cape birding route > birding spots > garden route & interior > the wilderness region
Info Service
About Us
Birding Spots
Day Guiding
Car Hire
Contact Us
    Site Map
The Wilderness Region:

At the western end of the Garden Route, the Wilderness National Park encloses a system of reed-fringed coastal lakes which are sandwiched between a beach and an escarpment cloaked with lush coastal forest. A number of tranquil paths lead through the forest, offering easy and pleasant access to an excellent selection of forest birds, including Knysna Lourie (p.125*). The park’s rest camp is at Ebb and Flow (1 on site map, p.120), a 1-km drive north of the N2 national road (turn inland at the signs just east of Wilderness village). The hutted camp and campsite, particularly at Ebb and Flow North (adjacent to Ebb and Flow south), offers good birding (including nightly Wood Owls) and is a rewarding place to base your explorations into the surrounding forests.

Leading from Ebb and Flow are four trails, all named after local kingfishers. Good forest birding is to be had along the Giant Kingfisher Trail, which begins at the northern end of the Ebb and Flow North campsite. It runs alongside the eastern bank of the Touw River, ascending its forested valley and ultimately reaching a waterfall at 2, 3.5 km from the campsite. The most conspicuous species in the forest are usually Bar-throated Apalis and Green-backed Bleating Warbler. Terrestrial Bulbul and Chorister Robin (p.125*) lurk in the lower strata (see box opposite), while common species of the mid-canopy are Cape Batis, Dusky Flycatcher, Sombre Bulbul, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker and, less conspicuously, Olive Bush Shrike. It is especially important to familiarize yourself with the calls of otherwise cryptic canopy species such as Black-headed Oriole, Narina Trogon (p.125*), Grey Cuckooshrike, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Black-bellied Starling, Knysna Lourie (p.125*), and Red-billed Woodhoopoe. The latter two birds often venture into the rest-camp edges.

Look out for Red-necked Francolin feeding cautiously in open areas near the forest edge, especially in the early morning and in the evening. Listen for the deep hoot of Buff-spotted Flufftail at night. Crowned Eagle and African Goshawk may be seen overhead here, as indeed in any of the Garden Route forests. Cinnamon (the most common) and Tambourine Doves are birds of the forest floor and are most often seen when flushed.

Also providing good access to these forest species is the Half-collared Kingfisher Trail, running along the other side of the Touw River for 2.5 km. It offers a good view of the river edges, and thus better access to its scarce and inconspicuous namesake, which is resident along its length. The reeds along the Touw River at the Ebb and Flow campsite edges have hosted Great Reed Warbler, which may be a scarce visitor here despite being almost unknown in the Cape.

In the Wilderness system, the best lakes for birding are Langvlei and Rondevlei, largely because both have well-positioned hides (at 3 and 4 respectively, see map overleaf) which are accessed along boardwalks cut through dense reedbeds. These hides, especially the one at Rondevlei, are excellent places to search for stubborn skulkers such as Red-chested Flufftail and African Rail. The best way to see these birds is to lure them across the gap in the reeds formed by the boardwalk. Baillon’s Crake also occurs here, but is less likely to be enticed into view and is best searched for at the reed edges in the early morning. Rallids aside, the lakes offer a pleasant selection of more conspicuous species, including Yellow-billed Egret, Purple Heron, African Fish Eagle, Osprey (summer), African Marsh Harrier, Malachite Kingfisher and Cape Reed and African Sedge Warblers.

Excellent forest birding (possibly even superior to that at Wilderness) may also be enjoyed in Woodville Forest, just to the north of the lakes (see map, above; follow the signs to the ‘Big Tree’ at 5). A few minute’s walk from the parking area leads you to the aptly named tree — a gargantuan Outeniqua Yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus) — from which a 2-km footpath loops gently through the forest. All the birds listed for the Wilderness forests occur here. Furthermore, Woodville is probably a better site for Starred Robin, Knysna Woodpecker (albeit scarce; p.72*) and, in streamside undergrowth and scrubby forest edge habitats, Knysna Warbler (p.32*). Secondary growth at forest edges — such as that along the short section of road leading to the parking area — is worth checking for Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill and Greater Double-collared Sunbird.

Another excellent site for Knysna Warbler (p.125*) is Victoria Bay, situated between Wilderness and George. Take the signposted turn-off south from the N2 and follow this winding road all the way down to the beach, where there is a gate and parking area. Knysna Warbler is common in the undergrowth of the adjacent dense coastal thicket (for example, near the boardwalk on the left of the parking area).

Forest Buzzard occurs in forests and plantations throughout the Garden Route, and regularly perches on roadside telephone poles along the N2 from Wilderness through Knysna and to Nature’s Valley. In summer, it is joined by Steppe Buzzard, posing an identification challenge.

This website is maintained by Birding Africa.
Please do not use any text, images or content from this site without permission.
© Birding Africa 1997-2009
4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09