Your Birding Guide to the Best Bird-watching Destinations in Africa

by Sandy Salle on October 25, 2012

birding safari

Whether you’re a veteran birder, new to the beautiful world of birding, or have never birded in your life, Africa is hands-down one of the top places on earth to witness captivating bird species (many of which are endemic to various countries throughout Africa and can be found nowhere else on earth).

And, if birding has never really been an interest for you in the past, I assure you that you’ll discover a new interest in birding as soon as you step onto African soil!

Below are some of our clients’ favorite places to go birding, as well as a look at what you can expect on a birding safari in Africa (the below information is Part I of this blog series on birds):

Image to the left of rosy-faced lovebirds (copyright Ian Merrill) taken from


Namibia: Celebrated around the world as a top birding destination, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Etosha National Park, as well as a handful of other reserves and regions throughout Namibia, are rich with over 650 species of bird—13 of which are endemic to Namibia. The African fish eagle is actually Namibia’s national bird and can be found hunting for fish in Namibia’s floodplains.

Where to go in Namibia:

Caprivi Strip: Specifically, the Caprivi Strip is a large area comprised of diverse eco-systems, including riverine forests, floodplains, grasslands, and papyrus and, therefore, offers visitors the chance to witness hundreds of bird species—more specifically, over 400 different types of species. Some of the most beautiful species to witness in the Caprivi Strip include the Pel’s fishing owl and white-backed night heron.

Etosha National Park: In Etosha National Park, travelers will find a wealth of bird species, including raptors and falcons, as well as the endemic Ruppells parrot, bare-cheeked babbler, rockrunner, and the elusive Hartlaub’s Francolin.

Most interesting birds: Rockrunner, rosy-faced lovebird, chestnut-banded plover, violet-eared waxbill, marico flycatcher, Harlaub’s Francolin, dune lark, rosy-breasted longclaw, Pel’s fishing owl, African wood owl, African pygmy goose, and SO many more!

Best time to go: Although birding can be done year-round in Namibia, the best time to go is during the summer months (October – April).

South Africa: From Kruger National Park, to the eastern and western areas of South Africa, travelers to South Africa find it to be one of the most rewarding destinations to witness endemic and stunning bird species. With more than 825 bird species and more than 100 species that are endemic or near-endemic, South Africa is a playground for dedicated birders looking to check off their most prized bird lists.

Where to go in South Africa:

Kruger National Park: A must for bird lovers, Kruger National Park is home to hundreds of residential bird species, as well as nearly 200 migrant species during the months between October and March (this is the best time to visit Kruger National Park for birding). Here, you’ll also find a great number of birds of prey, including eagles, owls, kites, vultures, and falcons.

Africa birding safari

birding safari

It is also suggested that when visiting Kruger, stay near to lakes and riverine forest, where many of the more celebrated birds can be found.

The Western Cape: Comprised of varying terrain and eco-systems, the Western Cape is a fantastic place to witness a wide range of bird species. From the West Coast National Park to the semi-desert of Tanqua Karoo, and the Fynbos and mountainous region of the Cape coast, bird lovers will encounter a delightful mix of endemic, migratory, and more common species of bird.

The best time to go birding in the Western Cape is during South Africa’s springtime (September – October), when birds such as the Cape clapper lark, blue crane, Karoo eremomela, black-headed canary, Cape sugarbird, and orange-breasted sunbird can be seen.

Most interesting birds: Martial eagle, saddlebilled stork, ostrich, African hawk eagle, Brown snake eagle, brown-headed parrot, African pygmy kingfisher, bateleur, bee-eaters, thick-billed cuckoo, blue crane, Knysna woodpecker, African black oystercatcher, lemon-breasted canary, Cape gannet, thrush nightingale, stierling’s wren-warbler, and more!

birding safari africa

birding safari

**And, of course, don’t forget to visit Cape Town’s penguin colony on Boulders Beach!

Best time to go: This depends on the region you travel to. See the “Where to go in South Africa” section for the best time to go birding in each region of South Africa.

Some of the other top birding destinations in Africa include Zambia, Uganda, Botswana, and Madagascar, which we will cover in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

birding safari

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leigh October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am

My husband and I have enjoyed the birding aspect of our African travels as much as our animal safaris – and more sometimes.

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