Inala's Western South Africa Birds, Mammals and Wildflowers Tour 2019 (21st Aug - 7th Sept)

 Crimson-breasted Shrike by Adam Riley
Crimson-breasted Shrike by Adam Riley
Tour date: 
Wednesday, 21 August 2019 to Saturday, 7 September 2019
Duration: 
18 days
Price: 
Tour Price: AUD$11,460 per person twin share. Single supplement AU$700.
Overview: 

HURRY ONLY 4 PLACES LEFT

We are offering this trip again in 2019 due to the huge amount of interest generated from the huge success of our 2017 South African trip. But this time it is even bigger and better with more species possible!

On this tour, we journey from South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town, through the planet’s smallest and richest floral kingdom to the sands of the Kalahari Desert. In our quest for endemic birds and wildflower displays we will encounter some of the continent’s most exciting mammals from the endearing meerkat to the mighty African Lion...
This year the itinerary also includes a visit to a game farm near Kimberley to see a range of rarely-seen species such as Aardvark, Aardwolf, Cape Porcupine, the rare Black-footed Cat and Cape Hedgehog.

Start Location: 
Cape Town
South Africa
Finish location: 
Johannesburg
South Africa

Hurry only 4 places left

Inala’s Western South Africa Birds, Mammals and Wildflowers Tour 2019
21st August to 7th September (18 days)

We are offering this trip again in 2019 due to the huge amount of interest generated from the huge success of our 2017 South African trip. But this time it is even bigger and better with more species possible!
On this tour, we journey from South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town, through the planet’s smallest and richest floral kingdom to the sands of the Kalahari Desert. In our quest for endemic birds and wildflower displays we will encounter some of the continent’s most exciting mammals from the endearing meerkat to the mighty African Lion...
This year the itinerary also includes a visit to a game farm near Kimberley to see a range of rarely-seen species such as Aardvark, Aardwolf, Cape Porcupine, the rare Black-footed Cat and Cape Hedgehog.

ITINERARY OUTLINE
Day 1, Wed 21 Aug. Arrive Cape Town & transfer to hotel
Day 2. Thu 22 Aug. Cape Town to Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Day 3, Fri 23 Aug. Rooi-Els, Betty’s Bay and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens
Day 4. Sat 24 Aug. Cape Town environs, including Kirstenbosch, to Langebaan
Day 5. Sun 25 Aug. West Coast National Park
Day 6. Mon 26 Aug. Langebaan to Nieuwoudtville
Day 7. Tue 27 Aug. Nieuwoudtville area
Day 8. Wed 28 Aug. Nieuwoudtville to Springbok
Day 9. Thu 29 Aug. Springbok to Augrabies Falls National Park
Day 10. Fri 30 Aug. Augrabies Falls NP
Day 11. Sat 31 Aug. Augrabies Falls NP to Van Zylsrus
Day 12. Sun 1 Sept. Morning with the Meerkats and on to Twee Rivieren
Days 13 & 14. Mon 2 & Tue 3 Sept. Kgalagadi NP
Day 15. Wed 4 Sept. Twee Rivieren to Marrick
Day 16. Thu 5 Sept. Explore Marrick
Day 17. Fri 6 Sept. Mokala NP
Day 18. Sat 7 Sept. Kimberley to Johannesburg & depart

DETAILED ITINERARY:
Day 1. Wednesday 21 August 2019. Arrive Cape Town & transfer to hotel. We request that all participants arrive today which allows us to maximise our touring on the first day of our itinerary. We will organise a private transfer for each group as they arrive at the airport and the group will meet for a welcome dinner at 18:30.
Accommodation: Hotel overlooking False Bay at Simons Town, near Cape Town (en suite rooms) Meals included: Dinner.

