Limpopo Birding Routes

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Eastern Soutpansberg - Marianne McKenzie

African Finfoot - Derek Engelbrecht
Albasini Dam

The Department of Water Affairs controls an extensive section of water frontage on the dam which can be reached through the main gate near the dam wall. Osprey can be seen here in summer, as well as the normal array of waterbirds, including White-breasted Cormorant, Green-backed Heron and African Darter. There is a large tract of sour bushveld with numerous roads on which you can drive or walk and while looking out for the numerous bushveld birds. This is one of the few places in the region where Yellow-throated Longclaw can be found. The best birding on the dam is done by boat excursions which can be arranged with Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge (see Accommodation Establishments).

Directions: Take the R524 east from Louis Trichardt / Makhado; after 21 km turn right onto the gravel road marked ‘Albasini’. The picnic site is 2.5 km further on the right. After the entrance gate, turn sharp right and find your way along the roads.

Blouberg Vulture Restaurant – Lisa Martus
Blouberg Nature Reserve

Blouberg Nature Reserve covers a wide variety of vegetation and habitats including a small Sycamore Fig forest, Tamboti woodland and a wetland which has a resident flock of Crested Guineafowl and is visited by Greater Painted Snipe in the summer. The reserve has over 270 species, including Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Crimson-Breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Southern White-faced Owl. One of the highlights of the reserve is the ´Vulture Restaurant´ and hide, which is best visited in the winter months. Cape, Lappet-faced, Hooded, White-headed and White-backed Vultures and even a Rüppell's Vulture can be seen at close range. There is a large Cape Vulture breeding colony on the nearby cliffs, where a male Rüppell's can be seen nesting with a female Cape Vulture. There is also a good variety of game species in the reserve, including buffalo, eland, gemsbok, cheetah, leopard, caracal, spotted and brown hyaena. Visitors can choose between four types of accommodation, ranging from a fully-equipped lodge to simple private camp sites. The reserve also offers a 4-day Wilderness Trail.

Directions: Travel to Vivo and turn west towards Bochum. After 8.6km turn right towards Kromhoek; the reserve is a further 8.4 km on the left. 

Rock Kestrel, Entabeni – Dalena Mostert
Entabeni Forest

Entabeni Forest is an area of Afromontane mistbelt forest situated in the Entabeni Plantation. The forest boasts good specials such as Orange Ground Thrush, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, White-starred Robin, Green Twinspot, Knysna Turaco, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Collared Sunbird and Brown Scrub Robin. The forest is extensive, but only parts of it are easily accessible. A main forestry road passes through one patch of the forest and close to another. The road is used by forestry vehicles, so drive carefully.

Directions: Travel east on the R524 from Louis Trichardt / Makhado, after around 35 km, turn left onto the road marked Entabeni and continue to the gate. Set your odometer there: turn right at 1km, then left at 2.5km. The first birding site is at 9km; there are no paths into the forest, so birding is done in the first forest patch along the road. Continue along the road, at 9.9km from the gate turn right at a triangular intersection. After 250m look for a track to the left with a ‘Private No Entry’ sign. Turn onto the track and continue for a further 250m to where the block of pine plantation ends and the road enters indigenous forest. Park your vehicle there and walk along the road, look out Orange Ground Thrush is seen at the first stream and Black-fronted Bush-Shrike a little further on. It will take around 30 minutes to drive from the R542 to the last forest site, which is 11km from the gate. It is not advisable to try to find the picnic site as you might get lost! On your way, look for Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle and Bat Hawk.

Gundani – Marianne McKenzie
Gundani Mutsiwa Brachystegia Woodland

Miombo (Brachystegia) woodland is common in Zimbabwe and countries further north, but this is the only known patch in South Africa. Special bird associated with Miombo woodland that have been seen here are White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Southern Hyliota, Pink-throated Twinspot is frequently seen and you might find Blue-spotted Wood Dove. There are unconfirmed reports of Red-throated Twinspot and Spotted Creeper. There is a community campsite with a basic ablution block at the entrance, and a marked trail into the woodland.

