Starting the day with an early morning collection at your hotel in the Johannesburg area, we head north and out of the city for about an hour and a half to get to Zaagkuilsdrift. Birding day trips to Zaagkuilsdrift offer some of the best Kalahari-habitat birding this close to Johannesburg. Starting, we’ll encounter Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, African Grey Hornbill, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and Speckled Mousebird out of the gates.
We’ll spend the entire morning hours exploring the back road that is Zaagkuilsdrift, stopping to get out and explore frequently. As the heat of the day sets in, we move on to Dinokeng Game Reserve, where we’ll spend the remainder of the day on the Mongena Private Concession within the reserve. Here the Kalahari Thornveld flows into Bushveld, which then gets criss-crossed by a network of water systems. Species expected here include Greater Honeyguide, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Half-collared Kingfisher, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Golden-breasted Bunting, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Red-billed Oxpecker, and loads more, as we are sure to encounter various large mammals in between.
We start the day with an early morning pick-up from your hotel in the Johannesburg area. The short one-and-a-half-hour drive allows us to get to Zaagkuilsdrift as the day breaks and life erupts from all around. As soon as we get to the Zaagkuilsdrift back road, the birding begins, and it’s at the start where we’re already likely to encounter Northern Black Korhaan, Desert Cisticola, Rufous-naped Lark, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Lesser Grey Shrike and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver. All along the stretch of roads stands of Acacia trees might offer up Common Whitethroat, Olive-tree Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Wren-Warbler, Common Scimitarbill, Southern Pied Babbler, Brubru and Burchell’s Starling. We’ll continue along the road as we explore various types of habitat for Scaly-feathered Weaver, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Great Sparrow, Red-breasted Swallow, Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and Cuckoofinch.
Mongena Private Concession (Dinokeng Game Reserve):
Once the day starts to warm up and the birding quiets down, we make our way to the Mongena Private Concession, within Dinokeng Game Reserve. With the Kalahari habitat reaching here, we still have ample time to find some Kalahari-related species we may have missed at Zaagkuilsdrift. However, before we chase down some more spectacular birds, we break for lunch in the heat of the day at Mongena’s Kingfisher Restaurant. From the restaurant we should encounter Southern-masked-, Lesser-masked- and Village Weaver, Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Egret, Cardinal Woodpecker, Crested Barbet, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Red-winged Starling and the resident Black-chested Snake Eagle.
After lunch we head into the concession with an Open Safari Vehicle, allowing us unobstructed encounters with various birds and mammals. Around the wetland areas, we’ll focus on Goliath- and Black Heron, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Half-collared-, Giant- and Pied Kingfisher, African Jacana, White-backed Duck, African Swamphen, Black Crake, African Rail, African Snipe and more. Whereas in the Bushveld habitat we’ll target the likes of Greater Honeyguide, African Grey-, Southern Yellow-billed- and Southern Red-billed Hornbill, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Great Sparrow, Red-headed Finch, Purple Roller, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Flappet Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Golden-breasted Bunting and loads more.
Throughout our Open Vehicle Safari Drive on Mongena, we have good chances at spotting various larger mammal species, such as Lion, African Elephant, African Buffalo, Greater Kudu, Cheeta, Southern Giraffe, Black- and White Rhino, Hippo, Red Hartebeest and more.
As the day draws to an end, and the wildlife gets ready to settle in for the night, we’ll make our way back to Johannesburg, chatting about the day’s events as we tackle the 2-hour drive.