Day 2. Thursday 22 August 2019: Cape Town to Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. We will start our tour with a visit to the famous African Penguin colony at nearby Boulders Beach. Here, as many as five hundred penguins grace the beach and we will enjoy superb viewing and photographic opportunities. Here we will also look out for the endemic African Oystercatcher along the adjacent rocky shorelines, and scan an offshore islet for breeding populations of endemic Crowned, Bank and Cape Cormorants. In the afternoon, we continue south along the scenic Atlantic coastline to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The scenery, at the south-westerly tip of the African continent, is wild, rugged and spectacular. Here we will get our first insight into the uniqueness and beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The thick stands of Protea support the magnificent Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird. Several interesting mammals occur here and we have a good chance of seeing Rock Hyrax, Bontebok, Chacma Baboon and if we are lucky the rare Cape Mountain Zebra. We conclude the day with a breath-taking coastal drive through the quaint villages of Scarborough and Kommetjie.
Accommodation: Hotel overlooking False Bay at Simons Town, near Cape Town (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Friday 23 August 2019. Rooi-Els, Betty’s Bay and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. A diverse array of birding habitats are present around Cape Town and today we will visit a variety of sites, ranging from wetlands to fynbos and marine shoreline. We will make our way early to the rugged Hottentots-Holland Mountains in search of one of South Africa’s finest endemics: the handsome Cape Rockjumper. Though strikingly plumaged and conspicuous by their vocalisations, these charismatic birds possess an incredible ability to disappear amongst the boulders and we will need a dash of luck to get good sightings of these elusive creatures. Rocky outcrops here also support the odd Ground Woodpecker as well as Chacma Baboon and the agile Klipspringer, a unique and highly specialised antelope. The sandy and highly acidic substrate here supports rich mountain flora littered with an interesting variety of bulbs and annuals. A staggering 1600 plant species have been recorded in the area, with over 150 of these endemic to the region. After lunch we will explore the nearby Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, famous among bird and plant enthusiasts. We will amble through the cultivated and wild areas on the lookout for Gladioli, Watsonia and Erica species in flower as well as rare Gondwanan species such as the Mountain Cypress Widdringtonia nodiflora and Real Yellowwood Podocarpus latifolius. Bird highlights may include Black Saw-wing, Bar-throated Apalis and Swee Waxbill. For those with diverse interests this Botanical Garden is also a local hotspot for dragonflies. In the late afternoon we will make our way back to Cape Town with a stop at the Harmony Flats Nature Reserve if time permits; this tiny reserve is the only protected area which conserves Lourensford Alluvial Fynbos – often considered the most threatened vegetation type in South Africa!
Accommodation: Hotel overlooking False Bay at Simons Town, near Cape Town (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Saturday 24 August 2019. Cape Town environs (Kirstenbosch) to Langebaan. We begin the day with a visit to the immaculately landscaped Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens nestled on the slopes of Table Mountain. Here we will spend a few hours strolling around the many fascinating displays variety of this world-famous botanical garden. The gardens are also home to a plethora of endemic birds restricted to the Macchia-like vegetation of the southern tip of Africa and we should find the endemic Cape Grassbird and attractive Southern Double-collared Sunbird as well as the spectacular Malachite Sunbird. The natural vegetation surrounding the gardens is one of the few places where species such as the Silver Tree (Leucadendron argenteum) grows in the wild. In the mid-morning we will make our way up the West coast, stopping at Tienie Versveld Wildflower Reserve. The granitic soils of the reserve can hold some very impressive spring flower displays and we hope for a variety of Babiana, Ixia, Lachenalia and Drosera species in flower. Two birds of note include the distinctive, localised sub-species of both Cape Clapper Lark and Cloud Cisticola.
Accommodation: B&B in Langebaan. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Sunday 25 August 2019. West Coast National Park (WCNP). We have the whole day to explore the avian, mammal and floral wonders of the West Coast National Park, including the globally important wetland site of Langebaan Lagoon. Here large numbers of waders spend the northern winter here and we will scan for shorebirds including Kittlitz’s Plover, the localised Chestnut-banded Plover and Terek Sandpiper. In addition, these areas also support large numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler and other waterfowl. This also happens to be one of the best places on earth to search for the very striking Black Harrier, a regional endemic and a highly sought-after species! If all is well and we have had a good wet year, we can also expect one of the world’s most remarkable wildflower displays. Here, in the Postberg section of the reserve (which is only open to the public in August-September during the wildflower season), the typically green and rather drab hills transform into an extravagance of colour and beauty that is sure to take your breath away. Unique mammals that we will keep a lookout for include Cape Grysbok, Cape Mountain Zebra and if we are very fortunate, Caracal, a spectacular medium sized wild cat resembling a lynx.
Accommodation: B&B in Langebaan as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Monday 26 August 2019. Langebaan to Nieuwoudtville. After breakfast we will make our way to the nearby Berg River estuary where the rich, slow-flowing waters support a great selection of shorebirds. This site is especially good for Chestnut-banded Plover and often houses South African rarities like Red-necked Phalarope. Continuing north we will make a stop at Paleisheuwel, just south of Clanwilliam, arguably the best and most accessible site in the world for Protea Canary. In the late afternoon, we will make our way up the dramatic Van Rhyns Pass to the small town of Nieuwoudtville, gateway to the spring flower displays of Namaqualand.
Accommodation: B&B in Niewoudtville. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7. Tuesday 27 August 2019. Nieuwoudtville area.  This lonely but beautiful corner of South Africa is a visual joy in spring, and the day will be spent exploring farms and reserves in the area for the best spring flower displays and enjoying the wildlife of the area. Of particular interest to us here is the diversity of bulbs (nowhere else in the world are bulbs as diverse as they are here!) in addition to the numerous plants endemic to the area. In this relatively small region we find as many as four different plant biomes converging, creating one of the richest areas for plants in the world. Today is bound to be a very memorable day for us all as we uncover the area’s fascinating plant life. Whilst in the area we may visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, where we will look for Pale-winged Starling and the highly sought-after Ground Woodpecker, and the Nieuwoudtville Wildflower Reserve, where we are sure to find numerous flowering geophytes, including representatives of well-known genera like Gladiolus, Bulbinella, Romulea, Ixia and the amazingly decorative Geissorhiza.
Accommodation: B&B in Niewoudtville as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 8. Wednesday 28 August 2019. Nieuwoudtville to Springbok.  After a spell of birding around our accommodations we will commence the drive north. Not long after departing we enter the Knersvlakte, a desolate and barren looking land with a gently undulating topography. The barren appearance belies the treasure-chest of stone plants (Vygies and Lithops of the family Aizoaceae (Mesembryanthemaceae) that litter these quartz plains. We are now in the heart of the succulent capital of the world and will leave the confines of the car to amble this wild garden of miniature, fleshy-leaved plants. By way of birds these plains are home to the wondrous Secretarybird, the endemic Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Ant-eating Chat and Cape Crow, among many others.  Further north the landscape turns more rugged as we pass through tiny remote farming settlements. In the flat areas we will look for Karoo Lark and Karoo Chat. If time permits, we will make for Skilpad Wildflower Reserve that showcases a wonderful selection of spring flowers, including a variety of daisies, bulbs and geraniums. The ghostly but spectacular tree aloe (Aloe dichotoma) will become evident as we approach the town of Springbok. In the late afternoon we will explore gravel roads in the area for some of the more difficult species like Black-headed Canary, Black-eared Sparrow-Lark and Ludwig's Bustard.
Accommodation: Springbok B & B. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 9. Thursday 29 August 2019. Springbok to Augrabies Falls National Park. This morning we will visit the famed Goegap Nature Reserve, notable for its superb birding, great displays of wildflowers, and interesting selection of mammals, including Klipspringer, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and Chacma Baboon. Birds of interest to us in this parched wilderness include Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Karoo Eremomela and Layard’s Warbler. Leaving Namaqualand and the wildflower heartland behind us, we now enter the stark beauty of Bushmanland. The massive nests of the Sociable Weaver will become apparent and we will keep our eyes open for the endearing Pygmy Falcon that often uses these big nests to roost. In the early afternoon we arrive at the impressive Augrabies Falls where we will have time to enjoy a walk around the chalets and view the marvellous falls as it thunders through a tiny gap in the rocks and pours into the gorge below. In wet years this makes for a very impressive spectacle indeed! In the Camelthorn Acacia trees in the camp we will enjoy the rich birdlife and mammals of the area including Rock Hyrax and Klipspringer. In the early evening, we will take a night drive into the park in an attempt to find Cape Eagle-Owl, Cape Porcupine, Small Spotted Genet, Cape Hare, the rather bizarre-looking Springhare and Bat-eared Fox.
Accommodation: Augrabies Falls NP (en suite chalet). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 10. Friday 30 August 2019. Augrabies Falls National Park. Today we have a full day to explore the variety of dramatic landscapes within Augrabies Falls National Park. The lunar-like, rocky outcrops and steep cliff faces not far from camp are home to Black Stork, Pale-winged Starling, Peregrine Falcon, Short-toed Rock Thrush and Verreaux’s Eagle. Beautiful, multi-coloured Broadley’s Flat Lizards are conspicuous as they sun themselves on the granite rocks. As we explore these breath-taking but barren landscapes we will also enjoy mammal viewing with the chance to see Slender Mongoose, the striking Gemsbok (Southern Oryx) and Springbok. Accommodation: Augrabies Falls NP chalet as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D. Day 11. Saturday 31 August 2019. Augrabies Falls to Van Zylsrus. After breakfast and some final birding in Augrabies Falls National Park we will make our way to Van Zylsrus. While today is a travel day, we will enjoy wonderful scenery and enjoy plenty of comfort stops on the way. In the late afternoon we will arrive in the small town of Van Zylsrus surrounded by typical Kalahari scenery of crooked Acacia trees and rust-red sand dunes cloaked in golden grass.
Accommodation: Van Zylsrus Motel (en suite room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 11. Saturday 31 August 2019. Augrabies Falls to Van Zylsrus.  After breakfast and some final birding in Augrabies Falls National Park we will make our way to Van Zylsrus. While today is a travel day, we will enjoy wonderful scenery and enjoy plenty of comfort stops on the way.  In the late afternoon we will arrive in the small town of Van Zylsrus surrounded by typical Kalahari scenery of crooked Acacia trees and rust-red sand dunes cloaked in golden grass.  
Accommodation: Van Zylsrus Motel (en suite room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 12. Sunday 1 September 2019. Morning with Meerkats and onto Twee Rivieren. This morning we will join a local researcher from the Kalahari Meerkat Research Project (a Cambridge University initiative) spending a few hours observing a group of wild but habituated meerkats. This is the very place where Meerkat Manor was filmed and we will enjoy this fantastic opportunity to observe these endearing and fascinating creatures up close in the company of a scientist-in-training.
After our time with the meerkats we will make the journey north in order to arrive at the spectacular Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park by mid-afternoon. Our camp, Twee Rivieren or ‘Two Rivers’, is so named as it lies at the confluence of two broad, sandy riverbeds that, in most years, remain completely dry. For the afternoon we will embark on a short drive up one of the riverbeds to search for the wonderful diversity of mammals and birds of the Kalahari.
Accommodation: Twee Rivieren, Kgalagadi NP (en suite chalets). Meals included: B, L, D.

