As one travels eastwards from Cape Town, the coast becomes progressively more wooded and subtropical, the ocean warms, the rains fall year-round, and the forests host an ever-greater diversity of birds. The region from Mossel Bay to the Tsitsikamma is known as the Garden Route for the amazing beauty of the area – it is a natural garden of mountains, forests, fynbos and water. The Garden Route has a Mediterranean Maritime climate, with moderately hot summers, and mild to chilly winters. Bird specials include Forest Buzzard, African Crowned Eagle, Knysna Turaco, Emerald Cuckoo, Half-collared Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-Chat, Knysna Warbler and Olive Bush-Shrike.

The Knysna Heads are one of the most striking geological features along the entire southern African coastline. They flank a deep but potentially treacherous channel through which the sea pours in to flood the wide and breathtakingly pretty lagoon at the mouth of the Knysna River.

Knysna has many attractions, one of the most spectacular being the Knysna Forest. It is the largest indigenous forest in South Africa comprising of tall and ancient trees of local and exotic species, including stinkwood, yellowwood, blackwood, ironwood, white alders and Cape chestnut. The forest is vast and extremely dense in places making it impenetrable. Animal life is limited to a few small antelope, but a large variety of birds, such as Knysna Turaco.

Wilderness National Park, now part of the Garden Route National Park, lies at the heart of the Garden Route between the popular tourist towns of George and Knysna. The reserve conserves numerous important vegetation types as well as rivers, lakes, an estuary and beaches, and has in fact been proclaimed a Ramsar site. The three interconnected coastal lakes linked to the Indian Ocean, the dune system and its associated thickets, reedbeds, marshes and woodlands, as well as the nearby coastal forest provide a diverse array of habitats which makes for some excellent birding opportunities.

The four walking trails in the reserve all begin from Ebb and Flow, the park’s rest camp (hutted and camping available), and are named after local kingfisher species: Giant (7km, 3-4 hrs), Brown-hooded (5km, 2-3 hrs), Half-collared (3.8km, 1-2 ½hrs) and Pied Kingfisher (10km, 3-4 hrs). For good forest birding the best trails are either Giant or Half-collared Kingfisher, which run on the eastern and western sides of the Touw River respectively. Either of these trails will likely produce Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre Greenbul and Cape batis. In the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Olive woodpecker. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide and Olive bush-shrike.

*Please note that some of these trails may periodically be closed due to flooding of the river.

The other highlight of Wilderness NP are the hides overlooking the lake system from which numerous species of rallids and waterfowl may be spotted. If approached very quietly you may be lucky and see one of the resident Cape clawless otters in the lake. Malachite hide is situated on Langvlei and there is a further hide at Rondevlei. Both hides are accessed via short boardwalks.

Malachite & Rondevlei hides: a boardwalk provides access to these strategically placed wooden hides on the northern shores of Langvlei and Rondevlei. On the short path from the parking area to the hides, both Greater and Southern double-banded sunbird can be seen feeding on the Wild dagga (Leonotis sp), while Knysna turaco, Sombre greenbul, Southern boubou and Karoo prinia can be seen in the surrounding coastal thicket. The boardwalks at both hides provide probably one of the best areas to see Red-chested flufftail, and although not a rarity, these flufftails are notoriously elusive, but be there early in the morning. The reeds and bulrushes fringing the lake host Black crake, Common moorhen, African rail, African purple swamphen and Little bittern. Both Lesser swamp and Little rush warbler forage in the reeds. The tree stumps in front of the hides provide a regular perch from which African darter and Reed cormorant sun themselves, and occasionally even African spoonbill. Depending on the level of the water, Three-banded & Kittlitz’s plover, Blacksmith lapwing, Ruff, African snipe and Black-winged stilts may be seen directly in front of the hide. Further out on the lake waterfowl can be seen swimming in large numbers and include Red-knobbed coot, Yellow-billed ducks, Cape, Red-billed & Hottentot teal, Southern pochard and Little , Black-necked & Great crested grebes. African fish eagles can be seen overhead and roost on the southern shore of Langvlei and nest on the western shore of Rondevlei, while African marsh harrier regularly hunt over the fringing reed beds. Caspian and Whiskered tern are intermittent visitors depending on the levels of the lake, as are Greater flamingos.

