Caracal on Ostrich carcass, De Hoop Nature Reserve by Matt Prophet

Tour Dates: Tuesday 14th – Wednesday 29th September 2021 (Cape Town to Johannesburg) 
Tour Price: £4,499pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Johannesburg – Cape Town approx. £850 return
Deposit: £500 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £300 – £400
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
Mammals: Caracal, Black-footed Cat, Brown Hyena, Aardvark, Aardwolf, Leopard, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, Cape Grysbok, Southern Right Whale, Heaviside’s Dolphin, Dusky Dolphin and numerous other commoner species.
Birds: African Penguin, Blue Crane, Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, Knysna Woodpecker, Cape Vulture, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Bokmakierie, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black Harrier, Martial Eagle and much more!

Tour Summary
This new and exciting tour is focused on trying to see some of the shyest mammals found in South Africa as well as seeing a good selection of speciality birds in this fantastic country. We start on the Cape Coast where we find ourselves in excellent Caracal country as we stay in both the beautiful De Hoop Nature Reserve and the West Coast National Park. Here we will also be looking for many of the special birds that frequent these habitats. Black Harrier, Cape Rockjumper, African Penguin, Ground Woodpecker and Cape Sugarbird are just some of the birds we hope to find. We then head north into the Karoo region where we will spend a good amount of time spotlighting for mammals, searching in particular for the wonderful Black-footed Cat. We also have an excellent chance of finding both Aardvark and Aardwolf. Finally, we spend the last few days in the Pilanesberg National Park; a place rarely found on wildlife watching itineraries yet it is one of the best places to see Brown Hyena and also has a very good population of Caracal.

ACCOMMODATION: 15 nights in South Africa
2 nights West Coast National Park, 1 night Betty’s Bay, 2 nights De Hoop Nature Reserve, 1 night Beaufort West, 4 nights Karoo Gariep, 1 night Bloemhof and 4 nights Pilanesberg National Park.
Inclusive Meals: Breakfast and dinner.

One of the many scenic bays on the Cape Coast by Matt Prophet

DAY 1: Arrival Cape Town – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Cape Town (or Intaka Island / Strandfontein Birding Area)
This morning we will visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Kirstenbosch is a productive spot and we stand a good chance of seeing a number of species which include, Sombre Greenbul, African Swee Waxbill, Cape, Brimstone and Forest Canary, Lemon Dove, Cape Spurfowl, Orange-breasted, Southern Double Collared, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbird, African Goshawk and Black Sparrowhawk to name just a few. The flora within the gardens is spectacular and hosts a wide variety of native species from all over Southern Africa.
We will then make our to the West Coast National Park. Whilst we travel along the spectacle coastline there is a good chance that we will see cetaceans. A number of species are possible which may include Dusky Dolphin, Southern Right Whale, Hump-backed Whale or Bryde’s Whale. After lunch we will arrive at West Coast National Park and we will take our first late afternoon drive for Caracal. This is an excellent place to find this beautiful cat, though we just need some good luck! Overnight West Coast National Park

DAY 2: West Coast National Park – Langebaan
The West Coast National Park consists of the Strandveld fynbos and hosts a number of species usually associated with the Karoo Biome. Large terrestrial mammals include: Bontebok, Cape Eland, a small population of Cape Mountain Zebra and Greater Kudu. Desirable species of birds which can be found here include a number of specials including Black Harrier, Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Black Korhaan, and Karoo Lark, White-backed Mousebird, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Cape Penduline Tit, Chestnut-banded Plover and many more.
During the early morning we will focus on driving the road within the Park before breakfast to look for Caracal. After breakfast will visit the Postberg section of the park, which is only open to the public during August and September. The wildflower displays in this area can be mesmerizing and we will spend time looking at various antelope species and photographing the incredible flora. We will make a stop at the coastal viewpoint where we will see various seabirds, possibly Cape Fur Seal and if we are lucky the endemic Heaviside’s Dolphin.
After lunch we can try for the hugely impressive Verreaux’s Eagle at a local quarry before re-entering the reserve during the late afternoon, when we will of course try again for Caracal again. Overnight West Coast National Park

