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Best Birding Destinations in Southern Africa

Explore our recommendations for some of the best places to go birding in Southern Africa



Marketing assistant
Published on

15 Mar 2024

Updated on

15 Apr 2024

Best birding in SA

Southern Africa is a region that captivates the hearts and souls of birdwatchers from around the world. From the iconic savannas teeming with majestic raptors to the lush wetlands that serve as a haven for an array of waterbirds, this part of the world offers an unparalleled array of habitats and bird species that will leave even the most seasoned birders in awe.

The sheer diversity of avian life found across Southern Africa is truly staggering, with each country and protected area boasting its own unique blend of resident and migratory species. From the towering mountain ranges to the arid landscapes of the Kalahari Desert, the region's varied topography and climates have given rise to an incredible range of ecosystems, each supporting a distinct assemblage of feathered inhabitants.

Sunbird Malawi
Eastern Miombo Sunbird, Malawi

Birders venturing into this avian paradise can expect to encounter a kaleidoscope of colours, shapes, and behaviours, with everything from the diminutive sunbirds to the imposing eagles vying for their attention. The rich tapestry of birdlife is further enriched by the region's cultural and historical heritage, creating a truly immersive and unforgettable experience for those who choose to explore its wonders.

Throughout this vast and diverse region, a handful of destinations stand out as true meccas for avian enthusiasts, offering unparalleled opportunities to witness and appreciate the incredible diversity of birdlife. In this blog, we'll embark on a journey through these world-class birding hotspots, exploring their unique attractions, highlighting the must-see species, and providing invaluable insights to help you plan the ultimate birding adventure.

Black Chested Snake Eagle South Africa
Black Chested Snake Eagle, Kruger

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Spanning an impressive 19,633 square kilometres, Kruger National Park is a true icon of South African wildlife and a mecca for birders from around the world. This vast expanse of pristine wilderness is home to an astonishing diversity of bird species, with over 500 recorded within its borders.

One of the park's most sought-after avian attractions is the Big Six – a prestigious group comprising the Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel's Fishing Owl, and Saddle-billed Stork. Witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is an experience that will leave even the most seasoned birders in awe.

Kori Bustards Botswana
Kori Bustards

Beyond the Big Six, Kruger National Park offers a wealth of birding opportunities. Kruger's diverse habitats harbours an incredible collection of birds, including the vividly-coloured Purple-crested Turaco, the ostrich, the spectacular Racket-tailed Roller, and the comical Go-away-bird. Raptors like the Black Chested Snake Eagle, Bateleur, and Wahlberg's Eagle soar overhead

Stay at Jock Safari Lodge to enjoy the park from a beautiful setting with bird life all around, particularly given its location where the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers flow as one.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta, a vast inland delta system in northern Botswana, is a true oasis in the heart of the Kalahari Desert. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a wetland paradise that attracts an incredible diversity of birdlife, making it a must-visit destination for any serious birder.

African Fish Eagle
African Fish Eagle

One of the most iconic species found in the Okavango Delta is the African Fish Eagle, with its distinctive call echoing across the waterways. These majestic raptors can often be spotted perched atop trees or soaring overhead, their keen eyes scanning the waters for their next meal.

A paradise for waterbirds like the prehistoric-looking Shoebill, the elegant Wattled Crane, and a kaleidoscope of herons, egrets, and ibises. The papyrus swamps hide specialties like the Coppery-tailed Coucal and Greater Swamp Warbler. Woodlands host the Red-crested Korhaan and Bradfield's Hornbill among others.

Kwara Camp is nestled on the edge of a lagoon in the heart of the Delta and offers a terrific site to launch your birding forays from.

Coppery Tailed Coucal Botswana
Coppery Tailed Council

St Lucia's Wetland, South Africa

Nestled along the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the St. Lucia Wetlands form part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its exceptional biodiversity and conservation efforts. This vast expanse of coastal lakes, swamps, and estuaries is a birder's paradise, offering a wealth of opportunities to observe a diverse array of avian species.

