Black Forest Mountain Lodge is situated 4km west of Haenertsburg in the foothills of the indigenous Black Forest. This is the perfect base from which to do some weekend birding, within a radius of 5km there is a good variety of habitats including Afromontane forest and grassland. There are a few earth dams in the immediate vicinity of the lodge, where Black Crake, Purple Heron, African Black Duck, Half-collared and Giant Kingfisher and sometimes Red-chested Flufftail can be seen. The grassland patches and thickets adjacent to the lodge harbour Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Barratt's Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Olive Bush-Shrike and Buff-spotted Flufftail while the flowering garden shrubs sometimes bring in Malachite Sunbird and Gurney´s Sugarbird. Keep a look-out for soaring raptors which could include Long-crested and African Crowned Eagle and Jackal and Forest Buzzards. Some of the activities one can enjoy at Black Forest Mountain Lodge are birding, hiking, fishing, cycling and horse riding. There are various accommodation options including the original farmhouse with five double rooms, lounge, library and fully-equipped kitchen; two log cabins; and a campsite.
This classic hotel is located in the Agatha area, near Tzaneen, with spectacular views over the Wolkberg Mountains. It is an ideal setting to explore the birding sites around Tzaneen and Letsitele. There is a Bat Hawk nest less than 2km from the hotel and during the non-breeding season the birds are sometimes seen roosting in the eucalyptus trees on the hotel property. The extensive gardens have a host of resident birds including Tambourine Dove, Southern Black Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird and Red-Capped Robin-Chat. Due to the location of the hotel between the Lowveld and the Wolkberg, surprising birds such as Retz’s Helmet-Shrike and Gurney’s Sugarbird are sometimes seen. There is a Crowned Eagle in the nearby Komatiland forests and these magnificent birds can be seen circling above the hotel. There is a swimming pool and spa on the hotel grounds for those wishing to take a break from the birding in the area.
Fairview Hotel is situated on 26 hectares of farmland just east of Tzaneen. The 3km Letaba River frontage offers great opportunities to see Fish Eagle, Bat Hawk, Purple-crested Turaco, White-browed Robin-Chat, White-faced Whistling Duck, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, and Southern Black Flycatcher. The gardens blend with indigenous vegetation and provide diverse habitats for a range other bird species. There is also a Par 3 golf course, spa, swimming pool and mountain biking trail on the hotel grounds.
Simply Wild Lodges are located in the 5500 hectare Munnik conservancy, 55km north-east of Polokwane on the R81 to Giyani. A variety of habitats can be explored here including low lying semi-deciduous scrub, mixed forest on mountain slopes, sour broadleaved bushveld, riverine thickets and farm dams. Over 250 bird species can be seen here, including Purple-crested Turaco, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, African Green Pigeon, Flappet Lark, Striped Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black Cuckooshrike and Sombre Greenbul. Raptors include African Harrier-Hawk, Jackal Buzzard, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Lanner and Peregrine Falcon. Mahuto Lodge offers fully-catered packages or self-catering accommodation. It has seven en-suite chalets with a fully equipped kitchen, large dining area, pool, bar and boma area. Fig-Tree Retreat is a rustic camp with no electricity in a secluded region of the Middle Letaba Valley, There are 7 rooms and a central ablution facility with hot showers; a fully equipped kitchen, pool and boma / braai area. Battery-powered lanterns are provided.
Game drives and guided bush walks can be arranged. Self-drives are permitted and for the more adventurous there is a 4x4 route which meanders up and down the Middle Letaba Valley and through the most beautiful parts of the Buffelsberg Mountains. The route is well-marked and ranges from fairly moderate to highly challenging.
