Introduction to Birding Routes

The Overstrand local municipal area herein referred to as the Cape Whale Coast in the Western Cape Province of South Africa is internationally renowned as a tourist destination. Consider the countless, breathtaking nature reserves, the sublime Cape Floral Kingdom, spectacular landscapes, acclaimed wines, diverse peoples – the list goes on. One of the region’s greatest assets is the sheer diversity of bird species found in the area as it hosts a sundry range of highly sought-after endemic and near-endemic species. The African Penguin, Cape Rockjumper, African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Victorin’s Warbler and Ground Woodpecker are just a few of the exciting species on display.

A Cape Rockjumper surveys its territory.
Cape Rockjumper (Anton Odendal)

Local routes

Furthermore, several intriguing, underutilised and ecologically varied birding destinations such as the Harold Porter Botanical Garden, the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, the Vermont Salt Pan, the estuaries at Bot RiverKlein River and Uilenkraal Estuary and others need to be properly exposed to a rapidly growing bird-watching fraternity. It is simply impossible to describe all of the splendid birding destinations that the Cape Whale Coast region has to offer, but rest assured that several of the destinations not included at this stage can be incorporated in the future. In addition, the region boasts an outstanding tourism infrastructure and a plethora of accommodation establishments that are well-equipped to cope with the demands set by domestic and international bird-watchers. 

This text serves as an introductory overview to assist the visitor in tracking down some of the prominent birds of the region with key information on where to search for them. It should be seen as a starting point to be used against the backdrop of the website. Pages are provided with comprehensive details, as well as trip reports.

The birding route pages explore an impressive collection of worthwhile areas. Firstly the endemic and near-endemic species of the region are reviewed. Birding opportunities at destinations from Rooiels to Kleinbaai in the Gansbaai district are then discussed. There are also detailed descriptions of birding opportunities along the Overberg Wheatbelt Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) that can be used to delve into the region.

Three gravel roads, not necessarily part of the Overstrand, from which the birding delights of the Overberg Wheatbelt can be explored are finally described in detail – these are the Swartrivier Road, the Oudekraal Road and the Papiesvlei circle routes.

Birding route descriptions

  • Birding at the De Mond Nature Reserve
    Birding at De Mond itself is exceptional. But the approach roads also provide amazing birding.
  • Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
    The Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve offers several species associated with forest habitats.
  • Birding in the Bontebok National Park
    The Swellendam area in the Overberg region of the Western Cape is highly underrated as a bird-watching destination. The flagship birding destination in the area is the Bontebok National Park.
  • Rooiels – in search of the Cape Rockjumper
    The “Cape Rockjumper site” at Rooiels is probably the best place on earth to find this hugely sought-after endemic species and BirdLife Overberg’s logo bird.
  • African Penguins and Cormorants at Stony Point
    The Stony Point Penguin Colony is one of only two mainland breeding colonies of the African Penguin and the wooden boardwalks allow visitors to get really close to the penguins and a variety of other coastal birds. 
  • Harold Porter National Botanical Garden
    The Harold Porter National Botanical Garden is situated right on the R44 and allows birders easy access to Fynbos, forest and mountain associated habitats. This is casual birding at its best as a section of the garden is wheelchair-friendly.
  • Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and Kleinmond
    There are several interesting birding opportunities when travelling along the R44 from Betty’s Bay to Kleinmond.
  • Rooisand along the Bot River Estuary
    The Rooisand Nature Reserve forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and managed by CapeNature. It is generally accepted that Rooisand is the best spot along the Cape Whale Coast to look for waders.
  • Fisherhaven & the Hawston Sewage Works
    The estuary is internationally recognised as the Botrivier and Kleinmond Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.
  • Vermont Salt Pan
    A great diversity of birds associated with water habitats is available and in spring and early summer it is often possible to see up to forty species during an hour’s visit to the salt pan. The pan’s water level tends to drop considerably towards the end of summer and during dryer spells.
  • Onrus and Harderbaai
    The Hermanus suburb of Onrus River, commonly referred to as Onrus, offers excellent bird-watching opportunities. Many coastal species are readily available, extensive Milkwood groves bring a range of species associated with thickets and forest habitats into play and mature coastal Fynbos habitats add to the diversity of species in this popular seaside suburb.
  • Hemel & Aarde Valley and Rotary Way Scenic Drive
    The Hemel And Aarde Valley provides spectacular scenic drive taking one via Shaw’s Pass to Caledon and the beautiful Theewaterskloof region.
  • Hermanus Cliff Path and Klein River Estuary
    Consider leisurely strolls along the Hermanus Cliff Path that can be accessed at several places in the village. It allows whale and dolphin watching at its best combined with really good opportunities to watch coastal, fynbos, forest and garden birds.
  • The Fernkloof Nature Reserve at Hermanus
    The Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus is certainly one of the brightest feathers in the Cape Whale Coast’s bird-watching cap.
  • Birding in and around Stanford
    This quaint, well-wooded village lies on the banks of the Klein River offering traditional Cape countryside experiences and exuding the charm of years gone by. Stanford is a bird-watching destination of note and is well known for various habitat types in and around the village hosting a huge diversity of bird species.
  • From Stanford to the Uilenkraals Estuary and beyond
    The R43 between Stanford and Gansbaai is unfortunately fairly narrow and lacks road verges, making it very difficult to watch birds. However, the area to the east of Gansbaai along the R43 is unfortunately still relatively ‘unchartered’ in birding terms.
  • The Uilenkraals Valley to Baardskeerdersbos and beyond
    This route offers good forest opportunities, as well as quality road-side birding.
  • The Danger Point Peninsula
    The Danger Point Peninsula is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the prime birding destinations along the Cape Whale Coast.
  • Kleinbaai and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust
    The area around Dyer Island and Kleinbaai is seen as one of the prime eco-tourism destinations along the South African coast and exposes visitors to the Southern Right Whale, the iconic Great White Shark, the Cape Fur Seal, the endangered African Penguin and various dolphin species.
  • Wheatbelt Circle Route 1: Karwyderskraal and Swart River Roads
    The Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier loop roads represent high-quality wheatfield birding in close proximity to Hermanus and Cape Town.
  • Wheatbelt Circle Route 2: The Oudekraal Road
    The Oudekraal road is another excellent option for bird-watchers wanting to savour the birding delights of the Overberg Wheatbelt. This road is not in the Overstrand municipal region as such, but can easily be investigated on an outing from Hermanus or Stanford.
  • Wheatbelt Circle Route 3: The Papiesvlei Area
    Another worthwhile circle route from Stanford explores the farmlands towards Papiesvlei and the Uilenkraals Valley. Target species along here include most of the endemic species associated with Fynbos habitats, the Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Black Harrier, Agulhas Long-Billed and Cape Clapper Larks and Secretarybird.