Birding Sites
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North-eastern Escarpment

 Debengeni Falls

Roadside Attractions Trails
This spectacular waterfall is a popular picnic site for locals and visitors to the area. Grey Wagtail has been sighted here for three years running (2002 to 2004). Even if this special is not there, it is worth visiting the Debengeni Falls, to see Mountain Wagtail and other forest birds. After turning off onto the dirt road from the R71, keep a lookout for Red-backed Mannikin, African Firefinch and Swee Waxbill on the road verges. After about 100m you will cross a small stream; when the water levels are high this is a good spot for Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot. On the 3km drive up to the falls look out for Tambourine and Lemon Dove, Chorister Robin-Chat, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Yellow-streaked Greenbul in the forests. Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk breed in the vacinity of the falls and Buff-spotted Flufftail and Scaly-throated Honeyguide are often heard calling in the area. There are picnic facilities and short walking trails along the river. A note of caution: below the falls, the large smooth rock surfaces can be dangerous to walk on, particularly when they are wet. There is an entrance fee in the region of R10/person. Directions: If travelling in an easterly direction on the R71, the turnoff to the falls and the Woodbush forest drive is on the left, 12km from the Magoebaskloof Hotel. The entrance point to the falls is a further 3 km up the dirt road.

 Kudu´s Valley

Roadside Attractions
This spectacular 30 km dirt road between Houtbosdorp and Mooketsi drops down over the escarpment through bushveld and riverine habitats. On this road, you will descend about 1000 metres and be treated to fantastic views and an interesting mix of habitats. Verreaux´s, Crowned and Long-crested Eagle, Lanner Falcon as well as Horus, Alpine and African Black Swift are often sighted soaring over the valley. The exposed granite boulders along the slopes near the top of the route are home to Cape Rock Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, Olive Bush-Shrike, Shelley´s Francolin and Lazy Cisticola. The lower end of the pass has more riverine and tropical bushveld areas in which African Green-Pigeon, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Purple-crested Turaco, Green-capped Eremomela and White-throated Robin-Chat can be seen. Look out for African Fish Eagle, Great Egret, Purple Heron and various Indigobird and Firefinch species around the farm dams near the bottom of the route. Directions: From Polokwane follow the R71 and after approximately 20 km´s, take the slipway to the left at the first traffic light to the University of Limpopo. Continue on this road past Mankweng and then past the University for 27kms until the tar road ends. Start birding here: follow the dirt road down the escarpment to Mooketsi. If travelling from Polokwane on the R81, 19km after Munnik you will reach Mooketsi, continue past the filling station and shop towards Duiwelskloof/Modjadjiskloof and immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right to Houtbosdorp on the Kudu´s Valley dirt road. If you are coming from the Duiwelskloof/Modjadjiskloof direction then you will turn left to Houtbosdorp, just before Mooketsi and the bridge.

 Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge

Accomodation Bookings Required Camping Guides Roadside Attractions Trails
This ´Birder-friendly establishment´ is situated on a 422-hectare farm, which straddles the Woodbush forest and the Bushveld habitats on the Northern Drakensburg escarpment. Kurisa Moya boasts excellent birding on site, including 7 species of Robin including White-starred and Chorister. Most notable are 5 Bush-Shrikes, with the Black-fronted Bush-Shrike heading up the list. In Kurisa Moya's spectacular indigenous forest, other specials include the Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot, Grey Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-streaked Greenbul. The Twinspot Hide attracts Green Twinspots in numbers as well as Lemon Doves and other seed-eaters. Taking some time at the feeders at the Reception area will yield Chorister Robin, Sombre Greenbul, Swee Waxbills, African Firefinches, Forest Canaries and Red-backed Mannikins. The Bushveld areas have a range of cisticolas and warblers and the montane area is home to Gurney´s Sugarbird. Raptors include Rufous-chested and Black Sparrowhawk as well as Crowned and Long-crested Eagles. The nearby Mamabolo Grasslands offer excellent sightings of the Short-clawed Lark. Eight self-guided trails take birders through all five habitats. Or better yet, take a guided walk or outing with South Africa's top Local Bird Guide, David Letsoalo, or one of Limpopo's top Local Bird Guides, Paul Nkhumane. Excursions to nearby Woodbush Forest include Bat Hawk, Magie Mannikin, Orange Ground Thrush and Cape Parrot sites. Owner, Lisa, provides comprehensive bird lists and early catering. Accommodation consists of two stilted log cabins in the indigenous forest; a comfortable farmhouse for groups or a stone cottage with views that take your breath away. Day visitors are welcome by prior arrangement. The lodge also offers guided nature walks, Village tours, adventure Mountain Bike trails, fly-fishing lessons and sunset 4x4 drives. This electricity-free eco-lodge ensures privacy, tranquillity and a great birding experience. Rates: RR - RRR (s/c) (c)
Tel: +27 (0) 71 658 6980 | Cel: 082 200 4596 | e-mail:|

