Tankwa – Tankwa Karoo National Park

About the Birding

Start your birding at the turnoff (-32.871416, 19.773956) to the eclectic Tankwa Padstal (well worth a visit just for their legendary roosterkoek and ginger beer!!) Make a stop appropriately two km north of Padstal at an Acacia karoo lined river course (-32.853, 19.776). This area is especially good for skulkers like Pririt Batis, Cape Penduline Tit and Fairy Flycatcher.

Continuing making your way north, checking any drainage lines for flocks of Karoo Eremomela (betrayed by their unmistakeable calls). Species like Rufous-eared Warblers, Tractrac Chats and Spike-heeled Larks are especially common along this stretch.

After 20km you will reach the junction with the P2250 (-32.682056, 19.707872), a hidden gem of a road. The species mentioned above become more common, with the addition to a plethora of other Karoo specials. Larks are especially abundant, with a spring trip likely to net you Spike-heeled, Karoo, Large-billed and Red-capped. The prize bird is however the highly nomadic Black-eared Sparrowlark which can suddenly irrupt into this area after periods of exceptional rain.
More likely finds include larger species like Karoo Korhaan (all year) and Ludwig’s Bustards (winter and spring). Raptors are especially good along this road with Greater Kestrel, Pale Chanting Goshawk and Black-chested Snake Eagle all regularly seen.

After roughly nine km, stop and scan any patches of open gravel for the highly sought-after Burchell’s Courser. They occur along the P2250 in small numbers, but the Tankwa Karoo National Park is much better for this species.

After 34km on the P2250 you will reach the park entry gate at -32.477574, 19.910. The park offices are a further 35 km into the park (-32.241, 20.095). Within the park itself, explore the network of dirt roads concentrating on all the species mentioned above, paying special attention to the open barren areas favoured by Burchell’s Courser.

The Gannagas Pass is another important site to visit and allows you the chance of getting a feel of the rugged Great Escarpment. Although best done in a high clearance vehicle, it can possibly be done in a regular vehicle under ideal, dry conditions. Your prime target species include African Rock Pipit, Pale-winged Starlings and Cape Eagle-owl (rare).

About the Birding Site

The northern Tankwa Karoo can deliver a fantastic variety of highly sought-after dryland species fairly close to Cape Town. The area is a mix of typical Karoo habitat broken by sporadic drainage lines, open gravel plains and the mountainous Great Escarpment. A birding trip is best linked with other sites in the southern Tankwa as part of an overnight or multi-day birding trip.

There are various accommodation options within the Tankwa Karoo National Park, ranging from rustic camping to mid-range chalets, to a lodge.

Other Related Information

WildCards are accepted here.

It is advisable to drive in a high clearance car, though 4×4 is not necessary for the majority of the park. Make sure to carry a usable spare wheel and all equipment in case of punctures.

Text prepared by:

Vince Ward (Birding Africa Tours)

Key species:

Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Eagle Owl, African Rock Pipit, Pale-winged Starling, Burchell’s Courser, Black-eared Sparrowlark, Karoo Korhaan

Contact details:

Tankwa Karoo National Park
Tel: +27 (0)21 741 7136
Web: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/tankwa/tourism/general.php#contact