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.
Travel tips & Planning info
How to get here
This route sprawls across South Africa. It would be most practical to start from Gauteng (Johannesburg or Pretoria) and strike out either north or west.
Best time to visit
Any time of year is good, but summer is best because all the migratory birds are back
Self-drive is best if you want to explore the area at your own pace.
Length of stay
Two nights per birding destination would be best (and you can choose from eight destinations).
What to pack
Binoculars, needless to say, as well as a camera and a good bird book.Bring along a scope if you have one, along with comfortable clothing and good shoes.
Where to stay
There is accommodation at all Diamond Birding Route sites, ranging from rustic to five-star luxury.
If you're here at the end of November, don't forget to register for Birding Big Day, organised by Birdlife South Africa.