Days 13 & 14. Monday 2 & Tuesday 3 September 2019. Kalagadi Transfrontier Park. We have two full days to explore the parched riverbeds, waterholes and dune-scapes of the Kalahari and can expect some exciting birding and mammal viewing. The regal Gemsbok is common here as are Springbok and Blue Wildebeest and we have an excellent chance of seeing the huge, black-maned Kalahari Lions that the park is famous for. These river beds are also excellent for Cheetah and we stand a good chance of seeing Black-backed Jackal, Yellow Mongoose, South African Ground Squirrel, Honey Badger, both Cape and Bat-eared Foxes. Large birds are a conspicuous feature of the landscape and include Lappet-faced Vulture and the stately Secretarybird. The park is well known for its diversity of raptors and an impressive forty species have been recorded here. We will be on the lookout for Tawny Eagle, Bateleur, Brown Snake Eagle and Gabar Goshawk. It is also along the dry riverbeds that we will be looking for some of the scarcer residents such as Red-necked Falcon, African Harrier-Hawk, Green Wood Hoopoe and Green-winged Pytilia. A night-drive will give us a chance for finding a wide selection of mammals including African Wild Cat, Porcupine, Leopard, Sprinhare and the rare Brown Hyena.
Accommodation: Kgalagadi NP chalet at Twee Rivieren. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 15. Wednesday 4 September. Twee Rivieren to Marrick. 
After breakfast this morning, we will leave Twee Rivieren and drive east and south to the fabled mining town of Kimberley, where we will arrive in the early evening.
Accommodation: Kimberley. Meals included: B, L, D.

