Kalahari – Kimberley, Kamfers Dam & Dronfield

About the Birding

Kimberley & The Big Hole:

Kimberley, built on the back of an enormous Diamond rush in the 1900s is situated in the perfect position to access a number of really interesting birding sites in this part of the Northern Cape province. Most visitors will have already heard of the Big Hole, and anyone visiting should keep their eyes in the sky as this is a great place to view aerial feeders like Rock Martin, Lesser Striped Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, White-rumped Swift, Horus Swift, Little Swift, Alpine Swift, and Bradfield’s Swift, the latter an exceptionally good bird to see in South Africa.

Occasionally Lanner Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Rock kestrel, Booted Eagle and other raptors will move through the area and White-backed Mousebird, Orange-River White-eye, Acacia Pied Barbet and Dusky Sunbird can often been found in the vegetation beneath the viewing platform and around the parking lot.

Finding The Big Hole and Kimberley Museum is easy, and well signposted across the town. It’s wheelchair friendly and has a functioning restaurant, ablutions and a wheelchair friendly access ramp. Parking area can be located at -28.7407 24.7546

Gates open from 8am-5pm and entrance fees apply.
These were R100 per adult, and R60 per child at the time of writing.
Pensioners are charged R80, only on Mondays.

Kamfers Dam:

Kamfers Dam is a natural ephemeral (non-perennial pan) which is almost 500 hectares in size, but it has become a permanent wetland in recent years and has turned into a mecca for waterfowl as permanent water bodies of this size are few and far between in this semi-arid environment. Undoubtedly the main attraction here however, is the large flock of Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo that utilize this dam, with the former outnumbering the latter. Counts in excess of 40 000 individual flamingos have been reported, and watching large groups of these birds in flight is a real spectacle. In total, over 60 species of waterbirds have been reported from the dam and a 2006 census recorded almost 85 000 individual birds, of which roughly 95% were Lesser Flamingos.

Other species to look out for whilst here include Marsh Owl, African Marsh Harrier, Cape Shoveler, Hottentot Teal, Cape Teal, Red-billed Teal, Chestnut-banded Plover, South African Shelduck and all three species of grebe, namely Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. The muddy banks attract good numbers of shorebirds like Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Ring Plover, Common Greenshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Kittlitz’s Plover and there is always a chance for something unusual turning up here on passage, such as Grey Plover, Common Whimbrel, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit.

On the western edge of the dam, the large expanses of reedbeds are not readily accessible but they do hide shy birds like Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Bittern, African Swamphen, African Rail, Black Crake, Baillon’s Crake which will show themselves to the luckiest of birders. Warblers also call these reedbeds home and you’ll often hear and catch glimpses of African Reed Warbler, Lesser Swamp Warbler as well as Levaillant’s Cisticolas and both the gaudy Yellow-crowned Bishop and Southern Red Bishop occur here. Over the open water, one might pick up Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern (summer), Grey-headed Gull and also African Darter, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant and Glossy Ibis.

To access the dam, travel 6km north of Kimberley on the N12 and you’ll find the dam on your left hand side. One can only access as far as the subway, where the viewing point is located. Although one can try to reach the western shoreline by 4×4 or on foot, the clay road conditions make for a potentially difficult journey, and getting stuck out here could be a security risk, so it is not recommended to attempt this alone.

A detailed Birdlife South Africa write up on the background of Kamfers Dam can be found here.


Located just across the road from Kamfers Dam, and only 10km north of Kimberley on the N12, the small Dronfield nature reserve can be found. Originally purchased by De Beers mine as a deposition site for the nearby mine, it was then utilized for grazing and eventually in 2004, the entire 12000 hectares were proclaimed as a nature reserve. Visitors have a chance to see Eland, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Plain’s Zebra, Giraffe and Greater Kudu here. Birding is very typical of the Kalahari thornveld, with Acacia Pied Barbet, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Cape Starling, Fiscal Flycatcher, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Yellow Canary, Black-throated Canary, Violet-eared Waxbill, Green Winged Pytilia, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Marico Sunbird all occurring here. While the more open grasslands may yield Rufous-naped Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Ant-eating Chat, Northern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird and Lilac-breasted Roller.

Dronfield is famous for its large breeding colony of White-backed Vulture and up to 50 pairs have been recorded here, and thus this is one of the most important colonies in Africa. The vulture hide is a must visit and one can get great views of the White-backed Vulture here, as well as Cape Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture occasionally.

The reserve offers self-catering chalets, and reservations and enquiries can be made on:
Tel: +27 (0) 53 839 4455
Email: reservations@debeersgroup.com

The entrance gate to Dronfield can be located at -28.6457, 24.7747

Key species:

Booted Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, South African Cliff-Swallow, Bradfield’s Swift, Alpine Swift, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird

About the Birding Site

Kimberley, the capital and largest city in the Northern Cape province of South Africa is surrounded by large tracts of Kalahari thornveld and with that, comes a long list of spectacular dry-adapted bird species and number of shy and uncommonly seen nocturnal mammals. Of course, the Diamond rush in the 1900’s is what started it all, and no visit to the city is complete with viewing the Big Hole, a 215m deep mine, dug entirely by hand.

Key species:

Booted Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, South African Cliff-Swallow, Bradfield’s Swift, Alpine Swift, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird

Other Related Information

Kimberley is situated in a semi-arid region, due to this, extreme temperature fluctuations can be experienced. Pack sufficient warm and light clothing to accommodate for this.

Kimberley is in the vicinity of a number of key birding sites which include:

  • Marrick Safaris
  • Mokala National Park
  • Benfontein Nature Reserve
  • Dronfield Nature Reserve
  • Spitskop Dam

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are a number of private Bed & Breakfasts and lodges in the area, which are all available through online booking sites. There are no BirdLife Recommended Accommodations listed for this area.

Local guide information:
There are no community bird guides available for this site. However, there are a number of BirdLife Recommended Tour Operators that can supply guides or guided tours for this site, Unearth Safaris.

Text prepared by:
Justin Rhys Nicolau (Unearth Safaris)

Key species:

Booted Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, South African Cliff-Swallow, Bradfield’s Swift, Alpine Swift, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird.

Contact details: