15 days, starting and ending in Johannesburg

Baobab Trees, Birds and the Big Five.

The far northern part of South Africa is an isolated and sparsely populated region steeped in legend and ancient tribal tradition. Here under azure skies a shimmering landscape of rolling vistas forged out of rich alluvial soils provides sanctuary to the greatest diversity of wildlife the country has to offer. It lies deep within the rain shadow of the Zoutpansberg mountains and consists of a botanical mosaic of woodland and thornveld that stretches along the Limpopo River from Botswana in the arid west to Mozambique in the sub-tropical east.

Once the land of the long departed Mapungubwe tribe of Golden Rhino fame, who settled centuries ago to pan for gold at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashi rivers, the pristine bushveld remains little changed from the early pioneering days of ivory poaching and the endless quest for gold in this mineral rich environment.

It is indeed ‘Big Sky’ country where one can gaze out over the baobab studded plains and marvel at the origins of these enormous trees that can survive in this harsh and arid environment for up to 2000 years. It is also a very special world of its own creation and home to the Big Five as Elephant, White Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard are known throughout Africa. It is host to over 550 bird species that unquestionably constitute the most diverse and spectacular mix South Africa has to offer.

Our carefully crafted tours to this captivating region have been specifically designed to cover as many habitat types as possible to elicit the maximum number of sightings possible within a two week time frame.

On arrival at JHB International Airport we head out along the Great North Road to the Nylsvlei Nature Reserve adjacent to the largest remaining floodplain in the country. Rainfall patterns prior to our arrival will dictate the abundance or paucity of bird species we can expect to see, as we make our way around the perimeter of the wetland, before immersing ourselves in the adjacent woodland to search for the rare and often elusive Roan antelope as well as birds unique to the area.

As we journey further north the rolling savanna of broadleaf woodland gives way to the open scrub and acacia thornveld that characterizes the mammal and bird rich Polokwane Game Reserve. Our drive through the reserve has been specifically tailored to bring out the best in the way wildlife on offer including some of the most colorful and striking birds of the bushveld.

Late afternoon takes us through to the granite outcrops and ridge lines of the Northern Drakensberg for a two day stay exploring isolated patches of montane bush in search of a suite of highly desirable forest species geographically confined to this unique centre of biodiversity.

Heading west our route takes us around the western flank of the impressive Zoutpansberg mountain range with its precipitous cliffs to explore the open savanna plains and riverine forest patches along the Limpopo river as far as the Luvuvu river in the Kruger National Park. This isolated corner of lowland forest and yellow-barked fever trees is home to the shy and extremely striking Nyala antelope and a unique suite of very special birds.

From here we bird our way south through a mixture of parkland and open savanna in search of new sightings, and possibly the Big 5 mammals if luck is on our side, before picking up on the highway to Johannesburg following our final night and a sunset cruise on Albasini dam in its picturesque setting below the Zoutpansberg mountain range.

Key Species: Great Egret, Black Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou, White-faced Duck, Comb Duck, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Bat Hawk, Verreaux’s Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Bateleur, African Goshawk, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Harrier Hawk, Crested Francolin, Swainson’s Francolin, Crested Guineafowl, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, African Jacana, White-crowned Lapwing, African Mourning Dove, Emerald-spotted Dove, Purple-crested Turaco, Burchell’s Coucal, African Wood Owl, Pearl-spotted Owl, Scops Owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Bohm’s Spinetail, Narina Trogon, Woodland Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Green Hoopoe, Trumpeter Hornbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Monotonous Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Short-clawed Lark, Mosque Swallow, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Black Tit, Eastern Nicator, Arnott’s Chat, White-throated Robin Chat, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Chin-spot Batis, Magpie Shrike, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Meve’s Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, White-bellied Sunbird, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Firefinch, Blue Waxbill, Violet-eared Waxbill and Golden-breasted Bunting

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