Greater Johannesburg and Environs – Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

About the Birding

Despite its near urban location, the birdlife is prolific, and the gardens are renowned for their breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles which have their nest ledge adjacent to the waterfall. In winter, the Succulent rockery attracts a plethora of sunbirds with Amethyst, White-bellied, Greater Double-collared, and the occasional Malachite Sunbirds all making an appearance. Winter is also a good time to look for Fairy Flycatchers which find their way into the area from the much colder foothills of the Drakensberg and Lesotho.

In summer, the gardens attract a good array of migrants with Red-chested, Diederik, Black and Klaas’s Cuckoos all regularly recorded. African Paradise-Flycatchers are common in summer, whilst the hike taking the more energetic birders to the top of the waterfall is a great spot to try ones luck at finding the often elusive Striped Pipit as well as Cape Rock-thrush and Lazy Cisticola. Black-headed Oriole, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Kurrichane Thrush, Cape Weaver, and African Black Swift all frequent the gardens and the woodlands at the base of the waterfall. The dam holds a breeding population of Red Bishop and Southern Masked-Weaver and is regularly visited by Reed Cormorant and the occasional Pied Kingfisher and Striated Heron.

Key species:

Half-collared Kingfisher, Verreaux’s Eagle, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, African Black Swift (summer), Striped Pipit, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Cape Rock Thrush, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckooshrike, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Little Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon

About the Birding Site

The Botanical Gardens are approximately 300 ha and comprise both landscape and natural grassland areas. The natural vegetation of the area is “Rocky Highveld Grassland” which is made up of a patchwork of grassland and savanna with dense bush in both kloofs and along streams. The gardens are easily accessible from both paved and gravel paths which criss-cross the area.

The Crocodile River flows through the heart of the gardens and descends from the rocky cliffs via the 70-meter high Witpoortjie Waterfall. A small dam and wetland have been created at the lower end of the gardens with the Sasol bird hide overlooking the dam.

Key species:

Half-collared Kingfisher, Verreaux’s Eagle, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, African Black Swift (summer), Striped Pipit, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Cape Rock Thrush, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckooshrike, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Little Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon

Other Related Information

Directions:
From Johannesburg Airport take the R24 towards Johannesburg. Shortly after the R24 merges with the N12, branch left onto the N3 and immediately right onto the north off-ramp towards Pretoria and Roodepoort. Continue on the N3 for approximately 12 kilometers and at the N3 / N1 split keep right on the N1 South towards Roodepoort and Bloemfontein. After a further 14 kilometers take the R 512 off-ramp signposted Malibongwe Drive and Lanseria.

Other related information:

Directions:
Turn right towards Northgate / Lanseria and after 4 kilometers left into Olievenhout Avenue. Continue to the intersection with the R 564 Northumberland Avenue adjacent to The Dome and turn left towards Honeydew. Cross over the M5 Beyers Naude Road and turn right into Paul Kruger Road. Continue for 5 kilometers then turn right onto Hendrik Potgieter Road. After a further 3 kilometers turn left at the Caltex petrol station onto Doreen Road and then first right into Malcolm Road. The entrance to the Botanical Gardens parking is on the left after a further 3 kilometers. Approximate travelling time from the airport 60 to 90 minutes depending on traffic conditions and the time of day.

Access and facilities:
GPS coordinates: 26°05’13.8″ S, 27°50’40.7″ E
Times: 09:00 – 18:00 (covid regulations in place)
Entrance Fees: Adult (R65), Student (R40), Children (R20), Pensioner (Free entry on Tuesday) – Increase from April 2021

Text prepared by:
John Kinghorn and Toni Geddes

Key species:

Half-collared Kingfisher, Verreaux’s Eagle, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, African Black Swift (summer), Striped Pipit, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Cape Rock Thrush, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckooshrike, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Little Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon

Contact details:

N/A

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