43 mammal species for us to look out for (11 of the 43 are carnivores!) The Camdeboo National Park has a bird list of 225 species and many reptiles.

Overnight: Mountain Zebra National Park

Day 7: Mountain Zebra National Park
The Mountain Zebra National Park was proclaimed in 1937 to protect the Cape Mountain Zebra from extinction. (There is now a population of over 300). The Park lies about 20 km south-west of Cradock in the Eastern Karoo. It consists of a rugged landscape of mountains, grassy plains, bushy hillsides and rocky gorges, bisected through the centre by the Wilgerboom River with its densely wooded banks. There are a number of walking trails which we can explore, as well as guided night drives and Khoisan rock art walks. The trails take us through a variety of habitats from dense riverine bush and bushy hillsides to rocky cliffs and high grassy mountain tops. We will spend the day exploring this 28,000 hectare Reserve, with it’s rich flora and birdlife. Some bird species to look out for are Layard’s Titbabbler, Sickle-winged Chat, Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher and Pale-winged Starling. For those of us that enjoy a challenge… there are several species of lark for us to identify!

Overnight: Mountain Zebra National Park

Day 8: Mountain Zebra National Park to Addo Elephant National Park
After breakfast we will set off for the Addo Elephant National Park. This National Park offers protection to the full spectrum of wildlife originally found in the area. Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Black Rhino, Buffalo, Spotted Hyena, Warthog, Duiker, Burchell’s Zebra, Eland, Suricate, and many species of smaller mammals may be sighted.

The park is home to over 200 bird species, including the magnificent Verreaux’s Eagle, Martial Eagle and Secretarybird. Southern Tchagra, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Green Wood-Hoopoe and Black-collared Barbet are some of the birds that can be seen around the main camp.

The Addo Elephant National Park is a malaria free area and is renowned for it's impressive herds of Elephants, as well as the large variety of plants, birds and animals that have adapted to the climate of the Eastern Cape. There are numerous game drives within the Park, as well as a bird hide overlooking an active water hole. The main water hole, which can be seen from the main area of the camp, is flood-lit at night, which gives you the opportunity to watch the game at leisure.

A night drive (an optional extra) is well recommended on any of the evenings that we are in the Park. You could expect to see some of the nocturnal creatures like Springhare, Scrub Hare, Porcupine, Aardvark and Polecat, as well as Owls and Nightjars.

Overnight: Addo Elephant National Park

Day 9: Addo Elephant National Park
Before breakfast we will drive the Mbala loop via Zuurkop. There is a view point at the top of Zuurkop (at 315m) where we will have great views in all directions. We will be looking for Elephant, Lion, Black Rhino and Eland, as well as Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Southern Tchagra and White-throated Canary, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Black-collared Barbet, Southern Black Tit, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Red-collared Widowbird, Golden-breasted Bunting, Streaky-headed Seed-Eater and Yellow-fronted Canary. As this area is more open than other areas in the Park, we should see some plains game, like Burchell’s Zebra and Red Hartebeest, as well as some of the smaller inhabitants like the small, but important Dung Beetle.

After breakfast we will explore the grasslands of the Gorah Loop. Here we will look out for Stanley's Bustard, Black Korhaan, Blue Crane and Secretarybird. The Gorah loop is a good route to look out for some of the smaller mammals. Bushbuck, Grysbok and Common Duiker can be seen, as well as Cape Fox and Yellow Mongoose.

We will drive the Hapoor route in the late afternoon, which will take us past four waterholes (Lendlovu, Hapoor, Rooidam and Gwarrie Dam) and should give us excellent Elephant sightings.

Overnight: Addo Elephant National Park

Day 10: Addo Elephant National Park to Garden Route
Today we will be driving South into a totally different world, namely the indigenous forests of the Garden Route. We will be taking a leisurely drive through the Garden Route, past inland lakes, beautiful sweeping beaches and large estuarine mud flats, the final destination of many migrating birds from Europe and Western Asia.

En route to Plettenberg Bay we will stop at the Tsitsikamma National Park, where the indigenous forest and the Indian ocean meet. The Tsitsikamma National Park has over 220 bird species and regular sightings of Common Dolphins and Southern Right Whales are made from the shore. We will visit the Garden of Eden Nature Reserve. This reserve has some mighty big Outeniqua Yellowwood trees, as well as many other types of indigenous trees and plants. We can go on a short walk here, which will take us through the lush evergreen forest. We should be rewarded by the sight and sounds of many forest bird species. We will also be looking out for some of the forest reptiles, like the endemic Knysna Dwarf Chameleon, Boomslang (tree snake) and the Puff Adder.

Overnight: Garden Route

Day 11: Garden Route
First on our agenda for the day is a 3 hour, leisurely boat trip up the Keurbooms River and into the Keurbooms River Nature Reserve. We just sit back and look out for Kingfishers, Fish Eagles and Riverine birds, while the boat takes us 10 kilometres into the forest. There is no road access here, so the forest is in pristine condition. We will have a short walk (or swim) before heading back to the jetty.

After a picnic lunch on the banks of the Groot River at Natures Valley, we will walk through the lush evergreen forests of the western part of the Tsitsikamma National Park. The Knysna Lourie, Cape Batis and Chorister Robin are three of the many forest birds to look out for. The beach at Nature’s Valley is one of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa. Occasionally we see Cape Clawless Otters here.

Overnight: Garden Route

Day 12: Garden Route
We will be spending the day in Knysna and the Knysna Lagoon National Park. We will visit the Knysna Heads, where the lagoon (estuary) flows in to the Indian Ocean. We will also have some time to do some bird watching over the tidal mud flats that attract many migrating birds.

We will head inland after lunch to the Diepwalle Forest, where we can go for a short walk through the forest looking out for Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Green Woodhoopoe and Knysna Woodpecker. This area is the known haunt of the last few remaining forest Elephants. Although the chance of us seeing one of these great animals is slim! We continue along Prince Alfred’s Pass to the Spitskop Peak, one of the higher peaks in the area. We will be out of the forest and into fynbos, which will afford us a chance to do some botanizing.

Overnight: Garden Route

Day 13: Garden Route to Hermanus
After breakfast we head for Mossel Bay and the Diaz Museum. This interesting museum depicts the Portugese influence on Southern Africa. We then enter the ‘bread basket of South Africa’. This area of rich fertile farmland and quaint villages is steeped in local history. We will stop for an early lunch at Swellendam before moving on to Hermanus.

Overnight: Hermanus

Day 14: Hermanus to Cape Town
We start today with a walk at the Fernkloof Nature Reserve with it's wealth of indigenous flora. The area has one of the densest concentrations of fynbos in the Western Cape, with many beautiful ericas, proteas and pincushions. After a short drive we will walk around the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens. A walk around these gardens with it's rich fynbos flora and views out to sea, is a wonderful way to spend our last afternoon.

We will be heading for Cape Town International Airport via the spectacular False Bay coastal route.

Overnight: N/A

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