Facilities

  • Toilets are available at the Ebb & Flow campsite. There are no toilet facilities at the hides.
  • A picnic table is present at Rondevlei hide.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – north: 2-bed rondawels with or without en-suite bathroom. Camping & caravan sites with electricity & communal ablution facilities. There is no shop.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – south: 4-bed family cottages en-suite, 4-bed log-cottages en-suite and Forest cabins en-suite with communal kitchen.

Directions

Driving along the N2 from George look for the Wilderness National Park signs just east of Wilderness village. Turn left off the N2 and follow the road to the signposted car park.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 58′ 59.30″
Long: E 22° 40′ 36.10″

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org

Entry Fee (day visitors):

Adults:
R18 (South African residents/citizens)
R36 (SADC nationals)
R72 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times: N/A

The Garden Route National Park incorporates the well-known Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks as well as the Knysna Lakes Area. Wilderness National Park protects some prime examples of Afromontane forest, and Woodville forest is the jewel in the crown. The forest here is classic Afromontane forest, distinguished by the presence of large yellowwoods (Podocarpus sp), the largest of which is the aptly named ‘Big Tree’. This enormous Outeniqua yellowwood has been estimated at 800 years old, and it is from this point that a gentle 2km circular trail meanders through the forest.

The most common species’ in this forest include Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre Greenbul, Green wood-hoopoe and Cape batis. White-starred robin should be looked for in the lower strata of the forest, while in the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Olive woodpecker. The Knysna woodpecker has been recorded here, so be sure to keep a careful eye open for this special. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide and Olive bush-shrike. Another special to look out for at Woodville is the endemic Knysna warbler. Look for this bird in the thickets alongside the stream, or in the dense, tangled undergrowth at the edge of the forest. The secondary growth at the edge of the forest, such as along the road to the parking area, should be searched for Forest canary, Swee waxbill and Greater double-collared sunbirds.

Facilities

There is a picnic site at the ‘Big Tree’. No toilet facilities are available.

Directions

From George take the R102 (Seven Passes Road) east towards Knysna for approximately 26km. Watch for signposts for the turn-off on the left, and drive 600 metres to a small picnic site and parking area.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 56′ 02.03″
Long: E 22° 38′ 42.37″

Additional Information

Entry Fee: N/A
Gate opening and closing times: N/A

Wilderness National Park, now part of the Garden Route National Park, lies at the heart of the Garden Route between the popular tourist towns of George and Knysna. The reserve conserves numerous important vegetation types as well as rivers, lakes, an estuary and beaches, and has in fact been proclaimed a Ramsar site. The three interconnected coastal lakes linked to the Indian Ocean, the dune system and its associated thickets, reedbeds and marshes provide a diverse array of habitats which makes for some excellent birding opportunities.

Stopping at the culvert that spans the channel between Langevlei and Rondevlei, parking off the road, look for Pearl-breasted swallows (summer only) hawking over the open areas. Cape longclaw and Bokmakierie (both southern African endemics) forage in the open scrubby grassland together with Levaillant’s cisticola. Look for another endemic, the Cape grassbird, in rank vegetation along the channel and African purple swamphen & Little grebe are common residents of the channel. Keep an eye overhead for African fish eagle.

Facilities

None, this is a road side stop.

Directions

The culvert can be accessed either via the N2, where you turn inland off the highway near Swartvlei, or from the ‘Seven Passes’ road where you turn seawards toward the hamlet of Rondevlei. From either direction the road passes between the 2 lakes, Langvlei & Rondevlei.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 59′ 29.92″
Long: E 22° 41′ 45.51″

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org
Entry Fee: N/A
Gate opening and closing times: N/A

Robberg Nature Reserve is situated on Cape Seal point, just a few kilometers south of Plettenberg Bay. Adjacent to this terrestrial reserve is a Marine reserve which stretches out to sea for a distance of 1 nautical mile, thus safeguarding fish stocks in the area for both birds and mammals. Robberg NR provides easy access to a rocky headland, a great vantage point for viewing seabirds, particularly pelagic species after a winter storm. As well as offering the opportunity for seabird viewing, Robberg offers easily accessible fynbos for Cape endemics. The reserve can be safely explored on foot, and in this regard there are 3 circular walking trails to choose from: The Gap (2km), Witsand (5.5km) and the rather arduous Point trail (9km). The routes are fairly rough and in places may be quite steep, so be sure to wear suitable foot wear before embarking on one of the trails. Further attractions of Robberg NR are the large Cape fur seal colony, and the presence of whales during the summer months.

