South Africa

South Africa Raptor Tour


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If South America is the Bird Continent, then Africa—home to 112 species of diurnal birds of prey—is the Raptor Continent! South Africa combines a more-than-generous sample of this raptor diversity with adequate travel infrastructure, relatively benign climate and plenty of megafauna to mesmerize even the most avid, hard-core birder. This tour is designed to see as many species of raptors (with an emphasis on falcons) occurring in South Africa, see the “Big Five”—lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and African elephant—and watch other birds as well while we are at it!

An Emphasis on Falcons

This tour is designed specifically to target most of the true falcons (genus Falco) that occur in South Africa during the austral winter. Namely: Lesser, Greater, Rock, and Dickinson’s Kestrels, plus Eurasian Hobby, and Red-necked, Red-footed, Amur, Lanner, and Peregrine Falcons, and the much sought-after Taita Falcon, one of the rarest falcons in the world. Some of these can be quite challenging to see, like Taita Falcons, but we will visit places where they have been reliably seen.

Other Raptors

We will also target 11 species of eagles, fish-eagles and hawk-eagles, five species of vultures, nine species of sparrowhawks and goshawks, four harriers, two buzzards, two snake-eagles, plus Yellow-billed Kite, African Cuckoo-Hawk, African Harrier-Hawk, the amazing Bateleur, Pygmy Falcon, Osprey, and Secretarybird.

Other Birds and The Big Five

While raptor, and especially falcon occurrence and abundance determine our itinerary, we will watch other birds as well. An expert local birding guide will help us find and identify non-raptorial birds throughout the tour. Of course, we will make time to watch the charismatic African megafauna. In addition to lions, leopards, African elephants, rhinos, and buffaloes, we will encounter numerous antelopes, warthogs, monkeys, giraffe, zebras, wildebeest, and many others. Whether this is your first trip to Africa, or your 10th this tour will not disappoint if you have an interest in raptors and wildlife.

African Roadblock, by Sergio Seipke.
Kruger National Park is one of the finest wildlife watching destinations in the world.
© S. Seipke

Make A Difference!

Raptours®, L.L.C. makes a financial contribution to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for every member that signs up for this tour. Join us on this tour and make a lasting contribution to raptor conservation!

Main Tour Day-by-day Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Intl. Airport (IATA code JNB), and transfer to our local to relax and meet the other tour participants. Dinner and overnight in Johannesburg.

Day 2

Breakfast at the hotel. Then visit a local reserve in the morning to target Amur Falcon and Red-footed Falcon. In the afternoon, depending on time, will look for Ovambo Sparrowhawk, and Verreaux’s and Ayres’s Eagle. Dinner and overnight in Johannesburg.

Day 3

Breakfast and checkout. Drive to Swadini, and visit the Taita Falcon spot in the afternoon. Then we’ll bird the Blyde river canyon looking for resident Peregrine Falcons and other raptors, including Crowned Eagle and Cape Vulture. Dinner and overnight at the Swadini Forever Resort.

Day 4

Breakfast and checkout. Another stop at the Taita Falcon spot, then fast-forward to Magoesbaskloof, to target Long-crested and Crowned Eagle in the afternoon. Also Bat Hawk—the only truly nocturnal hawk in the world. Dinner and overnight in the Magoebaskloof Hotel.

Day 5

Breakfast at the hotel, then checkout. Another visit to the Magoebaskloof forests looking for African Goshawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Crowned Eagle, and Jackal Buzzard, among others. We may see Lizard Buzzard as well. In the afternoon, we will enter Kruger National Park in the north end, and check-in at Punda Maria rest camp. Northern Kruger is good for several raptor species, notably Dickinson’s Kestrel. Dinner and overnight at the rest camp.

Day 6

After breakfast, we will leave the rest camp and drive to Pafuri, looking for Dickinson’s Kestrel on the way, and back. Other raptors likely to be seen today (and tomorrow) include Martial, Tawny, Wahlberg’s, Lesser-spotted, and Steppe Eagles; African Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, and Bateleur. Dinner and overnight in Punda Maria.

