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.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Long-tailed Widowbird

    Long-tailed Widowbird at Wakkerstroom by Dubi Shapiro.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Eastern South Africa


    South Africa Endemics 6 out of 18
    Forest Buzzard, Knysna Woodpecker, Cape Parrot, Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark and Knysna Warbler.

    South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) Endemics 20
    Grey-winged Francolin, Blue Bustard (not Eswatini), Knysna Turaco (not Lesotho), Southern Bald Ibis, Ground Woodpecker, Southern Crested-flycatcher (not Lesotho), Drakensberg Rockjumper (not Eswatini), Eastern Long-billed Lark, Drakensberg Prinia (not Lesotho), Bush Blackcap (not Lesotho), African Pied Starling, Chorister Robin-chat, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Cape Rock-thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-tufted Pipit, Yellow-breasted Pipit (not Eswatini), Forest Canary and Drakensberg Siskin (not Eswatini).


    South Africa and Botswana 1
    Short-clawed Lark.

    South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique 2
    Cape White-eye and Fiscal Flycatcher.

    South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe 1
    Cape (Orange-throated) Longclaw.

    South Africa and Mozambique 5
    Southern Tchagra, Brown Scrub-robin, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Neergaard’s Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot.

    South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi 1
    Rudd’s Apalis.

    South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe 1
    Lemon-breasted Canary (Seedeater).

    South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe 5
    Cape Grassbird, Barratt’s Warbler, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Swee Waxbill and Cape Canary.

    South Africa and Zimbabwe 1
    Melodious (Latakoo) Lark.

    Other specialities (including some of the 150 or so species endemic to Southern Africa)
    Northern Black Bustard (White-quilled Korhaan), Cape Vulture, Taita Falcon, Blue and Wattled Cranes, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Woodward's Batis, Blue Swallow (mostly Oct-Mar), Bokmakierie, Fairy Flycatcher, Spotted Ground-thrush, Malachite Sunbird, Mountain Pipit, Long-tailed Widowbird and Cape Weaver. Also a chance of Buff-spotted Flufftail, Bronze-winged Courser, Black-winged Lapwing and Pel's Fishing-owl.

    Common Ostrich, Orange River Francolin, Crested Guineafowl, Black and Goliath Herons, Hamerkop, Saddle-billed Stork, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, African Darter, vultures, Lammergeier, Bateleur, African Fish-eagle, African Crowned, Martial, Tawny and Verreaux's Eagles, Black Crake, bustards including Kori, Grey Crowned Crane, Spotted Thick-knee, White-headed Lapwing, African and Lesser Jacanas, Purple-crested Turaco, Whistling Yellowbill, owls including African Grass-owl, Narina Trogon, kingfishers including Giant, White-fronted Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, hornbills, Southern Ground-hornbill, Green Barbet, African Broadbill, batises, Retz's and White-crested Helmetshrikes, Gorgeous, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrikes, Crimson-breasted Gonolek, Magpie Shrike, larks, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, robin-chats, White-starred Robin, scrub-robins, Orange Ground-thrush, starlings, Red-billed Oxpecker, Scaly-fronted Weaver and waxbills. Also a chance of Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Secretary Bird and Greater Painted-snipe.

    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, Sable, and Killer and Southern Rights Whales, and an outside chance of Temminck's Ground Pangolin.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Nile Crocodile, Sardine Run (vast, elusive, shoals of fish/baitballs which usually occur offshore from May to July, especially late June to mid-July, and attract a wide range of predators including whales and dolphins), 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).

    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 Birds and other wildlife in Eastern South Africa

    Best Times for Birds and other 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 Bird 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, 2020 (Fifth 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.

    Birding and Wildlife 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 bird and wildlife guides 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 for birders in Eastern South Africa

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife 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.