Days 16 & 17. Thursday 5 and Friday 6 September 2019. Mokala NP. This area is located in a zone where various biomes converge from the east, west and north, thus resulting in an interesting mix of avifauna. Mokala National Park, South Africa’s most recently proclaimed national park, is best park to explore in this area. We will spend two full days in this area and take some time to bird the mosaic of grassland and acacia thornveld; species that can be found in these habitats include the strikingly marked Northern Black and Red-crested Korhaans, stunning Crimson-breasted Shrike, Marico Flycatcher, Kori Bustard, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Long-billed Crombec, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Temminck’s and Double-banded Coursers, Cape Longclaw, Common Scimitarbill, Eastern Clapper and Fawn-coloured Larks and Shaft-tailed Whydah. There are good numbers of game in the park too and we should encounter a wide range of antelope and have a chance for Giraffe, White Rhinoceros, Roan and Sable Antelopes and African Buffalo. We will have two night drives whilst here and our focus will be to locate and observe the sought-after, nocturnal specials. The inexplicable Aardvark tops the list of amazing possible beasts in the area, while other highlights include the endearing Aardwolf, the rare Black-footed Cat, Bat-eared Fox, Cape Porcupine, Southern African Hedgehog and the unusual Springhare. On previous night-drives in this region over 20 mammal species have been recorded in a single evening! Night birds include Spotted Eagle- and Western Barn Owls and the migratory Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.
Accommodation: Kimberley. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 18. Saturday 7 September 2019. Kimberley to Johannesburg. This morning we will drive to Johannesburg where the tour will conclude. This will be mostly a day of travel (around 500kms and will take most of the day), but we will make some interesting stops en route. Alternatively you may choose to fly back to Johannesburg (additional cost outlined below). The tour concludes late afternoon.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B, L.

Based on a group size of 6 participants + Inala leader Dr Tonia Cochran + local guide.
Tour Price: AUD$11,460 per person twin share. Single supplement AU$700.
Tour price includes road transfer Kimberley to Johannesburg on day 18 but a flight option is also available if required at an additional cost of AUD$220 per person.
Inclusions: Accommodation for each night of the tour, specialist guiding and transport for day and night tours as outlined in the itinerary, all meals (B, L, D) and activities outlined in the itinerary and National Park entry fees.
Exclusions: any international and domestic airfares, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc).
Please note:
• The bulk of the tour costs have been converted from South African Rand, a currency that, like most, is subject to fluctuating exchange rates. While we will do all possible to honour the above prices we may have little choice but to adjust these prices if there is a notable strengthening of the South African Rand. Furthermore, rates are based upon group tariffs; if the tour does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged. We would always discuss this with you beforehand.
• Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee. Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations. Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink. Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.
• The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.
• The intensity and quality of Wildflower displays is influenced dramatically by rain and heat and their impressiveness can vary from one year to the next. This tour is designed to visit the region’s best locations at the best possible times under normal circumstances. The tour will run regardless as conditions can change very quickly and even in poor years there is still a great deal to experience botanically.
• We do spend a considerable amount of time in vehicles as we have to cover long distances in order to get to the best areas for birds and animals. In all areas that contain potentially dangerous animals you are confined to the vehicle and are, quite understandably, not allowed to exit. In these places there are toilet stops at specified locations.

