Phalaborwa – Grietjie Private Nature Reserve and Vulture Restaurant

About the Birding

Located roughly 20km to the south of Phalaborwa, the Grietjie Private Nature Reserve in the northern section of the Balule Concession. The reserve encompasses some 2800ha including 6km of river frontage along the perennial Olifants River. The removal of the boundary fence with Kruger National park has also led to the subsequent influx of wildlife into the Grietjie Private Nature Reserve. The reserve encompasses stunning landscapes boasting rocky outcrops, plains, and extensive savannahs and riverine bush. Some 280 species are known to occur including the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Grietjie Private Nature Reserve boasts a vulture restaurant, with carcasses placed each Saturday. Five species of vulture are regularly sighted including the White-backed, White-headed, Cape, Lappet-faced and Hooded Vultures. Marabou Stork, Bateleur and Tawny Eagle are all regular attendees. Access to the vulture hide is open to the public though a nominal maintenance fee is payable at the entrance gate and a deposit will be requested for the viewing hide key.

Key species:

White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Marabou Stork, Bateleur, Pel’s Fishing Owl

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-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Marabou Stork, Bateleur, Pel’s Fishing Owl

Other Related Information

Travel south from Phalaborwa on the R40 towards Hoedspruit. After approximately 20 km take the Grietjie turn off onto a gravel road and travel until you hit the Grietjie Private Nature Reserve main entrance gate. Once inside, continue straight and across the four-way stop. Continue straight and take note as the Vulture Restaurant sign will be on your right-hand side.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Several luxurious accommodation options are available within Grietjie Private Nature Reserve offering a range of accommodation options, as well as guided activities through the wider reserve. For more information, please visit www.grietjiepnr.co.za.
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:
A range of guided activities are available through the various lodges within Grietjie Private Nature Reserve.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

Key species:

White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Marabou Stork, Bateleur, Pel’s Fishing Owl

Contact details:

For more information, please contact:

Tel: 015 769 6006
Email: grietjiecomms@gmail.com
Website: www.grietjiepnr.co.za

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