Eastern Cape

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Warm waters, unspoilt beaches, malaria free game parks, a dry but beautiful interior and many historic reminders of South Africa's turbulent history make the Eastern Cape a top class destination for visitors and for birders. Leading on eastwards from the Garden Route, the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast offer hundreds of kilometers of pristine beaches, unspoilt wilderness and mountain ranges. The regions two principal cities and ports of entry are Port Elizabeth and East London. Other important towns of note are Graaf Reinet with its superb Karoo architecture, the settler city of Grahamstown and Umtata.

The province boasts thousands of hectares of pristine protected wilderness areas, of which the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is one of note. The Addo Elephant National Park, which is now in the region of 164 000 hectare and stretches to the north as far as Zuurberg Mountains and East to the Sundays River Estuary, offers the biodiversity of five biomes and fantastic birding. Hotspots of equal beauty and tranquility stretch from the breathtaking showcase of the Tsitsikamma forest and coast, inland to Willowmore and Steytlerville in the Karoo and across to the Great Fish River. Heading inland to Queenstown and across to Barkly East in the foothills of the natural Drakensberg Mountain beauty one can see Bearded Vulture and Drakensberg Rockjumper. Birders from around the world have come to tour this collection of biomes and natural vegetation enjoying many hours of birding and other ecotourism activities such as game viewing and hiking.This is the only birding route in South Africa incorporating 7 different biomes (Fynbos, Coastal thicket. Forest, Succulent thicket, Savannah, semi-desert, grasslands) which give rise to a number of different bird communities for visiting birders to enjoy.

The area is dominated by a series of parallel mountain ranges, running east to west, that have a profound effect on the natural vegetation and the subsequent biome diversity of the area. The rainfall decreases generally from east to west.

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The Cape Fold Mountains, approximately 10-15km from the coast and 30km wide, stretching from the west, peter out at Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth itself has a number of fantastic birding spots in easy reach including Cape Recife a fantastic representation of coastal birding hosting species such as Roseate Tern and African Black Oystercatcher whilst Bridled Tern have been known to make an appearance from time to time. The gently sloping coastal plain is a mixture of Fynbos and farmland (Humansdorp) where large areas are covered by invasive Pines, Black Wattle and Australian Cyclops, Longifolia and Saligna Accacia. Many of the deeply incised gorges offer shelter and water for Valley Bushveld (thicket) which reaches almost forest proportions in places (Van Stadens). Fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom) covers large parts of the mountains with succulent thicket, also almost reaching forest proportions in places, growing in many of the valleys and water courses (Baviaanskloof) and valley bottom savannah (mainly Acacia Karoo) in some of the larger river valleys in these mountains. Certain of the south (sea) facing slopes are covered by cool temperate forests (Tzitzikama).

birds-african jakanaThe semi-desert plain (Karoo) extending northwards and inland behind these mountains is in their rainshadow and therefore unable to support little more than stunted drought-resistant bushes, not much taller than half a metre (Steytlerville / Willowmore) [R329] and yet surprisingly even in this area of low rainfall, pockets of typical savannah (free-standing trees with karoo-bushes in between) can be found (Kleinpoort). The trees are slow-growing and drought-resistant and are not much taller than 3-4 metres. Key species in this area include Ground Woodpecker and Denhams Bustard.

North and east of Port Elizabeth is the Zuurberg fold mountain range which extends eastwards beyond Grahamstown. Grahamstown in itself can be used as a base for birders exploring the area with Karoo Scrub Robin and Cape Robin-chat, Bokmakierie, Southern Tchagra, Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Bunting are prominent, with Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Spectacled Weaver, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbird are easily found. Specials such as Martial Eagle, Black Korhaan, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Black-headed Heron and Secretarybird may well be seen. Much the same vegetation types occur here, with thicket and forest on the south-facing slopes and in the sheltered gorges, fynbos on top and karoo to the north behind them. A feature of the thicket and forest that occur here are the leafless candelabra-shaped Euphorbia trees, often rising higher than the surrounding valley bushveld.

The gently sloping plain behind these mountains, also in a rainshadow, is drier in the west and therefore predominantly covered in karoo-type vegetation (Golden Valley, Cookhouse, changing to grassland (Bedford) gradually giving way to Acacia Karoo savannah, valley bushveld and thicket the further east one goes, right down to the coast (Bathurst/Port Alfred). To the north, this plain extends to the foothills of the first escarpment. (Bruintjieshoogte, Kaga and Amatola mountains)birds-malachite sunbird

In the drier west these mountains are predominantly covered in Karoo-type vegetation (Bruintjieshoogte) with montane forest growing on some of the south-facing slopes (Somerset East) reaching ever-higher proportions the further east one goes, to become true Montane forest (Bedford, Hogsback) where one can find species such as the endangered Cape Parrot, Starred Robin and Crowned Eagle.

Above the main escarpment, the Winterberg, is a mixture of Karoo (Queenstown) becoming more grassland further east (Maclear, Elliot), with numerous pine plantations replacing the natural grassland and farmland in places. Unfortunately invasive Black Wattle trees cover large areas of the landscape. As one climbs up the Barkly Pass to the top of the Drakensberg, the vegetation is true montane grassland. Patches of indigenous forest grow on the south-facing slopes of the mountains.

The coastal plain from Port Elizabeth in the west to the Fish River mouth in the east, ranges from coastal thicket and low canopy forest (south and west of Port Elizabeth) to succulent thicket as one moves north and east (Colchester). Birders visiting the Eastern Cape should definitely take in the numerous estuaries along this stretch of coastline including Swartkops which has yielded a number of rare migrants such as Terek Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew. From here to Alexandria the vegetation is a mixture of dairy farming and agriculture, grassland, coastal thicket, low canopy forest and true forest incorporating tall Yellowwoods, Erythrinas and many other giant trees. The banks of the numerous short, tidal rivers from the Bushmans to the Fish are covered mainly in dense Euphorbia thicket and forest where a separate population of Barred Owlet was recently found as well as reports of a solitary Pel's Fishing Owl on the Kelinmond estuary. Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Victorin's Warbler and Green-backed Camaroptera, Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin Chat and White-Starred Robin, Forest Canary, Black-backed Puffback, Greater Double-collared and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, and Cape Sugarbird can all be seen in these areas. Spring is usually heralded by the arrival of the Emerald, Klaas' and Red-chested Cuckoo.

Tsistikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park is a beautiful indigenous forest protected by the State and is home to centuries old trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Hard Pear, Ironwood, Kamassi and many others. Over the millennia, rivers have cut awesome gorges through the coastal plateau as they flow down to the spectacular coastline. This paradise of forest fynbos and sea is home to birds, antelope, bushpig, honey badgers and the occasional leopard. Whales and dolphin are constant visitors to the coast. The climate is temperate with an annual rainfall of 1200mm with the wettest months occurring from may to October and driest in June and July. Birding is best in the summer months.

The Tsitsikamma National park covers a large area with many birding sites - a good site to visit is the Platbos Forest and Nature Walk which has yielded sightings of the elusive Narina Trogon. Other specials to be seen include Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Victorin's Warbler and Green-backed Camaroptera, Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin Chat and White-Starred Robin, Forest Canary, Black-backed Puffback, Greater Double-collared and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, and Cape Sugarbird. Spring is usually heralded by the arrival of the Emerald, Klaas' and Red-chested Cuckoo.

The Natures Valley Rest Camp is situated in the De Vasselot section of the Tsitsikamma National Park on the banks of the Groot River, about 30km from the town of Plettenberg Bay and about 40km from the Storms River Rest Camp. All forest huts and ablutions have electricity as well as electric geysers in the ablutions. The forest huts are also fitted with a standard three point electric plug. The camping sites have not been electrified. The camping sites have communal ablution, laundry and washing up facilities.

Directions

  • Follow the N2 towards Cape Town until Storms River Bridge.
  • Storms River Village turn-off is to the left about 4km further on towards Cape Town.

