Best time to travel to South Africa

Birdwatching

Come in season to spot local endemics and near-endemics along with migrants from Europe and north Africa

Birdwatching in South Africa - Best Time
Photo by

Sascha Wenninger

South Africa offers luxurious birdwatching with over 840 species. About 140 of them are near-endemic, and 14 are true endemic. Some of the most notable birds are the African penguin, Blue crane, Crested guineafowl, Southern ground hornbill, Mocking cliff-chat, rare Pel's fishing-owl and Tawny eagle. The list could be way longer if we mentioned all of the species that can be spotted in South Africa, but let's explore best places to observe the largest variety.

African penguins on the beach in Simonstown, Western Cape
African penguins on the beach in Simonstown, Western Cape
Blue cranes in Mountain Zebra NP, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Blue cranes in Mountain Zebra NP, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Helmeted guine fowl
Helmeted guine fowl
Ground hornbill
Ground hornbill
Mocking cliff-chat
Mocking cliff-chat
Pel's fishing-owl
Pel's fishing-owl
Tawny eagle and White-backed vultures
Tawny eagle and White-backed vultures

Kruger National Park is considered number one for general birdwatching. Mkhuze Game Reserve offers an incredible number of species in a relatively small area. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is especially known for raptors. The capital city doesn't fall behind—check out penguin colonies around Cape Town. Other great places for birding include Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, and Kariega Game Reserve. But of course, this is not the entire list. All of South Africa can be considered a birding destination. They are everywhere, just be attentive to spot as many as possible.

Marico sunbird
Marico sunbird
Greater blue-eared starling
Greater blue-eared starling
Lilac-breasted roller
Lilac-breasted roller

The best time for birdwatching is the rainy African spring and summer between September and March or April. Peak viewing time runs from November to February. In this season, migratory birds from Europe as well as northern Africa take over the territories. Also, many bird species are nesting and show off their bright breeding plumage during this time.

Red-headed weaver in breeding plumage
Red-headed weaver in breeding plumage
Cape weaver in breeding plumage
Cape weaver in breeding plumage
South Africa
Check best times to visit
South Africa