Map of the world

  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Southern Bald Ibis

    The odd-looking Southern Bald Ibis near Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge by Dubi Shapiro.

    EASTERN SOUTH AFRICA

    Photograph of Long-tailed Widowbird

    Long-tailed Widowbird at Wakkerstroom by Dubi Shapiro.

    Best Wildlife in Eastern South Africa

    Mammals
    Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Elephant, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, White and Black Rhinoceroses, Spotted Hyaena, Burchell's Zebra, Blue and Black Wildebeests, African Buffalo, Chacma Baboon, Blue and Vervet Monkeys, Meerkat, Bat-eared Fox, Spring Hare, Eland, Greater Kudu, Nyala, Waterbuck, Topi (Tsessebe), Blesbok, Impala, Klipspringer, Humpback Whale (mostly Jun-Oct), and Bottlenose and Common Dolphins. Also a chance of African Wild Dog, Caracal, Serval, Brown Hyaena, Aardvark, Aardwolf, South African Crested Porcupine and Sable, and an outside chance of Temminck's Ground Pangolin.

    Birds
    Ostrich, African Fish Eagle, Lammergeier, Black and Goliath Herons, Saddle-billed Stork, Hamerkop and Kori Bustard, Blue and Wattled Cranes, Taita Falcon and Long-tailed Widowbird, some of the 35 or so species endemic to South Africa including (Southern) Bald Ibis, Blue Korhaan, Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Orange-breasted (Drakensberg) Rockjumper and Yellow-breasted Pipit, some of the 140-150 species endemic to Southern Africa including Bokmakierie, Fairy Flycatcher, Rudd's Apalis, Gurney's Sugarbird and Pink-throated Twinspot, as well as Crested Guineafowl, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, African Darter, African Spoonbill, vultures, Bateleur, African Crowned, Martial, Tawny and Verreaux's Eagles, Black Crake, bustards, Grey Crowned Crane, Spotted Thick-knee, Blacksmith Plover, White-headed Lapwing, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, African Jacana, Cape (Brown-necked) Parrot, Knysna and Purple-crested Turacos, Yellowbill, owls, Red-faced Mousebird, Narina Trogon, kingfishers including Giant, White-fronted Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Hoopoe, hornbills, Southern Ground Hornbill, barbets, African Broadbill, batises, Retz's and White-crested Helmetshrikes, Gorgeous, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrikes, Crimson-breasted and Magpie Shrikes, African Paradise Flycatcher, larks, Blue (mostly Oct-Mar) and Barn (mostly Dec-Feb) Swallows, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, robin-chats, White-starred Robin, scrub-robins, Groundscraper Thrush, Orange and Spotted Ground Thrushes, starlings, Red-billed Oxpecker, Malachite Sunbird, Scaly-feathered Finch (Scaly Weaver), weavers and waxbills. Also a chance of Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Secretary Bird, Bronze-winged Courser, Pel's Fishing Owl, Buff-spotted Flufftail and Black-winged Lapwing.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Nile Crocodile, Sardine Run (a vast shoal of fish which usually occurs offshore between May and July, especially late June-early July), Whale (mostly Dec-Mar), Tiger and Ragged-tooth (mostly Jun-Nov) Sharks, Manta Ray, Sailfish, and Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles (both mostly Nov-Feb, laying eggs in Feb).

    Plants
    The Drakensberg Mountains are a World Centre for Plant Diversity, where there are over 2200 species, of which about 400 are endemic. They include orchids, proteas and 'red hot pokers'.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Eastern South Africa

    Best Times for Wildlife in Eastern Southern Africa

    The best time to visit is August to November, especially October during the southern spring when many resident birds begin to breed and are therefore more active, and by which time it is usually so dry (and hot and humid unfortunately) that many mammals concentrate around remaining waters, making them easier to see. The dry season usually lasts from June to October and the peak wet season from November to March, although January-February is at the height of the South African summer and therefore the best time to observe the extraordinary variety of flowering plants in the Drakensberg, especially during the second half of January. The peak time for the Sardine Run is usually late June-early July.

    Recommended Books etc. for Eastern South Africa

    Travellers' Wildlife Guides: Southern Africa by B Branch et al. Interlink Books, 2013.

    Bradt Travel Guide: Southern African Wildlife by M Unwin. Bradt, 2011 (Second Edition).

    Watching Wildlife: Southern Africa by M D Firestone et al. Lonely Planet, 2009 (Second Edition).

    Stuarts' Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa by C and M Stuart. Random House Struik, 2015 (Revised Edition).

    The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2015 (Second Revised Edition).

    The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2016 (Second Edition).

    SASOL Birds of Southern Africa by I Sinclair et al. C Struik, 2011 (Fourth Edition).

    Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by I Sinclair and P Ryan. C Struik, 2011 (Second Edition).

    Newman's Birds by Colour by K Newman. C Struik, 2011 (Third Edition).

    Newman's Birds of Southern Africa by K and V Newman. C Struik, 2010 (Tenth Edition).

    Roberts Bird Guide edited by H Chittenden. Africa Geographic, 2007.

    Southern African Birdfinder by C Cohen and C Spottiswoode. New Holland Publishers, 2005.

    The Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng (the Johannesburg and Pretoria region) by E Marais and F Peacock. Mirafra Publishing, 2008.

    Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by S Woodhall. C Struik, 2005.

    Photo Guide to the Wildflowers of South Africa by J Manning. Briza Publications, 2012 (Revised Edition).


    Apps etc.

    eGuide to Mammals of Southern Africa

    The Kingdon Guide to African Mammals.

    Audubon African Wildlife.

    SASOL eBirds of Southern Africa.

    Newman's Birds of Southern Africa.

    Roberts Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa.

    Where to watch birds in Africa by N Wheatley. Helm, 1995.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in Africa? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Eastern South Africa

    Many trip reports, some for Eastern South Africa, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Eastern South Africa. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Eastern South Africa' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Eastern South Africa

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Eastern South Africa

    Some Organized Tours to Eastern South Africa

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Eastern South Africa include the following.