Day 7

Early breakfast and checkout. Leave the rest camp as soon as the gate is open. Today we will drive south into central Kruger. Vegetation will become sparser, especially in the afternoon, in the central plains of the park, where we will spend the night. Raptors likely to be seen today include the same eagle species as yesterday plus Black-chested Snake Eagle. Our contacts with the African megafauna should become more frequent as we drive south. We should see lions, wildebeest, zebras, elephants, and giraffes, also a rhino or two, and, with a bit of luck, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs. Check-in and dinner at the rest camp. Night drive in the parks trucks to see mammals and owls.

Day 8

Breakfast and checkout. Drive through southern Kruger looking for big game and raptors. Our chances for leopard, rhino, and wild dogs should be better today. We should see many raptors including several species of eagles and Secretarybird. Drive to Skukuza, or one of the nearby rest camps in the afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Southern Kruger.

Day 9

After breakfast and checkout, head west and out the Kruger, to the Mpumalanga Intl. Airport, where we will eat lunch, and wait to catch our flight to Cape Town. Fly non-stop to Cape Town (1.15-3.55 pm, 1 free checked bag up to 23 kg / 50 lbs), and transfer to our hotel upon arrival. Relax and bird the hotel grounds. Dinner and overnight in Cape Town.

Day 10

All-day visit to the West Coast National Park to target Rock Kestrels and Peregrines, and Black Harrier, Verreaux's Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, and Black-winged Kite, among others. Dinner and overnight in Cape Town.

Day 11

Checkout and drive to the airport where we will eat breakfast. Fly to Upington (7.10-8.30 am, 1 free checked bag up to 23 kg / 50 lbs). Get on our vans upon arriving in Upington and drive to Twee Rivieren area, our base to explore the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This is a very scenic drive with red dunes dotted with sparse vegetation, huge weaver nests, and great visibility. We should see several species of raptors here including Pale Chanting Goshawk and Greater Kestrel. Depending on timing, we will go for an afternoon drive to look for wildlife after checking-in.

Days 12-13

The next couple of days we will drive the dry riverbeds, and dunes in the Kgalagadi looking for Pygmy, Lanner and Red-necked Falcons. Also likely to be seen here are Pale Chanting Goshawk, Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Gabar Goshawk and Secretarybird. Lions, cheetahs, and leopards are more visible here, due to the scant vegetation. Other mammals of interest include giraffe, springbok and oryx, the cute suricate or meerkat, and the not-so-quite yellow mongoose. Bat-eared fox and black-backed jackals are always welcome and fun to watch. Dinner and overnight in Twee Rivieren area.

Day 14

Another morning outing in the Kalahari. Check-out and drive back to Upington to catch our flight to Johannesburg (12.50-2.25 pm, 1 free checked bag up to 23 kg / 50 lbs) where the tour ends. International evening flights depart from Johannesburg, but we suggest you book a flight for the next day. Extra nights in Johannesburg available upon request.

 

Raptor Banding Extension Day-by-day Itinerary

Day 1

Leave JHB and spend a few hours in the Springbok flats looking for raptors. Lesser, Greater, and Rock Kestrels, and Amur and Red-footed Falcons all found here. Lanner Falcon and Steppe Buzzard are quite common. Brown and Black-chested Snake Eagle likely here too. The Springbok flats are a mixture of farmland and bush; good habitat diversity for a big variety of species. Overnight in a bush camp where we set a net for African Scops, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern White-faced Owls.

Day 2

Head north to the Magoebaskloof area, forest and forestry plantation, good for Jackal, Steppe, and Forest Buzzards, Long-crested Eagle, and African Goshawk. It is possible to see Crowned Eagle, and Lizard Buzzard. Set nets at night for Wood Owl.

Day 3–4

Head north to the Limpopo valley and to Mpangubwe National Park, where we will stay for two nights. Here we can find both Pale and Dark-chanting Goshawks along the way and we will be in good country for Martial, Wahlberg’s and African Hawk-Eagles, and Tawny Eagles. Good chance to see leopard, as well as African elephant and other game.

Day 5

Return to JHB, trapping along the way. Drop off at hotel (not included), or at the airport depending on personal preference, where the Tour Extension ends.

