Soutpansberg – DWARF Picnic Site

About the Birding

The Albasini Dam is the largest body of water in the vicinity of Makhado (Louis Trichardt), located just to the south of Entabeni State Forest. Named after João Albasini, a slave trader and elephant hunter, it dams the Luvuvhu River, which rises in the Soutpansberg Mountains and flows for almost 200 km before joining the Limpopo River in the Kruger and flowing on to Mozambique. The Albasini supplies the area’s sub-tropical fruit farmers with a consistent source of water but is otherwise lined with riverine and semi-deciduous mixed forest.

The Department of Water Affairs owns an extensive part of the water frontage on the Albasini Dam. This can be reached quite easily through the main gate, near the dam wall. From this point on, you should look out for Osprey in summer as they are often near the end of the dam. The normal array of waterbirds such as White-breasted Cormorant, Striated Heron and African Darter can all be seen here, but best of all is the large tract of sour bushveld criss-crossed by numerous roads which you can drive or walk along. Here you will find plenty of bushveld birds and will be able to push up your species total for your trip. This is one of the few places in the region where you can find Yellow-throated Longclaw. The dam itself supports small numbers of White-backed Night-heron and African Finfoot, and these species are best seen by exploring the well-vegetated lake shores by boat.

Key species:

White-backed Night-heron, African Finfoot, Yellow-throated Longclaw

About the Birding Site

The Soutpansberg Birding Route is situated in the very northernmost part of the Limpopo Province including the northern parts of Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe National Park, Venda and the Soutpansberg Mountain range. This is arguably one of the most diverse Birding Routes in all of South Africa, boasting a list well in excess of 540 bird species. Many of these species are residents of the region, implying that there is a year-round abundance of birds to see. However, the resident assemblage of species is supplemented by the mass influx of a high diversity of migrant species in the summer months.

The diversity of the region is linked to the region’s climatic and associated habitat diversity. The Soutpansberg Mountains receive high annual rainfall and are blanketed in well-developed tracts of indigenous forest. These forests support a wealth of sought-after specials including the Blue-spotted Wood Dove, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Orange Ground Thrush, Crested Guineafowl and Barratt’s Warbler. To the north, the climate is noticeably more seasonal and the habitat is drier in these parts, dominated by Baobab country, extensive mopane woodlands, and South Africa’s only known patch of Brachystegia woodland. Top specials within these areas include the Mottled Spinetail, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Meves’s Starling, Three-banded Courser, and Southern Hyliota. The region is drained by the Limpopo River (and its tributaries), along which it is possible to find the sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owl, Saddle-billed Stork, and White-crowned Lapwing while its extensive floodplains support a wealth of waterbirds and the localized Lemon-breasted Canary. The western part of the region, towards the Mogalakwena River, is dry bordering the Kalahari and thus species such as the Southern Pied Babbler, Kori Bustard, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Pale Chanting Goshawk can be found.

Given the size of the Soutpansberg birding route, together with the sheer habitat diversity, we have divided the region into nine different birding areas. Each birding area has its own unique climatic and/or habitat elements and thus each supports its own unique assemblage of bird species. Within each, there are a variety of accommodation options and birding sites to visit.

The Albasini Dam is the biggest waterbody in this area. From the north, one can visit the Department of Water Affairs Picnic Site which has a fair bit of waterfront and an extensive piece of sour bushveld. Birding around the dam is best done by boat and it is possible to find such sought-after specials as the White backed Night-Heron and African Finfoot. The nearby Levubu region is one of South Africa’s richest sub-tropical fruit farming areas. The little town of Levubu itself is the centre of this area and caters for the farming community in the district. The area has two major rivers, the Lotonyanda River and the Levhubu river. Both are fringed by Lowveld Riverine Forest and Semi-deciduous Mixed Forest and are alive with birds. Access to the rivers is difficult as much of this area is under private ownership. Nevertheless, the area has an impressive species total of over 300 birds. It abounds with Purple-crested Turaco and African Green Pigeon, while other key species to look for include the Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Crested Guineafowl, Brown-necked (Grey-headed) Parrot and the Gorgeous Bush Shrike. Allow at least a day in this region to target all key species.

Key species:

White-backed Night-heron, African Finfoot, Yellow-throated Longclaw

Other Related Information

Take the R524 east from Makhado (Louis Trichardt); 21 km out of town turn right down the gravel road marked “Albasini”. The picnic site is 2.5 km further on, on the right. Just through the entrance gate take a sharp turn right and find your way along the roads. Please note that the best birding on the dam is done by boat trip organized by Shiluvari on the southern side of the Dam.

A nominal entrance fee of R5 is payable per person, plus a fee of R15 per vehicle. The picnic site is open from 07h00 to 18h00 daily.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest BirdLife Recommended Accommodations are in the town of Louis Trichardt. For more information, please contact:

Zvakanaka Farm
Cell: +27 (0)84 400 4595
Email: gail@zka.co.za
Website: www.zka.co.za

Other BirdLife Recommended Accommodation options can be found in the nearby town of Haenertsburg (Magoebaskloof) as follows:

Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)15 276 1131
Mobile: +27 (0)82 200 4596
E-mail: info@krm.co.za
Web: http://www.krm.co.za

Bramasole Guesthouse
Tel: +27(0)15 007 0629 (weekdays 8am – 5pm)
Phone: +27(0)72 062 8514
Email: reservations@bramasole.co.za
Web: www.bramasole.co.za

Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottages
Address: Dragonwyck Farm, A 46.5 off R71, Magoebaskloof
Phone: +27(0)84 402 3709
Web: http://mbcottage.co.za/ or http://birderscottage.com

Local guide information:
Samson Mulaudzi
Mobile: +27 (0)83 662 9960
Email: samson@birdingsoutpansberg-venda.co.za
Web: www.birdingsoutpansberg-venda.co.za

Text prepared by:
Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

Key species:

White-backed Night-heron, African Finfoot, Yellow-throated Longclaw

Contact details:

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