In celebration of BirdLife South Africa’s 35th Birding Big Day on 30 November 2019, Dream Hotels & Resorts will open their doors to both beginner birders and avid twitchers looking to top up their bird list at two of their well-known properties.

While the last formal study on birdwatching conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry took place in 2011, the results showed birding to be one of the fastest-growing nature-based tourism activities in the country, raking in almost R1.2-billion rand for the economy.

“The assortment of tweets, chirps and flapping of wings of South Africa’s 850 recorded species have delighted overseas visitors and locals over the years,” explains Brent Dickson, Director of Dream Hotels & Resorts.

“We wanted to support BirdLife whose mission is to ensure the study, enjoyment, and conservation of wild birds and their habitats,” he continues.

Grey Crowned Crane

The Tala Collection 

At Tala Collection Game Reserve in Camperdown, a 50-minute drive from central Durban, bird-lovers delight in the variety of birdlife throughout the reserve’s varied biomes, including acacia thornveld, open grassland and a sensitive wetland.

The malaria-free reserve is also home to plenty of big game, including kudu, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest and eland.

“Dr. Barry Taylor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been visiting and bird-ringing (tagging) at Tala for the last 20 years. His bird sightings sit just under the 400 mark, of which half of these he has rung himself,” exclaims Greg Allan, Tala Collection Game Reserve General Manager.

“While the Secretary bird is the Tala team’s favourite, lucky visitors can also witness Blue, Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes all on the same day. Our resident Blue Cranes return annually to nest, and have successfully been rearing their chicks here for the last three years,” he adds.

Of the raptors, Fish Eagles, Long-Crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards are the most common at Tala.

However, Brown Snake Eagles, Black-chested Snake Eagles, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Martial Eagle (juvenile and adult), Yellow-billed Kites, Black-winged Kites, Lanner Falcons and Amur Falcons have also been spotted.

Of the Bush shrikes, Allan pinpoints hotspots on the property where Birding Day guests can spot orange-breasted and olive varieties.

Diederick, Black and Red-chested Cuckoos and the Klaas’ Cuckoo are commonly heard with a few sightings of different species that pass through recorded, like the Black Stork, Trumpeter Hornbill and even a flock of Pink-backed Pelicans.

Little Egret

Finfoot Lake

While the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal stand out as go-to hotspots for birders in South Africa, this year, Dream Hotels & Resorts is keen to attract and introduce more Johannesburg locals to birding at Finfoot Lake Reserve, a 90-minute drive away from the city.

Set near the Vaalkop Dam and surrounded by the natural bushveld setting of the Eland’s River Reserve, the area offers plenty of family-friendly activities, from game drives to bush walks, canoeing, fishing and mountain biking.

A signature activity at Finfoot is the Segway safari, which is an effortless way to explore the area with a guide, but without breaking a sweat.

Barge cruises on at sunset are another long-standing, popular tradition at Finfoot, and a chance to see African skimmers and Kingfishers.

Dickson reminds visitors participating in the Big Birding Day activities to bring along binoculars, cameras, comfortable walking shoes and plenty of drinking water.

Teams at each property are invited to log their sightings on the mobile App, BirdLasser.

The sightings will automatically be displayed on a dedicated BirdLasser Birding Big Day event page.

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Birding Big Day At Team Tala 

Date: Saturday 30 November 2019

Start Time: TBC

Tala is offering free guided birding walks on the day. However, visitors still need to pre-book, as times will be determined by the number of requests.

Bottles of drinking water will be supplied, but gate fees must be paid in full for day visitors.

Bookings: activities@tala.co.za or +27 (0) 31 781 8000

Birding Big Day At Team Finfoot 

Date: Saturday 30 November 2019

Start time: 12:00

Cost: R500 per person for the day.

Rate includes a game drive, boat cruise and picnic lunch with a qualified bird guide. Strictly for bird watchers, from Beginners to Twitchers.

Guests staying at Finfoot also qualify for a 25% saving on rates for the extra birding activities that are open to the public.

Bookings: melani.vdw@dreamresorts.co.za