 Legalameetse Nature Reserve

Camping Roadside Attractions
This reserve on the escarpment of the Drakensberg, between Tzaneen and the Able Erasmus pass, has spectacular forest and rolling grasslands. There are historical records of Blue Swallows in the grassland, and this is a good site to see Black Saw-wing Swallow and other montane grassland species like Wing-snapping; Croaking and Wailing Cisticola, Denham’s Bustard, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-Streaked Chat, Broadtailed Warbler and Malachite Sunbird. The forested gorges hold Cape Parrot, Red-capped Robin Chat, White-starred Robin, African Emerald Cuckoo and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler to mention a few. The Reserve has various cottages that can be rented out and there is also a camp site.
Tel: 015 290 7300 |

 Louis Changuion Trail & Haenertsburg Grasslands

Roadside Attractions
This scenic trail starts in the village of Haenertsburg and winds through 200 hectares of protected afro-montane grasslands with forest patches situated above the village. The whole trail is 10 km but various parts of the trail can be done separately depending on your fitness level and enthusiasm. It is one of the most easily-accessible pieces of this rare habitat left in the area. Blue Swallows have been encountered here in the past. On the grasslands, you may find Wailing-, Lazy-, Croaking-, Cloud- and Wing-snapping Cisticola. Grass Owl, White-necked Raven, Red-winged Francolin, Yellow Bishop, Dark-capped Yellow and Broad-tailed Warbler and Drakensberg Prinia are present as well as Cape Grassbird. Jackal Buzzard, and Long-crested Eagle often hunt over the grassland. The patches of forest have Olive Bush-Shrike, African Olive-Pigeon, Cape Batis, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Forest Canary in them. The trail starts at the Haenertsburg Village Hall (in the main road) — follow the yellow markers or the map that is available at The Elms restaurant. Tel: 015 276 4712. For the less energetic, a drive up to the village cemetery (surely the most scenic in the country) will take you into the centre of the grassland. Ask at the Tourism office or any of the businesses in the village how to get there. While in the village, visit the Termite House, which displays grassland habitats and acts as an environmental education centre.
Cel: 083 746 2239 |

 Mafefe Orrie Baragwanath Pass

Guides Roadside Attractions Trails
This 45 km route descends the Drakensberg mountains following the Magabane river starting at Mafefe about 60km south of Polokwane and ends at Ofcolaco after traveling through the Legalameetsi Nature Reserve. The road is a 4 x 4 track for about 15km that takes you through riverine habitat offering a variety of bushveld birds, as well as Cape Vulture Verraux’s Eagle and Rock Kestrel. It then becomes a tar road that leads through a the Grasslands of the Downs, in the Legalameetsi Nature Reserve, in this area look out for Cloud, Wing-snapping and Croaking Cisticola as well as Gurney’s Sugarbirds, and Malachite Sunbirds. As you head down the escarpment you will travel through forests that hold Cape Parrot, White-starred Robin and Orange Ground Thrush. Once in the lowveld look out for bushveld birds like Grey-headed Bushshrike, Emerald Spotted Wood-Dove and White-browed Scrub-Robin. The route takes a full day to complete if birded slowly and an entrance fee is required to be paid at the Legalameetsi Nature Reserve. Directions: From Polokwane take the R37 south, after about 60km turn left to Mafefe. Once in the village of Mafefe, after about 30km, follow the road to the left and follow the river, this will take you onto the Orrie Baragwanath pass. A high clearance vehicle is needed and enquire about the road conditions after heavy rain.

