South Africa has a diverse wildlife scene with some of the best bird watching places you can find in Africa.
The country is divided into several provinces with some provinces having more diverse birdlife than others.
For avid birders, and normal wildlife enthusiasts, there are many sites that offer more than enough opportunities to revel in and enjoy the sight of birds in their natural settings.
Below are some of the best bird-watching places to get you started in your bird-watching (aka birding)-journey.
Table of Contents
Kruger national park
World famous for its diverse wildlife and epic game drives, Kruger National Park has a lot to offer to birdwatchers.
With over 500 species of birds calling the park home, it has diverse numbers of birds ranging from:
- the Brown snake eagle,
- the lilac-breasted roller,
- the sterling,
- the bee-eater,
- the bateleur eagle, and more
The park is vast, and it contains a high number of rare birds.
These birds are rare because certain birds are elusive, and migratory birds come and go.
The best time to go bird watching in Kruger is between the months of October and March as it coincides with migratory birds visiting the park.
Also due to its vastness, birders will have to have patience while bird watching in Kruger National Park.
The park is located in the North Eastern part of South Africa and there are several ways of getting to the park.
You can fly to Johannesburg, then take a car for the four-hour-plus drive to the park.
You can also take a small charter flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza, or you can take a flight from Joburg to Mpumalanga airport, and from there it’s only an hour’s drive to the park.
Phinda game reserve
Located in Kwa Zulu Natal, this private game reserve boasts some of the birds native to the province.
Unlike other parks and game reserves, Phinda is fenced off and not open, and the wildlife is relatively undisturbed and well protected from outside influence.
The reserve has more than 400 species of birds, with some of the local species you might spot including:
- the pink-throated twin spot,
- the green twin spot,
- African Broadbill
- and the Narina trogon.
From November to April the reserve is visited by migratory birds. The African Broadbill:
The reserve is about 300 km / 180 miles North of Durban.
The most convenient way to get there is through SA Airlinks daily scheduled flights from either Cape town or Johannesburg Phinda’s private landing strip.
You can fly to Durban, rent a car, and take the three-hour drive to the reserve.
Madikwe game reserve
Situated in the North West part of South Africa and bordering Botswana, this game reserve reward visitors with views of many types of birds from water, raptors, and bush to terrestrial birds.
The reserve has a variety of landscapes, and vegetation, and thus a diverse number of birds, with some of the birds you can spot including:
- the ostrich,
- the lappet-faced and white-backed vultures,
- the martial and bateleur eagles,
- the crimson-breasted shrike,
- the Kori bustard,
- and the Secretary bird.
A good tip is to hole up at camp, particularly if it’s near a waterhole, and wait for the birds to come and drink.
You can either use the road or a small charter plane to Madikwe from O.R. Tambo International airport.
It is a 3.5 hr drive from both Johannesburg and Pretoria in Gauteng.
Isimangaliso wetland and park
This is a world heritage site declared in 1999 and originally known as The Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park.
The area is popular with bird watchers, bird fanatics, and animal lovers with over 500 species of birds calling it home.
Some of the bird species one is likely to spot include:
- the greater flamingo,
- the saddle-billed stork,
- the kingfisher,
- and the Rufous-bellied heron.
The park protects a vital wetland that is home to a variety of water birds.
The park has a diversity of habitats from dunes to mangrove swamps, and birders will have a relatively easy time taking self-guided hikes, but be on the lookout for hippos.
At the Northern spur of the park is the Mkhuze game reserve. This game reserve has rich biodiversity offering excellent bird watching opportunities.
To the North and East, it borders the uMkhuze river. A prominent feature in the western part of the reserve is the Lebombo mountain range, with the rest of the park being flat with a variety of wetlands.
Considered one of South Africa’s best bird watching places, you are likely to spot species like:
- Pel’s fishing owl,
- the pink-backed pelicans,
- African green pigeons,
- and trumpeter hornbills.
The nearest International airport is in Durban, and the nearest regional airport is at Richards Bay. The park is accessible by road through the R22 and N2 highways.
Forming part of the uKhamlamba-Drakensberg park which is a world heritage site, this park has unique birds that have adapted to the high altitudes of the Drakensberg mountains.
The region is a treasure shove of avian biodiversity with birds including:
- and raptors.
- Some of the most sought-after birds in the Southern Drakensberg include the bearded vulture.
Listen to the call of the African bearded vulture in the video below:
The best time to visit is between October and March, during spring, summer, and early autumn.
The Drakensberg is quite a distance from Cape town, at about 900 km.
The best option is by use of plane and car, for a total of 4 hours.
Take a plane from Cape Town to Durban and then take a vehicle through the R617 or N3 from there.
Nylsvley Nature Reserve
Designated as a RAMSAR site, this Reserve becomes spectacular when the Nyl river floods the Limpopo wetlands, reaching over 16000 hectares of flooded area up from the original 4000 hectares of the Nylsvley Nature Reserve.
The reserve is home to a diverse number of birds with about 37 species on the RED data list; these are endangered and rare wildlife that occur within a country or state.
The flooding of the Limpopo flood plain brings in 360 species of birds.
Also, the best time to visit the reserve is during the rainfall season, typically from February to May.
During the dry months, there are also a lot of bushveld birds to spot.
The reserve can be found between Mookgophong and Modimolle.
To reach the reserve use the N1 and R101, with the entrance being reached through the Boekenhout turn-off.
Part of the Table Mountain National park, Boulders Beach is one of only two mainland breeding sites for the African penguin.
The beach is special as penguins generally prefer breeding on offshore islands because of terrestrial predators.
Being part of the False Bay coastline which is situated just South of Simons town, this beach is easy to access, will get you really close to the penguins, and a chance to spot other birds.
These other birds include:
- Hartlaub’S gulls,
- African black oystercatcher,
- and white-breasted cormorant.
The beach is not far from Cape Town; just a 40-minute drive and is just outside the town of Simon’s
This coastal village is a very important breeding ground for a variety of sea birds and is one of the best bird watching places in South Africa for sure!
The Kommetjie area has a rocky outcrop shoreline known as The Kom and a small tidal pool.
Some of the bird species that can be found at Kommetjie roosting on the rocky outcrops include:
- the bank cormorant,
- the cape cormorant,
- the white-breasted cormorant,
- the crowned cormorant,
- the kelp gull,
- the Hartlaub’S gull,
- the common tern,
- the sandwich tern,
- the swift tern,
- and the African black oystercatcher.
During the summer months, Palearctic birds: these are long-distance migratory birds that breed in either Southern Asia or Europe and spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa.
These latter birds include species such as:
- the common and grey ringed plover,
- the common and curlew sandpiper,
- the Ruddy Turnstone,
- the common greenshank,
- and the common whimbrel.
The best time to visit is during the low tide as most of the outcrop is covered in high tide.
Kommetjie is on the Atlantic shore and south of Noordhoek.
To reach Kommetjie you can travel over the Ou Kaapse Weg mountain pass; the fastest route, or follow the Atlantic coast through Noordhoek, or Hout bay.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Located on the slopes of the Drakensberg mountains, the area’s shrubs provide the perfect home for birds.
The natural shrubs are home to some local birds and also migratory bird species.
Some of the birds you are likely to spot at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens include the cape sugarbird and the orange-breasted sunbird.
Kirstenbosch isn’t far from Cape Town as it is only 11km away.
Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa?
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on the best bird watching places in South Africa.
If you have any more questions or want to add extra information, feel free to ask them below in the comment section.
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I wish you happy travels!