Pink backed pelican africa
Pink-backed Pelican

One of the highlights of the St. Lucia Wetlands is the chance to witness the majestic Pink-backed Pelican, one of the largest birds in the region. These elegant birds can often be seen gliding gracefully over the water or roosting in large colonies, their distinctive pink plumage a striking sight against the lush backdrop.

Narina Trogon Africa
Narina Trogon

Home to coastal specialties like the Palm-nut Vulture and Brown-headed Parrot. Forest birding may reveal the stunning Narina Trogon, Rudd's Apalis, Woodwards' Batis, and Green Twinspot. Waterbirds include the Lesser Jacana, African Fish Eagles, and flocks of Openbill Storks.

Use Thonga Beach Lodge as your base to discover everything the parks has to offer as well as being able to explore the beautiful coast from there.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, situated in the northwestern corner of Botswana, is renowned for its incredible concentration of elephants. However, this vast wilderness area is also a haven for birdwatchers, offering a wealth of opportunities to observe a diverse array of avian species.

One of the highlights of birding in Chobe National Park is the opportunity to explore the Chobe River, a lifeline for many species. Here, visitors can embark on boat safaris, which provide unparalleled views of the riverine birds, including the striking African Finfoot, the colourful Malachite Kingfisher, and the graceful African Skimmer.

Malachite Kingfisher Botswana
Malachite Kingfisher

Away from the river, the park's savannas and woodlands are home to a rich array of raptors, such as the imposing Martial Eagle, the elegant Bateleur, and the striking Tawny Eagle. The dry woodlands host birds like the Rosy Throated Longclaw and Arnot's Chat, while the grasslands have species such as Dickinson's Kestrel, Luapula Cisticola, and Fawn-coloured Lark. The rivers attract African Skimmers, Rock Pratincoles, and breeding Carmine Bee-eaters.

Muchenje Safari Lodge offers peace and quiet as a base from which to explore the park and the bird life in it.

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Nestled in the eastern part of Zambia, South Luangwa National Park is widely regarded as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, and it's no different when it comes to birding. With over 400 recorded species, this vast expanse of wilderness offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness some of the continent's most sought-after avian gems.

Pels fishing owl Botswana
Pel's Fishing Owl

One of the park's most prized attractions for birders is the chance to spot the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl, a rare and enigmatic species that haunts the banks of the Luangwa River and its tributaries. Equally sought-after is the stunning Bohm's Bee-eater, a species renowned for its striking plumage and unique nesting behaviour.

Bohms Bee eater Zambia
Bohm's Bee-eater

Beyond these iconic species, South Luangwa National Park offers a wealth of birding opportunities. Along the riverine habitats, top targets include the African Spoonbill, Chaplin's Barbet, Goliath Heron, and Scalyfeathered Finch. The mopane woodlands are home to Western-banded Snake Eagle, Racket-tailed Roller, Miombo Rock-thrush, and more.

Explore the park from Kafunta River Lodge, so you can rest in luxury between your outings or just enjoy birding from the comfort of the main deck.

Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nestled along the mighty Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, Mana Pools National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its stunning scenery and incredible wildlife encounters. For birders, this pristine wilderness area is a true paradise, offering a wealth of opportunities to observe a diverse array of avian species in their natural habitats.

Yellow billed storks displaying africa
Yellow-billed Stork displaying

One of the highlights of birding in Mana Pools is the chance to witness breeding colonies of the majestic Yellow-billed Stork, a species that congregates in large numbers along the Zambezi's floodplains during the breeding season. A paradise for raptors like Bateleurs, African Hawk-Eagles, and White-headed Vultures. The riverbanks host Rock Pratincoles and Collared Palm Thrushes. The forests have species like Livingstone's Turacos, African Broadbills, and Racket-tailed Rollers.

In addition to the park's resident avian population, Mana Pools is also a significant stopover point for migratory birds, making it an ideal destination for birders throughout the year. During the Austral summer months, the park plays host to a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants, adding even more diversity to the already impressive bird list.

