Lilac-breasted Roller

Cost: $6900, Deposit $1,000

Single Supplement: $1,000

Final Payment Due: May 1, 2022

Guide to Participant Ratio: 1:5

Maximum participants: 10

Openings left: 4

Guides: Steve Eshbaugh & A South African Guide

Level: Easy


Tour prices are given “per person, double occupancy” and include a donation to BOTH Montana Audubon (Steve Hoffman’s former employer) and a South African conservation organization.


What's included in your fee?

  • All trip materials, including detailed daily itinerary, list of what to bring, recommended field guides and pre-trip reading materials, checklist of likely birds & other wildlife.

  • All services of the leaders and guides

  • All transportation upon arrival to destination city.

  • All accommodations during tour dates.

  • All entrance fees to museums, parks, etc.

  • All meals (except alcoholic beverages) are included, typically from breakfast on the first full day through dinner on the last full day.

Tour prices DO NOT include round-trip airfare, passport/visa fees, arrival taxes, baggage fees, single-supplement fees, telephone calls, laundry, room service, souvenirs, tipping of your trip leader.

Tour deposit is refundable, minus a $100 processing fee up to 150 days prior to departure.

Note: Tour costs, itineraries and dates are subject to change. Prices may be affected by international currency exchange rates or itinerary changes.

We offset all trip impacts by purchasing carbon offsets to reduce our carbon footprint.

Make your deposit today!

South Africa - Birds Wildlife & Culture: October 1-17, 2022

This trip will fill quickly, as it offers a unique game and bird viewing opportunity, and ends with five days of safari at a bargain price.


This trip offers an extraordinary opportunity to immerse yourself in the stunning scenery, wildlife, and culture of South Africa. Why pick South Africa for a safari?  When we see game, we'll have to share it with few others. Unique to almost any other tour, this venture starts on a 7,200 acre private game farm. We will literally leave cars behind and go for short hikes to spot giraffes, impala and a variety of other big game in the absence of predatory animals (at least none of the human eating kind.) The way Lindani placed its lodges means we will likely see nobody else during our stay. It won't take long to leave the stresses of home behind.

We'll also visit Cape Town, one of the prettiest cities in the world and visit the stunning Cape Point National Park. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens present an opportunity to view an amazing array of flowering plants and to take advantage of the many bird species that feed on the flowers for nectar.

No trip to South Africa is complete without a true safari. Many tours book safari lodges for two or three nights, we have five consecutive nights; Not many people return to Africa multiple times, so we want to make every effort to increase your chances at seeing a wide variety of wildlife. All our visits are to malaria-free zones, so no anti-malarial medications needed.

DO NOT book this trip if you require connectivity everywhere you go. Game lodges usually offer Wifi only at the reception area and not in bedrooms. Take this as an opportunity to truly step away from the hectic pace.

Itinerary at a Glance

October 1: Depart Home.

October 2: Arrive Johannesburg, Overnight in Johannesburg.

October 3: Transfer to Lindani, Overnight Lindani.

October 4: Explore Lindani, Overnight Lindani.

October 5: Explore Lindani, Overnight Lindani.

October 6: Lindani to Johannesburg, to Cape Town, Overnight in Cape Town.

October 7: Cape Town Exploration, Overnight Cape Town

October 8: Wine country, three wineries, Overnight Cape Town

October 9: Cape Peninsula Tour, Boulder's Beach, overnight Cape Town

October 10: Cape Town exploration, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Overnight

Cape Town

October 11: Cape Town to Johannesburg to Madikwe Private Reserve

October 12: Explore Madikwe Private Reserve, Overnight Thakudu Bush or similar

October 13: Explore Madikwe Private Reserve, Overnight Impodimu Lodge

October 14:: Explore Madikwe Private Reserve, Overnight Impodimu Lodge

October 15: : Explore Madikwe Private Reserve, Overnight Impodimu Lodge

October 16:Drive from Madikwe to Johannesburg, Fly Home Tonight

October 17: Arrive Home

Detailed Daily Itinerary:


October 1: Depart United States

​October 2: Arrive Johannesburg: You'll be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel near the airport. You must arrive by tonight!

