The Cape West Coast is a region rich in biodiversity and one blessed with incredible bird life. Langebaan Lagoon draws many a twitcher (the name for an avid bird lover) who travel here to view the many migratory species that make their way to these shores each year.
As you drive up the R27 you may be lucky enough to see the Black Harrier which is an endangered species and endemic to the West Coast (that is if it hasn’t turned into road kill). Birding is a delightful way to spend a day and these hides offer all sorts of other activities as well that will help connect you with nature. Pack a picnic, your favourite bottle of wine and choose a spot to begin your exploration of the birds that live in this region.
Berg River Bird Hides, Velddrif This site on the estuary of the Berg River is an important bird area and a proposed RAMSAR site. A hide is situated off Voortrekker Road, past the Riviera Hotel where the key to the hide is kept. More than 200 species of birds can be viewed. +27 22 783 1821
Farms Bloemendal (11–12km from Velddrif on Velddrif/Hopefield Road) Langrietvlei (19km from Velddrif on Velddrif/Hopefield Road) Swartjiesbaai (Booking essential: +27 22 783 3088)
The Flamingo Birding Route New to the region and is being developed in conjunction with Bird Life SA – excellent news for avi tourism. www.westerncape birding.co.za/flamingo/index.php
Rietvlei & Milnert on Lagoon 15km from Cape Town city centre. Picnic and toilet facilities, eight information boards, the hide overlooks the pans. +27 21 557 5509
Rocherpan Marine & Nature Reserve The reserve provides a sanctuary for one of South Africa’s most endangered coastal birds – the Black Oystercatcher. Additional attractions are whales from June to December. There are picnic sites as well. +27 22 931 2900
SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve The reserve is controlled by the South African Defence Force (SANDF ) and is accessed via their property at Saldanha Bay. Hiking trails are open seven days a week throughout the year. Approval is required on entry. The shooting range may, however, be in use. Bookings for groups are essential. +27 22 702 3523
Vredenburg/Saldanha Golf Course Two hides overlooking the dam on the northern boundary of the golf course can be visited with permission from the club manager. +27 22 715 3003
West Coast Fossil Park Run by South African Museum, the Fossil Park is open by prior arrangement. There is a large dam with a hide. A variety of duck and open veld species can be seen. +27 22 166 1606
West Coast National Park Langebaan Lagoon in the park was registered as a wetland of international importance for birds, with the RAMSAR Convention, which came into force in 1988. A number of bird hides overlook various areas of the lagoon. Another feature is the breeding colonies on the four islands near the mouth of Saldanha Bay. The islands can be visited by boat in the company of a park guide. +27 22 772 2144
South Africa has been voted in the top ten of the developing world’s ethical travel destinations. Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica also feature. www.ethicaltraveler.org