Trip Report. Prepared by Inala Nature Tours on 12 October 2017.

On this tour, we journeyed from South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town, through the planet’s smallest and richest floral kingdom to the sands of the Kalahari Desert. In our quest for endemic birds and wildflower displays we encountered some of the continent’s most exciting mammals from the endearing meerkat to the mighty African Lion.

ITINERARY OUTLINE MAIN TOUR:
Day 0. 23rd August: Pre-tour accommodation in Cape Town
Day 1, 24th August: Cape Town to Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Day 2, 25th August: Rooi-Els and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens
Day 3, 26th August: Cape Town environs (Kirstenbosch) to Langebaan
Day 4, 27th August: Langebaan and West Coast National Park
Day 5, 28th August: Langebaan to Nieuwoudtville
Day 6, 29th August: Nieuwoudtville
Day 7, 30th August: Nieuwoudtville to Springbok
Day 8, 31st August: Springbok to Augrabies Falls National Park
Day 9, 1st September: Augrabies Falls
Day 10, 2nd September: Augrabies Falls to Van Zylsrus
Day 11, 3rd September : Morning with the Meerkats and on to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Day 12 & 13: 4th & 5th September: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Day 14, 6th September : Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to Upington. Flight Upington to Johannesburg.
24th August to 6th September 2017 (14 days)

DETAILED ITINERARY MAIN TOUR:
Wednesday 23rd August 2017: All the participants for the tour arrived today in preparation for the start of the tour tomorrow morning. Everybody except Carole and Chris arrived during the day so those people had an informal welcome dinner at the hotel and met our local guide Jeremy.

Thursday 24th August 2017: Everybody gathered for breakfast this morning where we met the additional members of the group. We got off to a great start with a visit to a nearby African Penguin colony where we saw these birds at close range, some of whom were accompanied by big fluffy chicks. We also saw Rock Hyrax (locally named Dassies), our first mammals of the trip, which were browsing on shrubs in the penguin colony. It is hard to see the resemblance to Elephants and Sirenians (sea cows) which are their closest living relatives, except for perhaps their tusk-like upper incisors that protrude from the mouths of some of the older individuals. We then visited the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where we viewed the wild, rugged, south-westerly tip of the African continent. The Cape of Good Hope is sometimes (erroneously) given as the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean and was so named because the rounding of the cape was considered a significant milestone by the Portuguese attempting to establish direct trade relations with India and the Far East. The shrubby heathland fynbos vegetation of this Western Cape area is famous for its exceptional degree of biodiversity, consisting about 8,500 species, 80% of which are endemic to the area. Here we had our first views of several species of the family Proteaceae (Protea repens, Mimetes cucullatus, Serruria fasciflora, Leucadendro salignum and L. laureolum) and Bruniaceae (Brunia noduliflora and Berzelia albrotanoides) in the wild. Succulents included Cotyledon orbiculata, Tylecodon paniculatus and spectacular displays of bright pink, orange and white Livingstone Daisy (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis), Senecio elegans and Arctotis species. Bright yellow displays of flowering Bone-seed Chrysanthemoides monilifera) were viewed with mixed feelings by the Australian contingent of the group where it is an introduced weed species. Bontebok and Common Eland were viewed grazing in the area and we also had our first sightings of Common Ostrich, Egyptian Goose, Helmeted Guineafowl and Hadada Ibis. Highlights included Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Yellow Bishop, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Blacksmith’s Lapwing, Kittlitz’s Plover, Southern Boubou, and Cape Grassbird. Seabirds seen today included Cape Gannet, African Oystercatcher, Hautlaub’s and Kelp Gulls and Crowned, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants.
Reptiles seen today included Angulated Tortoise and Black-girdled Lizard. We returned to our hotel near Cape Town late afternoon.