African Penguins and Orange-breasted Sunbird by Matt Prophet

DAY 3: West Coast National Park – Betty’s Bay
We will take our usual early morning drive for Caracal followed by breakfast. We will then visit one of the bird hides in the park either at Abrahamskraal at a natural fresh water pond or on the intertidal flats on the lagoon edge depending on the state of the tide.
By mid morning we will then continue our journey towards Betty’s Bay. En route we will pass through Cape Town and along False Bay where we will stop and check for any whales or dolphins before finally reaching Betty’s Bay. Here, we will try for a number of special birds including Cape Siskin and Ground Woodpecker. Overnight Betty’s Bay Guesthouse

Ground Woodpecker, De Hoop by Matt Prophet

DAY 4: Betty’s Bay – De Hoop Nature Reserve – Breede River Croplands
An early morning stroll before breakfast around our accommodation should produce some birds and possibly Small Grey Mongoose. After breakfast, we will look for the must see, Cape Rockjumper! We will walk along the base of a steep mountain close to the ocean listening for the call of this very impressive species. Many other endemic birds can also be found here and include, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Rock Thrush, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Ground Woodpecker and Karoo Prinia.
After lunch we will head east to De Hoop and check in to our comfortable accommodation. De Hoop Nature Reserve and the Marine Protected Area is one of the Western Cape Province’s real gems! We will be looking for a number of special birds best located in the croplands along the Breede River. The highly localised Agulhas Long-billed lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Karoo Korhaan, Denham’s Bustard and South Africa’s national bird the Blue Crane. We will also look out for Steenbok and Yellow Mongoose as we drive.
We will then take a walk close to our accommodation to look for some special endemic Cape mammals such as Cape Mountain Zebra and Bontebok as well as birds such as Southern Tchagra, Pearl-breasted Swallow and Knysna Woodpecker. A late afternoon drive down to the beach at Koppie Allen will give us a great opportunity for Southern Right Whale and possibly Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin.
The drive back to our accommodation just before dark could deliver Caracal if we are very lucky. Overnight De Hoop Nature Reserve

Cape Mountain Zebra, Cape Point by Matt Prophet

DAY 5: De Hoop Nature Reserve – Koppie Alleen – De Hoop Vlei – Potberg
An early morning drive to look for Caracal will certainly be one of our main objectives today! We will set off as early as possible, just before sunrise and take the drive towards Koppie Alleen. After breakfast we will do some birding along the De Hoop Vlei where we will look for various passerines as well as water birds like Greater Flamingo and Great White Pelican. Sometimes Cape Clawless Otter can be seen here too!
Dependent on our success with key species, we may visit De Mond Nature Reserve just west of De Hoop. Here we can walk along the shoreline of the beautiful Heuningsnes River for some fynbos birding while keeping an eye out for Cape Grysbok and as always a chance of Caracal.
During the afternoon we will visit Potberg where we will try for Cape Vulture, the only site for this species in the Western Cape Province. We should see Bontebok and new birds along the way and hopefully Cape Mountain Zebra. We will return to De Hoop in the late afternoon and will extend this drive until after dark in an effort to see Caracal. Overnight De Hoop Nature Reserve

Aardvark, Karoo Gariep by Nature Friendly Photographer

DAY 6: De Hoop NR – Beaufort West
After a final morning try for Caracal, we will then head north-east to the town of Beaufort West. Although the town is mostly a single night stopover for travellers, the birding here can be very rewarding. We should arrive by late afternoon which will give us time for some local birding. Species such as Karoo Long-billed Lark, Cape Penduline Tit, Black-eared Sparrowlark, Southern Tchagra, Namaqua Warbler should be found without too much difficulty. Overnight Beaufort West

