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Blue Swallow Birding Safari


Experience a magical birding safari through the Drakensberg Escarpment, Kaapsehoop, Blyde River Canyon and on to the jewel of the Lowveld, the Manyeleti Game Reserve. This informative birding safari will be hosted and guided by some of the most knowledgeable experts in the region. From witnessing the nesting sites of the Blue Swallow, to possible sightings of the majestic Crowned Eagle and the rare Taita Falcon, one can only be amazed at the density of raptors occurring along this pristine mountain range.

Swooping down to the Lowveld and the Manyeleti Game Reserve, you will be entranced by the nocturnal activities of the many owls that hunt along the riverine vegetation. Spend some time around waterholes, looking for waders whilst appreciating the full glory of the animal kingdom. With luck, some vulture activity will round out your magnificent birding safari.

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Itinerary details

Hoopoe, Upupa epops
South African Tourism

Day One

Fly from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. On arrival you will meet your specialist birding guide. Board your airconditioned microbus for an hour's drive to Kaapsehoop and the Blue Swallow Reserve. Spend the afternoon birding in the indigenous forest and plantation grasslands.

Kaapsehoop is situated southwest of Nelspruit on a buttress of the Mpumalanga escarpment. The Kaapsehoop area offers protection to between nine and twelve pairs of the globally threatened Blue Swallow and is designated as an Important Bird Area.

Kaapsehoop is a good locality to see Southern African bird endemics such as the Knysna Lourie, Bush Blackcap, Cape Rockthrush, Buffstreaked Chat, Chorister Robin, Spotted Prinia, Orangethroated Longclaw, Gurney's Sugarbird, Redthroated Wryneck, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, African Goshawk and Wood Owl.

Overnight: Silvermist Guest House

Silvermist has the quaintness and grace of an era gone by. The historic 1898 Post Office in Kaapsehoop has been tastefully restored and renovated to create this exclusive and charming hideaway.

Day Two

Up with the birds and enjoy a morning ornithological walk to Battery Waterfall. Look out for the Spotted Prinia, Bokmakierie, Stonechat, and the Dusky Flycatcher. Keep your binoculars primed for the Bar-throated Apalis, Starred Robin, Swee Waxbill and Barratt's Warbler. After breakfast depart along the Panorama Route to Blyde River Canyon Lodge. Keep your eyes on the skies in search of the Rock Kestrel and Steppe Buzzard. We stop in the historic town of Graskop, where lunch is laid on.

Afterwards, we move on through the Panorama Route to take in the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, God's Window and Three Rondavels. These areas combine with the drive down through the Strydom Tunnel to yield the opportunity to see the following species:

  • Ayres', Wailing and Levaillant's Cisticolas, Orange-throated Longclaw, Stonechat, Spotted Prinia. Yellowrumped Widow.
  • Cape Rockthrush, Buffstreaked, Familiar and Mocking Chats.
  • African Black Duck. Halfcollared Kingfisher. Blackwinged Plover. Bald Ibis. Stanley's Bustard.
  • Taita, Lanner and Peregrine Falcons. Honey, Jackal and Steppe Buzzards.
  • Brown Snake-Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Blackbreasted Snake-Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle and Black Eagle.
  • Cape Vulture. Striped Pipit. Redwinged Starling. Rock Bunting. Rock Martin. Rock Kestrel.

We will arrive in the late afternoon at Blyde River Canyon Lodge, which is located at the entrance to the Canyon's Nature Reserve, a 80 hectare botanical treat with prolific bird life and a wealth of fauna and flora. Enjoy dinner and a relaxed overnight stay.

Overnight: Blyde River Canyon Lodge

Blyde Lodge Pool
The Pool at Blyde River Canyon Lodge

Surrounded by soaring cliffs and mountains, this thatched Lodge is set in a botanical reserve at the entrance to the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, an area famous for its panoramic scenery, birdlife, fauna and flora. Stylish rooms, decorated with Victorian and African references include television and air-conditioning. Enjoy sundowners at the pool with zebras to keep you company or take a stroll on the reserve with the resident impala, Mala.

Day Three

After breakfast, you will be joined by Dave Rushworth, an authority on the birds in Southern Africa, who will spend the day with you exploring the nesting sites of raptors and hidden habitats of the endemic birds.

We will explore the Blyde River Reserve and, in particular, the area around Swadini Dam. We will relax over a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenic views, before taking an afternoon cruise on the Dam itself. The impressive Swadini Dam is not a waterbird haven, as with most steep-sided dams, but it does have a number of sought-after species.

Crested Barbet
Crested Barbet, Trachyphonus vaillantii
South African Tourism

Birds to look out for are the African Finfoot, Whitebacked Night Heron, Halfcollared Kingfisher and the Bat Hawk hunting in the evening. The Canyon does offer a good variety of bushveld birds, including Red-billed Woodhoopoe, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Bluegrey Flycatcher, Heuglin's Robin, Puffback Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Golden-tailed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Black-collared Barbet, Purple-crested Lourie, White-bellied, Black and Collared Sunbirds, Yellow-eyed Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Collared Sunbird
Collared Sunbird, Cinnyris afer
South African Tourism

After a vigorous days' exercise, we return in the late afternoon to Blyde River Canyon Lodge for a well-earned dinner and rest.