Friday 25th August 2017: This morning we visited the Hottentots-Holland Mountains in an unsuccessful search for Cape Rockjumper, where much of the area had recently been burnt. We did have great views of other species such as Bank Cormorant and White-fronted Plover. The sandy and highly acidic substrate here supports rich mountain flora littered with an interesting variety of bulbs and annuals. A staggering 1,600 plant species have been recorded in the area, with over 150 of these endemic to the region. The yellow flowers of Protea repens and Erica plukenettii made a contrast with the pink flowered forms of these species that we saw yesterday. The striking blue of the Lobelia pinifolia and red Pelargonium fuligidum also made a colourful floral display. We then explored the nearby Botanical Gardens, where we familiarised ourselves with a vast array of native species in the beautifully laid-out cultivated area, before taking a walk on the nearby hillside for ‘wild’ plant species. Highlights here included King Protea (Protea cynaroides), P. laurifolia, swathes of feathery fronds of Cape Thatching Reed (Elegia capensis) as well as the ancient Mountain cypress Widdringtonia nodiflora which has Gondwanan affinities with the Australian genus Callitris in Australia. The podocarp Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius) was another ancient plant we saw in this area. Sundews Drosera aliciae and D. cystifolia were found in the wet peaty areas near the waterways and other specialities included Saltera sarcocolla and leucospermum cordifolium. Birds seen included the dazzling Malachite Sunbird, Cape Spurfowl, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Bulbil, Sombre Greenbul and great views of Cape Sugarbird. A Southern Rock Agama lizard was found in the rocks. We also had our first views of Four-striped Grass Mouse and as we headed back to the café for lunch we noticed that quite a large group of Chacma Baboons had the same idea. One of the baboon group loitered around the café, casually trying the locked door handles and then making a dash inside as the staff were distracted by serving us at our chosen table outside in the sun. After a brief but vocal commotion within, the baboon appeared with what we feared was one of our group’s lunches…with great relief (to us) it was some other poor client. Two of the staff stood guard defending us so we could eat our lunch in peace. During the afternoon, we visited another African Penguin colony at a nearby beach where Rock Hyrax once again featured. At another beach close by we viewed a new cormorant for the trip (Bank Cormorant) and saw large numbers of Cape Fur Seal basking offshore on the surface of the waves with flippers stuck upright
into the air and the occasional head showing. After another search for the Cape Rockjumper, we returned to Cape Town late afternoon, unsuccessfully searching the coastline en route for signs of Southern Right Whale.

Saturday 26th August 2017: Our first stop this morning was the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the slopes of Table Mountain where we spent the whole morning strolling around the many fascinating displays. The range-restricted Silver Tree (Leucadendron argenteum) occurs naturally in the surrounding vegetation. The gardens are also home to a plethora of endemic birds restricted to the Macchia-like vegetation of the southern tip of Africa and during the morning we had good views of many species including Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Cape White-eye, Cape Robin-chat, Brimstone and Cape
Canary and a lovely group of Swee Waxbill on the grass. A Black Harrier also flew over and we had good views of the underwing and tail markings. White throated Swallow, Rock Martin and African Black Swifts also flew overhead We also watched a Four-striped Grass Mouse bustling between the garden beds. After a delicious lunch at the gardens, we then headed to a privately owned meadow near Darling where we saw some very impressive spring flower displays. The field was bright blue (Heliophora coronopifolia) white (Dimorphotheca pluvialis) wildflowers which were all turning their flowers towards the sun. Further closer inspection revealed a variety of bulb species from the genera Babiana, Gladiolus, Lachenalia and Romulea to name a few.
We also visited Tienie Versveldt Wildflower Reserve for further floral displays. Several birds were also found in these reserve, including Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and Common Quail. Two large yellow and black striped grasshoppers were also found in the vegetation. We then headed to our accommodation at Langebaan. Blacksmith and Crowned Lapwings and Blue Crane were seen in roadside paddocks en route. On arrival at our B&B we were greeted by the clamour of Cape Weavers who were nesting colonially in a tree outside some of the guest rooms. Some of the group went exploring before dinner and saw Southern Black Korhaan and Spotted Thick-knee in the next-door paddock. After dinner at a nearby hotel, we settled into our rooms.

Sunday 27th August 2017: Today we spent the whole day exploring West Coast National Park. During the day we visited two hides (Seeberg and Geelbek) overlooking the globally important wetland site of Langebaan Lagoon where we saw a large range of water birds including Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Little Grebe, African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Common
Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ruff. One of the highlights was a large group of both Lesser and Greater Flamingo at Geelbeck hide which we viewed in the late afternoon light. We watched in fascination as a foraging male Common Ostrich forced huge lumps of food down his neck near Seeberg hide. The highly sought-after Black Harrier, a sought-after regional endemic was once again seen here. We also visited the Postburg section of the Park whichn is only open in August and September for wildflower viewing. At this time of year with good winter rains, the typically green and rather drab hills transform into an extravagance of colour and beauty and we were very lucky to see one of the world’s most remarkable
wildflower displays, with fields of Arctosis. Mammal sightings during the day included Mountain Zebra, Common Eland, Steenbok, Bontebok, Springbok and Cape Grey Mongoose, while Cape Fur Seal were seen offshore.We had a picnic lunch on the beach, sighting White-breasted Cormorant, African Penguin, Cape Gannet, African Oystercatcher, and a White-fronted Plover. We then ventured up the limestone hill to view more spectacular floral displays of Lampranthus, Monilaria, Doreanthus and Gazania. We returned to our accommodation late afternoon.

