If you’re looking to tick some special sightings off your birding roster and deepen your twitching knowledge, don’t miss the annual Kruger birding weekends in 2019. By Rebekah Funk
With several camps to choose from, these nature-immersive guided weekends take place between 24 January and 24 February 2019, and offer a relaxing way to escape the daily grind. At the same as improving your birding skills, you’ll be contributing vital funds to ongoing conservation and anti-poaching efforts in South Africa’s national parks.
“The annual birding events in Kruger are an opportunity not to be missed,” says Simon Ridge, chairperson of the SANParks Honorary Rangers: West Rand Region, the organisers of the popular event.
“[They] remain particularly good value for money and the ideal opportunity to see some of the most sought-after birds in South Africa,” Ridge explains.
In Kruger, these special sightings can include Pel’s fishing owl, pennant-winged nightjar, Narina trogon, Böhm’s spinetail, racket-tailed roller and peregrine falcon, to mention a few.
“For both novice and experienced birders, these events help to build birding skills and assist with vital conservation work. One can enjoy dawn and evening drives guided by experienced birding experts,” Ridge adds.
These events have, over the past 21 years, contributed significantly towards conservation of South Africa’s National Parks.
All proceeds from the events are used exclusively for conservation and other related projects identified by SANParks: procuring aircraft, boats and quad bikes to counter poaching, securing additional ranger equipment, dog cages for safe transport and various animal satellite tracking collars, amongst others.
On the lookout for vultures
Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Conservation Manager of BirdLife South Africa, says the weekends will be an ideal opportunity to learn more about vultures. These birds and other raptors face severe threats in the wild.
“African vultures are undoubtedly the most threatened group of birds worldwide and are plummeting towards extinction,” she says. “The time to act is now. We need vultures and vultures need our conservation support.”
The sighting of an immature Egyptian vulture in Kruger caused great excitement among birders this past year. Seven of the nine vulture species found in South Africa are resident species of the Kruger, with Rüppell’s and Egyptian vultures being listed as vagrants or infrequent visitors to this country.
As many as five of these are severely threatened due to habitat and food loss, intentional and secondary poisoning, and accidental collisions or electrocutions with energy infrastructure.
The birding weekends are facilitated by the SANParks Honorary Rangers: West Rand Region, which is an organisation of unpaid conservation-minded volunteers who are committed to furthering SANParks’ objectives.
What can you expect?
The birding weekends are all about twitching to your heart’s content. You’ll head out on a SANParks open safari vehicle with an expert birder on hand to help you identify birds seen and heard. Choose between normal or extreme birding (recommended for more experienced twitchers). The birding events run in both main rest camps and the more secluded bushveld camps.
Main Rest Camps
25–27 January 2019
Normal Birding: Crocodile Bridge (Ranger’s Ramble*) and Mopani
Extreme Birding: Punda Maria
*The Crocodile Bridge ‘Ranger’s Ramble’ is an exclusive opportunity for guests to meet and interact with the resident Section Ranger and be entertained at his home.
1–3 February 2019
Normal Birding: Letaba and Satara Extreme Birding: Punda Maria
8–10 February 2019
Normal Birding: Olifants and Pretoriuskop
22–24 February 2019
Normal Birding: Punda Maria
The weekend cost is R3 450 per person sharing for main rest camps (with the exception of Crocodile Bridge and Punda Maria), R4 071 for Crocodile Bridge and R3 680 for Punda Maria. A single supplement of 20% is applicable. All prices quoted 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.
24–27 January 2019
Normal Birding: Talamati
31 January – 3 February 2019
Normal Birding: Shimuwini
4–7 February 2019 (midweek)
Normal Birding: Biyamiti
7–10 February 2019
Normal Birding: Sirheni
14–17 February 2019
Normal Birding: Bateleur
The cost per weekend is R4 324 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 includes 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.
How to book
To find out more or to secure a booking for one of the birding events, please email [email protected] or call Norma Gardiner on +27 (0)11 476 3057.