Additional Information

  • Nearest garage – Witelsbos – 30km from the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp.
  • Office hours: 07:30 – 18:00
  • Gate opening and closing: 07:00 – 19:00

Contact

Tel: +27(0) 42 281 1607

Island Forest Reserve


The reserve is one of a few areas of Indigenous Coastal Forest near to Port Elizabeth. This is a good area for quiet birding in mid-week as the week-END attracts many visitors who come to picnic and enjoy a day out in the open grassed area. The White-starred Robin and Lemon Dove are often seen at the water feature in the middle of the large picnic area. Knysna Turaco, Black-headed Oriole, Black-bellied Starling, Cape Batis, and Brown Scrub-Robin are seen at the forest edge and along the driveway into the reserve.

A walk into the forest has been known to yield, amongst many other species, views of Yellow-breasted Apalis and Blue-Mantled Crested-Flycatcher. In the Forest where there is open ground the keep an eye open for the Lazy Cisticola and during the summer months for the African Emerald Cuckoo. When leaving the picnic area going into the forest, the Bushbuck trail can be reached by taking the path to the left after about 250 metres and proceeding under the road bridge. This trail has been known to yield sightings of Black-backed Puffback, and Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler.

Other worthwhile sightings in and around the forest area have included Grey Cuckooshrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Tambourine Dove, African Paradise-flycatcher, Red-necked Spurfowl, Forest Buzzard and on occasions the African Harrier-Hawk.

Directions

  • Within an hour's drive from the centre of Port Elizabeth, this 500ha reserve can be reached by using the N2 to Cape Town and following the Seaview sign to the left. The reserve is signposted on the left shortly after the Colleen Glen / Kragga Kama Road intersection.
  • A small entrance fee is levied.

Additional Information

Facilities:

  • Large grassed picnic area shaded with large indigenous trees.
  • A water feature can be found in the middle of the large picnic area.

Habitats: Indigenous Coastal Forest, open grassed area, bushveld thicket.

Seekoei River Nature Reserve


To the south of Jeffrey's Bay, at the little resort of Aston Bay, is the Seekoei River Nature Reserve established to protect the water birds living round the mouth of the river. A number of paths emanate from the entrance leading inland through fynbos where amongst others, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Neddicky, Cape Robin-chat, Karoo Prinia, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Brimstone Canary and Bar-throated Apalis can be seen.

Follow the signs to the Bird Hide which offers watchers a wide panoramic view of the Lagoon which is home to a large variety of Water Birds during the summer months. Caspian Tern, Cape Teal, Goliath and Grey Heron, Osprey and the occasional African Fish-eagle, Reed Cormorant, Cape Shoveller, Red-billed Teal, African Spoonbill, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Sacred Ibis and Egyptian Goose and other Waders are often seen.

Difficult to see waders often congregate among the rocks and pebbles at the waters edge below the hide. These could include Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone as well as the Kittlitz's, White-fronted and Three-banded Plover.

Walking west along the river bank, heading upstream from the hide there are some reed beds that conceal Lesser Swamp-warblers. You then reach a pontoon/raft on a cable on which you can pull yourself across the Swart River (unless the river is very dry) to a 3km hiking trail. You may have to swim back across the river if someone has already taken the raft back. Here you could have the opportunity to see bush birds, but these are not plentiful on this walk.

To have a closer view of the birds on the south side of the Seekoei River it is advisable to drive back to the main gate and turn right across the causeway to Paradise Beach side of the estuary. Here you could find Black-winged Stilt, Common Greenshank, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Blacksmith Lapwing, Giant and Pied Kingfisher on the banks, and in the short grass and shrub you should see Levaillant's Cisticola, Cape Wagtail and Cape Weaver.

Directions

From the N2, follow the signs to Aston Bay and Paradise Beach which are to the west of Jeffreys Bay, Follow Dolphin Drive and turn right into Swan Drive. The Seekoei Nature Reserve is on the right.

The entrance to the reserve is clearly signposted and has a large archway as a gate. Be sure to park under the large Fig Trees alongside the Nature Conservation offices where a map of the area can be obtained. There is no charge for entry into the reserve.

Additional Information

Facilities: Bird Hide and Raft to access 3km Hiking Trail on the opposite peninsula which lies between the two rivers.

Habitats: The area comprises of mostly Kaffrarian Thicket with patches of Coastal Fynbos and Aloes and various indigenous trees. Reed beds alongside the river.

Contact

Jeffreys Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)42 2920339
E-mail: jbaytourism@telkomsa.net

Yellowwoods Nature Reserve


This reserve of ancient Yellowwoods and White Stinkwoods is home to a variety of forest birds and adjoins the Golf Course. Just before reaching Hankey turn off to the right along side the golf course. The Picnic area which is on the left further on from the golf course has a small stream running through it with rustic braai facilities.

The best time to visit this reserve is in the early morning. Wandering along the many paths can bring sightings of: Tambourine Dove, African Firefinch, Black-backed Puffback, Green Woodhoopoe, Lesser Honeyguide, Thick-billed Weaver, Black Cuckoo, Grey Cuckooshrike, Knysna Turaco, Olive and Knysna Woodpecker.

Directions

  • Take the R331 off-ramp from the N2 shortly after passing the Van Stadens Bridge and travel towards Loerie / Hankey / Patensie.
  • After about 25km turn off to the right along Klein River Road. After passing the Golf Course, the turn into picnic area will be to the left.

Additional Information

Habitats: This area is mainly comprised of coastal Forest.

Kabeljous Lagoon and Nature Reserve


Situated on the east side of Jeffrey's Bay, this 200ha Reserve is bordered by the Kabeljous River which leads into the Lagoon that terminates in a blind Estuary to the west, with the R102 to the North and The sea to the South.

When entering the Reserve at the gate on the R102 it will be necessary to park at the gate. A track leads from the gate where one can see Karoo Scrub-Robin, Familiar Chat and various Sunbirds. Keep to the right until the river is reached.

At this point Osprey, African Fish-Eagle and Spoonbill are often seen while closer to the bridge Purple Heron, Giant Kingfisher and at times the Black Crake may be seen. After following the track along the river for about 200mtr, the bank becomes a low cliff where a track will be seen to run through a grassed area. This track runs through Euphorbias to a locked gate where it turns sharp left leading one over a vegetated dune to the lagoon. Here one can expect to see waders, geese and other water birds. Follow the Lagoon edge until an outlet is reached where one can walk over the grassed area to a track again where one must turn left. After a short walk this track will bring you back to your starting point.

African Marsh-Harrier, Knysna Woodpecker, Chestnut-banded Plover, African Black Oystercatcher are also some of the specials that can be seen in the Reserve and at the lagoon.

Directions

This area lies east of Jeffrey's Bay and can be approached along Da Gama Road heading East from Jeffrey's Bay. Turn right into Kabeljous Road. Park on the grassed area at the edge of the Lagoon where one can picnic and watch the water fowl on and along the edge of the lagoon.
The Reserve can be reached via the beach between the lagoon and sea or by following Da Gama road to the 'T' junction.
Turn right and about 200mtr after crossing the bridge over the Kabeljous River, the entrance is marked on the right.

From Cape Town on the N2, take the Jeffreys Bay West exit. When you reach a cross-road, turn left onto the R102. After 3km you will reach the small bridge over the Kabeljous River.
The Reserve is on the right about 200mtr east of the bridge.

From Port Elizabeth turn left onto the R102 after crossing the Gamtoos River Bridge. Follow the Jeffreys Bay East signs for about 12 km.
The reserve is on the left about 200mtr before the bridge over the Kabeljous River.

Gamtoos River Mouth Nature Reserve


The Gamtoos River Mouth is well known for the number of vagrants it produces including a long staying Eurasian Oystercatcher. The reeds and marshes hold Baillons Crake as well as African Rail and Hottentot Teal. Check the dense vegetation along the river for Southern Tchagra. Bush specials are African Marsh Harrier, Cape Batis, Knysna Woodpecker, African Dusky Flycatcher and Olive Thrush.

Terek Sandpiper, Curlew, Common Whimbrel, European Oystercatcher, Black Crake, African Snipe, Purple and Goliath Heron, African Rail, European Hobby and Caspian Tern are some of the species that have been seen here. The estuary mud banks and flats are best viewed from just outside the reserve gates or from the bird trail that starts approximately 100m before the gates on the western side.