Monday 28th August 2017: Langebaan to Nieuwoudtville. This morning our host from our B&B in Langebaan accompanied us to a nearby quarry where we saw a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle at a nest and Rock Falcon.  We then made our way to the River estuary where we saw a good selection of water birds including Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Shoveler, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Purple, Grey and Blackheaded heron, Little Egret, Reed Cormorant and African Darter. We then travelled towards the ClanWilliam mountains, stopping en route to search for wildflowers. Unfortunately, the winter rains had not extended to this part of the country this season, so the huge displays were not apparent.  But there was still a good selection of small clumps
of flowers including Gladiolus and Sandveldt Pincushion (Leucospermum rodolentum) We travelled through the ClanWilliam mountains and stopped at a side road to search for canaries including Protea Canary before making our way up the dramatic Van Rhyns Pass towards our accommodation in Nieuwoudtville, gateway to the spring flower displays of Namaqualand.

Tuesday 29th August 2017. We spent the whole day in Namaqualand today, starting with a visit to the Nieuwoudtville Falls which were dry because of the lack of winter rains. However, a search through the adjacent glacial pavement revealed quite a selection of wildflowers-much more than apparent on first glance. Some of the stand-outs included Nemesia chieranthus and Diascia amaquensis. Cape Clapper Lark was displaying in the nearby bushes. The bird highlights of the day included Ludwig’s Bustard, South African Shelduck, Spurwinged Goose, African Harrier Hawk and Blue Crane. We then visited the nearbyBotanical gardens where highlights included bright yellow Bulbinella nutans in full flower and a Rock Scorpion under a rock. A nearby shale-covered hillside where Lampranthus cf amoenus, Doreanthus bellidiformis, Monilaria sp and Lampranthus aureus. an ancient group of Quiver Tree (Tree aloe) Aloidendron dichotomum were growing. The amazing otherworldly feel of these ancient plants in the stark surroundings was very apparent, adding to concerns about the long-term viability of the species in the area given the very low recruitment of young plants. We then visited a remnant area of fynbos where several species of Protea including B. nitens and B. laurifolia were located. This area was being heavily cleared to grow Rooibos tea crops; we also visited the Rooibos tea factory at
Nieuwoudtville Where we saw the tea being dried and cured in the sun on concrete slabs ready for packaging and export. The area is of particular interest to botanist because of the diversity of bulbs (nowhere else in the world are bulbs as diverse as they are here!) in addition to the numerous plants endemic to the area. In this relatively small region we find as many as four different plant biomes
converging, creating one of the richest areas for plants in the world.

Wednesday 30th August 2017. This morning we accompanied or accommodation host to a University study site in the Knersvlakte (the succulent capital of the world) where the effects of drought were being monitored on some of the succulents in the area including the stone plant Argyroderma delaetii. The plants that were watered artificially showed a marked difference to the control
plants. Almost none of the plants were flowering due to the dryness but we found a single Crassula columnaris in flower. We then sited a succulent nursery in Vanrhynsdorp where a good range of species were found, some in flower. Dassie Rats and Lizards were seen scuttling amongst the rocks in the landscaped garden surrounding the nursery and a Malachite Sunbird was foraging amongst the Aloes outside the shadehouse.  Despite the drought, several species with colourful flowers were found on the roadside, including Babiana sp, Senecio arenarius, and Grielum humifusum.  At one location,several species of lizard were basking amongst the rocks. Birds today included Karoo Korhaan, Yellow-billed Kite, Rock Kestrel, Cape Crow, and Karoo Thrush. Mammals seen en route ncluded Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboon and Springbok. We arrived at our destination at Springbok around 16:30.

Thursday 31st August 2017. This morning we visited the Goegap Nature Reserve, where we saw a variety of mammal footprints including Mountain Zebra. Springbok, and Gemsbok were also seen as well as good views of a Black-backed Jackal which was a nice surprise. En route saw huge blocks of granite being carted by trucks to be made into stone bench tops. We then stopped at a wasteland area next to a school in Pofadder (what a lovely name!) where we found stone plants of the genus Lithops growing amongst the quartz pebbles. We also found a beautifully camouflaged Common Egg Eater snake. Leaving Namaqualand and the wildflower heartland behind us, we then entered the stark beauty of Bushmanland. As we travelled the huge nests in
the trees and telephone poles marked evidence of Sociable Weavers with several Pygmy Falcon and Chanting Grey Goshawk
roosting on them. Hamerkop and Karoo Lark were also seen. We arrived at Augrabies National Park late afternoon and went for a
walk to see the waterfall view the marvellous falls as it thundered through a tiny gap in the rocks and poured into the gorge below. Several brightly coloured Broadley’s Flat Lizards were basking on the rocks next to the falls and a few birds such as Reed Cormorants, African Fish Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and Alpine Swift were also seen.

