Limpopo Birding Routes

Waterberg Nylsvley Birding Hotspots

Waterberg Fringes

African Hawk Eagle - Derek Engelbrecht

This is the area surrounding the Waterberg Plateau; a transitional ecotone between the moist broadleaved woodland and the arid western thornveld. The crossover of habitats can be very productive for birding; it is one of the best places to look for White-bellied Korhaan and Meyer's Parrot. The southern section of this area along the Pienaars River is a great site for River Warbler towards the end of summer and for Southern Pied Babbler and Tinkling Cisticola all through the year. The smaller floodplains in the D'Nyala Nature Reserve and at Kgomo Kgomo also host a good range of breeding waterbirds in wet years. Mokolo Dam is a good site to search for White-backed Night-Heron.

Burchell’s Sandgrouse – Derek Engelbrecht
D'Nyala Nature Reserve

This reserve is 8,000 hectare in size and is located 10km from Lephalale. It includes a small floodplain of the Tambotie River, Acacia thornveld and broadleaved woodland. In wet years, the floodplain attracts a host of water birds including Knob-billed Duck, Little Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Painted Snipe. There are regular sightings of Double-banded Sandgrouse and occasional sightings of Burchell's Sandgrouse. Owls, cuckoos and kingfishers are all well represented; and six species of Bee-eater can be found, including Swallow-tailed Bee-eater.

The reserve offers fully equipped self-catering log cabins; there is a self-drive loop and two worthwhile wetland hides.

Directions: travel on the N1 North from Pretoria to Modimolle, then on the R33 to Vaalwater. Turn right at the Total garage and north to the entrance gate.

| 015 293 3611 | | |

Masebe Nature Reserve

This 4,500 hectare community reserve in the far north-eastern part of the Waterberg has dramatic scenery with a spectacular escarpment of red sandstone cliffs and several lone-standing mesas. The vegetation is mainly deciduous broadleaved woodland. Raptors are the main birding attraction with Verreaux's Eagles breeding on the cliffs; African Hawk Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, Brown and Black-chested Snake Eagles can also be seen. Other interesting species found there include Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Short-toed Rock Thrush. There is an African Ivory Route camp in the reserve.

Directions: travel on the R11 north from Mokopane; after 90 km turn left to Segole on a gravel road; after 20 km turn left to Masebe. The entrance gate is 2km further on the left. Alternatively the reserve can be reached from the R518 between Melkrivier and Marken. 

Telekishi – Marianne McKenzie
Telekishi Trail

The Telekishi community, close to Masebe, offer a three-hour trail that traverses the escarpment and takes in various archaeological sites. The trail starts in the floodplain area of the Matlabas River and winds up the escarpment to the broadleaved woodland on the top of the Waterberg Plateau. There is a Verreaux's Eagle nest along the trail; African Hawk Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Barn Owl, and Pearl-spotted Owlet can also be seen. This is a good option for birders who enjoy a walk, like to interact with and support the local communities, and learn about the culture and history of the area while birding. For further information and bookings contact Malesela Chokwe.

| 083 612 7845 |

Cattle Egret – Richter van Tonder
Mokolo Dam Nature Reserve

The 4,600 hectare Mokolo Dam Nature Reserve is situated on the northern slops of the Waterberg Mountains, just north-east of Marakele National Park and is part of the Waterberg Biosphere. The Mokolo River flows into the dam creating almost 8km of waterfront. This is home to a great variety of waterbirds including White-backed Night Heron. The surrounding vegetation is comprised of open savanna and dense bushveld. Fishing and boating is allowed on the dam and there is a basic campsite.

Directions: travel on the R510 from Lephalale towards Thabazimbi; turn left after 45km towards Mokolo Dam and follow the gravel road for around 18km to the entrance gate.

| 015 293 3611 | | |

Southern Ground-Hornbill – Derek Engelbrecht
The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project

This project was initiated at Mabula Game Reserve in 1999 to support conservation of the charismatic Southern Ground-Hornbill. The numbers of these endangered birds have declined considerably outside protected areas and it is estimated that there are currently only around 1500 individuals in the whole country. They live in small co-operative breeding groups of two to nine birds, with only one pair in each group breeding. Two chicks usually hatch, but the second-hatched chicks usually die of starvation. On average, only one chick is raised to adulthood every nine years. Factors affecting the decline of the population include loss of habitat and suitable nesting trees, persecution, poisoning and electrocution.