In summer the flats teem with waders and can offer a day's entertainment to birders. Recent recorded rarities include Pacific Golden Plover, Mongolian Plover, the above mentioned Eurasian Oystercatcher and Citrine Wagtail. Birding here is best in late spring and summer following the arrival of migrant waders. The Gamtoos River Mouth is an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Directions

  • The road to Gamtoos Mouth is sign posted off the R102 and lies between Thornhill and the Gamtoos River Mouth.
  • Drive to the END of the tar road at the lagoon and walk the bush trails or beach paths. A nominal charge is levied for entrance to the reserve.

Mondplaas Ponds


Mondplaas Ponds has long been rated as one of the top birding sites for waders in the Eastern Cape and given its close proximity to Port Elizabeth means it should be well worth a visit. Mondplaas Ponds can be temperamental due to fluctuations in water levels but Little Bittern, Yellow-billed Duck, Black crowned Night heron, Fulvous Duck, Cape Teal and on occasions Baillon's Crake can be found.

At the ponds Wood, Curlew and Common Sandpiper together with Whitewinged, Whiskered and Caspian Terns, African Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern and Black Crake are often seen. Whilst in the area have a look at the cultivated fields which surround the ponds – these fields often contain African Pipit, Cape Longclaw and Zitting Cisticolas.

Directions

  • Follow the N2 towards Cape Town and travel approximately 50km west of Port Elizabeth. After crossing the Gamtoos River take the Mondplaas off ramp and turn inland.
  • The access road to the ponds is the first gravel road to the right.

Kouga – Baviaanskloof complex


The Kouga - Baviaanskloof complex lies about 120 km's west of Port Elizabeth and encompasses 172 000 ha's of unspoiled, rugged mountain terrain. The Kouga and Baviaanskloof Mountain ranges run parallel to one another and to the coast, though the Tsitsikamma Mountains lie in between this complex and the Indian Ocean. The larger and more extensive Kouga range contains many high peaks at its central and western extent, up to 1,757 m. The Baviaanskloof is far narrower, and the north-facing slopes drop steeply into the Great Karoo. A number of major rivers run through the complex, though it is along the spectacularly scenic Baviaanskloof River that you will drive if you traverse the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area. Both the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Rivers flow into the Kouga Dam, which also lies within the complex. The vegetation in this large complex is varied and thus holds a remarkable number of avian habitats – cool patches of Afromontane forest in the deep ravines, karroid scrub on the Great Karoo Plains, small patches of fynbos, succulent bushveld on the dry northern slopes and a strip of riverine vegetation along the rivers. All told, these habitats support about 300 species of birds.

The Kouga – Baviaanskloof complex is rated as an IBA due to the presence of species of global conservation concern - Black harrier, Blue crane, Knysna woodpecker, Ground woodpecker, Protea seedeater and Cape siskin. Within the low fynbos scrub you may be lucky and find Striped flufftail or possibly Hottentot buttonquail, which is suspected of occurring here. In the fynbos patches, which can be seen from the road near the top of Combrink's Pass, Bergplaas, and the top of Holgat Pass, look for Orange-breasted sunbird, Cape sugarbird, Cape siskin and Protea seedeater. The isolated forest patches are good for Knysna woodpecker, Forest canary, Cape batis, African paradise flycatcher, Greater double-collared sunbird, Sombre greenbul and Red-necked spurfowl on the forest edge. Look along moist seeps and heavily vegetated streams for Victorin's warbler. Ground woodpecker are relatively common on most rocky slopes above 1 000 m, and although Cape rockjumper has been recorded in the western Baviaanskloof, they are not common. Also look for Pale-winged starling, Speckled pigeon and Jackal buzzard in these rocky areas. In the northern foothills of the Baviaanskloof, on the Great Karoo Plains, you can find Karoo korhaan, Sickle-winged chat and Rufous-eared warbler. Keep an eye overhead for raptors, Rock kestrel are common but also look for Lesser kestrel which roost communally and disperse during the day to forage on the open plains. Also in open areas, but in the coastal grasslands to the south, look for Blue crane, Denham's bustard and Black harrier. All three campsites are along the river and the belt of riverine Acacia woodland is a good place to find Layard's titbabbler, Namaqua warbler and Southern grey tit.

The road network in the reserve is limited, though there is a circular 4x4 trail (Osseberg 4x4 route). Mammals that can be seen in the reserve include Cape buffalo, Cape Mountain zebra, Kudu, Klipspringer and a whole host of smaller mammals like Large-spotted genet, Cape honey badger and African wildcat to name but a few.

Facilities

  • The nearest fuel and general dealer is at Patensie.
  • Komdomo campsite – situated on the banks of the Groot River with 17 sites. Hot water & electricity. Communal ablutions.
  • Doodsklip campsite – a wilderness campsite on the banks of the upper reaches of Kouga Dam. Basic ablutions.
  • Rooihoek campsite - a wilderness campsite on the banks of the upper reaches of Kouga Dam. Basic ablutions.
  • Bergplaas Mountain hut – a rustic hut sleeping a max of 12 people. Basic facilities. Self-catering.

Directions

From Port Elizabeth: Take the N2 west towards Jeffrey's Bay and Humansdorp. Just past Thornhill look for the R331 off-ramp right towards Hankey/Patensie. Follow the R331 for approximately 65 km's until you reach the entrance gate to Baviaanskloof

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Kouge-Baviaanskloof Complex   33°44' 26.21" S   24° 36' 51.95" E

Additional Information

Reservations: + 27 (0) 43 705 4400 / +27 (0)86 111 3320
Fax: +27 (0)86 111 1623/4
Website: www.ecparks.co.za
E-mail: reservations@ecparks.co.za

Reserve office hours: 08h00 – 16h45
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Day visitors: Adults R30

Gate opening and closing times:
All year : 07h00 – 22h00

Cape Recife Nature Reserve


Cape Recife is situated adjacent to the Nelson Mandela Municipal University and is within easy distance for any birder visiting Port Elizabeth. The site has a number of different habitats which makes a morning birding there very worthwhile. On the way into the Reserve between the Marine Drive and Pine Lodge Resort, drive slowly keeping an eye open for the Dark-backed Weaver and Karoo Prinia in the vegetation on the right and the occasional Black-shouldered Kite on the telephone wires. Once reaching the entrance boom one has the option of walking or entering by vehicle, remembering that a permit is needed when using your vehicle. BirdLife club members may enter using their membership cards.

The bird-hide and ponds may be accessed on foot by entering the gate on the right at the first major turn after entering at the control boom. The route is well worn and clearly marked and can produce Jacobin Cuckoo in the summer with the near ENDemic Burchell's Coucal and Red-faced and Speckled Mousebirds being resident all year round. Pied Kingfisher and Neddicky are always seen at the entrance gate. A good variety of Swallows and Swifts are seen in summer as well as the Brown-throated Martins all year round. Cape Robin-Chat can be seen in the coastal dune shrubbery alongside the pathway.

From the hide on the larger of the two ponds, one can expect to see White-breasted and Reed Cormorants as well as African Darter, Little Egret, South African Shelduck, Cape and Red-billed Teal and the ENDemic Cape Shoveller. The Black-headed Heron has often been seen flying above while the Purple and Grey Heron may be seen on the banks of both pools. With patience the Little Bittern, Black Crake and African Rail will also be seen. After exiting the hide, take the trail to the left to view the second pond where amongst many other water birds the African Black Duck, Cape Shoveller and White-faced Duck are usually resident. Malachite and Brown-hooded Kingfisher have been seen near the pumping station on the opposite bank.

"The Roseate Tern trail" is a continuation of this path and contains all the main features of the reserve and is about 9km long and could take about 3 hours to encompass. Following the trail back to the entrance gate keep a watch for the Southern Tchagra and Yellow Canary. Continuing from the entrance gate along the tarred road without turning off will bring you to a parking area near to the lighthouse.