DAY 7: Beaufort West – Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve
After breakfast we will visit the local water treatment works as it provides the only open water in the area during dry spells. The majority of ducks and herons of the region have been seen here over the years and numbers of migratory waders are found during summer months.
We will then take the relatively short drive of three hours to our base for the next four nights and arrive in good time for our first night drive!
Overnight Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve

DAYS 8 – 10: Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve
The wonderful lodge at Karoo Gariep has some very special wildlife within its grounds. We will arrive in time for lunch and then take time to relax in the grounds of this small nature reserve / farm. The owner of the lodge is driven by conservation and is helping reintroduce a number of game species to the reserve. However, the real focus of our time in this region will be during the night where we will take nightly spotlighting sessions to search for the many very special mammals that live on the farm. Despite the Karoo being an arid region, the diversity of nocturnal animals can be very impressive as we search for commoner species like Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox and African Wildcat. However, there are three species in particular which this area seems to have excellent success in finding and these are the Aardvark, Aardwolf and the real prize, the Black-footed Cat! Overnight Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve

Black-footed Cat, Karoo Gariep by Nature Friendly Photography

DAY 11 – Karoo Gariep NR – Bloemhof
Today we continue our journey north towards Pilanesberg but we will break the journey at the halfway point of Bloemhof. Here we are very close to a couple of great birding sites, the Sandveld & Bloemhof Dam Reserves. Once checked into our accommodation we will spend the afternoon exploring this huge area. The dam regularly supports more than 5,000 waterbirds. The dam regularly holds significant numbers of Caspian Tern, African Darter, Goliath Heron, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, and Knob-billed Duck. The surrounding Kalahari Thornveld also supports several large raptors and terrestrial species, including White-backed Vulture, Kori Bustard, Red-crested Korhaan, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Barred Wren-Warbler and more! Overnight Bloemhof

DAY 12: Bloemhof – Pilanesberg National Park
After breakfast we will travel to Pilanesberg. We will take our time as we travel north looking for species such as such as Double-banded Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, Blue Korhaan, Burchell’s Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse and much more! Overnight Pilanesberg National Park

Bontebok, Cape Point by Matt Prophet

DAYS 13 – 15: Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park is set within the crater of an ancient volcano and is in a transition zone between the dry Kalahari and the wet Lowveld region. This rich transitional zone attracts an incredible variety of mammals and birds as well as botany. We will spend three full days inside the park with our local guide focused on trying to see Brown Hyena and Caracal along with the numerous other mammals and birds that can be found here. Our local guide knows the park exceptionally well and aside from the two main target species we have plenty of great wildlife to enjoy.
We should find White Rhino, Elephants, Giraffes and Hippos without too much problem, Lions are relatively easy to find and both Leopard and Cheetah are also possible. The birds will also keep us very busy with common species such as Black-winged Kite, Swainson’s Francolin, Crested Francolin, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-collared Barbet, Crested Barbets and Kori Bustard. Other less common species we will be looking for include the impressive Secretarybird and Southern Ground Hornbill. Overnight Pilanesberg National Park

Aardwolf, Karoo Gariep by Rod Green

DAY 16: Airport Transfer
After breakfast we will take the short transfer to Johannesburg airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding Leader & local guides in Pilanesberg, Karoo Gariep and the Cape
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfast and dinner, bottled water, all entrance fees and services of the leaders.
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £599
Transport: A/C Minibus throughout the tour
Difficulty: Easy
Much of our birding and mammal watching will be from vehicles. Walking will be generally short distances on flat trails and walking around 2 – 3Km per day
Climate: Generally very pleasant with temperatures reaching around 20 degrees celsius in the day.
Tour Start Point: Johannesburg, South Africa
Tour End Point: Cape Town, South Africa
Suggested Airlines: British Airways

South Africa’s stunning coastline by Matt Prophet