Whether you’re a beginner birder or a devoted twitcher, the annual Kruger birding weekends will help you add to your life list. Bookings are now open to join the SANParks Honorary Rangers between 24 January and 23 February 2020. By Gaynor Siljeur

Just imagine, a weekend in Kruger dedicated to seeing the region’s birds in all their glory. Guided game drives to help you find sightings and expert birders to identify those hard-to-tell-apart species. Best of all, the freedom to watch birds all you want with no impatient game lovers hurrying you along.

The West Rand Region of the SANParks Honorary Rangers will host the 22nd round of the annual Kruger birding event between 24 January and 23 February 2020. Judging by the success of the previous 21 years, this popular event is a must on any birder’s schedule.

“Our guests vary from novices to those who have logged over 700 birds,” explains Simon Ridge, chairperson of the SANParks Honorary Rangers: West Rand Region. The weekends offer excellent value for money as they include accommodation, dinner and guided game drives.

What’s more, funds raised during the birding events go directly towards conservation projects in our national parks. Over the last two decades, these birding weekends have made an invaluable contribution to SANParks’ efforts. By booking your tickets, you won’t only enjoy a fun-filled weekend, but will also contribute to anti-poaching efforts and the conservation of our parks.

Twitchers looking to spot some special birds. Pictures courtesy of SANParks Honorary Rangers: West Rand Region

What to expect?

Keen twitchers can anticipate a weekend dedicated to the birds of Kruger. You’ll be driven around in SANParks open safari vehicles with a birding expert on board to help identify the birds you see and hear.

Each weekend will feature three drives: Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. “The guides provided by SANParks to drive the vehicles are invariably good birders themselves and have great local knowledge,” Simon adds.

“At Punda Maria guests can have an extreme experience where the Saturday morning drive starts at about 02:00 in order for the vehicles to reach Crooks Corner by daylight,” says Simon. Special sightings in the area include lemon-breasted canary, Narina trogon and olive-tree warbler.

If you can peel your eyes from the treetops and sky, you’ll also be spoilt with amazing wildlife sightings. After a thrilling day of bird spotting, it’ll be time for a refreshing sundowner followed by a group dinner and then off to bed.

Birders focusing on a sighting

Birds to look out for

With an endless array of birding opportunities, this is the ideal event to see some of the most sought-after birds in South Africa. Earlier this year at the 21st annual birding event some of the special bird sightings included the horus swift, black coucal, Meyer’s parrot, mottled spinetail, African yellow white-eye and black-throated wattle-eye.

“There are birds that are limited to certain habitats and ranges, like the elusive Pel’s fishing owl. If guests deliberately book a particular camp in a region that is home to a specific species, the chances are high that they will see that bird. The SANParks Honorary Rangers hosts and birding experts devote a great deal of effort to finding ‘specials’,” says Simon.

Kruger birding weekend dates and location

Main Rest Camps

24–26 January 2020

Normal birding: Crocodile Bridge, Letaba and Satara

Extreme birding: Punda Maria

31 January– 2 February 2020

Normal birding: Olifants, Mopani and Pretoriuskop

7–9 February 2020

Normal birding: Letaba

Extreme birding: Punda Maria

14–16 February 2020

Normal birding: Satara

21–23 February

Normal birding: Shingwedzi and Punda Maria

Pricing

The weekend cost is from R3,600 per person sharing for main rest camps (with the exception of Crocodile Bridge and Punda Maria which will be slightly more expensive). A single supplement of 20% is applicable. All prices quoted will include VAT.

This price includes two nights’ shared accommodation, two dinners and 8 to 12 hours of bird viewing and game drives.

The drives are conducted on allocated SANParks vehicles – vehicle size cannot be guaranteed. A birding expert will accompany each of the vehicles used to assist guests with the identification of birds seen.

Excited birders stretching their legs.

Bushveld Camps

23–26 January 2020

Normal birding: Shimuwini

30 January-2 February 2020

Normal Birding: Talamati

3-6 February 2020

Normal birding: Biyamiti

6-9 February 2020

Normal birding: Sirheni

Pricing

The cost per weekend is from R4,600 per person sharing for bush camps. This price includes three nights’ shared accommodation, two dinners and 8 to 12 hours of bird viewing and game drives.

The drives are conducted on allocated SANParks vehicles – vehicle size cannot be guaranteed. A birding expert will accompany guests on each of the vehicles used to assist with the identification of species seen. The price quoted will include VAT.

Bushveld camps have four-bed (two bed-roomed) cottages and bookings must be for a minimum of four guests or in multiples of four. A limited number of two-bed (one bedroom) cottages are available at Biyamiti, Shimuwini, Sirheni and Talamati.  A single supplement of 20% is applicable.

How to book

To find out more information about booking for one of the birding events, please email [email protected] or call Norma Gardiner on +27 (0)11 476 3057.