A walk along the beach between the lighthouse and the and the sea will take you to the tern roost where seven or eight tern species can be seen just after high tide and mainly in the summer months. (A walk along the beach during high spring tides should be avoided). Roseate and Antarctic Terns are most noticeable during the winter months.

Some of the world's largest colony of Cape Gannets is often seen on their return to their breeding ground on islands in Algoa Bay when they and the Jackass Penguin feed off the point. Other waders such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, and many Plover can be viewed hurrying along the waters edge feeding. A walk further to the west along the beach could reveal flocks of Cape and Grey-headed Gulls and many African Black Oystercatchers. Care should be taken to not disturb the breeding Oystercatcher. High south to south-west winds during and after storms have on occasions brought in the stray pelagic birds from the southern seas. Keep an eye open for these birds in this area after such weather.

Directions

This 370 hectare reserve is situated on the most southern point of Algoa Bay. It can be reached by travelling along Beach Road and on to the Marine Drive. Shortly after passing the Humewood Golf Course on the right, turn left at the sign for Pine Lodge Resort. The entrance to the reserve is at a control boom shortly after passing the Resort.

It will be necessary to obtain a permit to enter the reserve. These permits are available from Pine Lodge Resort during office hours. Bird Life members however may enter using their membership cards.

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Cape Recife Nature Reserve   S 34° 0' 35.51"   E 25° 41' 17.76"

Additional Information

Facilities:
Bird Hide at one of the two reclamation ponds

Habitats:
Low scrub vegetation, rocky and sandy shore line, water reclamation ponds, Coastal and Rooikrans vegetation.

Settlers Park in Port Elizabeth


Offering birders a wide diversity of birds and habitats, Settlers Park is a must for budding birders and twitchers alike, with around 200 species that can be seen. The trails are well worn and can be followed easily on foot from alongside the Flower house in the main parking area off How Avenue. The area will take between three and four hours to cover in order to get the full benefit from all of the different habitats. There are benches along the route where one can relax and wait for some of the species to come to you.

It is suggested that a start should be made from the main car park off How Avenue and to follow the track down alongside the Flower house looking out for Cape Robin-chat in the thicket, Swee Waxbill and African Firefinch in the dampness on either side of the track. Also keep an eye open for Amethyst, Grey, Malachite, Collared,

Greater Double-collared and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds as they flit between the many flowering trees and shrubs. In the high trees on the left, Knysna Turaco, Cape Bulbul, Black-headed Oriole, Common and Black-bellied Starling can be seen. This path leads down to the Baakens River and possibly offers the greatest sighting opportunities with open grassed areas and many of the other habitats offered in the park.

One can expect to see Fiscal, Common, African Dusky, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers and African Paradise-Flycatchers together with Southern Tchagra, Southern Boubou, Olive Bush-Shrike, Forest Canary, Terrestrial Brownbul and Cape Wagtail. In the reeded sections along the river and in the pool areas one can expect Half-collared, Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers.

Little Rush-Warbler and Lesser Swamp-Warbler can be seen skulking in and around the reed beds together with Thick-billed, Spectacled, Cape and Southern Masked-Weavers. Red-necked Spurfowl as well as Helmeted Guineafowl can be seen running across open grassland from thicket to small clumps of bush.

By turning right and crossing the river on the stepping stones one can pass through a poplar wooded path where one can see the Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and possibly the Olive and Knysna Woodpecker. On exiting this wooded section there is an alternative route to the right which leads back up to the main car park. This section is mixed thornveld, coastal shrub and Fynbos which hosts the Brimstone, Cape, Yellow-fronted and White-throated Canaries as well as the Streaky-headed Seed-Eater.

Following the river further on past this exit route, an abundance of Common and Swee Waxbill and Bronze Mannikin can be seen in the shrubbery alongside the water together with the Levaillant's Cisticola. A number of waterfowl have also been seen here. Carrying on further will lead to a cliff where the Peregrine Falcon and White-necked Raven have been observed while the Olive Woodpecker and many of the Dove family inhabit the larger trees along this path which leads to the Cudmore Street entrance. To exit to the main car park, return to the section as mentioned after the poplar wooded section.

Directions

Situated in the heart of Port Elizabeth this 54 hectare reserve can be reached from four different directions the easiest of which is via How Avenue alongside St Georges Hospital off Park Drive.

This entrance to the parking facility is gated and is only open for vehicles between 07h30 and 18h00. Pedestrians may enter or leave at any time. There is a small ablution block at this parking area.

There is no charge for entry into the Park. Two of the other three entrances which have parking areas that are not secure or tarred, are via Fordyce Rd / Third Ave, Walmer and at the END of Chelmsford Ave, at the bottom of Target Kloof.

The Fourth entrance in Cudmore Street at the bottom of Brickmaker's Kloof has only enough parking for two or three cars opposite private dwellings. Vehicles are not allowed into the Reserve area.

Toilet facilities are available at the main car park off How Avenue.

Swartkops Estuary


The Swartkops Estuary is situated to the north of Port Elizabeth and is made up of intertidal banks, salt marches and salt pans. Swartkops is widely regarded as one of the premier locations for shorebirds and waders with over 10 00 birds amassing here in the summer months. In addition to the estuary, the Swartkops Valley and Aloe Nature Reserves protect the dense succulent thicket vegetation on the northern escarpment offering additional birding habitats to explore. One can expect to pick up approximately 100 species in a morning birding. Specials here include Terek Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew. A number of different tern species are present.

Directions

Travel east from Port Elizabeth on the N2 to Grahamstown. Swartkops and Bluewater Bay are signposted from the N2 15km north of Port Elizabeth harbour. In Swartkops any turn right will lead to the river.

To get to Redhouse turn left at the crossroads in the centre of Swartkops. Straight on will cross the single lane bridge, and subsequently first right will take you along Amsterdamhoek. Tippers Creek road links Amsterdamhoek with Bluewater Bay and the Aloe Reserve is at the top of the hill.

The Swartkops Valley Reserve is on the north bank, accessed by a track upstream of the roads and brick factory. Access to the entire system is difficult. Parts of the estuary and saltpans can be viewed from public roads at Swartkops and Amsterdamhoek.

There are boat slipways at Swartkops. The Aloe and Swartkops Valley reserves have hiking and mountain bike trails. There is an ablution block at the bottom of Tippers Creek, Amsterdamhoek.

Additional Information

Access to the reserves is unrestricted.
Register boats at the Municipal Nature Conservation Office Tiger Bay, Swartkops Tel: +27(0) 41 466 0909.

Zwartkops Trust: To assist in the conservation of the Swartkops Estuary and its surrounding enviroment - facebook page.

Contact

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 41 581 7540 / +27 41 582 2575
Fax: +27 41 581 7544 / +27 41 582 2573
E-mail: info@nmbt.co.za
Website: www.nmbt.co.za

Bird & Eco-Tours
Tour/guiding/ free information service in the Port Elizabeth area.
Tel: +27 41 466 5698

Rooikrans


This is one of the best spots to search for Narina Trogon. In addition to Trogons look out for White Starred Robin, Cape Sugarbird, Hamerkop, Forest Canary, Dark-backed Weaver, African Paradise and Blue Mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Crowned Eagle, Half Collared Kingfisher, Blackbacked Puffback, Cape Rock Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Olive Woodpecker, Black Crake, Golden Breasted Bunting and Rock Martins.

Directions

Take the R75 from Port Elizabeth. Take the first off ramp leading into Uitenhage. Pass through seven sets of traffic lights. At the eight set turn left into Cuyler Street. Just after the Bains Bridge turn right into Kruis River Road. After crossing the river again turn left at the T junction. Follow this road to the GroENDaal Game Rangers office where you will obtain a permit and can be directed to Rooikrans.

Tankatara Road


Excellent birding can be had on this road including Southern Black Korhaan, Denham's Bustard, Blue Crane, Anteating Chat, Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Scrub Robin and Grey Backed Cisticola. Raptors which can be found in this area include Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Martial Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Black Harrier and Black Shouldered Kite.