October 3: Drive to Lindani: After breakfast, we'll travel north to the Waterburg Region, where we will spend the next  three days acclimatizing to the new time zone while staying in a gorgeous private reserve, virtually unknown outside of South Africa.Very few tours offer the opportunity to view wildlife on foot without a guide carrying a rifle, but we'll do that here. We'll search for greater kudu, red hartebeest and more. We’ll have lunch in Lindani, then go for a leisurely walk on one of the nearby trails. You’ll also be introduced to one of those wonderful English traditions, a “high tea” break in the late afternoon, a chance to refresh over a cup of hot tea. Near our lodge, we're likely to see wart hogs, giraffe and plentiful impala. Overnight Motseng Lodge.

October 4:: Lindani: We'll do an early walk before breakfast. You might choose to stay at the lodge and enjoy the animals that visit the waterhole in the morning hours. The fabulous wetlands of Lindani provide ideal habitat for many birds. We should get fantastic views of the birds who depend on this habitat.  Most the ducks you'll see will be new life birds, like White-backed, Knob-billed, and Yellow-billed ducks. We'll search for the magnificent Long-tailed Widowbird, Long-tailed Paradise Wydah and Southern Red Bishop. And, for those who love flycatchers, there are more than a dozen species found here. The four cisticola species (Netticky, Rattling, Levaillant’s and Rufous-winged) present interesting identification challenges. Overnight Motseng Lodge.

After dinner we’ll go out on our first game drive in the African bush. We hope to see genets and/or civets feeding; bush babies are also a frequent site along with wide variety of antelope, and of course, zebras and giraffes. Overnight Motseng Lodge.

​​October 5: Lindani: Today's activities will largely depend on our luck the past two days. We'll focus our efforts on new animal sightings, but make sure to also stroll among the giraffe and impala. The animals here seem to move at a slower pace so as not to expend excess calories and we'll follow suit. One of the most endangered animals in the world, the pangolin (due to illegal trade) can be spotted in Lindani and perhaps we'll be lucky enough to find one. By the end of today, everyone will likely be adjusted to the new time zone and ready for more explorations.On our last night at Lindani, we'll celebrate with a sunset dinner at Makgethelo picnic area. Overnight Motseng Lodge


October 6: Lindani to Cape Town: Before breakfast today we'll head out for one last stroll to see what new mammals and birds are about. After breakfast we'll board our van back to Johannesbug to catch our flight to Cape Town. Over the next five days we'll explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We'll check into our hotel in Cape Town for the next five nights.

Long-tailed Widowbird

October 7: Robben Island: This morning, we'll tour t the famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront , from where we'll embark on a ferry ride which docks at Murray's Harbor on Robben Island. The harbor is named after the 19th-century whaler  John Murray. The island is most famous for serving as a detention center for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here for 18 years in a 2 meter by 2 meter cell with no bathroom and no bed. The island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999,  ensuring its protection. 

October 8: Exploration of  Cape Town: Today our full-day itinerary includes scenic cliff-side mountain passes, idyllic seaside settlements  and fynbos ecosystems as we trace the Peninsula en-route to the Cape’s popular attractions. 

The little African Penguins at Boulders Beach are world famous and even featured on Animal  Planet in a regular documentary. Here they go about their daily affairs, blissfully unruffled by the  many human eyes observing their every move. Similarly the Chacma Baboons will keep a close eye on you as you visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and make your way to the  lighthouse where panoramic ocean views may be enjoyed. Chapman's Peak Drive traces the  steep west coast mountainside as it snakes its way along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Watch  out for the bronze leopard as it keeps an ever-watchful eye over Hout Bay, a memorial to the  many animals that once inhabited the mountains dominating the Cape Peninsula. We have an excellent chance of spotting our first ostrich and stunning tsessebe and bontebok antelope also resides here. An  exhilarating day of sightseeing sees us return to the city during the late afternoon. 


