The West Coast, stretching from the Atlantic shores from Cape Town northwards to the Olifants River, is best known for coastal wetlands and spectacular spring wildflower displays. Birding is excellent with an abundance of migrant waders and a host of other waterbirds. Specials range from Black Harrier, Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Black Korhaan to the Cape Gannet colony at Lambert's Bay.
The coastal route from Cape Town to Lambert's Bay includes the West Coast National Park, Langebaan Lagoon and the charming seaside towns of Velddrif and Paternoster.
Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park was registered as a wetland of international importance for birds, under the RAMSAR Convention, in 1988. The lagoon supports large numbers (up to 55 000) of waterbirds in summer.
Rocherpan Nature Reserve, 15 km north of Velddrif, consists largely of seasonal wetlands, though usually dry between March and June. The reserve also provides a sanctuary for one of Africa's most endangered coastal birds - the Black Oystercatcher.
The Swartland Birding Route begins 50 kilometres north of Cape Town and consists of the regions between the towns of Malmesbury in the south, Darling and Yzerfontein in the west, Moorreesburg and Koringberg in the north and Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel in the east. The area has a varied landscape from sea, coastal plains, wild flowers (including Fynbos), to wheat fields on the fertile plain, interrupted by vineyards, olive farms and mountains. Approximately 250 bird species can be seen in this vast differentiated land scape. Amongst the birds that can be observed are the Black Harrier and the endangered Blue Crane.
Darling Birding Route was launched during April 2014. The diversity of vegetation in the Darling area presents birders with a wide range of different birds from larks and pipits to lesser flamingoes and great white pelicans. The area stretches from the strandveld of the Darling Hills Rd and Groote Post to the renosterveld of Waylands and Oudepost wildflower reserves. The beauty of the flowering bulbs and the immense variety of wildflowers create a unique springtime experience. During summer months large numbers of blue cranes may be seen in the wheatfields along the Darling / Malmesbury and Moorreesburg roads.
The following birding sites can be visited:
West Coast National Park - surrounds the Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance). Thousands of seabirds roost on sheltered islands, pristine golden beaches stretch endlessly into the early morning mist and brooding salt marshes are home to vast concentrations of migrant waders from the northern hemisphere. For more information visit: http://www.nature-reserve.co.za/west-coast-national-park.html
Cloof Wine Estate - Also occurring naturally is a variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians which are now also protected from persecution. Some of the endangered or protected species include Blue Cranes, Secretarybirds, and Black Harriers. For more information visit: http://www.cloof.co.za/
Groote Post Wine Estate - In 1996 Peter Pentz was the first private individual to be awarded the States premier conservation award for the major contribution he made to soil conservation over a fifteen-year period. He was also one of the driving forces in establishing the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates Groote Post farm and stretches from the Milnerton lagoon to Langebaan and was proclaimed by UNESCO in 2000. For more information visit: http://www.grootepost.com/
Cape West Coast Biosphere - The Reserve farms and fishing villages, lagoons, rivers, the sea, pristine flora and unique birdlife, combine to offer residents and visitors a diversity of natural, cultural, historical, recreational and spiritual experiences. It lies on South Africa's West Coast between the Diep River (Milnerton) in the south, the Berg River (Velddrif) in the north, the N7 (Malmesbury, Moorreesburg) in the east and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. For more information visit: http://www.capebiospheretrails.co.za
The !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre enable the visitor to further enjoy the diversity of Darling and its prolific bird life. For more information visit: http://www.khwattu.org/
Dianne le Roux
Tel: +27(0)22 492 3361
Dassen Island is ranked as an IBA for its global conservation significance in supporting breeding populations of endemic African penguin, Crowned & Bank cormorant and African black oystercatcher. This island supports a significant portion of the worlds' ±26 000 pairs of breeding African penguin, as well as 5% of the breeding population of African black oystercatcher. Furthermore, together with Lake St Lucia (KZN), Dassen Island is only one of two sites in South Africa where Great white pelican breed. Unlike many other seabird populations, the Dassen Island population of pelican has increased over the past years and is now at ±550 pairs. The island also supports healthy breeding populations of Cape cormorant, Hartlaub's & Kelp gulls and Swift tern. Discovered only in 1996, Leach's storm-petrel was found to be breeding on Dassen Island, one of only three off-shore islands in South Africa where this species breeds. During the summer months a number of Palearctic waders roost on the island.
Dassen Island is accessible only by boat. Unfortunately there are currently not any commercial operators that run tours from Yzerfontein, but you may be lucky if you ask around at the harbour.
