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TThe Free State is known for its dramatic landscapes, peaceful back-roads and charming towns. It’s also a great location for birding.
There are more than 450 recorded bird species in the Free State, including over 100 southern African endemics and near-endemics. The Free State bird route covers a vast and naturally diverse area. Pack a map, your binoculars and a field guide, and head out on the open road for a laid-back birding experience.
Start out in the north, beyond the boundary of the Vaal River. You’ll find a number of pools and pans that sustain a growing water-bird population, including two species of flamingo. Here you can also visit the Vaal Dam, many historical Boer War sites and the Vredefort Dome (a World Heritage Site).
Move further west and the landscape changes to accommodate drier, semi-arid vegetation, punctuated by thornveld. Here you should look out for the Kalahari scrub robin and tinkling cisticola.
Follow the route south towards the Karoo and confluence of the Orange and Caledon Rivers. You’ll find another semi-arid region, dominated by rocky hills, open plains and the Gariep Dam. Listen out for the distinctive calls of the resident Karoo robins, grey-backed cisticolas and African rock pipits.
The eastern region of the Free State is an absolute must. Not only is it home to some of the province's most impressive natural attractions, including the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, it’s also home to some of the country’s most important birding areas. Look out for vultures, wattled cranes and the critically endangered white-winged flufftail.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)51 409 9900
BirdLife South Africa
+27 (0)11 789 1122
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
+27 (0)58 255 1000
Things to do
There's plenty to see and do along this exciting route, so take your time. Enjoy the big-sky scenery, bring a good book and stop in Clarens for coffee and cake. There are also lots of battlefield sites to explore in the area.
What to pack
A good pair of binoculars and a local bird book will stand you in good stead.
Where to stay
There is plenty of quaint accommodation in the Free State area. You can’t go wrong with a guesthouse in the arty town of Clarens.