Thabapashwa Hiking and Mountain Bike Trails lie in a mountain range between Polokwane and Mokopane. There is a combination of thornveld and broadleaved woodland as well as riverine areas along a few small streams; 2000 hectares of the farm is dominated by huge granite outcrops. This range of habitats provides for interesting sightings on the property. The rocky outcrops and mountains are home to two pairs of Verreaux’s Eagle, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Rock Kestrel and Cape Eagle Owl. Shelly’s Francolin, Striped Pipit, Cape Rock Thrush and Mountain Chat are also seen in the rocky areas. Other specials that can be found here include Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Secretary Bird and Freckled Nightjar; there have also been sightings of Yellow-spotted Nicator, Grey-headed Kingfisher and Meyer’s Parrot. The accommodation on the farm is varied and has been built into and around the big boulders. Dome Rock Camp can accommodate 26 people in 5 huts, each with its own boma and washing-up area. Ablutions are in reed enclosures with hot and cold running water and flush toilets. One deep-freeze serves the whole camp; the huts can be booked separately. Kanniedood Camp accommodates 14 people and has a huge deck overlooking the farm. It can only be reached by 4x4 vehicle or a 10-minute hike. There is also a fully-equipped self-contained thatched cottage and a campsite. There are over 95km of hiking and mountain biking trails on the farm; as well as 7 bolted rock-climbing routes for those who would like to try something different!
The award-winning Tzaneen Country Lodge is located on 170 hectares of farmland and mixed bushveld on the R71 between Tzaneen and Letsitele. This sub-tropical area has produced a good variety of interesting birds through the years with a bird list of around 200 species. Some of the specials seen here are Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah and their hosts, Golden-backed Pytilia. More common are Broad-billed Roller, Carmine and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Southern Black Flycatcher and Groundscraper Thrush. African Cuckoo Hawk and the three species of Indigobird also occur here. Several bird-feeding trays in the lodge gardens attract Cut-throat Finch, Golden-breasted Bunting and Jameson´s Firefinch. There are 4 dams on the farm with good habitats for Warblers, Kingfishers and Cisticolas. Several hiking trails wind through the property, these walks can also be done by day-visitors with prior arrangement. The lodge offers 67 rooms, 3 swimming pools and a spa wellness centre should there be a need for some pampering after a long day’s birding.
Boscobel Cottages is an intimate luxury self-catering establishment located near Haenertsburg with three cosy stone and thatch cottages set in lovely gardens and lawns. The cottages are meticulously appointed with each having its own colour theme and featuring a wood burning fireplace. They consist of a ground floor main bedroom, bathroom, fully-equipped kitchen area and outdoor patio, as well as an upstairs loft area with two single beds. The main central lodge has a comfortable TV lounge and there is extra freezer space available. A comprehensive map of the property and surrounding countryside with suggested hiking and mountain biking routes, is available at the cottages. The Woodbush Forest, Haenertsburg Grasslands and Kudu’s River Valley are all a short distance away.
The Cheerio Valley covers nearly 100 hectares and includes the world-famous Cheerio Gardens, famous for their azaleas, flowering cherries, and crab apples. Interestingly, these exotic gardens attract a remarkable array of forest and mountain birds, and a walk along the well laid out paths may provide sightings of Lemon Dove, White-Starred Robin, Barratt´s Warbler, Orange Ground-Thrush and Green Twinspot. There have even been a few sightings of Bush Blackcap here. Trails lead through a section of indigenous forest in which the elusive Narina Trogon is regularly spotted. Numerous small dams on the property attract the likes of Half-collared Kingfisher, African Black and White-backed Duck and Purple Heron, not to mention the resident Cape Clawless Otters. There are picnic sites for day visitors and 3 self-catering chalets for overnight stays.
Nestled in the northern tip of the escarpment only 55km from Polokwane, Graceland Eco Retreat offers hiking trails and a relaxed environment for those wanting to escape for a few days and unwind in a dramatic landscape. Overlooking the Kudu’s River Valley, Graceland is situated in Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld with its scenic granite koppies. It is home to kudu, giraffe, impala and waterbuck and allows access to a unique variety of birdlife including Verreaux’s, Crowned, Long-crested and African Fish Eagles, Lanner Falcon, Alpine and African Black Swifts. Graceland Eco Retreat has two chalets: Giraffe chalet has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, kitchen and dining area and a large lounge with an open fireplace leading out to a deck overlooking the valley; Kudu chalet is ideal for two people sharing. The two chalets share an outdoor lounge with a fire pit; al fresco dining area seating up to 16 people; large outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and braai; and a swimming pool with a cocktail veranda overlooking the valley. Both cottages use solar power for all lights. The chalets are accessible with a sedan car, but a 4x4 vehicle is required for game drives. The property is best viewed on foot and there are various hiking trails for those wishing to explore freely.
