The Soutpan Birding Route
Did you know?
South Africa covers only 2% of the world's land surface, but is home to 8% of the planet's birdlife.
The Soutpan Birding Route in the Tswaing Crater Nature Reserve lies just 40km north of Pretoria. Because of its variety of habitats, it's birding heaven with over 300 species of birdlife.
The crater, the result of a huge meteor impact millions of years ago, lies in the middle of the nature reserve and is easily accessible. But you're here for the birds, not the geology, so get your binoculars ready and start spotting.
Always keep your eyes open for raptors, because the Soutpan Birding Route is known for them. There's a breeding pair of African hawk-eagles, while gabar goshawks and little sparrowhawks dart between the trees. As owls are nocturnal, you probably won't see the barn owl and the southern white-faced scops-owl, but you may well hear the tiny pearl-spotted owlet's rising call during the day.
Begin your birding around the offices and museum, and look out for the southern black tit in the trees, and the brightly coloured crested barbet. Groundscraper thrushes criss-cross the ground looking for insects, and listen for the song of the white-browed robin-chat and the clattering call of the crested francolin.
Off to the river now, and, if you're lucky, you may see one of South Africa's most brilliantly coloured and striking birds – the crimson-breasted shrike. You may also hear the 'victor, victor' call of the greater honeyguide. Look out too for an assortment of waxbills – the blue, common and violet-eared.
On the river banks watch out for bird parties – you could spot anything from a long-billed crombec or striped cuckoo, to a spotted flycatcher. Remember though that cuckoos are here only in the summer.
On the river itself you can find herons, crakes and, in the swampy areas, that most elusive and sought-after avian of all birders – the red-chested flufftail.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
City of Tshwane Tourism Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 12 358 1430
How to get here
The Tswaing Crater Nature Reserve is 40km north of Pretoria. Take the N1 north from Johannesburg/Pretoria and follow the Zambezi Road off-ramp. Turn left at the crossroads. Where the road splits, take the right-hand road then turn left at the Apies River toward Onderstepoort. Follow the Tswaing/Soutpan signs.
Best time to visit
The reserve is open daily from 07h30 to 15h00 all year.
No vehicles are allowed in the reserve so on foot it will have to be.
What will it cost
Approximately R20 per person.
Length of stay
Plan an early morning trip for the best birding.
What to pack
Comfortable walking shoes, binoculars and camera, bird field guide, a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Where to stay
Pretoria is only 40km away and has an abundance of accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets. There are also camping facilities at the crater itself.
What to eat
There are picnic areas at the reserve but no shops or restaurants, so bring your own food.