Scan the river banks for out of range White-fronted Bee-eaters and the odd Goliath Heron. In summer this is an excellent area for terns and waders which are the best seen on the incoming tide. Species often seen include Lesser Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Caspian, Sandwich, Swift and Common Terns, African Black Oystercatcher, White fronted and Ringed Plover. Out of range species have included the American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Gull-billed Tern.

Directions

About 3km before the Sundays River take the road to the left towards Uitenhage and turn right at the first road to the right. This road leads to the old Mackay Bridge over the Sundays River which is closed to traffic. The road to Tankatara is to the left before reaching the old bridge.

Algoa Bay Island Nature Reserve


Lying off the coast in the Indian Ocean of Algoa Bay, just east of Port Elizabeth, are 2 groups of small islands – the St Croix Island group and the Bird Island group. The islands support limited vegetation, mostly in the form of stunted thickets (Tetragonia and Chenopodium) and some fleshy herbs. The St Croix Island group is located 4 km from the mainland and lies between the Coega and Sundays River mouths, 21 km north-east of Port Elizabeth's harbour. St Croix Islands comprises the 12 ha St Croix Island, as well as the much smaller stacks of Jahleel and Brenton Rocks closer inshore. Further out to sea, some 53 km's due east of Port Elizabeth and 7 km's from the nearest land, lies the Bird Island group. This group is dominated by the 19 ha Bird Island, but also includes Seal (0.6 ha) and Stag Islands (0.1 ha). Both St Croix and Bird Islands are part of the Addo Elephant National Park, and thus fall under SANParks management. The Algoa Bay islands are of considerable importance as they are the only islands along a 1 777 km stretch of coastline between Cape Agulhas and Inhaca Island in Mozambique. Boat trips can be arranged (weather dependent) to see the islands and its birds up close and personal, with the added benefit of whale and dolphin watching while out at sea!

The Algoa Bay islands are ranked as an IBA for their global conservation significance in supporting breeding populations of African penguin, Cape gannet and African black oystercatcher. Among the islands, St Croix supports a significant portion of the worlds' ±26 000 pairs of African penguin, as well as a locally significant breeding population of Cape cormorant. Cape gannet breed in very few localities, one of which is Bird Island. Furthermore, these are the only islands off southern Africa where Roseate tern breed regularly. African black oystercatcher and Kelp gull are found throughout the Algoa Bay Island complex. Antarctic tern roost on the islands in their thousands during the winter months, regularly holding 10% - 20% of the estimated total Afro-tropical non-breeding population.

Facilities

  • The Algoa Bay island complex is accessible only by boat.
  • Raggy Charters – this conservation-minded company offers tours to the islands departing Algoa Bay Yacht Club at 08h30 and returning 11h30 – 12h00. Pelagic trips can also be arranged.

Directions

From the N2 in either direction: take the M4/Settlers Way off-ramp which runs south along the Algoa Bay coastline. At the M4/Humewood Road – M9/Walmer Boulevard intersection turn right, doubling back on yourself. Do not take the on-ramp back onto the M4, keep left. At the next intersection turn right into Valley Road and go under the highway. Continue straight and as you enter the harbour area keep right, continue on until you see the Algoa Bay Yacht Club on your left.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Algoa Bay Yacht Club    33° 58' 02.14"S    25° 38' 01.85" E
Bird Island 33° 50' 25.81"S 26° 17' 09.68" E

Additional Information

Raggy Charters: + 27 (0) 41 378 2528 / +27 (0)73 152 2277
Website: www.raggycharters.co.za  / www.thebaywatchproject.com
E-mail: info@raggycharters.co.za
Boat trip: R800 pp (min. 3 people, light snack & refreshment included)

Sundays River Mouth


The Sundays River Mouth has been home to some surprises which makes it worthwhile for a 3-4 hour outing. At reception, just after entering the camp site, one can be sure to see Spotted Thick Knee and on occasions a Water Thick Knee. Proceed towards the mouth keeping eyes open for the Pied, Giant, Brown-Hooded and Malachite Kingfishers, Red necked Spurfowl, African Hoopoe, Karoo Scrub Robin, Southern Tchagra, Amethyst, Southern and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds. Many terns can be found at the mouth including Caspian, Swift, Common and Damara. The area has yielded a number of notable rarities including Crab Plover and Eurasian Oystercatcher.

Directions

Travel north to Grahamstown on the N2. Take the Colchester turnoff (turning right) and follow the road through the Caravan Park and then eastwards along the river to the estuary. An entrance fee is levied at the gate.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Sundays River Mouth   S 33° 42' 52.90"   E 25° 51' 12.60"

Addo Elephant National Park


Deep within the shadows of the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region of the Eastern Cape lays the Addo Elephant National Park. The original Elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only eleven elephants remained in the area - today this finely tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 450 elephants, lion, Cape buffalo, black rhino, a variety of antelope species, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo.

Plans are in place to expand the 164 000 ha Addo National Elephant Park into a 360 000 ha mega-park. In addition, plans include the proposed proclamation of a 120 000 ha (296 500 acre) marine reserve that includes islands that are home to the world's largest breeding populations of Cape gannets and second largest breeding population of African penguins.

Addo has a rich variety of bird life with as many as 450 species across the expanded park while 170 species can be found in the main game viewing area around Main Camp. Addo's birding opportunity covers excellent habitat contrasts between dense thickets of spekboom interspersed with open grassy areas and wooded kloofs (particularly in the Zuurberg region). Now that the park has expanded to include Darlington Lake, Woody Cape, the coastal islands and the Alexandria Forest, a variety of other habitats swell the birding potential of the park.

In and around the Addo rest camp Karoo Scrub Robin and Cape Robin-Chat, Bokmakierie, Southern Tchagra, Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Bunting are prominent, with Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Spectacled Weaver, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbird also easily found. A trip into the game viewing area will not produce a plethora of birds, but Bokmakierie will once more be prominent, and Martial Eagle, Black Korhaan, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Black-headed Heron and Secretarybird may well be seen.

In the wooded kloofs of the Zuurberg, African Crowned Eagles breed. Forest species typical of the Eastern Cape, such as Olive Bush Shrike, Yellowthroated Woodland-Warbler and Cape Batis can also be searched for. Alexandria Forest has many forest species, such as Knysna Turaco, Black Cuckoo (summer only), Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Chorister Robin-chat, Dark-backed Weaver and the spectacular Narina Trogon.

The coastal grasslands South of Alexandria Forest are home to exciting species such as Denham's Bustard (with impressive displaying during summer) and Black-winged Plover. The coastal islands have impressive breeding colonies of Cape Gannet and African Penguin and it is one of the few South African breeding locations for Roseate Tern.

In the summer months at the Sundays River Mouth there are large tern roosts that include Swift, Sandwich, Common Terns and the diminutive Damara Tern which breed in the nearby sand dunes. The Karoo vegetation around Darlington Lake is home to many Karoo ENDemics such as Pririt Batis, Rufous-eared Warbler and Karoo Chat. The Darlington Dam hosts Goliath Herons, Lesser Flamingos, fresh-water terns and Greyheaded Gulls. The wide variety in habitats present at Addo present birders with a unique opportunity to view a wide range of different bird species. Addo is certainly well worth a visit.

Directions

  • From Port Elizabeth take the N2 for about 40km to enter Matyholweni Gate.
  • Alternatively take the Motherwell off-ramp from the N2 and follow the R335 to the left for about 50kmn to enter the main gate.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Addo Elephant National Park    S 33° 40' 49.06"   E 25° 47' 58.23"

Additional Information

A range of self-catering accommodation is available at Addo Main Camp including luxury guest houses, chalets, rondavels, forest cabins, furnished safari tents, caravan and camping sites.

Alexandria Forest/Boknes


Alexandria Forest is characterized by tall Coral trees, Yellowwoods, Wild plums, and many more forest giants which provide the ideal habitat for many forest species including Narina Trogon, Knysna Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, African Olive pigeon and more. Drive down through the forest to the coast leads to dairy farming country high above the sand dunes of Woody Cape and the blue ocean of Algoa Bay with Bird Island in the distance. A few kilometers on (pass through another boom) turn right into the little coastal town of Boknes. Be sure to park on the beachfront where the lagoon enters the sea. This spot offers 5 different species of heron and egret, numerous species of duck and a large variety of migrant (summer) waders and an assortment of terns.

