Did you know?
There were actually five 'big holes' in Kimberley – diamond mines that mined volcanic kimberlite pipes. Other than the Big Hole, they've now mostly been filled in.
The Diamond Birding Route links eight properties belonging to De Beers and the Oppenheimer family, and shows that the diamond company and the long-time mining clan are adding value to eco-tourism.
This birding route through South Africa varies from rugged West Coast beaches to carefully tended heritage gardens in Johannesburg; from the red sands of the Kalahari to the hills around Mapungubwe in the Limpopo province. What began as a birding route has morphed into a bouquet of outdoor experiences.
Tswalu is a patchwork of former farmlands that is being stitched back together and rehabilitated into the classic Kalahari of yore, when the grass was high and herds of game filled the horizon. Tswalu is true bush elegance - and has great atmosphere.
Kimberley, home of the De Beers headquarters, has three stops on the Diamond Birding Route. At Benfontein you find 260 different species of birds and great herds of black wildebeest; Dronfield property sports a breeding pair of white-backed vultures, and Rooipoort, on the Vaal River, is an historical shooting lodge.
The Johannesburg part of the Diamond Birding Route includes the gardens at the Oppenheimers' home, Brenthurst, and the nearby Ezemvelo Reserve which has lots of game, San art and hiking opportunities as well as birds.
Up in the Limpopo valley, near Mapungubwe, is the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve where, flying around the rugged sandstone cliffs and marching baobabs, are more than 400 species of birds, a true birding bounty route.