The 5 best bird hides in the Kruger National Park

Posted on 24 June 2013

Bird hides might well be the most peaceful spots inside of the Kruger National Park. Suspended in a wooden structure with a low roof and benches, hanging over a flat expanse of water, with dry trees sticking out and birds splashing about, it’s impossible to pay a quick visit to a bird hide.

These are the type of places where you unwind after an early morning game drive, where it’s just you, your binoculars and the gentle frolicking of the Kruger’s most beautiful birds.

Hippos and crocs also tend to enjoy these dams and rivers, so you might get a chance to watch them laze as well. If you get lucky, you might even see other animals come to the water for a drink while you’re there. Here are Kruger’s five best bird hides.

Also read: Kruger National Park’s 10 best lookouts


1. Pioneer Bird Hide

GPS coordinates: -23.52643, 31.39768

pioneer bird hide

Because the north of the park is the best for spotting birds, we’ll start at the top. The roads here are much quieter due to the fact that there’s much less wildlife roaming the park’s northern regions. Pioneer Bird Hide overlooks a very long and broad dam with the same name. There are only eight vehicles allowed at a time, promising a very peaceful experience.

Closest rest camp

Pioneer Bird Hide is very close to Mopani Rest Camp and its satellite camps of Boulders Bushveld Camp and Tsendze Rustic Campsite. It’s also accessible from Shimuwini Bushveld Camp.

Getting there

From Mopani, follow the tarred road out for 1.5km and turn right onto the H1-6. After 2.5km, turn right onto the S142 and follow it 1.5km. Turn right at the signpost and drive another 2km on a very narrow dirt road. There are not caravans and buses allowed on this road.


2. Shipandani Overnight Hide

GPS coordinates: -23.53011, 31.40928

shipandani bird hide

Now here’s a very special bird hide. Situated quite close to Pioneer Hide, Shipandani Overnight Hide hangs over the Tsendze River and, although it functions as a normal bird hide during the day, it becomes an accommodation option at night. The hide has foldout beds, bathroom and closed-off braai area so you can come and spend the night out in the wilderness.

Closest rest camp

The closest camp to Shipandani is also Mopani Rest Camp and you have to book your overnight stay at Shipandani here. You can also access the hide from Shimuwini Bushveld Camp.

Getting there

From Mopani, follow the tarred road out for 1.5km and turn right onto the H1-6. After 2.5km, turn right onto the S142 and follow it for 1.5km. Just after the Tsendze River crossing, you’ll see the hide on your right.


3. Sweni Bird Hide

GPS coordinates: -24.47377, 31.97291

sweni bird hide

Whereas the little structure that forms a bird hide is usually rectangular, the hide at Sweni is built in an L-shape, with both sides looking down along the Sweni River. On the one hand, this gives you more choice and perhaps a better chance of seeing something awesome, but on the other hand, the fact that there’s more space to sit brings with it much more people. They tend to stick to the no-talking rule though, so it should be fine.

Closest rest camp

Sweni Bird Hide’s closest stop is Satara Rest Camp, a popular stop for exploring the flat plains of the park’s central region.

Getting there

From Satara, follow the tarred road out to the T-junction and turn right onto the H1-3. After 5km, turn left onto the H6 and follow this road for 20km – almost to its end. You’ll see the signpost telling you to turn right onto the S37. After another 2.5km of dirt road, you’ll arrive at Sweni Bird Hide.


4. Lake Panic

GPS coordinates: -24.98137, 31.56618

lake panic

Perhaps one of the most renowned hides in the park, Lake Panic Hide offered me one of my most relaxing breaks in the park. Since it’s located in a game rich (and therefore crowded) area of the park, there are only eight cars allowed at a time, offering visitors to the hide a spot of peace in an otherwise busy region.  The hide overlooks a large dam in the very beautiful Sabie River.

Closest rest camp

Skukuza Rest Camp, the park’s head quarters and also busiest camp in the park, is the closest stop to Lake Panic.

Getting there

From Skukuza, drive out to the four-way stop and turn right onto the H11. After 4km, turn right onto the S42 and follow this little road for 1.5km until you reach the hide.


5. Ntandanyathi Bird Hide

GPS coordinates: -25.207193, 31.959229

biyamiti bushveld camp

Overlooking a broad section of the Nhlowa River, the Ntandanyathi Bird Hide sits quite high up and is surrounded by thick vegetation. I was lucky enough to see a pair of elephants enjoy a drink in the river. You can see quite far down the river in both directions, leaving lots of spotting opportunity.

Closest rest camp

Ntandanyathi is the closest to Lower Sabie Rest Camp, but it’s also very accessibly from Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp.

Getting there

From Lower Sabie, follow the H4-2 south for 5.5km and turn onto the S28 – also a good popular road for game viewing. After 6.5km you’ll see the left turnoff to Ntandanyathi.

From Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, head north on the H4-2 for about 5km and turn right on the S28. Follow the road for 20km and turn right at the sign to Ntandanyathi.


Bird hides inside rest camps

These are the top five public bird hides. Some rest camps also have hides inside the camp, but these are generally reserved for overnight guests alone. Find them at Punda Maria, Bateleur Bushveld Camp, Biyamiti Bushveld Camp and Shimuwini Bushveld Camp. Residents of the Fish Eagle Private Guesthouse at Letaba Rest Camp will have a bird hide all to themselves and the same goes for the Rentmeester Guest House at Shingwedzi Rest Camp.

Important tips

There is no talking and noise-making inside the bird hides.
Although you’re allowed to bring along your snacks, you’re kindly requested to take your rubbish with you or dump it in the bins provided.


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