Directions from the south: Travel east from Louis Trichardt / Makhado on the R524, drive through Thohoyandou to Sibasa and to then to the T-junction indicating Donald Fraser Hospital (left) and Masisi (right).Turn right towards Masisi, continue for 12 km, then turn left towards Thengwe. Continue for 5.1km, then turn right towards Mutale. Continue for 21 km until you see a signboard and turn-off to Gundani to the right, after 3km you will arrive at the campsite. Travelling time from Thohoyandou is around 45minutes. 
Directions from the north: Travel from Pafuri / Musina on the R525, then turn left to Sagole Spa and the Big Tree. West of the Big Tree is a road to the south marked ´Sibasa´. Take this road, pass Shakadza, then see the start of the tar road. Continue on the tar road until you see the signboard and turn-off to Gundani on the left. 

Hanglip – Marianne McKenzie
Hanglip Forest

The Hanglip Forest provides easy access to mistbelt forest, there are short trails and a picnic site and short trails. The birding is excellent. Listen for the resident Scaly-throated Honeyguide in the picnic site; this is also the best place to find White-starred Robin and Yellow-streaked Greenbul. A short (20minute) circular walk starts from the picnic site: follow footprints which start from the road 10m before the boom gate at the picnic site.

Directions: In Louis Trichardt / Makhado, take Krogh Street due north towards the mountain. Krogh Street becomes Forestry Road and leads straight to the Hanglip Plantation gate. Follow the main road and signs for about 8km to the picnic site. 

African Pygmy Goose – Dalena Mostert
Jacana Dam

This little dam can produce good sightings of Lesser Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Thick-billed Weaver, a number of Widow species, Common and Lesser Moorhen. The vegetation between the road and dam can be quite thick at times, making access to the edge of the water difficult. 

Directions: Travel on the road to Thohoyandou / Punda Maria from Louis Trichardt / Makhado. Pass the Entabeni turn off, and three turn-offs to Levubu. Go through a 4-way stop, travel 3.3km further, and at the fourth sign to Levubu, turn right onto a gravel road. You will see the dam on your left after exactly 2km.  If you are travelling from Thohoyandou, turn left at the first sign to Levubu, which is 3km past the sign ´Welcome to Makhado Municipal Area´. The dam will be 2km further on your left. If you are travelling from Levubu, turn left at the ´Levubu Filling Station´ towards Thohoyandou. Drive for 1.6 km and turn right towards ´Hoewes´. The dam is 3.5 km further on the right. 

African Green Pigeon – Dalena Mostert
Levubu Post Office Tree

A large Mobola Plum (Parinari curatellifolia) is situated outside the Levubu Post Office; Grey-headed Parrots often feed in this tree between August and November and they can sometimes be seen flying over the rugby field just to the north of the post office. African Green Pigeons can also been seen in the area.

Directions: Travel on the R524 from Louis Trichardt / Makhado towards Punda Maria. Take the second Levubu turn- off, after 4.6 km you will reach a T-junction, turn left towards ´Levubu Oos´. The Post Office is 2km further on the left, just before the Primary School.

Bronze-winged Coursers – Derek Engelbrecht
Manavhela Ben Lavin Nature Reserve

Manavhela Ben Lavin Nature Reserve is situated 12km from Louis Trichardt / Makhado, below the foothills of the Soutpansberg. This 2,500 hectare reserve was originally donated to the Wildlife Society and then handed over to the Manavhela community. It is comprised of mixed bushveld and arid thornveld, with riparian woodland along the dry watercourses. Around 230 bird species can be found, including the Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Bronze-winged Courser, African Harrier-Hawk and Marico Flycatcher. There are also plains game species such giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, but no dangerous animals. The reserve is also of archaeological significance with ruins dating back to 1250 AD. The 45km road network and 18km of hiking trails makes Manavhela Ben Lavin Nature Reserve a great destination for hikers, bird enthusiasts, and mountain cyclists to explore. There is also an open-air restaurant which offers catering for small and large groups by arrangement.

