Four of our luxury bush escapes, The Outpost Lodge, Pel’s Post, Ekuthuleni Lodge and Tshwene Lodge offer unrivalled birdwatching opportunities. Indeed, the Makuleke Contractual Park, in which The Outpost and Pel’s Post are situated, has been identified as one of the very best birding destinations in South Africa, if not the world. Most people believe birding is an art that takes years to master but in fact you have no need to be intimidated. We’ve put together a basic guide which we hope will set you on the right track.
1. READ UP
Start by getting your hands on a well-written field guide, this will be the most important thing you invest in as a birder. There is no need to try and memorise all the birds all at once, look through your field guide and familiarise yourself with the different bird families, where they live and in what seasons. This will help you narrow down your search when you are out in the field.
A good field guide should contain detailed descriptions about specific birds, their habitat, migration patterns, diet and even a description of their calls and songs. It should have pictures or illustrations of both the male and female species, as well as any plumage variations. We love the Roberts Bird Guide, which covers nearly 1,000 species found in southern Africa.
While we feel a physical field guide is an absolute must (the battery never runs out and there is no need for wifi), there are also a host of new apps on the market that are making birding easier for everyone. We love these two apps that include extensive photography and bird call audio clips, making it easy for the newbie birder to get stuck in.
If you’re planning a trip to The Outpost Lodge or Pel’s Post, read our article on the most commonly seen birds and ‘specials’ in the area and find out more about why this area is just so out of this world.
2. GEAR UP
The fantastic thing about birding is how little equipment is actually necessary. Next to your field guide, you will want a decent pair of binoculars and then you are all set. In the beginning, you don’t need to be too fussy about the binoculars. A pair of binoculars with 8x magnification will certainly be good enough and as you progress you can upgrade to something more powerful. Make sure to test your binoculars before buying them, look for a pair that’s waterproof and focuses easily. As you get better, you may want to invest in a nice camera but that is by no means required.
3. GET OUT
The time has come to actually get outside. Bring your binoculars and use that field guide. Study a few of the common species in the area you are visiting, learn their songs and understand their behaviour. If you feel overwhelmed, simply pick a bird you’ve never seen before, that you know frequents the area at that time of year and go find it. And that’s it, you’re a birder!
An African safari is a great starting point for those new to birding. Our expert guides will offer invaluable tips and insights into birding in the area, walking you through each new sighting and helping you tick off as many new birds as possible.
The Outpost and Pel’s Post lie in the Makuleke Contractual Park, a vast and remote wilderness that measures some 26 500 hectares in the very north of the Kruger Park. The region is well known for its abundant, year-round birdlife with over 350 recorded bird species in the area and an impressive list of specials. We offer guided birding and walking safaris, tailor-made for you, and we are lucky to have one of the best birding specialists in South Africa in our midst, Samuel Japane. His knowledge and passion for birding is truly second to none. Read our Q&A with Samuel Japane for a more in-depth insight into birding in the far north of the Kruger National Park.
WELGEVONDEN PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
The Welgevonden Private Game Reserve is just three hours drive from Johannesburg and we’re lucky to call it home for our two lodges, Ekuthuleni Lodge and Tshwene Lodge. With approximately 300 bird species to be spotted in this magnificent stretch of bushveld, Welgevonden is a bird lovers paradise.