Blyde River Canyon – Swadini Dam

About the Birding

The Swadini Dam is situated at the mouth of the Blyde River Canyon. The dam is fairly steep-sided but there are a number of fantastic trails and birding opportunities in the vicinity of the dam and surroundings. A boat cruise on the dam itself may yield specials such as the African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck and the occasional Bat Hawk.

The waterfall walking trail is fantastic for forest species such as Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-chat, Green Twinspot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Cape Batis.

Key species:

White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Green Twinspot

About the Birding Site

The majority of birders actively plan birding trips to areas where they can either see a large number of birds in a short space of time or around rarities/localized species that would not easily be seen elsewhere. The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route offers both these highlights and a captivating wildlife experience to visiting birders.

Contained within the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route are 10 provincial nature reserves, the world’s largest collection of privately owned nature reserves, and the world-famous Kruger National Park. The route includes three vegetative biomes namely Montane Grassland, Afromontane Forest, Savanna and a fascinating vegetation unit of Northern Escarpment Afromontane Fynbos with strong links to that of the Fynbos Biome which is otherwise restricted to the Western Cape. This diverse range of habitats provides a home to a total of 76 bird families and a staggering 510 species of which 8 are endemic to the region. The Lowveld is a raptor watchers’ dream destination with approximately 85% of South Africa’s raptors being concentrated in this region. The fantastic road infrastructure and well-established tourism industry, offering accommodation in unparalleled surroundings, provides birders with an excellent platform from which to explore the area.

The route starts at Graskop and the top of the Blyde River Canyon from where it meanders along the course of the panoramic Canyon before plunging down through the Abel Erasmus Pass, the only known breeding site of the rare Taita Falcon in South Africa, and into the Lowveld. The drop in altitude from 1730 to 250 meters above sea level gives rise to a multitude of breath-taking views of a Tufa waterfall, wooded valleys and the expanse of open savanna below. Once down in the Lowveld the route reaches the town of Hoedspruit where a number of different birding opportunities are presented. The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which includes the Swadini Dam, offers a wide variety of typical bushveld bird species and also includes African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and Green Twinspot. Mariepskop, which is one of the best-kept birding secrets in South Africa, is largely dominated by Afromontane Forest, but also includes a piece of Northern Escarpment Afromontane Fynbos habitat at the summit. Exploring both habitats assures a treasured day’s birding with species such as Orange Ground Thrush, Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Red-necked Spurfowl and Gurney’s Sugarbird.

Alternatively one can continue on to the town of Phalaborwa, which as well as offering a diverse range of bushveld birding, has a number of wetlands which is uncharacteristic of the area. The region offers some fantastic bird species such as White-crowned Lapwing, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Saddle-billed Stork. Phalaborwa is also a gateway to the central section of the Kruger National Park which has been rated as one of the top birding destinations in Southern Africa with a species list exceeding 500 species. Kruger’s rest camps of Mopani, Letaba, Olifants and Satara with their fantastic mixture of bushveld and riparian habitat birding anchor the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route. Look out for species such as African Barred Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Collared Pratincole and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route offers an amazing and diverse number of species within three different biomes supported by well-maintained infrastructure and world-class accommodation options catering specifically for birders. Birding sites along this route are broadly divided by their proximity to several key towns in the area or notable features of this route such as the Abel Erasmus Pass and Blyde River Canyon. The central parts of Kruger National Park are then treated separately from the northern parts (covered in the Soutpansberg sub-route) of this expansive reserve.

Key species:

White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Green Twinspot

Other Related Information

Travelling from Hoedspruit or the Strydom tunnel on the R527 turn onto the R531 heading south towards Kampersrus. Approximately 2km before the turnoff to Kampersrus is a tar road to the right. Directions to the dam are signposted. Drive up to the gate, past the Aventura resort and onto the dam.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest BirdLife Recommended Accommodations are in the nearby towns of Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit.

Hoedspruit – Toro Yaka Bush Lodge:
Physical address: Balule Nature Reserve,
(On the R40 between Hoedspruit & Phalaborwa)
Fax: +27 (0)12 991 5984 or 086 603 8251
Mobile: +27 (0)82 308 5763
E-mail: info@toroyaka.co.za
Web: http://toroyaka.co.za/

Phalaborwa – Abelana Game Reserve:
Abelana Game Reserve
Cell: (+27) 061 952 4302
Website: www.abelanagamereserve.com
Email: info@abelanagamereserve.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/abelanagamereserve/

Phalaborwa – Antares Bush Camp & Safaris
Cell: 083 2868281 (Ian) or 0828115696 (Mel)
Website: www.antares.co.za
Email: info@antares.co.za
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AntaresBushCamp

Phalaborwa – Sunbird Lodge
Physical address: 21 Aalwyn Street, Phalaborwa
Tel: +27 (0)15 781 5559
Fax: +27 (0)15 781 5559
Mobile: +27 (0)72 756 1875
E-mail: info@sunbirdlodge.com
Web: http://www.sunbirdlodge.com

Local guide information:
Abednigo Mahbela, a community bird guide, operates within the Swadini Dam area of the Blyde River Canyon and can assist you in finding some of the specials. You can contact him directly on: 072 382 1846.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

Key species:

White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Green Twinspot

Contact details:

N/A

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