For birdwatchers, the Mapungubwe Birding Weekend 2020 promises more of what they love. Time spent birding in the company of experts plus the most gorgeous scenery, fascinating history and great game viewing. By Sanne Welman

Photo by Leon Kriel.

To many, Mapungubwe National Park is synonymous with South Africa’s rich heritage. The Mapungubwe Lecture Series, taking place 25-27 October 2019, puts the spotlight on this aspect. But the park is also a prime birding destination with a range of habitats, a bird list of 450+ species and a number of sought-after specials.

“Here you have so many different biomes in one location. For birders to log over 200 species during a weekend is a special treat and Mapungubwe delivers that time and time again,” says Susan Otto, chairperson of the SANParks Honorary Rangers: Waterberg Region. “Not forgetting the unbelievable sandstone formations, gigantic baobab trees and San rock art.”

Photo by Rudolphe de Girardier.


Photo by Rudolphe de Girardier.

Whether you are a beginner birder or a twitcher with years of experience, clear space on your calendar for the Mapungubwe Birding Weekend taking place from 23 to 26 January 2020. Organised by the SANParks Honorary Rangers as a fundraising event, the weekend is devoted to birdwatching. Morning and afternoon, birders of different experience levels set off on separate open safari vehicles, each with their resident birding expert and SANParks representative accompanying them.

Photo courtesy of Rudolph de Girardier.

What can you expect?

During the weekend you will be hosted in Leokwe Camp’s beautiful air-conditioned chalets, their earth-toned walls blending in with the surrounds. You’ll start your morning with a cup of coffee and rusks as you listen to the dawn chorus in a clearing below the pool decks.

Photo courtesy of SANParks Honorary Rangers.

Then it’s off in the open vehicles to go birding – you will receive a snack pack for breakfast so no time is wasted. Birding experts John Kinghorn and Ernst Vermeulen are on board to help identify the birds you see and hear. In the evening there is a dinner where birders can swap stories about the species they ticked off.

Leokwe Camp. Photo courtesy of SANParks.

During your trip you will look for birds in various biomes: grassland, mopaniveld, riverine areas and typical bushveld savanna. Birders can look forward to many ticks during the weekend: yellow-bellied greenbul, Meve’s (long-tailed) starling, black-backed puffback and tropical boubou are regularly seen. Southern pied babbler and Natal spurfowl (francolin) are very vocal, as are orange-breasted and gray-headed bush-shrikes and camaroptera with gray backs (bleating warbler).

Photo by Michel Zwaan.

“There are too many special birds to mention, but the highlights are the closely guarded Pel’s fishing-owl, Temminck’s courser and ground hornbill,” says Susan. “What makes the event exceptional is the knowledge of the experts and the magical landscape that is Mapungubwe National Park. The good food and opportunity to experience a bit of what is referred to as the real Africa is simply the cherry on top.”

Photo by Deirdre Boys.

Funds to assist the park

Income from the Birding Weekend and any financial donations received are used to benefit Mapungubwe National Park. The Board of the SANParks Honorary Rangers works closely with the SANParks Board to determine what items might be needed in the park. Thanks to the Birding Weekend, the SANParks Honorary Rangers: Waterberg Region has supplied the park’s anti-poaching team with spotlights, night vision binoculars and camping gear. The park has also benefited from baboon-proof dustbins made from recycled plastic.

Make it happen

The Mapungubwe Birding Weekend includes:

  • 3 nights’ accommodation in air-conditioned chalets
  • 3 dinners
  • 2 full days of birding
  • 2 snack packs

Price: R4,500 per person

Contact: Susan Otto 082 572 1632 or [email protected]

The SANParks Honorary Rangers recommend that guests stay a day longer to visit the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site and Museum. This is excluded from the weekend and can be booked directly with SANParks.