Target SpeciesDownload as checklist in PDF format

common name

  1. Sercretarybird (VU)
  2. Osprey (LC)
  3. Black-winged Kite (LC)
  4. African Harrier-Hawk (LC)
  5. European Honey Buzzard (LC)
  6. African Cuckoo-Hawk (LC)
  7. Hooded Vulture (CR)
  8. White-backed Vulture (CR)
  9. Cape Vulture (EN)
  10. White-headed Vulture (CR)
  11. Lappet-faced Vulture (EN)
  12. Black-chested Snake Eagle (LC)
  13. Brown Snake Eagle (LC)
  14. Bateleur (NT)
  15. Bat Hawk (LC)
  16. Crowned Eagle (NT)
  17. Martial Eagle (VU)
  18. Long-crested Eagle (LC)
  19. Lesser Spotted Eagle (LC)
  20. Wahlberg's Eagle (LC)
  21. Booted Eagle (LC)
  22. Ayres's Hawk-Eagle (LC)
  23. Tawny Eagle (LC)
  24. Steppe Eagle (EN)
  25. Verreaux's Eagle (LC)
  26. African Hawk-Eagle (LC)
  27. Lizard Buzzard (LC)
  28. Gabar Goshawk (LC)
  29. Dark Chanting Goshawk (LC)
  30. Pale Chanting Goshawk (LC)
  31. African Goshawk (LC)
  32. Shikra (LC)
  33. Little Sparrowhawk (LC)
  34. Ovambo Sparrowhawk (LC)
  35. Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk (LC)
  36. Black Sparrowhawk (LC)
  37. African Marsh Harrier (LC)
  38. Black Harrier (VU)
  39. Pallid Harrier (NT)
  40. Montagu's Harrier (LC)
  41. Yellow-billed Kite (N/A)
  42. African Fish Eagle (LC)
  43. Forest Buzzard (LC)
  44. Jackal Buzzard (LC)
  45. Pygmy Falcon (LC)
  46. Lesser Kestrel (LC)
  47. Rock Kestrel (LC)
  48. Greater Kestrel (LC)
  49. Dickinson's Kestrel (LC)
  50. Red-necked Falcon (NT)
  51. Red-footed Falcon (NT)
  52. Amur Falcon (LC)
  53. Sooty Falcon (NT)
  54. Eurasian Hobby (LC)
  55. Lanner Falcon (LC)
  56. Peregrine Falcon (LC)
  57. Taita Falcon (VU)

latin name

  1. Sagittarius serpentarius
  2. Pandion haliaetus
  3. Elanus caeruleus
  4. Polyboroides typus
  5. Pernis apivorus
  6. Aviceda cuculoides
  7. Necrosyrtes monachus
  8. Gyps africanus
  9. Gyps coprotheres
  10. Trigonoceps occipitalis
  11. Torgos tracheliotos
  12. Circaetus pectoralis
  13. Circaetus cinereus
  14. Terathopius ecaudatus
  15. Macheiramphus alcinus
  16. Stephanoaetus coronatus
  17. Polemaetus bellicosus
  18. Lophaetus occipitalis
  19. Clanga pomarina
  20. Hieraaetus wahlbergi
  21. Hieraaetus pennatus
  22. Hieraaetus ayresii
  23. Aquila rapax
  24. Aquila nipalensis
  25. Aquila verreauxii
  26. Aquila spilogaster
  27. Kaupifalco monogrammicus
  28. Micronisus gabar
  29. Melierax metabates
  30. Melierax canorus
  31. Accipiter tachiro
  32. Accipiter badius
  33. Accipiter minullus
  34. Accipiter ovampensis
  35. Accipiter rufiventris
  36. Accipiter melanoleucus
  37. Circus ranivorus
  38. Circus maurus
  39. Circus macrourus
  40. Circus pygargus
  41. Milvus aegyptius
  42. Haliaeetus vocifer
  43. Buteo trizonatus
  44. Buteo rufofuscus
  45. Polihierax semitorquatus
  46. Falco naumanni
  47. Falco rupicolus
  48. Falco rupicoloides
  49. Falco dickinsoni
  50. Falco chicquera 
  51. Falco vespertinus
  52. Falco amurensis
  53. Falco concolor
  54. Falco subbuteo
  55. Falco biarmicus
  56. Falco peregrinus
  57. Falco fasciinucha

Suggested Field Guides

Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2005. Raptors of the World. Paperback Edition. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Sinclair, I., Hockey, P., Tarboton, W., and P. Ryan. 2011. Birds of Southern Africa: Fourth Edition. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Need to Know

Tour Dates & Availability

7–20 January 2018 | 2 Places

Extension 21–25 January 2018 | BOOKED!

