Sabi Sabi, with its 6,000 hectares of pristine bushveld, has more bird species than most countries in the world. With hundreds of different species – including some which are listed as rare and vulnerable – Sabi Sabi is a birdwatchers paradise. The reserve supports such a diversity of habitats that it is home to the so-called ‘Big 6’ of the bird world; the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Martial Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard and Lappet-Faced Vulture.
Changing seasons allow for different and unique bird viewing experiences as the migrating birds come and go, seeking all-round summers as they follow abundant food sources. The autumn and winter months produce spectacular sightings of the resident raptors perching atop tall bare trees, or catching thermals as they soar high above – their keen eyes surveying the ground looking for prey. In spring and summer the bush comes alive with splashes of colour and hundreds of birdcalls announcing the return of the “travellers”. The migratory birds summer as far away as Asia and return to Sabi Sabi when the weather is warmer. First back will be the Wahlbergs Eagles in early spring and last will be the Woodland Kingfishers at the beginning of November. And while all migrants have fascinating stories to tell, none is more amazing than the Amur Falcon which covers nearly 20000km on its annual migration.
One of the smaller raptors (females weigh around 135g), the Amur Falcon occurs in flocks numbering in the hundreds. It feeds mainly on insects but also preys on frogs and small birds. Leaving Sabi Sabi at the start of winter, this long distance flyer makes its way to south eastern Siberia. The Falcons’ return journey from Siberia, through China then to India and across Africa coincides with the migration of the wandering glider dragonfly, whose annual journey stretches from India to Africa across the Arabian Sea. This synchronicity allows the falcons to refuel on the wing or enjoy a short feeding stop in India.
From raptors to insectivores and seed-eaters, from tree to ground nesters, the variety of birds here throughout the year is as astonishing as it is magical.
For the “twitchers” of the world Sabi Sabi is a dream destination. In the comfort of an open safari vehicle, keen birders are riveted as rangers find hidden nests and follow interesting birdsongs. Trackers are adept at mimicking some of the calls and visitors are amazed to hear the birds responding. And between game drives, enthusiastic guests keep binoculars handy to continue spotting – be it from the privacy of an Earth Lodge suite to the comfort of Bush Lodge’s huge wooden deck; from sitting on a comfortable couch on the covered veranda overlooking the riverbed at Selati Camp to lounging in a private spa bath on a Little Bush Camp suite deck. Whether in the lodge or out in the bushveld, the birdwatching opportunities at Sabi Sabi are vast, varied and entirely memorable.
SABI SABI STAFF HIGHLIGHT
We have pleasure introducing you to one of the most well known faces at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge – Thomas Mathonsi