 The Wolkberg 4 x 4 Trail

Roadside Attractions
This trail is being developed. It will start in the Bewaarkloof passing Verreaux’s Eagle and Lanner Falcon nest sites and continue through spectacular grassland where you can look out for Wing-snapping; Croaking and Wailing Cisticola, Denham’s Bustard, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Broadtailed Warbler and Malachite Sunbird. The trail also passes through forest patches that hold Cape Parrot, Red-capped Robin Chat, White-starred Robin, African Emerald Cuckoo and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. The trail will cross various streams and tufa waterfalls where the participants can cool off. The trail will end up on the Orrie Baragawanth pass and Legalameetse Nature Reserve.

 Woodbush Forest Drive

Roadside Attractions
This 14km dirt road is the best forest birding area in the Limpopo Province, if not the country. The Woodbush Forest Drive winds through pristine afro-montane forests, down into semi-deciduous mixed forest along the lower sections of the drive. Cape Parrot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Orange Ground-Thrush, Brown Scrub-Robin, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher are simply a few of the specials to be seen on this road. Also look out for African Cuckoo Hawk, Crowned Eagle and African Goshawk. Towards the bottom of the Forest Drive, where the telephone lines cross the road, look out for Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, which has been sighted there on a few occasions. The beautiful Debengeni Waterfalls are also accessible from this road — (see the Debengeni Falls site description). A high-clearance vehicle is recommended and a 4-wheel drive vehicle would be needed in wet weather. Directions: To reach Woodbush Forest Drive, take the R71 from Polokwane past Haenertsburg. About 2km past the Magoebaskloof Hotel, turn to the left onto the gravel road to Houtbosdorp/Woodbush. After 2.5km take the right fork to the Woodbush Forest Reserve, which passes through stone gateposts. 200 metres after passing the hikers´ huts (2.1km past the previous junction), turn right onto the Woodbush Forest Drive. This road can be birded for about 13km. There are two forks along this road: at the first, stay left and at the second, take the right fork.


 Polokwane Bird Sanctuary

Hides Roadside Attractions
This small bird sanctuary, which consists of three large settling dams, dense reed beds and tall riverine thickets, is always likely to produce an interesting birding surprise or two. Apart from a good variety of waterfowl, waders and rallids, the Acacia thickets are very productive and accommodate Grey-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-breasted Apalis and many warbler species in the summer months, including Common Whitethroat and Olive-tree, Icterine, Garden, Great Reed Warblers and Eurasian Marsh Warblers. The shallow ponds on the eastern side of the sanctuary attract a host of waders during middle to late summer with Wood, Marsh, Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshank, Ruff and Little Stint. Look out for skulking African Snipe and Greater Painted-Snipe. There is a resident pair of African Fish Eagle along with other interesting raptors, including Ovambo Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk and African Harrier-Hawk. No overnight accommodation is available here, but facilities such as lapas, picnic/braai sites, bird viewing hides and walking trails make this reserve more than worthwhile for a day visit. The sanctuary is situated just outside town on the R521 (to Dendron). The turn-off is on the right-hand side just after crossing the Sand River, and is diagonally across from a filling station. Entry fee: R12 p/p & R15 p/v Opening Times: 07h00 - 17h00
Tel: 015 290 2331 | Fax: 015 290 2333 |

 Polokwane Nature Reserve

Accomodation Camping Roadside Attractions Trails
Although this reserve is best known as the most reliable site for the isolated eastern population of the Short-clawed Lark, it also provides excellent bushveld, thornveld and grassveld birding. The extensive road network, walking trails and bird hides expose the visitor to a variety of habitats, which hold over 300 bird species. Localized species found here include: Northern Black Korhaan, Shelley´s Francolin, Double-banded Courser, Burchell´s Sandgrouse, Bushveld Pipit, Great Sparrow, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, African Wren-Warbler and Tinkling Cisticola. Raptors are also well represented here with African Hawk-Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Secretary Bird, Wahlberg´s Eagle, Greater Kestrel and Gabar Goshawk all of which breed in the reserve. The Short-clawed Lark is best found where the main loop cuts through areas of short grassland with scattered shrubs. Listen for its high-pitched whistle and scan the tops of the broad-leaved Gymnosporia shrubs and Acacia trees. At the reserve´s entrance gate there is a neat camping ground, caravan park and comfortable chalet accommodation. A self-catering guesthouse is also situated within the reserve. To reach the reserve (formerly known as Pietersburg Game Reserve) from the N1 south of the city, turn onto the Tzaneen bypass road - R71/R81. Turn right onto the Silicon Road at the second intersection and travel for another 800m. The reserve entrance is on the right. From Polokwane itself, travel along Dorp Street in a southerly direction, passing the sports stadium and golf course until the road becomes Silicon Road. Rates: R - RR (s/c) Opening Times: 07h00 - 16h30
Tel: 015 - 290 2331 | Fax: 015 - 290 2333 |

