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TThe flamingos of Kimberley’s Kamfers Dam offer a rare and lovely sight – thousands upon thousands of these pink birds stretching as far as the eye can see.
This area in South Africa’s Northern Cape province is one of only four breeding sites for lesser flamingos in Africa, making it a must-see for any birder. Even for non-birders, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
KKamfers Dam is a permanent wetland just minutes by road from the iconic old diamond mining town of Kimberley, most famous for its Big Hole. Usually there are around 20 000 birds at the dam, but in some years the population can rocket up to 50 000 birds and more.
The lesser flamingos flock to this dam because it has an abundance of algae, the favoured food of these filter-feeders. The total mass of algae in the dam has been estimated at 750 000kg. The question was would they, and could they breed here? Their continued existence at the dam depended on successful breeding.
In cooperation with birding experts, mining company Ekapa generously built an S-shaped artificial island in the middle of the dam. Everyone – conservationists, birders, concerned environmentalists and many of the general public – held their breath. Would the lesser flamingo take to this new man-made home?
The birds loved it and set a record – this was the first time that the lesser flamingo had bred in South Africa. Now there is a large permanent breeding population here that has become a magnet for travellers and birders from all over the world.
But the story continues, because now Kamfers Dam is under threat from an increased inflow of untreated sewage water. The Save the Flamingo Association and BirdLife South Africa are raising money and public awareness to stop the threats to this unique South African attraction.
Visit the flamingos of Kimberley, and then add your voice to the urgent appeal to save them.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Birdlife South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 789 1122
How to get here
Kimberley is 5 hours by road from Johannesburg on the N12/R59. Visitors may choose instead to fly to Bloemfontein in Free State province, which is 165km from Kimberley on the N8, and then hire a car for the 90-minute drive. Kamfer's Dam is on the outskirts of the city, on the northern side.
Best time to visit
November to March are the breeding months, although the flamingos are there all year round. September and October can be spectacularly good, with up to 50 000 lesser flamingos visible.
To view the flock, head to the Flamingo Casino a few minutes drive to the north of Kimberley on the Johannesburg road, and turn from the national road towards the casino. Just before the railway bridge, you’ll notice a nondescript road towards your right. It is not marked, and if you miss it, ask the Casino personnel how to find it. With this road you can drive alongside the railway line, with a good view of Kamfer’s Dam. Take care crossing the railway line. The problems with flooding make this one of the only accessible entrance points to see the flamingos.
What will it cost
This is a free attraction.
Where to stay
Kimberley has many excellent guesthouses and hotels, but the casino has the closest accommodation to the flamingos.