Directions

  • Turn off the N2 onto the R72 approximately 45km to the east of Port Elizabeth.
  • Fifty kilometers further turn right just before entering the small town of Alexandra at the "Beyond Adventure" sign.
  • Drive through the boom on the gravel road, turn left approximately 2km further on and follow the "Woody Cape" signs for another 8km until reaching the offices of the South African National Parks.
  • This is the entrance to Alexandria Forest.

Ghio Pans and Hide


These pans rely on heavy rains and in drought conditions may be dry. However, when there is water migrant waders and waterfowl are plentiful. Birds that have been seen here include Greater Flamingo, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Kittlitz's Plover, White Faced Duck, Osprey, African Snipe, Whiskered Tern, and on occasions Southern Ground Hornbill.

Directions

Travel approximately 16km beyond Alexandria on the R72 towards Port Alfred. Turn left on a gravel road signposted Ngciyo/Emlanjeni. After crossing the bridge over the Bushmans River, look to the right for the sign depicting the pans. Park at the road edge and enter the reserve through a small pedestrian gate. Beware of rhinos.

Grahamstown Botanical Gardens


The botanical gardens adjoining the university are worth a visit, particularly on week-day mornings when few people are about. A one-hour walk can produce a list of 30 species. In winter when the aloes are in bloom, Greater Double Collared Sunbird, Southern Double Collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and Malachite Sunbird are numerous. Black-headed Oriole, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-winged Starling and Cape Weaver also feed on the nectar.

Wild fig trees in fruit attract Speckled Mousebird, Red-faced Mousebird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Thrush, Green Pigeon and Black-collared Barbet. Seedeaters such as Streaky-headed Seedeater, Yellow-fronted Canary, Swee Waxbill and Bronze Mannikin feed alongside the paths. Proteas on the upper slopes and around the 1820 Settlers' Monument sometimes attract Cape Sugarbird, while Cape Rock-Thrush, Rock Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon have nested on the buildings (look out for them near the nest-boxes erected on the top floor balcony). There is a resident African Goshawk, and regular visitors include African Harrier-Hawk, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Lesser Honeyguide, Klaas's Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker, Southern Black Flycatcher and Grey Sunbird.

Directions

From Somerset Street, turn left up Lucas Avenue (between the Natural History and Cultural History sections of the Albany Museum); the main gates to the gardens are on the left, soon after you pass the Eden Grove section of Rhodes University.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Grahamstown Botanical Gardens   S 33° 18' 52.14"   E 26° 31' 14.03"

Amathole Forest Complex


The centre of the Amathole forest complex lies around the small town of Keiskammahoek, and is roughly bounded by the towns of Stutterheim, Hogsback, Alice and Dimbaza. The area is characterized by large pockets of indigenous Afromontane forest interspersed with pine or Eucalypt plantations, set in a spectacular landscape of ravines, rocky cliffs, waterfalls and rolling montane grasslands. A number of high peaks dominate the area including Elandsberg (2016 m) and Gaika's Kop (1963 m), which in winter are often dusted with snow. The tributaries of the Keiskamma and Buffalo Rivers occur within the complex. The Amathole region is an incredibly diverse area and is renowned for the number of localised endemics that it supports – the Hogsback toad, Amatola toad, Amatola fire lily, an Erica spp, a Watsonia spp and 2 species of butterfly.

The Amathole forest complex has been rated as an IBA as it supports a number of endemic or near-endemic bird species - Black harrier, Knysna woodpecker, Drakensberg rockjumper, Ground woodpecker, Buff-streaked chat and Bush blackcap. Search any of the montane grasslands for Black harrier, Black-winged lapwing in any fallow fields or short grasslands, Denham's bustard and Grey crowned & Blue cranes. Check grasslands for Proteas, where you may see both species of sugarbird (Gurney's & Cape sugarbird) occurring together – the only area in South Africa! Cape parrot occur in considerable numbers in this area, and an early morning or late afternoon lookout over a patch of forest is your best chance of seeing these birds. Stop at any points where you have a view over the forest canopy and listen for their distinctive harsh calls. A short walk through the forest should reveal Knysna turaco, Bush blackcap, Knysna woodpecker, Forest canary, Brown scrub-robin and Chorister robin-chat. At the higher altitudes, where barren rocky slopes become prominent, look for Ground woodpecker, Drakensberg rockjumper, Buff-streaked chat and Sentinel rock-thrush.

Hogsback - there are numerous trails in the town of various lengths, but a lovely walk is to Big Tree via Swallow Tail Falls which takes about 1-2 hrs and you'll see a good selection of the forest species mentioned. From Hogsback to Cathcart on the R345, a stop in the montane grassland and fynbos near Gaika's kop is worthwhile to look for Denham's bustard, Blue & Grey crowned cranes and Cape longclaw among others. Higher up in the rocky areas look for Drakensberg rock-jumper, though they are scarce.

Stutterheim – at the traffic lights in town turn left and follow the road through town until it becomes gravel. After 1km on the gravel take the right fork (past a low cost housing settlement) and after a further 1.4km's keep left. Drive past Manderson Hotel, The Croft and Eagles Ridge and continue through a forestry gate at a 4-way intersection. Drive straight on until you reach the Kologha picnic site. A number of well marked trails leave from the picnic area, varying in length from 3 – 17 km's, so you can decide how far you'd like to walk! Most of the trails meander through forest, and at least one goes up into the montane grassland above the forest – both species of sugarbird can be seen here. Red-winged francolin are common in the area, so keep a look out for these birds on the drive in and in the surrounds. The forest specials listed above all occur here, as well as Orange ground-thrush, White-starred robin, Narina trogon, Olive woodpecker, Grey cuckooshrike, Dark-backed weaver, Lemon dove, African crowned eagle nest in this general area and Mountain wagtail frequent the streams.

Facilities

Accommodation is available in a number of B&B's, guesthouses and hotels in the nearby towns. See the websites below for details.

Directions

From East London: Take the N6 north-west towards Stutterheim. From Stutterheim take the R352 to Keiskammahoek and on to Dimbaza where you turn right onto the R63 towards Alice. Before you reach Alice take the R345 left towards Hogsback.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Keiskammahoek    32°41' 09.30" S   27° 09' 00.32" E
Kologha picnic site   32° 32' 15.16" S 27° 21' 47.99" E

Additional Information

Website: www.hogsbackinfo.co.za
Website: www.escaperoute.co.za

BirdLife accredited community guides in this area - check the link "Go birding" and click on the Eastern Cape.

Camdeboo National Park (Karoo Nature Reserve)


Camdeboo National Park encompasses 14 500 ha's of the Great Karoo plains, but is unique in that it practically surrounds the town of Graaf-Reinet. The viewpoint at the Valley of Desolation provides an almost aerial view of the charming town of Graaff-Reinet, set in a horseshoe bend of the Sundays River. But it is the towering dolerite columns overlooking the vast Karoo plains, formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 100-million years, which are truly breathtaking! Lying in the southern foothills of the Sneeuberg range, the vegetation of the Park is transitional between the characteristic scrub of the Great Karoo and the typical thornveld and bush clumps of the Eastern Cape. Arid to semi-desert conditions prevail and the three major vegetation groups are shrubland, succulent thicket and dwarf shrubland, though there does exist a wetland community on the fringes of Nqweba/ Van Ryneveldspas Dam. Shrubland grows on the rocky slopes and ridges of the mountains. Dwarf shrubs and succulents dominate the karroid scrub which covers much of the Great Plains and lower foothills, while Acacia thornveld forms dense belts of riverine woodland along the mostly dry riverbeds.

