The spectacularly beautiful and geohistorically important Blyde River Canyon in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province offers stunning photographic opportunities along with some excellent birding.
This 26 km (16 mi) long canyon is the third-largest on Earth, and a must-visit for nature lovers on a trip in the northeast of South Africa. It is named after the old Dutch word for “glad” or “happy”. The canyon is part of the Panorama Route, a dramatically scenic road connecting several cultural and natural points of interest.
Blyde River Canyon is a “green canyon”, dominated by subtropical vegetation. Habitats include high-altitude Afro-temperate forest, montane grassland, broad-leaved woodland, some water bodies and plantations.
A morning or day trip from the nearby Kruger National Park (both Orpen and Kruger gates are about 2 hours away) could yield some very special species not seen in the park.
Some of these are Verreaux’s Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Forest Buzzard, African Grass Owl, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Bald Ibis, Narina Trogon, Knysna Turaco, Lemon Dove, Orange Ground Thrush, Bush Blackcap, Olive and Black-fronted Bushshrike, Grey Cuckooshrike, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked and Familiar Chat, Mocking Cliff Chat, Barratt’s Warbler, White-starred Robin, Chorister Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub Robin, Cape Longclaw, Drakensberg Prinia, Wing-snapping, Wailing, Croaking and Levaillant’s Cisticola, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary.
This is the only site in South Africa that supports breeding Taita Falcon, although it will take a lot of luck, a good spotting scope and patience to see this diminutive special! Another theoretical possibility is the vulnerable Blue Swallow.
Other key species than can be found in and around the canyon include Crowned and Martial Eagle, Cape Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Jackal and Lizard Buzzard, Black Stork, Secretarybird, White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, Half-collared and African Pygmy Kingfisher, Black Saw-wing, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Striped and Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Boubou, Black-crowned and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Kurrichane Thrush, Terrestrial Brownbul, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Green-capped Eremomela, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Red-faced Cisticola and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.
Not only will the Blyde River Canyon allow you to tick some very special regional species, but also give you breathtaking scenery and maybe even the next background picture for your computer!
To book your expert-guided birding tour in the Kruger Park and surrounding areas, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org