South Africa – Underberg and the Sani Pass – part 1

After extensive research, Sandra decided to stay in Underberg which gave easy access to the Sani Pass. The Sani Pass starts at 1544m and rises 1332 vertical meters to summit at 2876m. It’s also considered a birding hotspot.

Our accommodation was at Panorama Hideaway Underberg, and after a very nice introduction we watched the sunset.

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Sunset in Underberg

VTR-L09 1/420 s. f/2.2 iso50 n.a.

We had previously contacted out hosts about a guide to go up the Sani Pass with a special interest in birds. They suggested Aldo Berruti who runs Drakensberg Nature Tours with his wife, Sharron. Aldo was an extremely interesting man with a vast knowledge of the regions birds. If you’re interested you can read about him here

Next morning it was an early start to drive the Sani Pass into Lesotho. Aldo picked us up at 06:00 and after brief introductions, we set off. After stopping for fuel, we continued on the Sani Road and stopped at some lakes near to the Sani Road and Sani Pass Road junction. Here we saw and photographed Southern Red Bishop, Drakensberg Prinia, Greater Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, and African Stonechat.

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Drakensberg Prinia, Prinia hypoxantha

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/5000 s. f/5 iso800 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Greater Striped Swallow, Cecropis cucullata

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/5000 s. f/5 iso800 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

We stopped three more times to see more Southern Red Bishops plus White Stork, Grey-crowned Cranes, Cape Crow and Levaillant’s Cisticola

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Grey Crowned-crane, Balearica regulorum

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/8000 s. f/5 iso800 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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White Stork, Ciconia ciconia

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/5000 s. f/5 iso800 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Southern Red Bishop, Euplectes orix

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/5000 s. f/5 iso800 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Levaillant's Cisticola, Cisticola tinniens

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/2500 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Cape Crow, Corvus capensis

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/8000 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

Our next stop was at Sani Lodge Backpackers as they had a lot of flowers planted at the front which attracted Amethyst Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape White-eye, and Brimstone Canary.

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Brimstone Canary, Serinus sulphuratus

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/2500 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

Onwards and upwards, we stopped several times to photograph African Sacred Ibis, Red-eyed Dove, Bush Blackcap, Cape Grassbird, Brown-throated Martin until we left the road and went to Mkomazana Mountain Cottages

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African Sacred Ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/2500 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

Walking around the grounds and to the Lake we saw an Olive Thrush and a Half-collared Kingfisher.

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Olive Thrush, Turdus olivaceus

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/320 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

A poor distant shot of the Half-collared Kingfisher but it was great to see it and even Aldo looked pleased

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Half-collared Kingfisher, Alcedo semitorquata

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/100 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

We even managed to see a few Baboons hanging around

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Baboon

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/3200 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

Rejoining the Sani Pass Road we stopped more times to photograph
Malachite Sunbird, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, Red-throated Wryneck, Buff-streaked Chat, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Familiar Chat, Streaky-headed Seedeater, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Cape Canary, Cape Wagtail, Drakensberg Siskin, Cape Bunting, and Sentinel Rock Thrush.

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Jackal Buzzard, Buteo rufofuscus

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/5000 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Red-throated Wryneck, Jynx ruficollis

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/1600 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Gurney's Sugarbird, Promerops gurneyi

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/1600 s. f/5 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Cape Bunting, Emberiza capensis

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/2000 s. f/5.6 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

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Familiar Chat, Cercomela familiaris

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 1/3200 s. f/5.6 iso400 EF500mm f/4L IS USM

During all of this birding we also had amazing views of the Sani Pass and the surrounding area

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Sani Pass

VTR-L09 1/850 s. f/2.2 iso50 n.a.

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Us on the Sani Pass

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS 1/1000 s. f/4 iso160 4.5-90.0 mm

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Sani Pass

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS 1/1250 s. f/3.5 iso160 4.5-90.0 mm

As can be seen, it’s not the greatest road and you really do need a 4×4 to drive it.

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Sani Pass

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS 1/1250 s. f/4 iso125 4.5-90.0 mm

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Sandra and Aldo, Sani Pass

VTR-L09 1/1050 s. f/2.2 iso50 n.a.

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Sani Pass

VTR-L09 1/900 s. f/2.2 iso50 n.a.

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South Africa Lesotho border crossing

VTR-L09 1/750 s. f/2.2 iso50 n.a.

Here we reached the border of South Africa and Lesotho and the next part of the trip will be in South Africa – Underberg and the Sani Pass – part 2

© 2003-2019 Kevin B Agar

2 comments on “South Africa – Underberg and the Sani Pass – part 1
  1. phil roberts phil roberts says:

    fantastic, diverse collection.I could never have named any of them.

    1+
    • Kevin Agar Kevin Agar says:

      Thank you Phil for looking and commenting, it’s greatly appreciated. Our guide was excellent and really helped with the IDs. I can definitely recommend him.

      0

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