 The Ranch Resort

Accomodation Guides Roadside Attractions Trails
This four star Protea Hotel is situated about twenty kilometers south of Polokwane. The hotel has large well tended gardens that attract a host of birds in the dry seasons. Residents at the hotel have access to over a 1000 hectares of Polokwane Plateau Bushveld and many farm dams on the hotel property & wildlife conservancy. Over 240 birds have been recorded on the conservancy including White-backed Duck, Greater Kestrel, Hobby Falcon, Bald Ibis, Northern-black Korhaan and Red-Throated Wryneck. Residents are welcome to explore the property by organized game drive or on mountain bikes or on foot. There is a heronry at one of the farm dams near the hotel that has up to 500 Cattle Egret, Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and Spoonbills roosting in it at certain times of the year. The nearby Mockford Farm's Vulture Restaurant offers sightings of Cape, White-backed and Palmnut Vultures. You can see a variety of game at The Ranch, including Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Kudu, and Nyala. The Ranch is also home to more than 20 Lions in separate enclosures. The Ranch offers a variety of accommodation options from luxury suites with private jacuzzi’s to inter-leading family rooms or deluxe rooms. The hotel also offers game drives & lion tours, horse back riding, swimming pools and tennis courts. There are two restaurants, a coffee shop and a warm and friendly bar lounge. Special packed breakfasts can be arranged for early morning birding trips. This is an ideal venue from which to explore the Polokwane and Mokopane birding sites. Rates: R1400.00 sharing BnB RRR
Tel: +27 (0) 15 290 5000 | Cel: 082 882 8599 | e-mail:|

 Turfloop Dam

Roadside Attractions
This provincial nature reserve was originally proclaimed in order to protect the Turfloop Dam and its associated wetland habitats. It has now also become a protected breeding site for the northernmost population of the Southern Bald Ibis. It falls within the Mamabolo vegetation-type and has many granite outcrops, which are typical of this habitat. The dam itself has fluctuating water levels depending on local rainfall, so conditions change seasonally. The dam has an open shoreline with some exposed mudflats in the summer, a feature which has probably led to this site having provided the odd vagrant wader, with species such as Ruddy Turnstone, Pectoral, Green, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpiper having been seen here over the past few years. The more common wetland species to be found here include Great-crested Grebe, Southern Pochard, Fulvous Duck, Hottentot Teal, Cape Shoveler, and Maccoa Duck. The rocky island in the dam is an important breeding site for White-breasted Cormorant, Black-headed Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Egret and African Spoonbill. To get to this reserve take the R71 out of Polokwane and travel for just over 20km. At this point turn left at the traffic lights towards the University of Limpopo. Travel for 7,3km and look for an obscure turn-off to the right opposite two general dealer stores. Travel down this gravel road, passing several houses on the left until reaching the nature reserve fence. Turn left here; the entrance gate is a few hundred metres further on. Once through the gate, keep to the left track to the dam. From the east, the turn-off is 15,4 km from the Woodbush/Magoebaskloof T-junction. Entrance fees: R10 /person and R20 /vehicle Gate Times: 07h30 - 16h00
Tel: 015 276 1131 |

The Lowveld


 Hans Merensky Nature Reserve

Accomodation Bookings Required Camping Hides Roadside Attractions Trails
This provincial nature reserve, which includes the Eiland Holiday Resort, has many of the lowveld´s best qualities including fine tracts of Mopane and red bush-willow woodland, riverine forest, saline patches and doleritic ridges. A stretch of 10km of the Great Letaba River forms the northern boundary of the reserve. The special here is Arnot´s Chat, which is best looked for in the mature Mopane woodland along the tourist drive in the main portion of the reserve. Other lowveld birds of interest in the reserve include Greater Blue-eared Starling, Red and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Bennett´s Woodpecker, Southern White-crowned Shrike and Stierling´s Wren-Warbler. The trail that runs along the river is good for Retz´s Helmet-Shrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo (summer), Brown-headed Parrot, Yellow-throated Petronia and Red-headed Weaver. There is good camping and chalet accommodation at the Eiland Holiday Resort and a rustic trail camp within the reserve itself. Rates: R - RR (s/c)
Tel: 015) 386 8633/4/5 | Cel: 083 386 8000 |