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 one of South Africa's top Local Bird Guides, David Letsoalo, or one of Limpopo's top Local Bird Guides, Paul Nkhumane. Excursions to nearby Woodbush Forest include Bat Hawk, Magpie 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 breathtaking views. 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.
Kuhestan Organic Farm is situated at the crest of Magoebaskloof, adjacent to the Woodbush Forest, and is thus ideally situated to further explore the indigenous Afromontane forest or look for various forest bird specials on the property itself. The farm is planted with avocados and raspberries and the houses are surrounded by magnificent gardens. Birds which can be seen include Cape Parrot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Orange Ground-Thrush, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Tambourine Dove, Lemon Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Green Twinspot, Grey Cuckooshrike and Chorister Robin-Chat. Kuhestan produces a range of delicious preserves and cordials which are prepared on site. The self-catering fully-equipped cottages are beautifully situated, tastefully furnished and serviced daily.
Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottages are located on Dragonwyck Farm just off the R71 in Magoebaskloof. They are accessed by a 2km dirt road (which is not suitable for very low profile cars). Dragonwyck is a working farm practising natural farming methods and producing avocadoes and indigenous plants. The two cottages are surrounded by indigenous vegetation; walking trails on the farm follow streams and forest patches. Bird species seen around the cottages include Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Narina Trogon, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Orange Ground Thrush, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Green Twinspot, Mountain Wagtail, Forest Buzzard,Scaly-throated Honeyguide, White-starred Robin-Chat, Chorister Robin-Chat, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Barratt’s Warbler and Black Saw-wing. Robin Cottage has 2 bedrooms and can accommodate 7 people; there is an inside bathroom as well as a charming outdoor bathroom. Trogon Cottage can accommodate one couple and also has an additional outside bath with a view, as well as a small splash pool.
This family hotel is to be found at the top of the Magoebaskloof Pass on the R71 between Polokwane and Tzaneen. It is flanked by Afromontane forest and a patch of Afromontane grassland, and overlooks the sub-tropical Lowveld at the bottom of the valley; it is therefore particularly well-situated as a mountain birding base. The hotel is a member of the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme and the management is committed to conserving the natural environment in which it is situated. There are marked paths on and adjacent to the property. Over 130 bird species have been recorded in this area, and of special interest are the African Crowned Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Parrot, Narina Trogon, Olive Bush-Shrike, Grey Cuckooshrike, Square-tailed Drongo, Chorister Robin-Chat, Knysna Turaco and Buff-spotted Flufftail. The flowering shrubs in the hotel gardens attract a variety of Sunbirds including Southern and Greater Double-Collared, Amethyst and Collared. The hotel has standard and deluxe twin and double rooms, family rooms, and two-bedroomed self-catering apartments. Facilities include an a-la- carte restaurant, an all day continental-style coffee shop serving pastries and light meals, two pubs, a sparkling pool and curio shop.
Owl Cottage is situated 500 metres off the R71 in the Magoebaskloof Valley. The cottage is on the southern edge of the Woodbush Forest, just 7kms from the Debengi Falls turn-off. Frequent visitors to the 4 hectare avocado and pecan nut farm are Cape Parrots, with up to 30 birds feeding on the pecan nuts during winter. The garden, water features and bird feeders attract a wide range of birds and butterflies. Birds seen regularly are Purple-crested and Knysna Turaco, White-starred Robin, Red-backed Mannikin, African Firefinch and Swee Waxbill, with Grey Waxbills seen occasionally. Owl Cottage offers self-catering accommodation for 7 people, there is also a swimming pool and outdoor braai area. Owner Phil is also an accomplished fly-fisherman who can organise fishing outings and casting lessons.
This reserve encompasses all the habitats that make up the great eastern escarpment of the Northern Drakensberg including superb mistbelt forest and montane grassland. This is a good site to see high-altitude grassland species such as Common Quail (summer), Wing-snapping, Croaking and Wailing Cisticola, Broad-tailed Warbler and Malachite Sunbird. There are historical records of Blue Swallows in the grasslands. The forested gorges hold Cape Parrot, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and many other forest species. There is a good tar road from the gate leading up the scenic Orrie Baragwanath Pass to the grasslands at the Downs and forested patch known as Church Forest. The reserve has comfortable self-catering wooden chalets at Makhutsi Camp along the river.