The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project is working to slow this decline by harvesting and hand-rearing second-hatched chicks and reintroducing them into suitable areas; and providing artificial nests for wild groups where this is a lack of suitable nesting trees. The Project is also involved in Ground-Hornbill research and education campaigns to further promote their conservation and help to ensure their survival in the wild.

| 083 289 8610 | | |

Magpie Shrike – Richter van Tonder
Roadside birding from Bela-Bela to Koedoeskop/Thabazimbi on Route R516

This route provides many birding opportunities, starting with possible sightings of African Green Pigeons amongst the large trees around Bela-Bela. The ubiquitous Magpie Shrike can be seen along the first section of this route; after approximately 20km Burchell’s Starling can also be seen. Other specials to look out for are Purple Roller and Red-breasted Swallow. Various raptors are also present and Lizard Buzzard may be seen perched on the telephone lines. The chance of seeing larger raptors such as Black-chested and Brown Snake-Eagle and African Hawk-Eagle improves as you travel westwards. After 60km is a turn-off signposted Leeupoort Residence; turn right and continue for 500m, turn right, and then right again at the primary school. Continue until you reach a cul-de-sac and look out for Bronze-winged Courser along the road verge. After 70km you will reach the small town of Leeupoort (look out for the Leeukrans sign). Verreaux’s Eagle may be seen around some rocky hills to the right of the road opposite Leeupoort. Long-tailed Paradise Whydah are fairly common on the section of road between Leeupoort and the T-junction at Koedoeskop.

African Scops Owl – Dalena Mostert
Leeupoort Town / Leeukrans Restaurant

This small ‘suburb’ of Thabazimbi is 40 km from town, located in the bushveld and surrounded by a game reserve. It is freely accessible to the public through a manned gate. A network of roads can be explored, getting you off the main road and into bushveld habitat for some good birding. Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Arrow-marked Babbler, Lizard Buzzard and Shikra are often seen. This convenient refreshment stop offers a birding hotspot in the garden of the Leeukrans Restaurant. It is especially good for photographers who are able to get close to their subjects. African Paradise Flycatcher and Amethyst Sunbird nest in the garden during summer; African Scops Owl can be heard calling around the restaurant area in the evenings. 

Black Heron – San3 de Wet
Rust de Winter Dam

This dam is only 90km from Pretoria and offers good bushveld and broadleaved woodland birding as well as a wide variety of waterbirds. Goliath and Black Heron, Knob-billed and White-backed Duck can be seen on the dam; as well as a host of waders including Wood and Common Sandpipers. The Acacia woodland is home to Barred Wren-Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher and Cape Penduline Tit. Look out for Coqui Francolin, Great Sparrow and Flappet Lark in the broadleaved woodland. Various rarities have been found there as well, including Great Frigatebird and Golden Pipit.

Directions: travel on the N1 North from Pretoria; take the Hammanskraal off-ramp and follow the signs to Rust de Winter.

African Crake – Joe Grosel
Zaagkuilsdrift and Kgomo Kgomo

This dirt road follows the Pienaars River for about 15km and ends at the Kgomo Kgomo floodplain where the Pienaars, Plat and Tshwane Rivers meet. The habitat along the road is mostly Acacia woodland with patches of grassland. This area is renowned for its great variety of warblers, including Barred Wren, Olive-tree, Marsh, Great-reed, Icterine Warblers, Common White-throat, River Warbler and even Thrush Nightingale. Tinkling Cisticola, Pied Babbler and Crimson-breasted Shrike can also be seen. Look out for Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Kittlitz's Plover, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark and African Quail-finch in the grassland around Kgomo Kgomo. When the floodplain inundates it attracts Black, Goliath and Purple Heron as well as Yellow-billed Stork, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen and Corn, Baillon's and African Crake.

Directions: travel north from Pretoria on the N1, take the Rust de Winter / Pienaarsrivier off-ramp and drive west. Continue to the T-junction with the R101 and turn right; after 1 km turn left onto a dirt road to Zaagkuilsdrift. In very wet years the roads around the flood plain may be inundated and impassable for a week or two.