Camdeboo NP has been ranked as an IBA site due to the large roost of Lesser kestrel near the town's railway station, the numbers of Ground woodpecker which occur in the kloofs and rocky gorges, and the Karoo plains which support flocks of Red Data listed Blue crane. Apart from these birds, the lowland karroid plains are particulary good for bustards, and Camdeboo NP is one of the few areas in South Africa where Kori, Ludwig's & Denham's bustard all occur together. Also look for Karoo korhaan in these open, stony areas – usually 2 or 3 birds together. Another bird of the dry plains that prefers low, scrubby bush is the Rufous-eared warbler – though its habit of hopping or dashing across open areas with tail-cocked may give the impression of a rodent! The Acacia riverine woodland is good for Namaqua warbler, Layard's titbabbler, Southern grey tit, Fairy flycatcher and the highly gregarious Scaly-feathered finch. Pale-winged starling are inhabitants of rocky areas along with Cape rock-thrush. Pale chanting goshawk are common throughout, so look out for them perched atop trees or telephone poles. Any water-points are the best place to wait for seedeaters, in particular White-throated & Black-headed canary.

Access to the reserve is via 19 km's of gravel roads (to be increased in the near future) or from 3 hiking trails: Crag Lizard Trail (1.5 km/45 min) – a circular route that starts at the Valley parking area; Eerstefontein Trail (5km/11km/14km) – this trail offers the choice of 3 trail lengths and takes in the spectacular scenery of Spandaukop and the Valley of Desolation, with 2 waterpoints along the way; Driekoppe Trail (22 km/ overnight) – this is a 2/3 day overnight hike in the eastern section of the park, with overnight stays at Waaihoek Hut.

Mammals that can be seen in the reserve include Springbuck, Cape mountain zebra, Cape buffalo, Eland, Red hartebeest, Black wildebeest and Blesbuck. Numerous smaller mammals are also present – Cape porcupine, Cape fox, Bat-eared fox, Aardwolf and Aardvark amongst others.

Facilities

  • There are fuel stations, banks, ATM's and shop facilities in the town of Graaf-Reinet.
  • The reserve has 6 picnic spots with braai and ablution facilities.
  • Camdeboo National Park encircles the town of Graaff-Reinet, which has a variety of accommodation options including hotels, guest houses and a caravan park – see info@graafreinet.co.za for places to stay.
  • The only accommodation offered by the Park is an overnight hiking hut on Driekoppe Trail.

Directions

From Cape Town: take the N1 highway towards Beaufort West. Pass through the town of Beaufort West and then turn right onto the R61 to Aberdeen. At Aberdeen take the N9 towards Graaff-Reinet. As you enter the town, College Road becomes Church Street, drive around the church and at the stop street turn left into Caledon Street. At the 3rd intersection turn right onto the R63/Stockenstroom Street towards Murraysburg. As you leave town, the entrance gate is a further 3.8km's on the left hand-side. Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet is approx. 600 km.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Valley of Desolation gate   32° 13' 10.94" S   24° 30' 22.71" E

Additional Information

Pentad code: 3215_2430

Contact number for Camdeboo National Park: +27 (0) 49 892 3453
Central Reservations: +27 (0) 12 428 9111
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/camdeboo
E-mail: camdeboo@sanparks.org
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Overnight visitors: Adults
R18 (South African residents/citizens)
R36 (SADC nationals)
R54 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times:

Valley of Desolation gates
Jan, Feb & Nov: 06h00 – 20h00
March & Oct: 06h00 – 19h30
April, Sept: 06h30 – 19h00
May, Jul & Aug: 07h00 – 18h30
Jun: 07h00 – 18h00
Dec: 06h00 – 20h30

Game Viewing area & Lakeview gates
Jan, Feb & Nov: 06h00 – 19h30
March & Oct: 06h00 – 19h00
April, Sept: 06h30 – 18h30
May, Jul & Aug: 07h00 – 18h00
Jun: 07h00 – 17h30
Dec: 06h00 – 20h00

Katberg – Readsdale forest complex


The Katberg – Readsdale forest complex comprises roughly 20 000 ha's and lies along the eastern edge of the Winterberg Mountain range, close to the Amathole Mountains. The area is characterized by large pockets of indigenous Afromontane forest interspersed with pine or Eucalypt plantations, set in a spectacular landscape of waterfalls, clear streams and exposed grassy summits. A number of high peaks dominate the area including Katberg (1,828 m) and Devil Bellow's Neck (1,726 m), which in winter are often dusted with snow.

Katberg – Readsdale forest complex has been rated as an IBA as it supports a number of endemic or near-endemics bird species - Black harrier, Knysna woodpecker, Orange-breasted rockjumper, Ground woodpecker, Buff-streaked chat and Bush blackcap. As you approach the Pass from the low-altitude rolling grasslands around Mpofu Game Reserve, look out for Black harrier, Black-winged lapwing in any fallow fields or short grasslands, Denham's bustard and Grey-crowned & Blue cranes. Cape parrot occur in considerable numbers in this area, and an early morning or late afternoon drive up the Pass is your best chance of seeing these birds. Stop at any points where you have a view over the forest canopy and listen for their distinctive harsh calls. A short walk through the forest, either from the Katberg Hotel (there are trails from 600m up to 12 km's) or the forest station, should reveal Knysna turaco, Orange ground-thrush, Bush blackcap, Knysna woodpecker, Forest canary, Brown scrub-robin and Chorister robin-chat. As you reach the higher altitudes at the top of the Pass, where barren rocky slopes become prominent, look for Ground woodpecker, Orange-breasted rockjumper, Buff-streaked chat and Sentinel rock-thrush.

Facilities

  • Accommodation is available in a number of places within the greater Fort Beaufort – Katberg area. Fuel and shops available at Fort Beaufort.
  • Mpofu Game Reserve – this reserve has an option of 3 lodges, all restored farmhouses that are fully equipped, self-catering.
  • Katberg Eco Golf Estate – A number of options from a hotel to self-catering units.

Directions

From Grahamstown: Travel north on the R67 to Fort Beaufort. Continue through Fort Beaufort and keep on the R67, passing Tidbury's Toll. Look for a signed gravel road, the R351, to Katberg on your left, or follow signs to the Katberg Hotel as you'll pass this on your way up the Pass.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Katberg Pass 32°27' 31.43"S 26° 39' 24.57" E
Southern entrance gate Mpofu   32°38' 37.64"S    26° 33' 24.64" E

Additional Information

Reservations for Mpofu GR: + 27 (0) 43 705 4400 / +27 (0)86 111 3320
Fax: +27 (0)86 111 1623/4
Website: www.ecparks.co.za
E-mail: reservations@ecparks.co.za

Reservations for Katberg Hotel: + 27 (0) 43 743 3433
Website: www.katleisure.co.za
E-mail: reservations@katleisure.co.za

Dwesa - Cwebe Nature Reserve


The Dwesa & Cwebe Nature Reserves flank either side of the Mbashe River and lie along the Pondoland coast. Together, the two reserves provide protection to 6 050ha of vast lowland coastal forest, moist coastal grassland patches, mangroves and 20 km's of pristine coastline. The vegetation of this area is typical of that found on well-drained, aeolian soils – a mosaic of edaphic grasslands with large forest patches along the river valleys and Acacia scrub towards the coastal sand-dunes. The relatively large mangrove forest holds the distinction of being one of the most southerly mangrove forests in Africa. Access between the reserves is limited, and the shortest route through the reserve is only possible with a guide (R45 p.p). The alternative is a very long drive around!