The fynbos specials to look for at Robberg are the Orange-breasted sunbird and the Cape sugarbird (both SA endemics), found in the vicinity of any flowering Proteas or Ericas. Greater and Southern double-collared sunbirds are common in the reserve. Victorin’s warbler, another SA endemic, occupies the scrubby mountain slopes, preferring the moist south-facing slopes. Also look for Cape siskin on these, and in fact any mountain slopes. Rock kestrel, Cape bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Cape rock-thrush, Cape robin-chat, Red-winged starling, Fiscal flycatcher and Neddicky are all resident at Robberg.

White-breasted cormorant are common along the shoreline, but be sure to look for Cape cormorant as they are also present in smaller numbers. Kelp gulls are the dominant seabird here, though keep an eye open for Swift terns and pairs of breeding Black oystercatchers along the beach.

Facilities

  • Toilets are available at the Ebb & Flow campsite. There are no toilet facilities at the hides.
  • A picnic table is present at Rondevlei hide.
  • Fountain shack: only accessible by foot, an hour’s walk from the car park. Sleeps 8 on 4 bunk-beds, no bedding provided. Basic cutlery & crockery provided. An Enviro Loo for ablutions. No electricity.

Directions

From Plettenberg Bay take the N2 west, in the direction of Knysna. Take the Piesang Valley road turnoff and follow the road for 3 km until you get the ‘Robberg Road’ which turns off to the right (if you get to a traffic circle, you’ve gone too far). About 4 km along the Robberg Road you will find the turn-off to Robberg Nature Reserve. Proceed along this road until you reach the entrance gates.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 34° 05′ 58.76″
Long: E 23° 22′ 23.77″

Additional Information

Contact number for Cape Nature: +27 (0) 861 227 362 8873
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.capenature.org.za
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Day visitors: Adults R30

Gate Opening and Closing Times
Feb – Nov: 07h00 – 17h00
Dec – Jan: 07h00 – 20h00

At the eastern end of the Garden Route, nestled in between the mountains and the ocean, the forest and the Groot River, lies Nature’s Valley. This small, picturesque village lies within the Tsitsikamma National Park and offers easy access to some pristine Afromontane forest and thus excellent forest birding opportunities. The drive into the valley, from the Plettenberg Bay side, also offers some open scrub birding, so look for Lazy cisticola at the viewpoint before the sharp descent. Drive down the Grootrivier Pass, through the village, and park at the De Vasselot camp site from where the Grootrivier Trail begins. This 5 km (3 hrs) trail meanders in a gentle loop through the forest, starting on the eastern side of the Groot River bridge, a minutes’s walk further along the tar road.

As you walk along the river look for African finfoot in the quiet, sheltered sections, though you’ll probably have to be here early in the morning to spot this shy, retiring bird. Another special in these parts is the Half-collared kingfisher, though the Giant & Pied kingfishers are much more common. A slow bumble through the forest will likely produce Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre greenbul, Lemon dove and Cape batis. In the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Black-backed puffback, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher, Eastern black-headed oriole, Black-bellied starling, Green woodhoopoe and Olive woodpecker. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, White-starred robin, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide, Knysna woodpecker and Olive bush-shrike. During the summer months the migrants boost bird species numbers, so look & listen for African emerald, Red-chested & Klaas’s cuckoos. Raptors that occur in the forest are African crowned eagle, African goshawk, Little sparrowhawk and Forest buzzard during the summer months.

Facilities

  • The camp site has 45 sites with communal ablutions, no electricity.
  • Forest huts: 10 x 2-bed units with communal ablutions. Electricity.