Alternatively, Schaafsma Charters operate from Saldanha Bay and offer a two-day trip to Dassen Island. The boat can sleep 10 people and is self-catering.
From Cape Town: head north on the R27 to Langebaan-Velddrif. At the R315 Yzerfontein-Darling intersection turn left towards Yzerfontein and drive for 8 km's before you reach the village. Standing anywhere along the coast in Yzerfontein, Dassen Island lies 9 km's south-west off-shore.
Lat: S 33° 25' 23.96"
Long: E 18° 05' 10.72"
Schaafsma Charters: + 27 (0)22 714 4235 / +27 (0)82 638 5723
Boat trip: R5 000 for the boat (sleeps 10)
WCNP has been ranked as an IBA as its wetlands regularly support over 35 000 waterbirds in summer, as well as globally important breeding populations of African penguin, Cape gannet (Malgas Island has 25% of global population), African black oystercatcher, Crowned & Bank cormorant and Black harrier. The 5 Saldanha Bay islands are home to 250 000 coastal seabirds. Furthermore, the lagoon and islands also support important populations of Cape cormorant, Greater flamingo, Pied avocet, Grey plover, Kittlitz's & White-fronted plover, Kelp & Hartlaub's gull, Swift & Common tern, Ruddy turnstone, Sanderling, Curlew sandpiper and Red knot. Please note that access to all the islands is prohibited in an effort to conserve seabirds by providing a safe and undisturbed breeding area.
Strandveld vegetation, you will notice, dominates WCNP, and as you drive through the park you'll likely see White-backed mousebird, Grey tit, Cape penduline-tit, Chestnut-vented tit-babbler, Karoo scrub-robin, Karoo prinia, Cape bulbul, Karoo lark, Southern double-collared sunbird, Cape grassbird, Bokmakierie and Grey-backed cisticola in the short scrub. Keep an eye open for hunting Black harriers throughout the reserve. Also watch out for Angulate tortoises which are very common inhabitants of WCNP and are regularly seen on the roads! The area around Geelbek Manor House is great for seeing the bolder birds of the Strandveld, and Karoo scrub-robin, Karoo prinia, Cape weaver, African hoopoe and Cape spurfowl are regularly found on the lawns. There are a number of fantastic bird hides throughout the park, most of them located at various positions around Langebaan Lagoon. The most popular hide for wader watching is without doubt Geelbek hide. This hide, and 3 others, are accessed from Geelbek Manor House. Summer is a great time to visit Geelbek hide as vast numbers of Palaearctic migrants, and often rare species, boost bird numbers on the tidal mudflats. The best time for wader viewing is just as the water begins to recede from its highest point, as the mud flats begin to be exposed and the birds are forced into the narrow margin of land close to the hide. As the tide drops, the birds have a greater area over which to forage and move further out following the receding water. Although it is difficult to predict precisely, the best viewing is roughly 4½ hrs after high tide in Cape Town/Table Bay. Closer to the town of Langebaan are Seeberg Lookout and Seeberg Hide, both worth stopping at. The Lookout provides an elevated view of the azure-blue lagoon and the surrounding strandveld, and the jumble of boulders is home to a family of Rock hyrax/Dassies. The short gravel road down to Seeberg Hide from the main road, as well as the path to the hide, are great for strandveld birds. In particular, Cape penduline-tit, Grey tit, Malachite sunbird and Chestnut-vented tit-babbler are regularly seen here. Abrahamskraal waterhole is one of the only regular sources of freshwater in the reserve, and as such, is visited by numerous birds. The seedeaters are numerous, so look for Namaqua dove, White-throated, Brimstone & Yellow canary, Cape bunting and Common waxbill, as well as flocks of Common, Wattled & Pied starlings. Little, African black, White-rumped & Alpine swifts together with White-throated, Barn & Pearl-breasted swallows may be seen overhead. The water and associated reeds host South African shelduck, Little grebe, Cape shoveler, Black crake, Lesser swamp warbler, Little rush warbler and the skulking African rail. The Postberg section of the reserve, only open to the public during the flower season (Aug – Oct), is well worth a visit for the spectacular floral displays as well as for the numerous mammal species that occur in WCNP – Gemsbok, Eland, Red hartebeest, Bontebok, Plains zebra, Springbok, Common duiker and Steenbok. The vegetation in this section is also strandveld, so offers similar birding to the rest of the reserve. The road ends at Tsaarsbank, with fantastic views across the Atlantic Ocean, and a good vantage point to look for African black oystercatcher, all four species of marine cormorants and Antarctic tern (winter). This is also a great spot for whale watching!