Dwesa & Cwebe NR are ranked as an IBA for the global conservation value of a breeding population of Spotted ground-thrush, as well as a population of Red data listed African black oystercatcher and Knysna woodpecker. The coastal mangroves support the only protected breeding population of Mangrove kingfisher, though they migrate north for the winter. The best time to see Mangrove kingfisher here is thus in summer, with the added benefit that the birds are very vocal from September – April, making them easier to find! Also vocal during the summer are the migrant cuckoos, African emerald & Black cuckoo. The other forest specials that you may encounter on a walk through the lowland coastal forest are Trumpeter hornbill, Narina trogon, Knysna turaco, Chorister robin-chat, Grey cuckooshrike, White-starred robin, Brown scrub-robin, Blue-mantled crested-flycatcher, Olive bush-shrike, Swee waxbill and Forest canary – the road to the Dwesa office is great, though the forest around the chalets and campsites is also productive! Look carefully along the banks of quiet stretches of river for Mountain wagtail and the beautiful Half-collared kingfisher – the Mbanayana River causeway in Cwebe is a good place to stop. African crowned eagle and Narina trogon occur in the vicinity of the causeway. African wood-owl can often be heard in the early evenings. Along the forest edges or in grassy clearings look for Barratt's warbler, Forest canary, Southern tchagra, Olive & Grey sunbird, Red-backed mannikin and Swee waxbill. As you move away from the coast and into the grasslands, in particular the moist grasslands to the east of the campsite, look for Croaking cisticola and a pair of Grey-crowned cranes, and listen at night for possible Swamp nightjar. The other grassland birds that occasionally occur here is Denham's bustard (uncommon) and Southern ground-hornbill. A walk around the grassy areas at Dwesa office should reveal Plain-backed pipit, Wailing cisticola, Broad-tailed warbler and Yellow-throated longclaw. Mammals that can be seen in the reserve include Eland, Blue wildebeest, Red hartebeest, Warthog, Cape clawless otter and Cape buffalo.

Facilities

  • There are no fuel or shop facilities at Dwesa-Cwebe NR.
  • Dwesa - Campsite: 20 campsites. Communal ablution facilities.
  • Dwesa - Forest Chalets: 7 wooden chalets set in a forest; 4 x 2-bed and 3 x 4-bed chalets. Fully equipped. Self-catering.
  • Cwebe - Haven Hotel: 25 rustic chalets all en-suite. Fully equipped. All meals catered. info@havenhotel.co.za / www.havenhotel.co.za  / + 27 (0) 47 576 8904.

Directions

From Mthatha: Dwesa NR has 6 entrance gates, directions are to entrance gate 2.
Head south along the N2 from Mthatha towards East London. At the town of Dutywa turn left onto the R408 to Willowvale and travel for 30.6 km's. Travel through Willowvale and at km 30.6 turn left. Stay on the main gravel road and follow the signs to Dwesa NR.

GPS Coordinates

Location     Latitude Longitude
Gate  2 32°17' 25.97"S    28° 48' 21.77" E

Additional Information

Reservations: + 27 (0) 43 705 4400 / +27 (0)86 111 3320
Fax: +27 (0)86 111 1623/4
Website: www.ecparks.co.za
E-mail: reservations@ecparks.co.za
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Day visitors: Adults R15

Gate opening and closing times:
All year: 06h00 – 22h00

Mkhambathi Nature Reserve


Situated along the Pondoland coast, Mkhambathi Nature Reserve lies 180 km's south of Durban, the nearest major city. The ± 8 000ha reserve is bounded by the Mtentu River in the north and the Msikaba River in the south. The gently undulating topography is broken by two ridges parallel to the coastline (ancient shorelines) and the deeply incised gorge of the Mtentu River valley. The forested gorge is flanked by impressive sandstone cliffs which tower 300 m above the river to meet the surrounding Pondoland coastal plains. The incised valley stretches inland for up to 20 km's, and about halfway up the gorge the Mtentu River plunges over a cliff-face, forming a spectacular waterfall some 500m wide. Habitat consists of steep rocky slopes, freshwater rivers, extensive rolling grassland, fynbos elements in areas protected from fire, Swamp forest and Scarp forest in the river valleys.

Mkhambathi NR is ranked as an IBA for the presence of key birds: Spotted ground-thrush, Knysna woodpecker, Buff-streaked chat and a breeding colony of Cape vulture. The Mtentu colony of Cape vulture is one of the largest remaining colonies in the Eastern Cape, and is one of the few protected sites in the world. The plateau grasslands support Buff-streaked chat as well as the Red Data listed Grey-crowned crane and Denham's bustard. This reserve is relatively unexplored so although not recorded here, the presence of Hottentot buttonquail, Corn crake and Striped flufftail in nearby grasslands suggests that they may be present. Also look for Swamp nightjar. Spotted ground-thrush are suspected of breeding in the forests at Mkambati NR, and the other forest species considered important under IBA guidelines are Chorister robin-chat, Brown scrub-robin and Knysna woodpecker. The scattered Protea trees and bushes on the plateau support Gurney's sugarbird, while along the Mtentu River look for African finfoot, Half-collared kingfisher and White-backed night-heron.

The road network in the reserve is limited, so the best way to see the area is on foot along any of the trails. Canoeing is allowed on the rivers. Mammals that can be seen in the reserve include Eland, Red hartebeest, Blue wildebeest, Kudu, Burchell's zebra, Blesbuck and a whole host of the smaller mammals like Large-spotted genet, Cape clawless otter and African wildcat to name but a few. Also keep an eye out to sea for Southern right whale and Bottlenose dolphin!

Facilities

  • There are no fuel or shop facilities at Mkhambathi. Cell phone reception is limited to the entrance gate.
  • Main Lodge: A stone building with 5 double en-suite bedrooms, a pool and braai area. Fully equipped. Self-catering.
  • Family Cottages: 5 x stone and prefab cottages with 2 or 3 bedrooms. Fully equipped. Self-catering.
  • Gwe Gwe River Lodge: This lodge is on the banks of the Msikaba River, accommodating up to 20 people. Fully equipped. Self-catering.
  • Gwe Gwe Rondavels: 6 x 2-bed rondavels along the coast. Basic facilities. Self-catering.

Directions

From Umtata: Travel north for about 162 km along the N2 from Umtata to Brooks Nek (13 km south of Kokstad). Turn east towards Binzana and, after 36 km, turn right into the R61 leading to Flagstaff. After 30 km turn left towards the Holy Cross Mission and follow the signs to Mkhambathi NR. The gravel road from Flagstaff (70km's) is in poor condition and a vehicle with high clearance is necessary.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Mkhambathi Nature Reserve    31° 16' 56.63" S    29° 57' 1.18" E

Additional Information

Reservations: + 27 (0) 43 705 4400 / +27 (0)86 111 3320
Fax: +27 (0)86 111 1623/4
Website: www.ecparks.co.za
E-mail: reservations@ecparks.co.za
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Day visitors: Adults R30

Gate opening and closing times:
All year : 06h00 – 22h00

Collywobbles Vulture Colony


The Collywobbles vulture colony is set in one of the most spectacular locations of any of South Africa's Cape vulture colonies - the 300m sheer cliffs of the Mbashe gorge. Located roughly 60 km's south of Mthatha, the site is set in a rural location along the convoluted meanderings of the Mbashe River and can be quite tricky to get to! The colony is about 5 km's from the Collywobbles store and has been in existence since at least the 1890's. Collywobbles vulture colony is ranked as an IBA for the presence of a breeding colony of Cape vulture. The 60 – 90 breeding pairs of birds use up to 13 separate cliffs on which to nest, though they concentrate on Main, mSikiti and Ledger cliffs. The number of breeding birds has fluctuated greatly in the past, with the largest concentration of 300 breeding pairs occurring in the early 1980's. Breeding numbers decreased steadily over the following decade, but from the early 1990's the population has been relatively stable at the aforementioned 60 – 90 breeding pairs.

Facilities

  • The Collywobbles General Dealer has a selection of basic goods.

Directions

From Umtata/Mthatha: head south on the N2 towards East London and after 31km's turn left. Zero your odometer as you turn off the N2. At km8.6 keep left, km10.7 keep right. Continue until km12.1 where you keep right, km20.5 turn left, km 23.2 keep right. At km23.9 keep left and travel along the ridge with the Mbashe River below on your right, at km26.7 turn left and again at km28.2 keep left. You cross the Mbashe River at km28.7 and continue until km30.6 where you keep left, and again a left at km32.2. You reach the Collywobbles store at km33. The colony is about 5 km's from the store.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Collywobbles store    32°00' 31.55" S   28° 34' 11.48" E
Vulture colony 31°59' 59.94" S 28° 36' 59.96" E

Additional Information

The road to Collywobbles can be very bad in places, & a vehicle with high clearance or a 4x4 is recommended.

Birder Friendly Establishments in this area:
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