Directions

Drive east on the N2 from Plettenberg Bay towards The Crags/Nature’s Valley for approximately 28 km’s, and just before the tollgate take a right onto the R102. Follow the R102, down the Grootrivier pass, until you reach the village of Nature’s Valley.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 58′ 13.92″
Long: E 23° 33′ 41.13″

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: +27 (0) 44 531 6700
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org
Gate opening and closing times: N/A

Wilderness National Park, now part of the Garden Route National Park, lies at the heart of the Garden Route between the popular tourist towns of George and Knysna. The reserve conserves numerous important vegetation types as well as rivers, lakes, an estuary and beaches, and has in fact been proclaimed a Ramsar site. The three interconnected coastal lakes linked to the Indian Ocean, the dune system and its associated thickets, reedbeds, marshes and woodlands, as well as the nearby coastal forest provide a diverse array of habitats which makes for some excellent birding opportunities.

The Ebb & Flow camp site, both north and south, lies on the bank of the Touw River providing scenic views across the river or into forest clad hills. From the campsite it is easy to access a number of different habitat types, including Afromontane forest, an estuary, the Touw River and wetlands, which all together provide an opportunity for a wide diversity of bird species. Four walking trails begin from Ebb and Flow, and are named after local kingfisher species that should be looked for on the walk: Giant (7km, 3-4 hrs), Brown-hooded (5km, 2-3 hrs), Half-collared (3.8km, 1-2 ½hrs) and Pied Kingfisher (10km, 3-4 hrs). For good forest birding the best trails are either Giant or Half-collared Kingfisher, which run on the eastern and western sides of the Touw River respectively. Either of these trails will likely produce Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre Greenbul and Cape batis. In the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Black-backed puffback, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Olive woodpecker. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, White-starred robin, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide and Olive bush-shrike.

*Please note that some of these trails may periodically be closed due to flooding of the river.

Facilities

  • Toilets are available at the Ebb & Flow campsite.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – north: 2-bed rondawels with or without en-suite bathroom. Camping & caravan sites with electricity & communal ablution facilities. There is no shop.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – south: 4-bed family cottages en-suite, 4-bed log-cottages en-suite and Forest cabins en-suite with communal kitchen. Camping & caravan sites with electricity & communal ablution facilities. There is no shop.

Directions

Driving along the N2 from George look for the Wilderness National Park signs just east of Wilderness village. Turn left off the N2 and follow the road to the signposted car park.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 58′ 59.3″
Long: E 22° 40′ 36.1″

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org
Entry Fee
Vehicle: N/A
Overnight visitors

Adults
R18 (South African residents/citizens)
R36 (SADC nationals)
R72 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times:N/A

The Garden Route National Park incorporates the well known Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks as well as the Knysna Lakes Area. Renowned for its vast forests which are reputed to support the last forest elephants in South Africa, the Knysna Lakes Area also provides access to some superb forest birding. The forest here is classic Afromontane forest, distinguished by the presence of yellowwoods (Podocarpus sp), a large example of which is the King Edward VII tree. This enormous Outeniqua yellowwood has been estimated at ±600 years old. The Diepwalle forest, situated 23 km’s north of Knysna, forms part of a 60 500 hectare forest complex. Numerous trails of various length criss-cross the forest complex allowing one to explore the area, such as the well-known Elephant Walk. The Elephant Walk begins at Diepwalle and offers a number of circular route options; 6.5 km’s (3/4 hrs), 7 km’s (3/4 hrs) or 9 km’s (4/5 hrs). The trail is easy walking, though can be muddy after heavy rains.

The most common species’ in this forest include Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre greenbul, Green wood-hoopoe, Black-backed puffback, African olive-pigeon, Lemon dove and Cape batis. White-starred robin should be looked for in the lower strata of the forest, while in the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Olive woodpecker. The Knysna woodpecker has been recorded here, so be sure to keep a careful eye open for this special. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide and Olive bush-shrike. Forest buzzard are relatively common during summer.

Facilities

Ablution facilities available at Diepwalle Forest Station.

Directions

Follow the N2 for 6 km’s east of Knysna before taking a left onto the R339 to Uniondale. From the turnoff drive 16 km’s until you see the sign for Diepwalle Forest Station.