| www.satis.co.za/benlavin |

Mapungubwe – Marianne McKenzie
Mapungubwe National Park

Mapungubwe National Park protects a significant stretch of Limpopo river frontage and associated riparian woodland. There is a variety of accommodation options and various wheelchair-friendly birding facilities. There is an aerial boardwalk through the forest canopy on the banks of the Limpopo River, look for Meves’s Starling, Meyer’s Parrot and Tropical Boubou and search the sandbanks for White-fronted Plover. White-fronted Bee-eaters are common and European and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters can be seen in summer. There is a surfaced pathway and several lookout platforms at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. This is a good spot to watch for raptors. There is also a bird hide at Maloutswa Pan; a good variety of water and bushveld birds can be seen through the year; Dwarf Bittern, Greater Painted-Snipe and Grey-headed Kingfisher may be seen in the summer months. The Park also contains a great number of archaeological sites dating from the early Stone Age and Iron Age; the most notable of these is Mapungubwe Hill. For further information see the SANParks website.           

| www.sanparks.org |

White-fronted Bee-eater - San3 de Wet
Muirhead Dams

These lovely dams are on private property and the owner kindly allows birdwatchers to visit free of charge. A bird hide has been built and trails have been laid out around the dams. This is a reliable place to find Blue-spotted Wood Dove, one of the region’s top 10 birds; other species found on and around the dams are African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Horus Swift, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Red-backed Mannikin and Lesser Moorhen. Horus swift can be seen around the soil bank, just across the dam wall. The Blue-spotted Dove is usually found on the northern side of the dams; if you are there after hours, you can look around the packing sheds just to the west of the dam. Please remember to respect the property and privacy of the land owner!

Directions: Travel east on the R524 from Louis Trichardt / Makhado. After 21km, turn left onto the property ‘Royal Macadamia´ keeping right after the turn-off. Pass the macadamia nut orchard on the left and banana plantation on the right, after 800m park your car next to the bat box, just before the dam wall. Find your way around the dams following the footpaths.

Black-throated Wattle-eye – Derek Engelbrecht
Pafuri Picnic Site

One of the best-known birding spots in this area is this lovely picnic site on the Luvuvhu River in the far north of the Kruger Park. Certain special birds which are normally only found further north and east can be seen in this area, because of its proximity to the Mozambique coast, and the Limpopo River which acts as a migration corridor. It is recommended that you cover the whole area along the S64 and S63 roads. The bridge over the Luvuvhu River is particularly rewarding and Crooks Corner is well worth a visit. Bird specials are African Cuckoo Hawk, Pel´s Fishing-Owl, Bohm´s Spinetail, Trumpeter Hornbill, White-crowned Lapwing, Tropical Boubou and Black-throated Wattle-eye. 

Roodewal – Marianne McKenzie
Roodewal Nature Reserve

This is the most reliable site for African Broadbill. The best time to hear them is just before dawn and just after dusk, but they can be heard for longer periods during the day in the summer months. Other species found here are Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Eastern Nicator, Narina Trogon, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Green Twinspot and Red-faced Cisticola. The vegetation is semi-deciduous scrub forest, which is a low canopy forest with a mix of woodland, riverine and Afromontane tree species.

Directions: Travel east on the R524 from Louis Trichardt / Makhado towards Thohoyandou and Punda Maria. After 15.8km you will see a sign ´Welgevonden´ (in red letters). Turn left onto this gravel road and drive 4.1 km. At the end of a Macadamia nut orchard is a small concealed track that runs steeply down to the left into a thick patch of forest. Park at this point if the road looks wet. The track goes on 300m before reaching a small parking area and picnic site. Two marked trails have been laid out leading from the parking spot. One trail follows the Luvuvhu River, the other follows one of its tributaries. Both trails pass a Crowned Eagle nest, which is situated in a block of pine plantation. 

Melanistic Gabar Goshawk – Derek Engelbrecht
Spies Dam

This dam is on the southern side of the R522 about 26 km from Louis Trichardt / Makhado. The water in the dam is seasonal, as is the birdlife; the eastern end is better for bird watching. Birds that have been seen here include Knob-billed, African Black, White-faced Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, White-fronted Plover, Kittlitz´s Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and on occasion Greater Flamingo. White-bellied Sunbird, Marico Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Long-billed Crombec, Crimson-breasted Shrike and a variety of seed-eaters can be found in the surrounding dry acacia veld. Some interesting larks and cisticolas may be seen on the old fields below the dam wall.

