Limpopo Birding Routes

Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Hotspots

Limpopo River Valley

Southern Ground Hornbill – Derek Engelbrecht

The eastern Limpopo River Valley is the area that stretches from the Kruger National Park to Musina. Much of the river is not accessible unless arranged in advance through private operators and land owners. The two largest owls in Southern Africa, Pel's Fishing Owl and Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, can be found along the Limpopo River. The river also provides a corridor for Trumpeter Hornbill and Lemon-breasted Canary. The wide sandbanks are ideal habitat for White-fronted Plover, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Knob-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose and Saddle-billed Stork. Large raptors including Bateleur, African Hawk-Eagle and Lappet-faced Vulture can be seen soaring above the river valley. The gallery forest on the river bank of the river is home to Meyer's Parrot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Trumpeter Hornbill, Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Black-throated Wattle-eye. The vegetation away from the river is comprised of Mopane woodland and mixed bushveld. A recommended route is to travel on the road between Malala Drift and Musina which follows the Limpopo River, crossing a number of its tributaries and passing through small patches of farmland. You will find it rewarding to take the drive slowly, stopping frequently along the way.

The western part of the Limpopo River Valley stretches from Musina to Platjan opposite Botswana. There are several access points to the river, including Mapungubwe National Park, which is situated opposite the Shashe River confluence and offers visitors a number of birding facilities. Various private farms on both sides of the border also offer excellent birding along the Limpopo River. Den Staat wetland is one of the best water-bird sites in the country, a visit there can be arranged if you stay at one of the private establishments in the area. Lowveld riverine forest and Mopane woodland dominate the Limpopo valley. The plains around the river are covered with Mopane woodland, broken by extensive patches of Acacia thickets in the low lying parts, and Commiphora- dominated vegetation on the rocky outcrops. Gallery forest on the riverbank is home to Woodland Kingfisher, African Mourning Dove, Broad-billed Roller, Senegal Coucal, Meves’s Starling and Pel's Fishing Owl. Swainson's Spurfowl, Red-crested Korhaan, Southern Ground Hornbill and Secretarybird are found on the plains.

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.           

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