Additional Information

Entry Fee (day visitors): Adults R15

Bitou Pan is a seasonal pan located in the floodplain of the Bitou River and is best visited after good rains when large numbers of waterfowl are present. The pan is on private property, but it is possible to park on the road side and view the birds from here. A spotting scope is recommended. Species that have been recorded here include Blue crane, African snipe, South African shelduck, African spoonbill, Redbilled & Hottentot teals, Kittlitz’s plover, Ruff, Black-winged stilt and Pied avocet. Migrant waders such as Curlew sandpiper, Grey plover, Common whimbrel, Common greenshank and Bar-tailed godwit may occur occasionally.

Facilities

  • None, this is a road side stop.
  • Spotting scope recommended. Be sure to park well off the R340 to avoid obstructing traffic.

Directions

Driving along the N2 from Plettenberg Bay towards Keurboomstrand / Natures Valley, look for the R340 which branches left off the N2 just after crossing the Bitou River. Take the R340 and drive approximately 3 km’s before looking for the pan on the left hand side of the road.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 34° 00′ 11.46″
Long: E 23° 21′ 18.31″

Assegaay Bosch Game Farm lies in the heart of the Klein Karoo, nestled in the foothills of the Rooiberg Mountains between the villages of Vanwyksdorp and Calitzdorp. This reserve conserves almost 10 000 ha of Succulent Karoo, making it a great destination to view Karoo specials. The Succulent Karoo, as its name suggests, is characterized by a huge diversity of succulent plant species whose thick, fleshy leaves protect the plants from undue water loss under extremely arid conditions. This biome is also renowned for its floral display during springtime, so try plan a birding visit during August/September, to coincide with the spring flowering. An early morning walk along the river, 200m before the main gate, is normally very productive and you should see Karoo scrub-robin, Layard’s tit-babbler, Speckled, Red-faced & White-backed mousebirds, Grey tit, White-throated canary, Cape bulbul and Lesser honeyguide. Any flowering plants will be visited by Cape sugarbirds, Orange-breasted & Southern double-collared sunbirds and occasionally Malachite sunbirds. Further afield, particularly on rocky slopes, look for Ground woodpecker, Cape rockjumper, Cape siskin and Cape bunting. Other common species found in the reserve include Rock kestrel, Verreaux’s eagle, Greater striped swallow, Familiar chat, Cape rock-thrush, Grey-backed cisticola and Cape grassbird. Grey-winged francolin, Common quail, Mountain wheatear, Protea seedeater and Cape spurfowl are less common.

The reserve does not have any dangerous game, but there are numerous antelope species including Kudu, Eland, Giraffe, Red hartebeest, Grey rhebuck, Cape grysbok & a number of smaller antelope species, as well as small cats such as Caracal and Serval.

Facilities

Luxury thatched cottages with en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning & a fully equipped kitchen. The lodge also has a restaurant, swimming pool and conference centre.

Directions

Vanwyksdorp lies on the R327, essentially between the towns of Ladismith and Mossel Bay. From Vanwyksdorp take the gravel road to Calitzdorp for approximately 2 km’s, then look for the signs to Assegaay Bosch on the left.

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org
Entry Fee
Vehicle: N/A
Overnight visitors

Adults
R18 (South African residents/citizens)
R36 (SADC nationals)
R72 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times: N/A

The Wilderness–Sedgefield Lakes complex (WSLC) incorporates the Wilderness National Park and the Goukamma Nature Reserve. Wilderness National Park and Goukamma NR, now part of the Garden Route National Park, lie at the heart of the Garden Route between the popular tourist towns of George and Knysna. The entire lakes complex lies below the 5 m contour line on the flat Touws River flood-plain. The two connected reserves conserve numerous important vegetation types as well as rivers, lakes, two estuaries and 38 km’s of coastline, and have in fact been proclaimed a Ramsar site. The three interconnected coastal lakes linked to the Indian Ocean, Swartvlei and its estuary, landlocked Groenvlei, the dune system and its associated thickets, reedbeds, marshes and woodlands, as well as the nearby coastal forest provide a diverse array of habitats which makes for some excellent birding opportunities. Collectively, these Lakes are the only warm-temperate coastal lakes with a marine connection in South Africa.

