Did you know?
When you go birding in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State province, you'll be in one of the largest protected areas in the Highveld – in fact, it's one of the largest grassland reserves in the country.
But the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is not just about grassland, it's one of South Africa's most spectacular mountain parks with striking red sandstone formations that rear up against blue skies and – what you've come for – over 175 species of birds.
You'll see plenty of antelope – eland, black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok, grey rhebok and mountain reedbuck – as well as Burchell's zebra and baboons. But it's the birds you've come to see, so have those binoculars and bird book ready.
Because of the altitude – you're 1 750m above sea level – look for raptors. Soaring above you you'll see buzzards, kestrels and Verreaux's eagles. If you're lucky, you might see a lanner falcon beside the road, feasting on a kill. The threatened Bearded vulture is a special tick – look out for big nests of sticks on high rock ledges. Local guides will point you in the right direction.
If you're a twitcher, start twitching the moment you enter the Golden Gate Highlands National Park because two threatened endemic species – the Yellow-breasted pipit and Southern bald ibis – are present. Other local birds with a limited distribution found here include the blue korhaan and the handsome Drakensberg rock-jumper.
Twitcher, novice or just interested in birds, get a park map, choose your route and off you go.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
How to get here
Make your way to the town of Clarens in the Free State. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is 16km west of Clarens.
Best time to visit
Any time is good, but be prepared for extreme cold in winter, especially in the evenings.
Around the area
The little town of Clarens has become a haven for artists and craftspeople. You’ll find delightful antique and craft shops, restaurants, pubs and coffee bars.
By car, horseback or on foot.
What to pack
Binoculars, bird guides, sunscreen, hat and comfortable walking shoes.
Where to stay
The Glen Reenen Camp in the park has campsites and rondavels. The Alpine-style Golden Gate Hotel is also situated within the park.