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Game Viewing and Birding in Cape Town

South Africa is a large country, ranked 25th by size in the world, and is situated in the temperate latitudes and subtropics. A range of climate types, and unique habitat types, contribute to its biodiversity and level of endemic species.

Wild animals in South Africa are protected in national parks, and game and wildlife farms, across the country. South Africa has well over 200 species of wild animals. There are more than 164 Game Parks in South Africa.

South Africa’s Big Five

The Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino and Buffalo make up what is known as the Big Five. The most unpredictable, and therefore the most dangerous of the Big Five animals is the Caped Buffalo. The term, Big Five, was originally coined by hunters to describe the five most difficult and dangerous wild animals to hunt on foot in Africa.

…the right stuff

Binoculars

A suitable binoculars and a great camera goes a long way to ensuring that you achieve satisfactory experiences on your trip. Binoculars are one of the first things to pack when going on your next African safari. In this guide, we will cover what to look for when choosing good binoculars for safari as well as a few handy tips and recommendations. There is no need to go overboard. Especially if you’ll only be using them once or twice in a lifetime. In safari, you will often need to spot animals hiding around large bushy areas. A wide field of view will allow you to achieve that. So, in our opinion, 8x or 10x is the perfect magnification for safari. Any more than that will result in an unstable image. You will be better off with lighter, smaller binoculars for safari so go for mid-sized (8×32 or 10×42) binoculars. These will be the perfect balance between magnification, lens size and weight.

Camera equipment

There are various levels of photographers that want to go on an African safari – some are just starting out, some want to upgrade, some have budget constraints while for others money is not an issue. Compact cameras simply cannot provide the picture quality and variety of settings that a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera does.

The start-up time and focusing speed of the cheap “point and shoot” cameras is just too slow for capturing most wildlife action. Also, the price of DSLR Cameras used to be very high but you can now get a DSLR for less than $1000. A good recommendation is the Nikon D5000, Nikon D90 (both 12.3 Megapixels) or the Nikon D7100/D7200 (24 Megapixels). The D90 and D7100/D7200 all have a built-in motor while the D5000 doesn’t.

It may seem to be an expensive financial outlay but keep in mind that animals are not always waiting by the side of the road to be photographed so good equipment to “Capture Memories” becomes one of the best investments you can make for such a memorable trip.

Game Reserves around Cape Town

There are a number of places to have a Game viewing experience close to Cape Town. Some as close as 3hour drive and others require an overnight stay. Although Cape Town is not really a safari destination it is possible to experience a good Cape Town Safari in any of the game reserves near Cape Town.

Safaris close to Cape Town
  • Aquila Safaris, 3 hours from Cape Town

This is possibly the most well known Cape Town safari

  • Inverdoorn, 3 hours from Cape Town, 10.000 hectares  

This game reserve offers a wide range of different accommodation. In 2012 they’ve introduced elephant to the reserve which makes it now a Big 5 Safari experience.

  • Fairy Glen, 1.5 hours from Cape Town

This would be the closest game reserve to Cape Town in Worcester.

  • Buffelsfontein, 1 hour from Cape Town, farm style, 1.600 hectares

It is ideal with kids because the farm is quite small and you can be assured to see some animals. It says 4 out of 5 of the Big 5 (Lion, Rhino, Buffalo and Leopard)

  • Sanbona, 3.5 hours from Cape Town,

Ultimate luxury African safari, no day tours from Cape Town. With 3 different lodges and the explorer’s camp, Sanbona offers luxury safaris.

  • Thali Thali Game Lodge, 1 hour from Cape Town

Farm style, 1.460 hectares…. this is a perfect 3 star safari near Cape Town for families with children. It mainly focuses on local travelers.

Safaris on  the Garden Route
  • Botlierskop, 4.200 hectares, about 4 hours drive from Cape Town

This game reserve offers luxury safari accommodation in 24 tented suites. There are separate programs for kids on safari, you can enjoy a safari on horseback. The recommendation is that you stay at least 2 nights. Recently 3 lions have been released into 1.000 hectare separate piece of land.

  • Garden Route Game Lodge

This safari on the Garden Route offers a different types luxury safari accommodation. Just like ALL the game reserves around Cape Town and on the Garden Route, The Garden Route Game Lodge is a malaria free safari experience which makes it an excellent choice to take the entire family and no malaria precaution is needed.

  • Gondwana Game Reserve, 11.000 hectares

This would be your most exclusive luxury safari on the Garden Route, about 4  hours drive from Cape Town International Airport. A very special offering at Gondwana is the Eco Camp Program where you can take an active role in in wildlife conservation.

Some of South Africa’s top Game Parks

1. Kruger Park (Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces)
The world renowned Kruger Park offers one of the best wildlife experiences in Africa.

2. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Northern Cape)
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated approximately 250 km from Upington in the far northern Cape and 904 km from Johannesburg.

3. Pilanesberg Game Reserve (North West Province)
The Pilanesberg National Park, which covers some 55 000 hectare, is the fourth largest in southern Africa.

4. Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Mpumalanga)
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is undoubtedly the most exclusive private game reserve in South Africa.

5. Mapungubwe National Park (Limpopo)
World Heritage Site | Mapungubwe National Park: The great ruins at Mapungubwe, in the Limpopo River Valley, show remains of the first and greatest ever South African kingdom to have flourished.

6. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park (Kwazulu Natal)
Set in the heart of Zululand this is the oldest game reserve in Africa

7. Shamwari Game Reserve (Eastern Cape)
Shamwari Game Reserve is the Southernmost, Big Game, private reserve in Africa – Malaria Free.

8. Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park (Kwazulu Natal)
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park was declared South
Africa’s first Natural World Heritage Site on 1 December 1999.

9. Addo Elephant Park (Eastern Cape)
Situated in a malaria free area just one hour’s drive from the South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth.

10. Madikwe Game Reserve (North West Province)
Madikwe is a “Big Five” game reserve situated 90 km north of Zeerust. Covering some 60,000 hectare, it is one of the largest game reserves in South Africa.

Birds

Of the approximately 850 species of birds that have been recorded in South Africa, about 725 are resident or annual visitors, and about 50 of these are endemic or near-endemic.

South Africa also hosts a number of intra-African migrants such as cuckoos, kingfishers,  birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica.

South Africa’s bird life ranges from the Ostrich,  Hornbills to the ubiquitous LBJs (“Little Brown Jobs”).

Birding spots around Cape Town

Cape Town has a huge variety of bird species, some of which are endemic and others that are migratory. The region is geographically diverse with Fynbos and Renosterveld being the most dominant natural vegetation types. Other types present are patches of Afromontane forest and Karroid scrubland. The great botanical biodiversity has led to the Fynbos Biome being described as one of the Six Floral Kingdoms of the world. The region has mostly a Mediterranean climate, with wet winters and hot dry summers.

Here are some of the top birding spots around Cape Town. It is most advisable to use a local Tourist Guide who knows the area.

  1. Boulder’s Beach. Famous for its colony of African Penguins, Boulder’s Beach is definitely one of the must-visit destinations for birding enthusiasts. …
  2. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
  3. Table Mountain.
  4. West Coast National Park.
  5. Rondevlei Nature Reserve
  6. Zeekoevlei
  7. Strandfontein Sewerage Plant
  8. Langebaan Lagoon
  9. Tygerberg Nature Reserve
  10. Milnerton Lagoon
  11. Helderberg Nature Reserve
  12. Harold Porter Botanical Gardens

Please feel free to contact us regarding Birding and Game Viewing around Cape Town

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