The road network in the reserve covers ± 160 km's and provides ample opportunity for bird-viewing. There are also a number of walking trails in WCNP which are great options if you prefer to bird by foot.
From Cape Town: head north on the R27 to Langebaan-Velddrif. After the R315 Yzerfontein-Darling intersection continue on the R27 for a further 10.9 km's before turning left into the well signed West Coast National Park.
|Southern entrance gate||S 33° 14'37.60"||E 18° 12'14.76"|
Central Reservations: + 27 (0) 12 428 9111 / +27 (0)22 772 2144
Entry Fees (day visitors):
Oct – July
R26 pp (SA residents & citizens)
R36 pp (SADC nationals)
R40 pp (other nationals)
Aug / Sept (flower season)
R38 pp (SA residents & citizens)
R52pp (SADC nationals)
R72 pp (other nationals)
Gate opening and closing times:
Apr – Aug: 07h00 – 18h00
Sept – Mar: 07h00 – 19h00
Postberg: 09h00 – 17h00
In combination the estuary and floodplain of the lower Berg River regularly support over 20 000 birds, making this site an IBA. Palearctic migrants boost the bird numbers in summer, and over 8 000 migrant waders can be present here, especially Curlew sandpiper and Little stint. The commercial saltpans support around 10% of the breeding population of Caspian tern in South Africa, as well as breeding Chestnut-banded plover and occasionally Swift tern. Hartlaub's & Kelp gull are residents and occur in large numbers, breeding in midsummer and early winter respectively. Great white pelican occur regularly on the lower Berg River, this being a key foraging and roosting area for the Dassen Island breeding population during the non-breeding season. Great crested & Black-necked grebe breed here occasionally, and South African shelduck regularly use the estuary in large numbers as a moulting and breeding site. The upper estuary's saltmarshes support breeding populations of Cape teal, Cape shoveller, Yellow-billed duck and Red-knobbed coot. The bird hide located off Voortrekker Road (just upstream from the Riviera Hotel where the keys to the hide are kept) overlooks a superb area of intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh where you'll find the ducks along with Black-winged stilt, Greater & Lesser flamingo, Kittlitz's & Three-banded plover, Ruff, Common greenshank, Pied avocet and a wide selection of terns. The best time for wader viewing at the hide is 1.5 hrs after high tide in Table Bay. In the terrestrial vegetation in the surrounds, Karoo scrub-robin, Large-billed lark, Bokmakierie and Pied starling are common. Approximately 44 km's upriver from the mouth, 1 km west of Kersefontein farmhouse, there is a large heronry which is known to have existed for the past 300 years. Thirteen species breed at this site, including substantial numbers of Yellow-billed egret, African spoonbill and Glossy ibis.
From Cape Town: Travel north on the N7 past Malmesbury and Morreesburg. Just before the town of Piketberg take a left onto the R399 towards Velddrif. Continue for 65 km's until you reach the town complex of Velddrif, Port Owen and Laaiplek.
|Berg River mouth||S 32° 46' 12.65"||E 18° 08' 41.26"|
|Bird hide||S 32° 47' 12.30"||E 18° 10' 27.39"|
Reservations: see website below
Verlorenvlei is rated as an IBA because the wetland regularly supports over 5 000 birds (occasionally up to 20 000 birds), including more than 1 000 waders of at least 11 different species including Pied avocet, Black-winged stilt, Curlew & Common sandpiper and Little stint. Furthermore, Verlorenvlei is a key moulting ground and summer refuge for large numbers of ducks, regularly supporting extremely large numbers of Yellow-billed duck, Cape shoveller and South African shelduck. Large numbers of Great crested grebe, Red-knobbed coot, Hartlaub's gull and White-breasted cormorant are also reliant on the wetland. African marsh harrier, which forage over the entire wetland, occur in good numbers. Great white pelican use the wetland to forage. African black oystercatcher, Chestnut-banded plover and Cape & Bank cormorant are recorded at the estuary mouth from time to time. The diverse wetland habitat supports populations of secretive Red-chested flufftail, African rail and Baillon's crake, as well as Common moorhen and Purple swamphen – the river bridge is a good place to look for reed-bed birds. The fynbos - karroid vegetation around Verlorenvlei's fringes supports several restricted-range and biome-restricted species, including Cape long-billed lark, Southern black korhaan, Grey-backed cisticola, Karoo scrub-robin, Grey tit and Cape bulbul.
There are fuel, shops, restaurants and ATM facilities in Elands Bay. Accommodation is available in a number of B&B's, guesthouses and hotels. See www.tourismcapetown.co.za , click on the 'Where to go' and 'Cape West Coast' links. The 'Travel directory' link provides accommodation options.