Friday 1st September 2018. Today we had a full day to explore the variety of dramatic landscapes within Augrabies Falls National Park. The lunar-like “Moon Rock” demonstrates some fascinating geology and weathering processes where the outer layers of rock were layered, cracked and folded with changes in temperature. We then walked around the campground which yielded a surprising number of birds including African Hoopoe, Acacia Pied Barbet, Ashy Tit, Pirit Batis, Orange River White-eye, Cape Starling, Dusky Sunbird and Common Waxbill as well as many Rock Hyrax and South African Ground Squirrel. During the afternoon we drove through the park and saw a group of several Augrabies Giraffe which are very subtly coloured and well camouflaged as well as Springbok and Steenbok, Gemsbok, Common Eland and Yellow Mongoose. We then visited some Gorge view-sites where the rocks looked like giant man-made mullock heaps. Other species seen today included Hamerkop, African Darter, Three-banded
Plover, White-backed Mousebird, Malachite Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater,Karoo Long-billed and Sabota Larks, Mountain Wheatear and Sickle-billed Chat. The Blackthorn trees (Senegalla mellifera-formerly known as Acacia mellifera) were in full flower and the honey-laden scent in the warm sun was beautifully aromatic. After an early dinner we joined a night drive where we saw 2 Spotted eagle Owls as they emerged for the night. We also once again saw the group of Giraffe sleeping near the roadside as well as a variety of antelope. We made it back to camp just in time to visit the falls before the spotlights were turned off for the night.
Saturday 2nd September 2017. This morning we had good intentions of enjoying the beautiful morning by eating our breakfast on the veranda but the mischievous Vervet monkeys soon drove us back inside. The restaurant staff had left a bowl with packets of sugar and ketchup outside and one particularly naughty Vervet came down and stuffed his mouth and both of his hands with these packets and ran off before the staff could get to the table.  We then left Augrabies and stopped for more flowers before taking the long
drive towards Van Zylrus. We finally arrived for a late dinner and wellearned rest.

Sunday 3rd September 2017. This morning’s activities proved one of the highlights of the trip. We joined some researchers from the Kalahari Meerkat Research Project (a Cambridge University initiative) and spent a few hours observing a group of wild but habituated meerkats in the very place where Meerkat Manor was filmed. We enjoyed this fantastic opportunity to observe these endearing and fascinating creatures up close in the company of a scientist-intraining, watching as they emerged from their burrows,
lined up to be weighed by the researchers, sunned themselves to get warm and then headed off on a day of foraging. We then travelled to our accommodation near the spectacular Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park where we met our local guide Heinz. We spent the rest of the afternoon birding around the lodge where we picked up some new species including Fork-tailed Drongo, Fiscal Flycatcher, Familiar Chat, Red-billed Quelea, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Yellow Canary, Grey Hornbill and Gabar Goshawk (seen ambushing a Red-billed Quelea in a Blackthorn bush). Other birds seen today included Common Ostrich, Helmeted Guineafowl, Bateleur, Whitebacked Vulture, Kori Bustard, Common Simitarbill, Tractrac and Ant-eating Chats, Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Violet-eared Waxbill, Redheaded Finch and African Pipit.

Monday 4th & Tuesday 5th September 2017. We spent two full days exploring the parched riverbeds, waterholes and dune-scapes of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Mammals abounded and we saw herds of Springbok, Blue Wildebeest, Hartebeest, lots of South African Ground Squirrels, Yellow and Slender Mongoose, and Meerkats. The highlight was day one where we saw a pride of four Kalahari Lions and two Cheetah basking in the shade of the trees. We also joined two night drives where we had good views of several species including Four-striped Grass Mouse, Bat-eared and Cape Fox, Black-backed Jackal, Scrub Hare, and several African Wild Cats, one of whom had two kittens over whom she was fiercely defensive, taking it out on a poor unsuspecting
Black-backed Jackal that just happened to wander too near. Bird highlights in the park included Secretarybird. Common Ostrich
displaying, Black-winged Kite, African harrier-hawk, Black-chested Snake Eagle, lots of Chanting Goshawk (CGH), Tawny Eagle, Kori Bustard, Crowned Lapwing, Namaqua Dove, Lilac-breasted Roller, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Kalahari Scrubrobin, Northern Black Koorhaan, Cape Canary, Yellow-billed Hornbill and Namaqua and Burchell’s Sandgrouse. On the night tours we saw several Verraux’s Eagle Owls, one nesting on an old Sociable Weaver nest with a fluffy chick, Pearl-spotted Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Spotted Thick-knee.

Wednesday 6th September 2017. After breakfast this morning, we sadly left the Kalahari Desert and made our way towards Upington Airport. En route we saw a Tawny Eagle swoop down and remove a dead Puff Adder from the road in front of us. Northern Black Koorhaan, Crowned Lapwing, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, White-rumped Swift, Rock Martin and Fork-tailed Drongo were amongst the other birds we viewed whilst traveling. Each member of the party went their own way at the airport where the tour concluded.