The Limpopo Province has 10 internationally recognised Important Bird Areas, and the soon-to-be-released Great Limpopo Birding Route Self Drive Guidebook provides birders with a wealth of information on how they can make the most of six of these.
The book describes a number of different options for making the most of a birding holiday along two major routes, the Soutpansberg-Limpopo and the Capricorn-Letaba, with suggested sub-routes and itineraries. Birder-friendly accommodation in the area is described, along with checklists of what birds to expect where, and regional specials found on the routes.
The book is aimed at both novice birders and the more experienced. According to Sarah Venter, a driving force behind the project, each area described in the guidebook has a local "champion" who knows the sub-route intimately and coordinates a network of birding enthusiasts. Information on good birding sites is shared amongst those in the network and is passed on to visitors.
Accommodation venues are chosen based on their willingness to help birders – the managers are prepared to let people out before the crack of dawn with a packed breakfast so that they can catch a glimpse of night birds and the dawn chorus.
The book covers the Mapungubwe National Park, the northern part of the Kruger National Park, the Soutpansberg, the Blouberg vulture colonies, the Wolkberg forest belt and the Polokwane Nature Reserve. Some of the routes described in the book would also appeal to 4x4 enthusiasts, notably in Venda.
This area has very little tourism development, but through the Great Limpopo Birding Route project two rustic campsites have been created with overseas donor funding. The campsites are run by the local community, and two locals who have been trained as bird guides help visitors get to grips with birding in the area.
The one campsite is found in Brachystegia (miombo) woodland, which is very rare in South Africa. This year, more work is planned to create birding routes in those sections of the province that are not encompassed by the existing routes, including the Hoedspruit-Phalaborwa area and the Nyslvlei area.
The top ten birds identified by the Great Limpopo Birding Route as being unique to this part of South Africa include the threebanded courser, blue-spotted dove, grey-headed parrot, Senegal coucal, mottled spinetail, Bohm's spinetail, southern hyliota, tropical boubou, Meve's starling and Dickinson's kestrel.
For more information about the guidebook and its routes, contact Sarah Venter on 082 374 9534 or email email@example.com