07 February 2012 by Kate Turkington

Wings Over Wetlands

This is an absolute must for bird lovers – and is also a critical wetlands area along bird migration routes.

Interested in birds – or just in natural beauty? Then a visit to the delightful tiny village of Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga is non-negotiable.

The wetlands lie in South Africa’s largest grassland biome, which covers 27% of the country. Ranked with the North American prairies, the Russian steppes and the South American pampas, the area attracts visitors and birders from all over the world.

Rare endemics such as Rudd’s lark, Botha’s lark and the Yellow-breasted pipit draw international and local twitchers, and the rarest of all in the area, the white-winged flufftail, is now categorised as globally endangered.

Come here any time of the year (although it’s bitterly cold in winter), but spring and summer are best. This is crane country and you’d be unlucky not to spot crowned cranes and South Africa’s national bird, the blue crane, although the endangered wattled crane is more elusive.

Ranked with the North American prairies, the Russian steppes and the South American pampas, the area attracts visitors and birders from all over the world.

As you know, migratory birds don’t fly at random – they follow avian highways called ‘flyways’. Wakkerstroom is a critical wetlands area along bird migration routes and is the largest ever wetland and waterbird conservation effort in the African-Eurasian flyways region.

Come for the birds – I went birding with the keen-eyed, knowledgeable birdlife guide, Lucky Ngwenja, and we spotted 55 birds in 3 hours. Or just come to chill and enjoy gorgeous countryside – rolling grasslands and hills that stretch from horizon to horizon.

By the way, there are great B&Bs and funky little shops and restaurants in the area – so you’ll sleep soundly and dine well.

www.birdlife.org.za

Category: Adventure, Attractions

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