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Review Highlights
Trip to the Wilderness area of Knysna and Tanqua Karoo.

Excellent knowledge and preparation meant that every target species of bird was seen. Knowledge of... read more

Reviewed 5 November 2015
Nicola H
,
Norwich, United Kingdom
Superb visit to the Tanqua Karoo

We engaged the services of Avian Leisure to guide us for a short trip to the Tanqua Karoo, a unique... read more

Reviewed 2 November 2015
685lisettec
,
Stirling, United Kingdom
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Reviewed 5 November 2015

Excellent knowledge and preparation meant that every target species of bird was seen. Knowledge of photography meant that the majority of these tricky species were also photographed.
Brilliant!

Date of experience: October 2015
1  Thank Nicola H
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed 2 November 2015

We engaged the services of Avian Leisure to guide us for a short trip to the Tanqua Karoo, a unique and fascinating habitat in the dry interior on the Western-Northern Cape Province boundary. As we were staying in Simon’s Town prior to this trip, where Avian Leisure is based, we were invited round for a chat about the trip, what we were hoping to see, and to sort out logistics over a coffee and a displaying Pin-tailed Whydah. Patrick Cardwell, our guide, was an extremely experienced birder and guide, and a font of knowledge about the area, southern Africa more generally, and the biology and ecology of the wildlife we encountered.

Whilst in the Cape we had chiefly arranged our own birding, but as we were short of time at the end of our trip we decided to hire Patrick to guide us round the Tanqua Karoo – as it is a large area, with few birding loci and many unobtrusive species, this turned out to be an excellent decision! We met at Cape Town airport, where we dropped off our hire car, and Patrick drove us north, via a couple of sites where we picked up species such as African Paradise Flycatcher, Verreaux’s Eagle and Swee Waxbill, to arrive in the Karoo in the afternoon. We drove along several dirt roads, picking up several more easily encountered endemics and local specialities, before heading to a game lodge where we were to stay. A small oasis of taller cover in the dwarf-scrub of the Karoo, the grounds of the lodge held species such as Karoo Thrush, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Spotted Eagle-owl, Namaqua Warbler and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow. The following day was the bulk of the birding, exploring the expanse of the Karoo by car and visiting several locations where, without expert knowledge, we would have stood little or no chance of finding the target species. Top sightings were Karoo Korhaan, Burchell’s Courser and Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, along with a whole host of other excellent birds (listed below). Having encountered pretty much everything that could be reasonably expected that day, the final morning was more leisurely, enjoying some dam birding and, sadly, wending our way back to Cape Town airport for early afternoon (via another couple of sites to pick up the odd extra species) and our flight home.

Our preferred birding ‘style’ is less about the ‘tick’ and more about enjoying new habitats and the unique species they support – we like to learn about an area, and every bird we see is a bonus. In my experience, this approach frequently turns up more species than a more frenetic attitude. Patrick, although ably suited to cater for tick-hungry listers, was in his element with this approach, and was able to furnish us with information about the distribution, behaviour and range and population changes of many of the species we observed. A keen ‘larker’, one of the most interesting things Patrick discussed with us was the small-scale habitat preferences of the various lark species of the Karoo, a crucial aid in locating various birds. As a naturalist not just a birder, Patrick also introduced us to some of the charismatic plants of the Karoo, along with a whole range of other wildlife found there, such as Puff Adder and Angulate Tortoise. Unbelievably, this also included a chance encounter with an African Wildcat on our second day – a really special sighting. For some of the more skulking bird species, such as Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Patrick used playback to entice them to show, but this was done in an ethical manner, with respect for the birds and their well-being: once seen playback was stopped, and if no response was given after one or two playbacks the birds were left alone.

So, on to the birds. We saw 149 species with Patrick in 2.5 days, although a significant proportion of this was travel time, making the total even more creditable. Key species were Karoo Korhaan (two pairs, each with young), Burchell’s Courser (one pair), Namaqua Sandgrouse (one pair), Greater Kestrel (several), Rufous-cheeked Nightjar (several), Karoo Lark (frequent), Black-eared Sparrowlark (a pair and another male), Spike-heeled Lark (a group), Karoo Thrush (single(s) at the lodge), Sickle-winged Chat (single), Karoo Chat (abundant), Tractrac Chat (several), Mountain Wheatear (singles), Anteating Chat (single), Karoo Eremomela (pair), Cape Penduline-tit (pair), Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (pair), Fairy Flycatcher (singles), Layard’s Tit-Babbler (pair), Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler (pair), Long-billed Crombec (single), Namaqua Warbler (several), Rufous-eared Warbler (several), Pirit Batis (singles), Pale-winged Starling (two), Wattled Starling (single), Dusky Sunbird (a group), Lark-like Bunting (frequent) and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (several). Other noteworthy species included South African Shelduck, Maccoa Duck, African Fish-eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Black Harrier, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Blue Crane, Familiar Chat, Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird and Swee Waxbill.

This short trip was one of the most rewarding birding experiences we have ever had, and we would not hesitate to recommend Patrick and Avian Leisure to anyone looking for a guide or expert assistance for birding trips in South Africa.

Date of experience: October 2015
2  Thank 685lisettec
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed 1 July 2015

Patrick's an excellent guide, and went out of his way to show me the specific species I'd asked to see. I'd highly recommend him. The accommodation at Simons Town is very comfortable with stunning views of the bay, and numerous birds and a Porcupine in the garden. Avian Leisure have organized over 6 trips to Southern Africa for me, and every experience has been brilliant

Date of experience: June 2015
Thank duncan968
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed 20 March 2014

We stayed 6 days at Avian Leisure's Shearwater appartment wich we booked in combination with a Pelagic Birdwatching Tour and 3 full days of Birding with Patrick from Avian Leisure.
We are experienced birders and this was our first trip to Africa. Patrick did everything and more to make each day an experience never to forget. In those 4 days we observed 186 bird species and 19 mammals, including many 'most wanted' species including stunning views of Verreaux's Eagles, Black Korhaan, flocks of Blue Cranes, White-winged terns, Denham Bustards, Black Harriers, Cape Rockjumper, Cape Rockthrush and Ground Woodpecker. We were very happy to also observe Bryde's whale, Klipspringer, Steenbok and many other interesting mammals. All of this within a 1 day radius of Cape Town!
Patrick is an absolute Top-guide and also a pleasure to bird with. The Pelagic Birding was a wonderful experience with wonderful photography oppurtunities and upclose observations of many Albatross, Shearwater, Storm-petrel and other pelagic species with a visit to a Fur-seal colony and great views of Dusky Dolphins close to the both.
I can recommend Avian Leisure to anyone who wants to make the most of their birdwatching or safari trip to South Africa.

Date of experience: March 2014
2  Thank Bauke K
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed 26 December 2013

We spent a day birding the west coast with Avian Leisure's Patrick Caldwell. What a wonderful day we had. Saw over 60 species of birds, visited a small vineyard and had a delicious Malay lunch. Patrick is truly "The Cape Naturalist". He was most accommodating and informative. We booked the tour on the internet before we left.

Date of experience: December 2013
1  Thank babs2053
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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