Limpopo Birding Routes

Waterberg Nylsvley Overview

  • Nylsvley Floodpain - Joe Grosel
  • Waterberg - Joe Grosel
  • Marakele - Marianne McKenzie
  • Southern Pochard - Joe Grosel
  • Yellow-throated Sandgrouse - Derek Engelbrecht
  • Cape Vulture - Jody de Bruyn

One of the key attractions of the Waterberg-Nylsvley Birding Route is the spectacular Nylsvley floodplain when it is in flood. This 16,000 hectare floodplain floods every few years and is a registered RAMSAR site because of the importance it has for waterfowl in South Africa. Of the 365 bird species recorded in the Nylsvley area, 104 are water birds and of those, 87 breed there in the wet years. Specials to look out for include Little, Dwarf and Eurasian Bittern; 15 species of Duck and Goose; Allen's Gallinule; Lesser Moorhen as well as seven species of Crake and Rail. Besides the waterbirds, the bushveld surrounding Nylsvley also offers great birding, with 200 bushveld species to be found, including 8 species of Owl, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and Crimson-breasted Shrike.

The Waterberg Mountains hold a host of surprises for birders with White-backed Night Heron and African Finfoot found along the Mogol and Phalala rivers; and Blue Crane, White-bellied Korhaan, Denham's Bustard and Eastern Clapper Lark found on the plateau. The cliffs at Kransberg in Marakele National Park accommodate the largest breeding colony of Cape Vulture in South Africa. Gurney's Sugarbird, Buff-streaked Chat and Striped Pipit are also found on the highest peak which is accessible to sedan vehicles via a concrete road.

There are over 150,000 hectares of private reserves in this region. Beautiful lodges in the Waterberg area provide a perfect base from which to explore the Waterberg Meander. Features include the Church of St John the Baptist, designed by Sir Herbert Baker in the late 1890’s and still beautifully preserved; art galleries, horse trails, beaded and leather crafts. Vaalwater is the hub of the Meander, call in for lunch at the Seringa Café and browse around the Black Mamba Gallery before heading back into the field. 

The north-eastern escarpment of the Waterberg has the most spectacular scenery on the route and Masebe Provincial Reserve and Telekishi Community Trail in this area offer the best chance of seeing Verreaux's Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Lanner Falcon and Rock Kestrel as well as Short-toed Rock Thrush. The south-western area of the route is the best place in the country for Yellow-throated Sandgrouse.

The hundreds of kilometres of Limpopo River along the Botswana border are home to Southern Pied Babbler, Sociable Weaver, Black-cheeked Waxbill and a host of other birds usually only encountered in the western part of Southern Africa. There are also Pel's Fishing Owl, Meyer's Parrot, Great Sparrow and a variety of other surprises for birders in this vast area.

The Mokolo Dam, Doorndraai Dam and D'Nyala Provincial Reserves are interesting birding sites, providing wetland habitats amongst the vast bushveld areas of this Birding Route.

The Waterberg-Nylsvley Birding Route has the added advantages of being close to Gauteng and free of malaria. With the variety of other attractions in this region, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Useful Contacts:

Friends of Nylsvley