Two (Northern Hemisphere) summers from now (June/July 2024) my family is visiting South Africa for about three weeks, and we’re just setting up a plan now. To help brainstorm ideas-- what are some fun nature-related sites to visit in South Africa, especially around Cape Town? For context, my family has varying levels of physical fitness and interest in nature. We already know we’re checking out the penguins on boulder beach, we’re considering heading north to Botswana to safari in the Okavango delta, and we might head East to Joburg (but probably not).
Come and help us ID for the City Nature Challenge then you can see what Cape Town has to offer. From Table Mountain to the Atlantic Ocean.
I walk with my sister at Kirstenbosch. Our National Botanical gardens offer varying paths - Braille trail or wheelchair friendly. Or access to hiking up Table Mountain.
I’m jealous! Africa is high on my bucket list (yes, the whole continent if I have enough time and money).
Whose summer are you visiting in? Northern summer, Southern winter?
SHOOT!!! America-brain got me. I’ll edit the original post – I’m going in their winter, sometime around June/July.
Definitely go for the Okavango or Caprivi if you can. It is amazing. There is always something to see. I wish I could go back.
I find his blog posts fascinating to read (and also if you were looking for a guide? - which is good for our mountains - this week we walked IN the clouds and I am NOT a mountaineer!)
If you are interested in marine life, but not into actual scuba diving (but there are guides for that too)
Two Oceans Aquarium (their site is currently down)
For the yes thank you we are not interested in nature part of your group.
One at the Aquarium, the other shopping at the Waterfront, or walking for the view.
Or for art lovers?
Kirstenbosch usually has an art exhibition.
Again at the Waterfront - for art, architecture and history
Or Norval. Has an indigenous sculpture garden and an art gallery.
When I plough back thru older obs to ID I so much enjoy seeing familiar names - oh you have been to Cape Town!
Cape Point is usually a good bet to see various fynbos endemics and baboons. If you go down that side, take the Olifantsbos road all the way down to the beach - there you will have a good chance of seeing ostriches, bontebok, and sometimes other herbivores such as eland. I once saw a red hartebeest, and another time a pair of lovely Grey Rhebok! You will see dassies at Boulders.
Otherwise don’t expect to see too much in the way of wildlife in the areas around Cape Town - it will be nothing like the Kruger or the Okavango Delta. Our local birdlife is special though - on a good day at Kirstenbosch you can expect to see the more common local endemics such as Cape Sugarbird, a couple of sunbird species and other species such as Cape Bulbul, and our coastal and wetland birds are great - African Oystercatchers, waders such as White-fronted Plover, Cape Cormorants, Great White Pelican, and more.
The Overberg is an excellent place to spot Blue Cranes, and your planned time of visiting - June/July - happily overlaps with that of Southern Right Whales which visit our coast in winter, up all the way from Antarctica! Hermanus is usually a good place to look for them from the shore - no boat needed.
Joburg is mostly a business city so it’s not really catered to tourists like Cape Town is. If spending time there, you could check out the Cradle of Humankind if that’s your thing. There are a couple of reserves in the Waterberg I think, where you may have a good chance of seeing black wildebeest and blesbok. Overall if you are forced to choose I would recommend giving Joburg a miss and spending more time elsewhere.
I once visited the edge of the Okavango Delta before its general period of flooding and I can say with confidence that it is stunning. Where in the Okavango Delta might you be spending time in though? It’s a vast area. I was on the western edge of it and during my time there I didn’t see as much of the wildlife as I did in Chobe or Kruger - but still had amazing sightings of elephants, hippos, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, hundreds of waterbirds, Peter’s epauletted fruit bats, and I saw no less than three or four separate Pel’s Fishing Owls - I hit the lottery jackpot there, as these owls are usually hard to spot.
In my trips so far around the region, I’ve seen lions only at Kruger, Etosha National Park in Namibia, and Chobe in the north of Botswana. Leopards at Etosha and Kruger. I once saw a pair of cheetahs and a pack of African wild dogs on two separate Kruger trips as a kid about 20 years ago and haven’t seen them on subsequent Kruger trips since, but that is the nature of it - wildlife sightings in wild areas are a matter of luck.
I am excited for you that you’re coming here and I’m sure that you’ll have a blast!
I just remembered the name of the place I stayed on the Chobe. I went there three years in a row and loved it. The owners have probably changed by now but the lodge and ‘rooms’ look much like they did when I was there. It blends so well with the environment that it is difficult to see until your boat approaches the dock. You can see a lot of wildlife without even leaving the lodge.
For the more adventurous or able-bodied there are guides that can take you fishing/birding/nature watching by boat. There are even some local historical sites you can visit if you have history buffs in the family. Be sure to climb the Baobab observation tree if you can.
Edited to add watch out for the hippos!
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