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Worldwide Birding Tours - Birding Ecotours
Ross's Turaco by Masa Wang - Uganda birding tour






Birding Tour South Africa: Kruger National Park and Escarpment June 2019



This is a tour for those who want the ultimate African mammal safari experience while also seeing a huge diversity of birds, a disproportionate number of these birds being very brightly colored, charismatic, and spectacular, with some strategic Drakensberg endemics and incredibly rare raptors being thrown in.

This tour should yield African Elephant, Lion, loads of antelope species, Nile Crocodile, and all the other megafauna (plus small mammals too) that sub-Saharan Africa is famous for, as well as multiple species of bee-eater, roller, kingfisher, cuckoo, hornbill, eagle (including Bateleur), vulture, owl, turaco, seedeater, stork, and a myriad of others. The Kruger National Park boasts 450 bird species! We also target the phenomenally rare Taita Falcon and many other localized species occurring along the forested Great Escarpment west of the drier Kruger National Park lowlands.

The tour as detailed below is good for first-time visitors to South Africa or Africa, as it focuses on the bird-rich and mammal-rich southern parts of Kruger, which are also relatively close to Johannesburg, plus it also includes some excellent endemics.

Duration: 9 days

Limit (Group Size): 4 - 8 (rarely 9)

Date Start: June 01, 2019

Date End: June 09, 2019

Tour Start: Johannesburg

Tour End: Johannesburg

Please also note that we have other versions of this 9-day tour available. For example, instead of driving five hours back on the second-last day, we sometimes fly. We also have a version that does the extreme north of the Kruger National Park, which increases driving distances but allows us to find birds that are very localized in South Africa (but sometimes common in Mozambique farther northward).

Important explanation about the default vehicles we use on our southern African tours: Whereas the standard birding-tour vehicle in East Africa is the popup-roof stretch Land Cruiser, in southern Africa these are extremely rare and not usually legal except within some parks. Open safari vehicles, on the other hand, are commonly seen in southern African parks but can’t be used outside the parks, and they are extremely unpleasant to be in when the weather is bad even inside the parks. The only tried-and-tested tour vehicle available in southern Africa that allows us to cover the ground we need so we can find the greatest diversity of birds (and other wildlife), and which is comfortable in all weather, is legal, has proper air conditioning, and does not make the overall tour price exorbitant, is the 13-seater Toyota Quantum when we have 6-8 (rarely 9) tour participants (or similar 7-10-seater vans when we have smaller group sizes). In areas where we are not restricted to the vehicle during the tour (such as in the Cape) we usually use unmodified standard Quantum vans – everyone gets out of the vehicle when we see a good bird or animal. In areas in which we are at times restricted to the vehicle because of the presence of dangerous megafauna including lions, elephants, and more (such as the Kruger National Park) we typically use a Quantum van with modified windows for better viewing of birds and other wildlife. In Kruger (and sometimes in Etosha) National Parks we usually do include a day or two in open safari vehicles as part of the tour price. Optional night drives (at nominal cost) in open safari vehicles are available at most southern African parks (including Kruger) for those who have less of a focused interest in birds (as these are operated by the park’s guides, who usually focus mainly on the “Big 5”). You can speak to the tour leader about joining these night drives, but in our experience some tour participants prefer not to join them, and hence we leave them as an optional extra for those willing to pay a (small/nominal) extra fee.

Even the tried-and-tested Toyota Quantum (or similar) vans we use fall far short of being ideal (small windows that are quite low, etc.), and we truly wish there were something better available without breaking the bank. But we use the best available vehicles, and we ensure that everyone has a fair turn in and near the front of the vehicle – we typically swap seating positions daily, but in the parks we can swap positions four times a day as necessary. The vehicles we use are by far the best vehicles available at a reasonable price. All the birding tour companies use the same vans unless their tours have a narrow focus just around Kruger/nearby or another park. It’s a big problem in South Africa that the East African style safari vehicles are, simply, unavailable, except for a handful of very old, shaky ones (and usually in East Africa they don’t have air conditioning anyway, are extremely slow between sites, and, in short, have a different suite of disadvantages). We use the very best vehicles we can without making our trips much more expensive than anyone else’s, but we also feel we have to be clear about what to expect before the tour, hence this note. If you are worried about the vehicle then please:

  • kindly ask further questions (before booking the tour)
  • consider a private tour which will be a lot more pricey, but since you’re not sharing with other tour participants you can always sit at a large window. If a whole group wishes to upgrade a tour and is willing to pay a large extra price, if given enough notice we are able to rent a very special vehicle – the cost is extremely high so the tour becomes a premium, rather than a standard, tour.

While we generally allow a window seat for every passenger and like to have at least a couple of free seats available for birding gear etc., it’s better to ask us about the specific tour to be sure what is the case. For photography trips the per-person price is higher because we leave more empty seats available as more tour participants have bulky camera gear!

It is our philosophy only to have one vehicle per tour as it invariably gets very frustrating when one vehicle sees a bird or animal and the other vehicle misses it! And our group sizes are small – maximum of eight (rarely nine). The tour prices would be very high and uncompetitive if we had a second vehicle and driver-guide with twice the guide’s accommodation, food, fuel and toll costs, considering the small group sizes on our tours. Again, if you request a private tour, we can take two or even three vehicles or absolutely whatever you request – a private tour is different. (It is illegal for us to have any person without a local driver’s license and professional driving permit to drive passengers who are paying to be on a tour, so we can’t even suggest that a tour participant drives a second vehicle to allow more space and window seats).

 

 


Price: R60,282 per person sharing

Single Supplement: R8,510

Budget versions also available; please contact us.

Price includes:

Meals

Accommodation

Entrance fees

Guiding fees

All transport while on tour

2 night/sunset drives

Price excludes:

International flights

Personal insurance

Alcoholic beverages

Gratuities

Laundry service

Personal expenses such as gifts

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Photo and Birding Tour Namibia and Botswana: 13-day Adventure 2020

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Featured Guide - Jason Boyce

Senior Tour Leader and South African Office Manager Passionate, positive, and caring are three words describing Jason’s incredible character, which go hand-in-hand with his fantastic people skills, ...

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What our clients say

Hi Chris- I just wanted to send a quick note from the airport letting you know what an incredible day I had with Jason. He is an outstanding guy and a great birder. Our list for the day exceeded my wildest expectations. My head is still buzzing! I will connect with Jason so that we can compare lists once I have my details sorted out. In the meantime, please let him know today was one of the best days I have ever had in the field. Please also tell him I asked for a refund for lack of raptors…kind of an ongoing joke throughout the day. Thanks for coordinating all of this, Chris. Yours is an outstanding outfit. If I ever travel to one of the countries you cover or if I return to SA, I will only use Birding Ecotours. Best- Jon

Jonathan Bowser, University of Colorado
11/04/2014



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