A full-day drive from Underberg and Himeville up the Sani Pass, with Stuart McLean to view the special birds of the Drakensberg and Eastern Highlands area of Lesotho.
Day 1 – The Sani Pass:
The Sani Pass features a great variety of southern African endemic birds. Travelling through a series of habitats – from the grasslands around the villages, to farms with their dams and trees – you enter the World Heritage Site of the Ukahlamba Drakensberg Park. In this vicinity, several duck and water birds may be found. The small Mkomazana River provides a belt of riverine scrub, perfect for the secretive Bush Blackcap and Barratt’s Warblers, which are both high on birders’ wanted lists. Venture into the Protea belt to find a real southern African endemic, the Gurney’s Sugarbird. Restricted to Protea areas, this nectar-feeding bird has only one other species in its family; the Cape Sugarbird found in the Protea regions of the Cape Province. Also in this area with its sandstone boulders, look for other good endemics such as Ground Woodpeckers, Buff-streaked Chats, Cape Rock Thrush, Red-throated Wryneck, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.
Once through the Protea area, you will enter the sub-alpine grasslands with Basalt scree. This area is the start of habitat that is home to the Drakensberg Rockjumper and Siskin, two iconic Drakensberg birds.
On entering the highlands of Lesotho you will notice an immediate change in the vegetation, which with its small shrubs, gravel beds and lack of trees, resembling the Karoo. This is an ideal habitat for species such as Large-billed Lark, Grey Tit, Layard’s Tit-babbler and Fairy Flycatcher. Remember to time your visit to suit the birds you wish to see, as many species will move elsewhere in winter.
You may even glimpse the majestic Bearded Vulture, one of the world’s rarest vultures from afar, although it is difficult to get a close up view of them.
Day 2 – Mistbelt Forests Birding:
If you add this excursion to your visit, you will join Stuart early morning to look for the very rare Cape Parrot and elusive Orange Ground Thrush in the Mistbelt Forests. Committed birders can expect to leave Underberg in the early morning hours to ensure they arrive at the forest at first light. Enjoy a cup of steaming coffee to celebrate any good fortune or drown your sorrows before venturing further to find other birds such as the stunning Knysna Turaco, Cape Batis, Olive Bush Shrike and Grey Cuckooshrike among others.