Overnight: Blyde River Canyon Lodge

Blyde River Canyon Lodge
Blyde River Canyon Lodge

Day Four

After breakfast this morning visit the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre. Continue to the Manyeleti Game Reserve and Tintswalo Manor House for your two night stay on a fully inclusive basis. Situated within the Greater Kruger National Park, Manyeleti is known for its proliferation of wildlife, approximately 105 different mammal species and 450 bird species.

Here you will be treated to a luxurious stay, with game drives and/or walks every morning and evening. Bushveld and woodland birds that we may hope to encounter include:

  • Greyheaded Parrot. African, Thick-billed and Great Spotted Cuckoos.
  • Grey-hooded and Woodland Kingfishers. Carmine and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.
  • Carmine Bee Eater
    Carmine Bee Eater, Merops nubicoides
    South African Tourism
  • Broad-billed and Racket-tailed Rollers. Southern Ground and Trumpeter Hornbills.
  • Bennetts and Bearded Woodpeckers. Red-breasted and Mosque Swallows. Black and White-breasted Cuckooshrikes.
  • Eurasian Golden Oriole. White-throated and Bearded Robins. Stierlings Barred Warbler. Grey-headed Bush Shrike.
  • Yellow- and Red-billed Oxpeckers. Scarlet-chested Sunbird.
  • Red-headed Weaver. Melba Finch. Violet-eared Waxbill. Lemon-breasted Canary.

Night-time specials to look out for include a number of Owls: Barn, African Scops, Whitefaced, Barred, Spotted Giant Eagle and Pel's Fishing Owls. The night rings with the calls of the nightjars: Fiery-necked, Mozambique, Freckled and Pennant-winged occur here. Also look out for the Bronze-winged and Three-banded Coursers.

Overnight: Tintswalo Manor House

Carmine Bee Eater
Tintswalo Manor House Boma at Night

Tintswalo Manor House is a stylish, intimate affair offering complete privacy within its own concession in the Manyeleti Reserve. Luxury en-suite air-conditioned rooms overlook a water hole that often welcomes thirsty visitors of all kinds. Tintswalo in the Shangaan language means the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace that you bestow upon someone who has given you a meaningful and worthy gift. This is the impression that the Lodge strives to induce in its visitors.

Day Five

Enjoy a full day of game viewing and bird watching in the Manyeleti Game Reserve. Manyeleti is well-known for the tightly controlled number of visitors, enabling a truly exclusive safari experience to be offered.

Grassland bird species that we may encounter include Coqui and Shelley's Francolins. Harlequin Quail. Kurrichane Buttonquail. Corncrake, Flappet and Monotonous Larks. Chestnutbacked Finchlark. Black Coucal. Blackbellied and Redcrested Korhaan. Kori Bustard. Montagu's and Pallid Harriers.

Interesting waterbird species include Saddlebilled, Openbilled, Yellowbilled, Woollynecked, Black and Marabou Storks; Whitebacked Night and Goliath Herons; African Finfoot; Knobbilled Duck; Whitecrowned Plover; Halfcollared Kingfisher.

Hamerkop, Scopus umbretta

Raptors include Whitebacked, Cape, Lappetfaced, Hooded and Whiteheaded Vulture's. Ayres, Martial, Crowned, Black, Tawny, African Fish, African Hawk, Brown Snake, Wahlberg's and Blackbreasted Snake, Lesser spotted and Steppe Eagles. Gymnogene. Bateleur. Dark Chanting Goshawk. Cuckoo and Bat Hawks. Lizard and Honey Buzzard. Gabar, African and Little Banded Goshawk. Little, Black and Ovambo Sparrowhawks. Lanner, Sooty, Rednecked and Northern Hobby Falcons. Dickinson's, Lesser and Eastern Redfooted Kestrel. You may even see an Osprey.

Overnight: Tintswalo Manor House

Tintswalo Manor House Pool
Tintswalo Manor House Pool

Downstairs, the Manor has 3 en-suite air-conditioned twin or double bedrooms. One of the bedrooms has an adjacent childrens room which is available if required. Upstairs is the main double en-suite bedroom with a beautiful view of far off bushveld. Dine at the Manor on the patio or in the open air under the awesome Manyeleti night sky. A crystal blue swimming pool, deep shaded patio and traditional open boma complete the experience. All rooms are en-suite, air-conditioned, and all beds are fitted with mosquito nets.

Day Six

Awake in good time for your final morning walk and game drive, followed by a delicious breakfast. We can arrange a direct flight back from Manyeleti to Johannesburg International Airport.

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