From Cape Town: Travel north on the N7 past Malmesbury and Morreesburg. Just before the town of Piketberg take a left onto the R365 that takes you through the town. After passing through Piketberg the road forks, take the left-hand fork, the R366 towards Redelinghuys and Elands Bay. You will be driving alongside the Verlorenvlei River for much of the drive.
Lat: S 32°18'52.11"
Long: E 18°21'19.20"
Reservations: see website below
Bird Island is rated as an IBA due to the presence of species of global conservation concern – African penguin, and breeding populations of both Cape gannet and Crowned cormorant. Cape gannets dominate the island, occupying a single, large colony in the centre of the island. Breeding numbers have fluctuated dramatically, most recently the total abandonment of Bird Island in 2005 caused by predation of the birds by Cape fur seals. However, the gannets have returned en masse, and the island is once again an avian spectacle! Historically, Bird Island was dominated by African penguin, but the continued poaching of eggs by guano collectors in the early to mid 1990's decimated the population with the result that today the population of breeding birds is low. Cape cormorant nest on the island, and at times have numbered about 60 000 birds. Crowned cormorant, Kelp gull and occasionally Swift tern, nest on the outlying rocks of the island. The island is also used as a roost by Hartlaub's gull, Bank cormorant and various tern species.
A superb hide with interpretive material provides an excellent vantage from which to view the gannets on the island and an informative Visitors Centre can be found on the mainland. The Visitor Centre has a coffee shop, toilets, curio shop, aquarium and a penguin pool. A guano museum provides a history of the search for the islands' 'white gold'.
NB: Access to Bird Island may be prohibited if rough seas make it too dangerous to cross the breakwater.
From Cape Town: Travel north along the N7 until you reach the town of Clanwilliam on your right hand-side, turn left onto the R364 to Lambert's Bay. Continue along the R364 for 60 km's and as you enter Lambert's Bay look for the BP garage. Turn right after the BP garage and follow the Bird Island signboards.
Lat: S 32° 05'31.26"
Long: E 18° 18'06.82"
Reservations: + 27 (0) 861 227 362 8873 or +27 (0)21 659 3500
E-mail: on the CapeNature website click on the 'Contact Us' link.
Entrance Fee, Day visitors: Adults R30 (May – July entrance is R20)
Gate opening and closing times:
Oct – April: 07h00 – 19h00
May - Sept: 07h00 – 17h00
The Olifants River estuary and its surrounds holds IBA status due to the presence of nine range-restricted Nama-Karoo bird species (of a potential 19 species), it regularly supports in excess of 15 000 waterbirds, and this estuary acts as a vital staging point for Palearctic migrants and flamingos between the Orange River mouth and important wetlands to the south (i.e. Berg River wetland, Langebaan Lagoon, Rietvlei and Wilderness-Sedgefield Lakes complex). Great white pelican use the estuary as a foraging and roosting area during the late summer and winter months.
Once in the village look for the Papendorp Resort, there is a school on the left hand side, turn right on a gravel road, drive through the small residential area, and up to a ruin. You can easily scan the saltmarsh below. The numerous channels of the estuary and the mouth itself support Cape teal, South-African shelduck, Cape shoveller, Yellow-billed duck, White-fronted plover, Chestnut-banded plover, Curlew sandpiper, lots of Greater & Lesser flamingo, Common whimbrel, Pied avocet, Black-winged stilt, Kelp, Grey-headed & Hartlaub's gull. Terns are regular visitors and you may find Caspian, Common, Sandwich & Swift terns, and occasionally Damara tern. The vegetation surrounding the estuary is suitable for many of the species restricted to the Namib–Karoo biome and for other arid-zone birds, including Karoo korhaan, Grey tit, Black-headed canary, Long-billed & Karoo lark and Tractrac, Karoo & Sickle-winged chat. Namaqua warbler occur in the Acacia thickets and reedbeds along the river margin. A visit coinciding with spring will reveal a landscape transformed by a mass of flowering plants, turning the rather drab landscape into a kaleidoscope of colour.
From Cape Town: Travel north along the N7 until the town of Klawer, turn left onto the R363 to Vredendal. Continue along the R363 through Vredendal to Lutzville. At the R362 – R363 intersection in Lutzville, turn left onto the R362 and drive for approx. 20 km's before turning right off the R362 towards the village of Papendorp.
Lat: S 31° 41' 54.96"
Long: E 18° 12' 33.35"
Matzikama Tourism: + 27 (0) 27 201 3378 / + 27 (0) 27 201 3378
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Boat trips: R100 - 2 people
Gate opening and closing times: N/A