The best national parks, game reserves, and safari areas for birding in South Africa
Africa is home to such a rich diversity of habitats and ecosystems, which results in it hosting incredible biodiversity. Besides the continent’s famed predator and plains game species, there is a vast array of bird species that call Africa home. Many of the national parks and game reserves in Africa have hundreds of recorded bird species, including endemic and rare species. These are some of the best African destinations for a birding enthusiasts.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is without doubt one of Africa’s top safari destinations. The Delta is home to a staggering diversity of wildlife, which includes over 400 species of birds. Visitors can expect to spot the African Fish Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Wattled Crane, and Saddle-billed Storks, among others. There are a number of luxury camps in the Delta, many of which offer tradtional mokoro canoe safaris which is a great way to get up close to the plethora of its water birds.
The Pafuri is found in the northern regions of the Kruger National Park, South Africa‘s famous safari paradise. The region is a birder’s dream, with over 400 species found, including the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Pel’s Fishing Owl, and the Mottled Spinetail. There are a number of spectacular geological phenomena in the region, such as the Lanner Gorge, as well as herds of elephants feeding under fever and baobab trees. The rivers are home to populations of hippos and crocodiles, and the elusive Tiger Fish is also found here.
Ndumo Game Reserve is the premier birding destination in South Africa, with around 430 species recorded. Key species include the Southern-banded Snake Eagle, the Black Egret, the African Broadbill and the Rudd’s Apalis, as well as flocks of pelicans. The reserve is also home to a variety of other wildlife species, including black and white rhino, hippo and crocodile.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is found in Uganda, and is home to a fascinating variety of wildlife species, including the country’s famous chimpanzees and tree-climbing lions. Over 600 species of birds are found in the park, including the Palm-nut Vulture, the Martial Eagle, Papyrus Canary and African Skimmer. The park has a rich cultural history and visitors have the opportunity to learn about and interact with local culture and communities.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is must for nature lovers, safari enthusiasts and birders. Over 350 species have been recorded, including the African Green Broadbill, Handsome Francolin, Black Bee-eater and Red-chested Owlet. The park is famous for its mountain gorilla populations, as well as other primate species, and visitors can get up close to these fascinating creatures on foot.
Kafue National Park is Zambia’s largest (and oldest) national park, and is made up of a combination of wetlands, open plains and rivers that are home to a host of flora and fauna species. There are over 500 recorded bird species in the park. Notable species include the Black-cheeked Lovebird, African Fin-foot, Bohm’s Bee-eater, and Zambia’s only endemic species, the Chaplin’s Barbet. The park is also home to an array of plains game and large predator species.
Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is made up of pristine rainforest, grasslands, swamps and bamboo forest. The park is a key primate safari destination, with over 10 species found, but is also a dreamland for birders, with over 300 recorded species, 16 of which are endemic. The Rwenzori Turaco, Grey-chested Kakamega, Shoebill Stork and Miombo Wren-Warbler are just some of the species visitors can look out for.
Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe is named after its characteristic ox-bow lakes that were carved out by the Zambezi River. These lakes attract a variety of wildlife species, including hippos and crocodiles. Birdlife is abundant: over 380 species have been recorded, including the African Fish Eagle, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, and African Skimmer.