Did you know?
Courting blue cranes will dance together for up to a fortnight before they mate.
The central character on the Caledon blue crane route in the Overberg area of the Western Cape is South Africa's national bird. You'll find plenty of blue cranes in this incredibly fertile wheat- and barley farming area as you drive along the N2 highway from Cape Town. The farmers themselves, proud of the cranes, initiated the route.
The blue crane is one of Africa's stateliest birds. Its feathers have been worn by royalty, its face has adorned the South African 5c piece and the sight of flocks settling across the fields of the Overberg is a majestic one.
The best way to enjoy a Caledon blue crane route is to pull over, cut the engine, stay in your car and take out the long camera lens or binoculars. These birds are easily startled and you may expose some freshly laid crane eggs to the elements and various predators by chasing the adults away.
Caledon is but one town in the Overberg region. A drive through the area is balm for the soul. There are charming roadside shops, picnic spots, small towns and landscapes to enjoy, and in no time you're on the rocks at Walker Bay in Hermanus, watching the evening parade of Southern Right whales and their calves showing off in the waters below - a non-avian perk of this South African bird tour.
From Hermanus, move on to Stanford and then Gansbaai, where the adventurous go out to sea and dive with great white sharks. From there, one crosses the Agulhas Plain to beautiful Arniston and then to Bredasdorp via the Moravian village of Elim. All along the way, there are possible sightings of blue cranes.
A blue crane tour of South Africa might include places like the Karoo Heartland and Mpumalanga Highlands, but the Overberg flocks are still the most impressive.
Travel tips & Planning info
How to get here
From Cape Town, the Caledon blue crane route is an easy 90-minute drive over the stunning Sir Lowry's Pass.
Best time to visit
This region has something to offer all year round, but is particularly beautiful when the canola is flowering in late winter and early spring. September is also peak viewing season for Southern Right whales.
Around the area
Close to Caledon you'll find lovely towns like Hermanus and its whale watching, Gansbaai and its sharks, and Bredasdorp with its shipwreck museum.
Self-drive is best if you want to explore the area at your own pace.
Length of stay
Try to dedicate at least 3 or 4 days to this area. There's plenty to do.
What to pack
Binoculars are essential, as lightweight as possible, as is a camera.
What to eat
Stop at some of the roadside farmstalls for some surprising and delicious offerings, including marvellous home-baked bread.