This vast 12 250 ha lake system is ranked as an IBA as it regularly supports in excess of 20 000 waterbirds, though on average the monthly totals are 10 000+. Furthermore, Palearctic migrant waders and southern African waterbirds, especially ducks, use the Lakes to moult and breed. The coastline holds notable numbers of African black oystercatcher. The well-wooded backwaters on Swartvlei and Groenvlei hold small numbers of African finfoot and Half-collared kingfisher.

A highlight of this complex is the hides overlooking the lake system from which numerous species of rallids and waterfowl may be spotted. If approached very quietly you may be lucky and see one of the resident Cape clawless otters in the lake. Malachite hide is situated on Langvlei and there is a further hide at Rondevlei. Both hides are accessed via short boardwalks. On the short path from the parking area to the hides, both Greater and Southern double-collared sunbird can be seen feeding on the Wild dagga (Leonotis sp), while Knysna turaco, Sombre greenbul, Southern boubou and Karoo prinia can be seen in the surrounding coastal thicket. The boardwalks at both hides provide probably one of the best areas to see Red-chested flufftail, and although not a rarity, these flufftails are notoriously elusive, but be there early in the morning for the best chance of glimpsing these birds. The reeds and bulrushes fringing the lake host Black & Baillon’s crake, Common moorhen, African rail, African purple swamphen and Little & Dwarf bittern (uncommon). Both Lesser swamp and Little rush warbler forage in the reeds. The tree stumps in front of the hides provide a regular perch from which African darter and Reed cormorant sun themselves, and occasionally African spoonbill. Depending on the level of the water, Three-banded & Kittlitz’s plover, Blacksmith lapwing, Ruff, African & Greater painted snipe and Black-winged stilts may be seen directly in front of the hide. In summer look for Curlew sandpiper, Little stint and Ruff. Further out on the lake waterfowl can be seen swimming in large numbers and include Red-knobbed coot, White-backed & Yellow-billed ducks, Cape, Red-billed & Hottentot teal, Southern pochard and Little, Black-necked & Great crested grebes. African fish eagles can be seen overhead and roost on the southern shore of Langvlei and nest on the western shore of Rondevlei, while African marsh-harrier regularly hunt over the fringing reed beds. Caspian and Whiskered tern are intermittent visitors depending on the levels of the lake, as are Greater flamingos.

The four walking trails in the reserve all begin from Ebb and Flow, the park’s rest camp (hutted and camping available), and are named after local kingfisher species: Giant (7km, 3-4 hrs), Brown-hooded (5km, 2-3 hrs), Half-collared (3.8km, 1-2 ½hrs) and Pied Kingfisher (10km, 3-4 hrs). For good forest birding the best trails are either Giant or Half-collared Kingfisher, which run on the eastern and western sides of the Touw River respectively. Either of these trails will likely produce Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, Chorister robin-chat, Sombre greenbul and Cape batis. More uncommon forest specials include Forest buzzard, Swee waxbill, White-starred robin and Forest canary. In the higher canopy look for African dusky flycatcher, Yellow-throated woodland-warbler, Blue-mantled crested flycatcher and Olive woodpecker. Some of the more elusive species of the forest require knowledge of calls, so brush up on the calls of the Knysna turaco, Knysna woodpecker, Narina trogon, Grey cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated honeyguide and Olive bush-shrike.

Facilities

  • Toilets are available at the Ebb & Flow campsite. There are no toilet facilities at the hides.
  • A picnic table is present at Rondevlei hide.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – north: 2-bed rondawels with or without en-suite bathroom. Camping & caravan sites with electricity & communal ablution facilities. There is no shop.
  • Ebb & Flow rest camp – south: 4-bed family cottages en-suite, 4-bed log-cottages en-suite and Forest cabins en-suite with communal kitchen. Camping & caravan sites with electricity & communal ablution facilities. There is no shop.

Directions

From George: Head east along the N2 towards Knysna. Look for the Wilderness National Park signs just east of Wilderness village, and turn left off the N2 and follow the road to the sign-posted car park.

