Every year the Barberspan Bird Sanctuary, just a few hours away from Johannesburg, attracts thousands of birds, among them flamingos and pelicans, to its protected wetlands, making it a premier site for ornithological research and a birding must-see destination.

Did you know?

The trampling of large herds of springbok helped create this sprawling water-filled pan.

Barberspan Bird Sanctuary is one of the largest waterfowl reserves in southern Africa. It was one of the first wetlands in South Africa to be covered under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, indicating its importance as a sanctuary for migratory birds and waterfowl.

Bird numbers are regularly around 20 000 and about 350 different species can be found in and around the pan. In September and October, just before the summer rains reach this part of the country, the pan can be crowded with more than 40 000 water birds.

This South African bird centre is in the North West province, just a few hours away from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The South African bird sanctuary often supports large numbers of flamingos and pelicans and also features sought-after special twitches like maccoa duck, chestnut-banded plover and black-necked grebe. Winter also provides a good chance to spot western dry-country specials like Namaqua sandgrouse, grey-backed sparrowlark and swallow-tailed bee-eater.

In the far gone past Barberspan was just a large, temporary pan in the fossil bed of the Harts River, formed and enlarged by northerly winds and massive herds of springbok trampling the edges of the waterhole.

In 1913 the digging of a channel between the nearby river and the pan transformed Barberspan into a 2 000 hectare, 11 metre deep body of water that now functions as an extremely important wintering site for waterfowl.

Not only is Barberspan Bird Sanctuary a premier site for ornithological research, visitors can also fish for carp, barbel and yellowfish or paddle around in a canoe. The many well-positioned bird hides are great places to teach children the joys of bird watching.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Barberspan Bird Sanctuary
Tel: +27 (0) 82 443 9777
Email: barbersp@lantic.net

Barberspan Hotel and Resort
Tel: +27 (0) 73 318 6366

How to get here

The closest town to Barberspan Bird Sanctuary is Delareyville in the North-West province, approximately three hours drive from Johannesburg on the N14 highway from Krugersdorp.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit is September to October, when waterfowl numbers are at their most impressive.

Get around

You can drive or walk in the sanctuary.

What will it cost

The sanctuary is very affordable with a minimal entrance fee of approx R25.

Length of stay

Depending on your interest, a few hours to a day should be enough time at the pan. If you are an avid birder you may want to stay longer, in which case you can stay in nearby Delareyville, or in budget accommodation in the sanctuary.

What to pack

Don't forget your binoculars and camera, your scope (if you have one) and bird book.

Where to stay

Camping and budget accommodation is available in the sanctuary. The Barberspan Guest House is more upmarket, and Barberspan Hotel and Holiday Resort offers a range of accommodation options.