Directions: Travel on the road to Vivo from Louis Trichardt / Makhado; after 24 km the dam is visible from the road on the left. Stop next to the road just before the railing to get a view of the reed beds below; be careful as the road is quite narrow. Continue on the road until you see a BP Garage and General Dealer on the right; almost opposite this turn left onto a straight gravel track. The track then forks; park your car under a tree and walk to the dam wall. If you need to open a gate, be sure to close it behind you. 

African Broadbill – Samson Mulaudzi
Golwe Vhurivhuri Picnic & Campsite

Golwe Picnic and Campsite is a large shady site situated in a secluded valley in Venda off the Masisi Road. There is good bird watching in and around the campsite; African Broadbill can be heard calling at dawn. Other special birds are Pink-throated Twinspot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Crowned Hornbill. Marked circular trails lead from the campsite up the valley and to a waterfall. The campsite offers a convenient base from which to visit Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve, Makuya Nature Reserve and the Gundani Brachystegia Woodland. We recommend that you book local bird guide Christopher Nethonzhe to guide you along the trails; he can be contacted at 076 302 9383. Golwe is owned and run by members of the Vhurivhuri community; all proceeds go towards the development of the community. The campsite has four campsites, ablution facilities with hot and cold water and flushing toilets, braai stands and picnic tables; firewood is for sale. The site is accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles and caravans. 

Directions from the south: Travel east from Louis Trichardt / Makhado on the R524, drive through Thohoyandou to Sibasa and then to the T-junction indicating Donald Fraser Hospital (left) and Masisi (right). Turn right towards Masisi, continue for 37 km, then turn right towards Lambani / Gunda and follow the signboards to the site for another 1.8 km. 
Directions from the north: Travel from Pafuri / Musina on the R525, turn off towards Tshikondeni Mine at Masisi. Do not take the left turn to the mine but continue straight towards Sibasa / Thohoyandou for another 25km; then see the sign to the site on the right.

Black-chested Snake Eagle – San3 de Wet
Wyllie’s Poort Tunnels

These tunnels are on the N1 about 20km north of Louis Trichardt / Makhado. There is a viewing / parking area between the two tunnels; Drakensberg Prinia and Mocking Cliff Chat can be seen in the rocky gorge below and Short-toed Rock Thrush above the tunnels. A pair of Verreaux´s Eagle may be seen soaring in the sky.

Southern Boubou – Albert Froneman
Buzzard Mountain Retreat

Buzzard Mountain Retreat is situated on the southern slopes and top of the Soutpansberg. Habitat varies from sweet mixed bushveld to mistbelt forest and Afromontane grassland. Proteas are found in the grassland and Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Grassbird, Malachite Sunbird and Gurney´s Sugarbird may be seen. The trails through the forests below the cliffs allow for sightings of Orange-winged Pytilia, Green Twinspot and Lemon Dove. Forest Buzzard and Ayres´s Hawk-Eagle can also be seen. Day visits must be booked in advance. The affordable accommodation consists of self-catering stone cottages and basic wooden cabins.

Sagole – Marianne McKenzie
Sagole Big Tree

This magnificent specimen has been recorded as the largest Baobab tree in the world and is the best place to see Mottled Spinetail in the late evening and early morning.

Directions: Travel on the R525 and follow signs to Sagole Spa (Klein Tshipise). The tree is west of Sagole Spa and the turn-off is marked with a sign ´Big Tree´.

Mottled Spinetail- Derek Engelbrecht
Makuya Nature Reserve

Makuya Nature Reserve is situated near Pafuri Gate of the Kruger National Park. This 16,000 hectare conservation area on the Luvuvhu River is open to Kruger’s Nyalaland Wilderness Area; big game roams freely and Makuya is known for its impressive buffalo herds. There are many varied and unique plant species; major habitats in the reserve include sandstone outcrops, riparian woodland, Lebombo Ironwood thickets, Mopane woodland and Baobab ridge communities. Birdlife is abundant with over 370 species recorded in the area, including some ‘specials’ such as Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetails, Meves’s Starling, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mosque Swallow,  Grey-headed Parrot, African Yellow White-eye and Tropical Boubou.

Directions: Travel on the R525 to Tshipise, continue to Masisi; or travel on the R524 through Thohoyandou to Sibasa, then to Masisi. At Masisi turn right to Tshikondeni Mine; then follow the signs to Makuya Nature Reserve.