Eastern South Africa Highlights #1: Drakensberg & Zululand

This South Africa Birding Tour for January covers KwaZulu-Natal Province. KwaZulu-Natal is the home of the famous Zulu Nation. And in natural history terms it’s a gifted area – amazingly diverse and stunningly beautiful. It also holds an incredible number and variety of bird species. We’ll be tracking down many of the top bird species. These range from Drakensberg Rockjumper at 3000 meters-above-sea-level to stunning Pink-throated Twinspots in the forests of the coastal plain. We’ll be aiming to see well over 300 species of birds. Among these are a number of endemics and other specials. In addition, we’ll be looking for all manner of mammals, thus creating a well-rounded South Africa birding and wildlife experience. Moreover, January is a great time for this Birdwatching tour in South Africa. It’s the height of the southern summer, when breeding and activity is at a climax.

Areas covered:

We start this eastern South Africa birding tour in Umhlanga near Durban. From there we visit the central Drakensberg, with a day trip up Sani Pass and into Lesotho as one of the highlights of the tour. After the Drakensberg we’ll move down to Eshowe, where we’ll explore a wonderful patch of coastal scarp forest. Our next stop is St Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It’s a wonderful destination, based around a massive wetland and estuarine system. Tembe Elephant Park is our next stop. Here sand forest birding and big game viewing will keep us occupied and enthralled. Lastly, we’ll make our way to Wakkerstroom, one of South Africa’s top birding areas. To conclude, the tour then ends off in Johannesburg.


Your accommodation on this South Africa birding safari is of a medium-plus standard. It includes a country guest house, several B&B’s and a tented safari lodge. Importantly, all accommodations have en-suite facilities, and are clean and comfortable.

The birding:

The birds to be seen on this birding safari will amaze you! Habitats range from the high-altitude heath of Lesotho to the lush forest and grasslands of the east coast. And the variety of birds to be seen is incredible! Some of our target species are Drakensberg Rockjumper, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Bush Blackcap, Lammergeier, Cape Vulture, Palm-nut Vulture, Green Batrbet, Blue Crane (wow!), Blue Korhaan, Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Livingstone’s Turaco, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Pink-throated Twinsot and plenty more.

The mammals:

KwaZulu-Natal also has plenty of wildlife. Mammals we’ll be looking out for include Samango Monkey, Natal Red Duiker, Blue Duiker, Nyala, Red Squirrel, South African Giraffe, Hippo, African Elephant, Lion, Leopard (with some luck!). We may even see Cetaceans such as Humpback Whale. In addition, there’s a range of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects to be seen. All in all a superb South Africa birding and wildlife experience!

In conclusion, this eastern South Africa birding safari showcases a terrific range of habitats and landscapes. The focus is on the birds and mammals, and these will not disappoint! Good food and lovely accommodations round off the experience nicely. This safari doubles up with Eastern South Africa Highlights #2: Escarpment & Kruger set-departure to create a comprehensive eastern South Africa birding safari. Participants can sign up for one or both of these safaris. For those wanting to do both, it will be necessary to spend one night in between in Johannesburg (for own account).



Tour in brief

Areas visited: Umhlanga, Port Shepstone, Sani Pass, Eshowe, St Lucia, Tembe Elephant Park, Wakkerstroom.

Expected weather conditions: the coastal regions will be hot and humid, whereas the interior at Wakkerstroom should be warm but pleasant, possibly cool during the evenings. Sani Pass has highly variable weather, as such, a warm jacket and waterproof shell is advised. Rain is a possibility this time of year.

Tour tempo: medium to medium-plus, optional mid-day breaks (advisable considering on hot days), no serious walking.

Accommodation standards: medium to medium plus; guest houses and lodges.

Birding in brief: excellent variety of habitats; a mix of coastal dune forest, Bushveld, altitudinal grassland and mountains.

Top birds: Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture, Palm-nut Vulture, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Bush Blackcap, Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit, Jackal Buzzard, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks, Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, White-bellied Bustard, Blue Korhaan, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Green Malkoha, Rudd’s Apalis and Livingstone’s Turaco.

Mammal viewing: good game viewing in areas with special species such as Blue Duiker, Suni, Samango Monkey, Slogget’s Rat and Ongoye Red Squirrel. Tembe and Ndumo offer a good chance for large game such as African Elephant, Lion, African Buffalo and White Rhinoceros.

Special activities included: Boat trip on the St Lucia estuary, day trip up Sani Pass in 4 x 4 vehicles.

Other wildlife and attractions: the Lebombo Mountains, Pongola River floodplain, Nsumo Pan, iSimangaliso World Heritage Site.

Add-ons: this trip can be combined with our Eastern SA Highlights #2: Escarpment & Kruger tour, 2 – 10 February 2019, to create a comprehensive eastern South Africa birding experience. Enquire for more information.


2021: ZAR 53 320 per person sharing, ZAR 2 575 single supplement

Price may be subject to change based on factors beyond our control. 


  • Accommodation
  • All breakfasts and dinners
  • Lunches at Tembe and on the full day up Sani Pass
  • Entrance fees
  • Ground transport
  • Boat excursion at St Lucia
  • Bottled water in Lawson’s vehicle whilst travelling
  • Personalised checklists
  • Specialist guide fees


  • All airfares
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Lunches (except at Tembe and on the Sani Pass day trip)
  • All drinks
  • Optional excursions where applicable
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature


  • This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.
  • The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of the possible ones we may see on the tour, however, none of these can be guaranteed even though every effort will be made where possible to locate them. A full list of possibles appears on your checklist.

Participants ideally need to overnight in Umhlanga on the night before the tour starts. We are happy to arrange this accommodation. Tour ends in Johannesburg on the late afternoon of the last day of the tour in time for evening transcontinental flights. Please check with us before booking any flights.