 Rooikoppies Drive

Roadside Attractions
This road has the potential to deliver a handful of specials for keen birders. As you turn off the R71 into the tea estate plantations, you cross a small stream where African Finfoot and Half-collared Kingfisher are regularly seen. Look out for Red-backed Mannikin, Golden Weaver and Red-faced Cisticola here as well. During summer months Eurasian Hobby are often seen perched in the tall dead eucalyptus trees in the vicinity. As you drive along the road, watch out for Pygmy Kingfisher and Black Saw-wing that nest in the road cutting. The ultimate prize on this drive is at the top of the hill where a pair of Bat Hawks has a nest. Look into the middle large gum tree as you reach the T-junction. The Bat Hawks have a nest on a platform there. Please enjoy these birds from a distance and don´t approach the nesting tree too closely. Tel: 015 276 1131 or 082 200 4596 for more info or guided tours with David Letsoalo, Birdlife SA accredited guide. Directions: To reach the Rooikoppies Bat Hawk site from Woodbush Forest Drive, continue past Debengeni to the R71, and turn left towards Tzaneen. After 3 km, you reach a large white sign (at the first fields of tea) and 50m beyond this sign, take the turn to the left (if coming directly from Polokwane, this turn is exactly 13.5km from the Magoebaskloof Hotel). If you are coming from Tzaneen take the road to Duiwelskloof/Modjadjiskloof then turn left on to the R71 to Magoebaskloof. Aften 6,4km, directly opposite the Commonwealth Plantation on the left, you will turn right on to a dirt road. Immediately after you cross over the stream, veer to the left and then take the right fork. Follow this road for 2.5km until you get to a T-junction (opposite a massive Eucalyptus tree). The Bat Hawks are usually seen roosting in the middle tree. You will need to scan carefully to pick up a roosting bird in these three large trees.

 The Junction Club and Restaurant

Roadside Attractions
This is a perfect refreshing roadside stop along the R71 between Tzaneen and Phalaborwa as it is situated right on the banks of the Letaba River under shady trees. It has a pub and restaurant, which serves breakfasts and light meals. The river and riverine vegetation supports Goliath and Purple Heron, Little Egret, Thick-billed Weaver, African Jacana and Red-faced Cisticola while the tropical gardens hold White-browed and Red-capped Robin-Chat, Woodland Kingfisher, Purple Indigobird and Red-backed Mannikin. The turnoff to The Junction is at the Letsitele filling station, on the right just before crossing the river 30km from Tzaneen. Follow the signs from there.
Tel: 015 345 1693 |

 Tzaneen Dam Wall

Roadside Attractions
The area below the Tzaneen Dam wall has become a popular birding spot over the past few years due to its interesting mix of habitats within a very restricted area. On entering Tzaneen from the R71, turn left at the first 4-way stop just after the large filling station on the right. Travel along Voortrekker Street and pass through an arched security gate marked Tzangeni. A little further up the road the tangled tall grassland on the right often produces Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Red-collared Widowbird and Yellow Bishop. Park opposite the T-junction and walk along the top of the dam for a quick look out over the dam, checking for large water birds like Goliath Heron, African Fish-Eagle, Osprey or Yellow-billed Stork. More interesting birding lies below the dam wall. At the T-junction turn right and drive down to the parking area at the yellow boom just before the bridge. On the way down, scan the lawns opposite the wall for Long-billed and Plain-backed Pipit and Yellow-throated Longclaw. The large wild fig trees host many fruit-eating species such as Barbets, African Green Pigeon and Purple-crested Turaco. Bird from the small bridge across the Letaba River below the sluice gates. Here one can often see African Pied and Mountain Wagtail, Red-faced Cisticola, Golden Weaver, Wire-tailed -,and Grey-rumped Swallow, Black Saw-wing and Half-collared Kingfisher. The thickets around the picnic area are home to Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Red-capped and White-browed Robin-Chat and Bearded Scrub-Robin.

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