Kalahari – Witsand Nature Reserve

About the Birding

What Witsand Nature Reserve lacks in size, it makes up for in its abundance of Little Brown Jobs (LBJs), and it’s a wonderful place for one to get to grips with this challenging group of birds.

The cottages and campsites are well positioned within stands of camelthorns and here one can look for Pearl-spotted Owlet, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-chested Prinia, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Acacia Pied Barbet.

Sociable Weaver is common here, and scanning their large nest structures can often yield roosting Pygmy Falcon. Other birds one can look for here include Ashy Tit, Green-winged Pytilia, Familiar Chat, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill and Cape Starling. A walk around after dark can turn up Southern White-faced Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl and African Scops Owl.

A visit to the sunken bird hide is a must, especially for keen photographers and here Red-eyed Bulbul, Black-throated Canary, Yellow Canary, White-backed Mousebird, Red-faced Mousebird, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Southern Masked Weaver are regular visitors. While the surrounding areas may yield Fawn-coloured Lark, Lilac-breasted Roller, Long-billed Crombec, Dusky Sunbird, Marico Flycatcher and Pririt Batis. In the summer months, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow and European Bee-eater move in to the area, and for those who spend enough time at the hide, you might enjoy up to three species of sandgrouse coming to drink, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Sandgrouse and Double-banded Sandgrouse which are more regular predawn and just after dusk.

Birds aside, Witsand offers general wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Common Duiker, Steenbok , Greater Kudu, Meerkat and Southern Ground Squirrel. Whilst night drives on the reserve could yield real specials like Ground Pangolin, Cape Porcupine, Aardvark, Aardwolf, Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox, and Small-spotted Genet.

Nearby Sites:
A quick visit to the nearby Langeberg Mountains, could turn up African Rock Pipit, an isolated population that occurs here and can be accessed by traveling 13km north of Witsand and then heading east towards Bergenaars Pass. Familiarise yourself with their call. For those willing to drive, a visit to Kathu, especially the golf course can produce Red-billed Spurfowl, the southernmost locality for them and a good bird for South Africa itself.

Key species:

Pygmy Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Kori Bustard, Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Courser, Eastern Clapper Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Black-eared Sparrowlark

About the Birding Site

Located in an area covering three major vegetation types, this small (3500ha) reserve was proclaimed in 1994, and covers Karroid Kalahari Bushveld, Orange River Nama Karoo and Kalahari Mountain Bushveld. This convergence of habitat, makes for both for wonderful birding and charming scenery, not to mention the sunken bird hide to watch up to 3 species of sandgrouse from.

Key species:

Pygmy Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Kori Bustard, Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Courser, Eastern Clapper Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Black-eared Sparrowlark

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
Tariffs:

South African Citizens & Residents (with ID): R60 per adult/day, R40 per child/day.
Standard Conservation Fee:R120 per adult/day, R60 per child/day.

Gate/office hours 08:00-18:00.

Other related information:

Witsand Nature Reserve 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.

Witsand Game Reserve offers a number of activities, which include:

  • Stargazing
  • Bicycle Rental
  • Hiking (no restrictions to where you can access on foot)

Important information:

  • There is no fuel station on the reserve. Nearest fuel is in Olifantshoek (80km), Groblershoop (110km), Griekwastad (125km), Postmasburg (105km).
  • Day visitors are welcome, picnic sites provided (max 6 per site).
  • Larger groups can rent the lapa on a daily basis.
  • Swimming pool available for day visitors who have paid for picnic sites.
  • Wheelchair friendly facilities.
  • Small kiosk with curios, basic foods and soft drinks (no alcohol, fresh produce).
  • Although this is a low risk malaria area, consult your doctor/chemist.

To access Witsand from Johannesburg (8hours), travel to Kuruman via Vryburg on the N14. Travel a further 45km to Kathu and then 27km onwards, you’ll find the Olifantshoek turnoff on your right. From Olifantshoek, travel 4km towards Upington on the N14, and turn left towards Witsand (well sign posted). Travel a further 75km to reach Witsand.

From Upington (220km), take the N8 (R64) to Groblershoop, roughly 110km. Just before Groblershoop, turn left to Griquastad. Travel 59km on this road and turn left at the signposted Witsand turnoff. A further 45km on gravel and you’ll find the entrance.

From Kimberley (275km), take the N8 (R64) towards Griquastad and Upington. From Griquastad, take the road to Groblershoop for 80km and turn right at the Witsand Signpost. A further 45km of gravel to the entrance.

Main Gate: -28.5665 22.4876
All map for the location Witsand Nature Reserve and important information can be found here.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are a number of private Bed & Breakfasts and lodges in the area, which are all available through online booking sites. Both camping and chalet type accommodation can be located within the park itself. 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:

Pygmy Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Kori Bustard, Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Courser, Eastern Clapper Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Black-eared Sparrowlark

Contact details:

Witsand Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)83 234 7573
Email: reception@witsandkalahari.co.za
Website: www.witsandkalahari.co.za

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