African Penguin, by Steve Esbaugh, Guide

October 9: Wine Country: Today a forty-minute drive leads us into the heart of South Africa’s wine producing region.  Stellenbosch, the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, is also one of the most historically  well-preserved in Southern Africa. Water furrows along oak-lined streets compliment the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture. The Stellenbosch Wine  Route is the oldest, most extensive, and probably the most visited of the Cape’s wine routes.  Many of the estates are very old, their gabled, whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads, rolling  vineyards and shade-dappled grounds lovely beyond measure. The nearby village of  Franschhoek, literally French Corner, owes its existence to a small group of French Huguenots who  were settled here in the latter half of the 17th century. We’ll visit several fine estates  in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek districts. The region is renowned internationally for the  exceptional quality of wines produced by its fertile soils. Most noble cultivars and classic styles are  on show here, from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin  Blanc, to rich reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. During the late afternoon your tour meanders its way back to Cape Town.

October 10: Table Mountain: We'll take a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and enjoy the stunning views of Cape Town far below us. In the afternoon, we'll enjoy the Cape Town waterfront. Perhaps we can pick up a Cape Cormorant and one of the many gull species that frequent the area.

Safari vehicle photo by Guide Steve Eshbaugh

​October 11: Cape Town to Johannesburg to Madikwe: First Night on Safari

We’ll fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg, in the early morning, then we'll board our shuttle for the four-hour drive to Madikwe Private Game Reserve. This leisurely drive will give us a chance to appreciate the South African countryside. The next two nights we'll sleep at Thakadu River Camp in the southeastern corner of Madikwe Reserve. Each private room includes a comfortable bed, shower and toilet. Don't let the words "tent camp" frighten you away, as this is well beyond glamping (picture below). Tonight, we'll take our first game drive in the bush of a game reserve where predators lurk. Perhaps you will see your first lion and elephant. One advantage of our rooms is the ability to take in the night sounds of the African bush. Once you hear a lion roar into the still of a night, you will never forget it.

Madikwe Reserve encompasses over 180,000 acres, but unlike Kruger National Park, self-drive vehicles are not permitted. Drivers here communicate with one another so there isn't a mass of vehicles anytime a charismatic animal is spotted. There will never be a time where they allow more than two cars at a sighting, no matter how spectacular the animal might be. Overnight Thakadu River Camp.

Thakadu River "Camp"

October: 12: Safari: We'll spend the next four days exploring the large, private reserve of Madikwe Privare Reserve, the 5th largest in South Africa. Each day will begin with a predawn cup of coffee or tea and a rusk (biscotti) to give you a little energy before we pile into our safari vehicle to head out to the bush. For me, my blood pressure jumps a little each time I take a seat in a safari vehicle. to head out into the bush. What will be the mornings highlight? Will we spot a newly born animal? Might we catch one of the many predators on a hunt? How close will we come to elephants? Sometimes, a lion will make eye contact, and you'll feel like the animal is looking right through you.


We’ll return for breakfast, then have a chance to catch a nap or view animals at the watering hole that's visible from the lodge. After lunch, it's more break time to avoid the peak of the heat, when animals are at their least active. Before dinner we'll head out to see more big game.

For each drive we will have our own open-air safari vehicle with a driver and a guide. We will search for the big five (elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo and leopard) and so much more. Overnight Thakadu River Lodge.

What are the Big Five?