GPS Coordinates

Lat: S 33° 58′ 59.30″
Long: E 22° 40′ 36.10″

Additional Information

Contact number for Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Accommodation queries: see website for range of options
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route
E-mail: gardenroute@sanparks.org
Entry Fee
Vehicle: N/A
Overnight visitors

Adults
R18 (South African residents/citizens)
R36 (SADC nationals)
R72 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times: N/A

Rising from the coastal plain just inland of Mossel Bay and George, running parallel to the coastline, lie the Outeniqua Mountains. Stretching almost 100 km in length the impressively solid barrier separates the high rainfall, and subsequent abundance of the Garden Route, from the contrasting and arid Little Karoo. Correspondingly, the gentle southern slopes that roll down towards the coast are swathed in mountain fynbos interspersed with pockets of Afromontane forest in the gorges, whilst the side that leads into the hinterland of the Little Karoo, is home to hardy succulents, renosterveld and other sturdy plants that withstand the almost desert-like conditions of this beautiful part of the country. This large IBA (180 000 ha) is partly conserved by the Outeniqua Mountain Catchment Area and the Outeniqua Nature Reserve. Five passes cross the mountainous reserve, and ten hiking trails lead visitors through the Outeniquas, providing incredible views over land and sea.

The endemic fynbos biome supports many range-restricted species, but it is the presence of the globally important populations of Ground woodpecker, Cape rock-jumper, Protea seed-eater and Cape siskin, as well as the forest-dwelling Knysna woodpecker that exemplify the Outeniqua Mountains as an IBA. A beautifully scenic drive through these mountains is along the road between George and the small village of Herold. The road crosses the Outeniquas via Montagu’s Pass and the fynbos on the higher slopes is home to Cape bulbul, Neddicky, Cape grassbird and Cape siskin, also look for Cape sugarbird, Orange-breasted & Malachite sunbird and Protea seed-eater near flowering plants or Protea thickets. Cape rock-jumper are found on any exposed rocky slopes above 1 000 m, while also preferring the rocky habitats of the kloofs, gorges and boulder strewn slopes are Ground woodpecker, Sentinel & Cape rock-thrush, Cape siskin, Cape bunting and Long-billed pipit (uncommon). Victorin’s scrub-warbler is locally common in the thick, tangled undergrowth found along streams or seeps, though this elusive bird is best located by call. Any low, dense resteiod thickets are likely to harbour Striped flufftail and possibly Hottentot buttonquail, though you will have to put in some time walking to either flush or see these two species! As you descend the steep slopes of the mountains into the dry Little Karoo, the lowland karroid plains are good for Karoo korhaan, Southern pale chanting goshawk, Black harrier, Karoo chat and Rufous-eared warbler. Black-headed canary occur whenever seeding grass and water are plentiful. Any decent sized patches of forest will hold a number of forest specials including Knysna woodpecker, Knysna turaco, Narina trogon, Olive bush-shrike, Chorister robin-chat, Knysna warbler, Forest canary, Forest buzzard and the majestic African crowned eagle.

Facilities

  • There are ablution facilities as well as a picnic area at Outeniqua NR.
  • Outeniqua trail hut: 1 x basic hut.

Directions

The Outeniqua Mountain lie to the north of Mossel Bay and George, and can be easily accessed from either of these cities. From Mossel Bay travel north on the R328 to Oudtshoorn, which takes you through the mountains via Robinson’s Pass. From George the N12 takes you over the scenic Outeniqua Pass, or alternatively you can use Montagu’s Pass which lies on the secondary road between the small villages of Blanco and Herold.

GPS Coordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Montagu’s Pass S 33° 53′ 16.53″ E 22° 25′ 51.37″
Robinson’s Pass S 33° 53′ 29.59″ E 22° 01′ 23.54″

Additional Information

Cape Nature: + 27 (0) 861 227 362 8873 / +27 (0)21 659 3500
Website: www.capenature.org.za
E-mail: trade@capenature.co.za
Entry Fee: Vehicle N/A
Day visitors: Adult R0 – permit required
Gate opening and closing times: N/A
Office hours: 07h00 – 16h00 (weekdays; permits available at self-help desk on weekends)