Bataleur Eagle Africa
Bataleur Eagle

Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Situated along the Shire River in southern Malawi, Liwonde National Park is a true gem for birders seeking an unforgettable African experience. This relatively small but incredibly biodiverse park is home to over 400 recorded bird species, including some of the region's most sought-after rarities.

One of the park's biggest drawcards for birders is the chance to spot the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl, a species that has become increasingly difficult to find in many parts of its range. The riverine forests and oxbow lagoons that line the Shire River provide ideal habitat for this enigmatic raptor, as well as a host of other birds, including the striking African Finfoot, the Green Malkoha and the Brown-Breasted Barbet.

African Finfoot
African Finfoot

Away from the river, Liwonde National Park offers a wealth of other birding opportunities. The park's diverse habitats, which range from mopane woodlands to thickets and open grasslands, provide refuge for a variety of species, including the elusive Lillian's Lovebird, the colourful Miombo Pied Barbet, and the striking Racket-tailed Roller.

For those seeking a truly unique birding experience, Liwonde National Park offers the opportunity to explore its avian wonders on foot or by boat, providing an intimate and immersive experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

To truly get the best experience, stay at Mvuu Lodge along the Shire River which offers birding trips to help you get the most out of the park.

Racket tailed Roller Africa
Racket Tailed Roller

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, the Mother City of South Africa, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and exceptional birding opportunities. This coastal metropolis and its surroundings offer a diverse range of habitats, from the fynbos-covered slopes of Table Mountain to the wetlands and estuaries that dot the coastline.

One of the highlights of birding in Cape Town is the chance to observe the endemic species that call this region home. The Cape Sugarbird, with its striking plumage and long, curved bill, is a true delight to witness as it flits from flower to flower in the fynbos vegetation. Similarly, the Orange-breasted Sunbird, with its vibrant colours and distinctive call, is a sought-after species for birders visiting the area.

Cape sugarbird capetown south africa
Cape Sugarbird

Venturing into the wetlands and estuaries around Cape Town offers a completely different birding experience. Here, visitors can observe a wealth of waterbirds, including the elegant African Spoonbill, the striking Black-crowned Night Heron, and the elusive African Marsh Harrier.

African Penguin South Africa
African Penguin

For those seeking a truly unique birding experience, a visit to Robben Island, the former prison that housed Nelson Mandela, offers the opportunity to observe a thriving colony of African Penguins. These charismatic seabirds can be seen waddling along the beaches and swimming in the surrounding waters, providing a delightful sight for visitors.

Enjoy the quiet comfort of Cape View Clifton as a base to enjoy everything that Cape Town has to offer, including the beautiful birding.


Southern Africa is a region that truly captivates the hearts and souls of birdwatchers from around the world. From the iconic savannas of Kruger National Park to the lush wetlands of the Okavango Delta, this part of the world offers an unparalleled array of habitats and bird species that will leave even the most seasoned birders in awe.

As we have explored in this blog, the region boasts a wealth of world-class birding destinations, each offering its own unique set of avian wonders and unforgettable experiences. Whether you're seeking the thrill of spotting the Big Six in Kruger, the serenity of gliding through the Okavango Delta's waterways in search of elusive species, or the chance to witness the vibrant birdlife of Cape Town's diverse landscapes, Southern Africa has something to offer every birder.

Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver

Beyond the destinations highlighted here, the region is home to a myriad of other exceptional birding hotspots, each with its own unique blend of avian treasures waiting to be discovered. As you plan your birding adventure, it's essential to keep in mind the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism practices, supporting conservation efforts and adhering to ethical birding guidelines to ensure that these incredible destinations remain pristine for future generations.

So, whether you're a seasoned twitcher or a casual observer, Southern Africa promises an unforgettable birding experience that will leave you awestruck and inspired. Pack your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an adventure through some of the most incredible birding destinations on the planet.

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  • Ali


    Africa Specialist

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Looking for more birding spots?

Read about some of the other great locations for birding as well as more info about the Southern Africa destinations

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