Anyone who reads about safaris will see mention of "The Big Five." In years past, the big five were the five most dangerous animals to hunt, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and African buffalo. When we go on safari, everyone wants to see "The Big Five" and to capture them in photographs. Of the five, the leopard provides the biggest spotting challenge. One reason we spend five nights on safari is to enhance the chances of spotting more big game. In addition to the big five, we will most assuredly see giraffes, hippo, spotted hyena, zebra,and  a wide array of antelope and birds. Madikwe is known for it's African Wild Dog a high endangered species. Cheetah, another endangered species recently bred successfully at Madikwe for the first time.

Leopard photo by guide Steve Eshbaughh

October 13: Safari: We'll be back in our safari vehicle before breakfast. Today, we'll emphasize wildlife we missed the first day. This will be our last day touring the eastern areas of the reserve.With luck cheetahs will fill our camera lenses and memory cards. After we return for breakfast, we'll transfer to the western edge of the reserve, where we'll spend the next three nights.


When other wildlife isn't easily seen, birds often provide a great "diversion". We'll be searching the bush and trees for whatever birds we might see. Kingfishers appear like giant butterflies with their colorful wings when taking flight. Birds we have an excellent chance of spotting include pied babbler (an endemic referred to by locals as "flying snowball"), violet-eared waxbill, Red-backed Shrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Malachite, Giant and Brown-hooded Kingfishers, Lilac-breasted Roller, Speckled, White-backed and Red-faced Mousebird, 11 eagle species, Yellow-billed, Black and Black-winged Kite, 10 cuckoo species, and many more. Over 350 species of birds can be seen on the grounds of Madikwe!

This afternoon you can take a turn at the "hide" (game blind) that puts you safely within two meters of elephants. Imagine the photos you'll be able to show off when you return home! Overnight Impodimu Lodge.

Photo by guide Steve Eshbaugh

October 14: Safari: An advantage of staying at Impodimu is the Shangaan tracker who will accompany our safari vehicle, a service offered by no other lodge. Leopard are not easy to see in the reserve, but these incredible trackers will certainly help!


The "big five" are always a focus, but everyone delights at seeing giant kudu, cheetahs, zebras, or any other number of mammals. And of course, when wildlife are not in view, there are always spectacular birds to delight. By now, you're likely addicted to game drives. You never know what will tantalize you today, will we get to see a pride of lions go on a hunt, a leopard in a tree feeding on a recent kill, or perhaps just laugh at the antics of a troop of baboons?


To put an exclamation mark on the day, you also have the opportunity to relax even further  at the hands of a professional massage therapist. Overnight Impodimu Lodge.

Photo by Guide Steve Eshbaugh

October 15: Safari: You'll thank your lucky stars for the morning coffee/tea and rusks. By this point of the trip, you'll likely be shaking your head at how easy the photographs are to take with so many cooperative wild animals. Our guide and driver will work hard to spot wildlife we haven't previously seen.

This will be our last full-day of driving the bush to search for antelope, giraffe, elephants and whatever other favorites. You might also decide that the beautiful swimming pool is beckoning to you today for one last dip while in South frica. You'll face one huge final question: After all the pampering and gourmet meals, accompanied by incredible game drives, how will you adjust back to life at home? Overnight Impodimu Lodge.

October 16: This morning, those who still have the energy can do a final pre-breakfast game drive. We'll drive back to Johannesburg after breakfast. International flights to the United States depart in the late evening.

October 17: Arrive home!

Merlin Birding Tours offers extraordinary, affordable birding & natural history excursions in the U.S. and abroad.  We provide exceptional, personalized customer service to all clients. Custom ecotours are offered to any destination as requested. Consider scheduling a nature or birding tour with the expert guides at Merlin Birding today.

© Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC 2018

P.O. Box 6788

Bozeman, MT 59771

Phone: (406) 461-5714

(Send us an Email)

Merlin Birding Tours offers extraordinary, affordable birding & natural history excursions in the U.S. and abroad. We provide exceptional, personalized customer service to all of our clients. Custom eco-tours are offered to any destination, as requested. Consider scheduling a nature or birding tour with the expert guides at Merlin Birding today.

© 2020 Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC. All Rights Reserved.