Booking Closes On

1 November 2017

Group Size Limits

Main Tour | 8-14

Tour Extension | 3-7

Tour Price

Main Tour $5,490

Tour Extension $1,990

Single Supplement

Main Tour $455

Extension $200

Raptor Species Expected

45

Country Entry Requirements

Valid passport required | No visa required for citizens of the USA, Canada, and most EU countries

Difficulty

Easy

Comfort

Good to Very Good | Guide-to-participant ratio 1:7 or better

Weather & Clothing

Temp range 97–62 °F (36–17 °C) | Bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses

Health

Some travel vaccines and malaria prophylaxis are advisable | Proof of yellow fever vaccination may be required

Local Currency

South African rand (ZAR)

Tour Co-Host

Bud Anderson

Falcon Research Group founder and Raptours friend Bud Anderson is on a mission: see all the falcons of the world—and we liked his idea! After a successful first FRG/Raptours joint expedition to Australia, Bud has decided to take the fight to South Africa! At Raptours we are thrilled and honored with this new opportunity! Join Bud and other FRG members & friends in this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see many South African falcons and raptors, enjoy a relaxed, friendly environment, and learn from one of the leading experts in the falcon world. Everyone is welcome!

Main Tour Leader

Sergio Seipke

Sergio Seipke has been watching, studying, and photographing raptors since 1993, and currently owns and runs Raptours, LLC. Sergio has co-led a raptour to South Africa in 2012 with Bill Clark, and has visited the country again in 2015.

Extension Leader

Malcolm Wilson

Malcolm Wilson has been banding raptors, including owls, in Africa for 25 years and in South Africa for 15. He has banded over 1000 individuals of 44 species out of the sub-region’s 75 possible species. Malcolm is an experienced tour guide and will lead the Raptor Banding Extension.

Tour Showcase

Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), adult.
Sercretarybird
Kalahari Desert
© D. Haas
Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus), adult.
Bateleur
Kruger National Park
© D. Haas
Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus), adult.
Bat Hawk
Magoebaskloof
© D. Haas
Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis), adult.
Long-crested Eagle
Magoebaskloof
© D. Haas
Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar), adult.
Gabar Goshawk
Kalahari Desert
© D. Haas
Black Harrier (Circus maurus), adult.
Black Harrier
West Coast National Park
© D. Haas
Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), juvenile.
Steppe Eagle
Kruger National Park
© D. Haas
Martial Eagle (Polemaetus belicosus), adult.
Martial Eagle
Kruger National Park
© S. Seipke
Little Sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus), adul.
Little Sparrowhawk
Johannesburg
© D. Haas
Forest Buzzard (Buteo trizonatus), adult.
Forest Buzzard
Cape Area
© D. Haas
Pygmy Falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus), adult.
Pygmy Falcon
Kalahari Desert
© D. Haas
Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus), adult.
Rock Kestrel
Cape Area
© D. Haas
Dickinson's Kestrel (Falcon dickinsoni), adult.
Dickinson's Kestrel
Kruger National Park
© D. Haas
Red-headed Falcon (Falco chicquera), adult.
Red-headed Falcon
Kalahari Desert
© D. Haas

Terms


Raptours, L.L.C. reserves the right to alter this itinerary as necessary, or to cancel the tour prior to departure, with full refund to participants.

Raptours, L.L.C. or its agents may decline to accept or retain any person as a member of this tour at any time.

No smoking will be permitted while with the group, either when indoors or in the field.

Travel medical insurance is strongly recommended.

All passengers will be required to sign a hard copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form upon meeting with the tour leader in Johannesburg.

No participants will be allowed in the group without a signed copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form.

Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk Form
(including Terms)
Download as PDF