For those who may be keen to embrace birding, or for the more experienced twitcher who is looking for multiple memorable sightings, a must-visit birding hotspot which is right on Cape Town’s doorstep is the hugely popular West Coast village of Velddrif, which hugs the banks of the Berg River, just a few kilometres from where the river enters the ocean at St Helena Bay.
This lovely town is one of the most popular birding sites in South Africa, with the tidal mudflats and salt marshes presenting more than 250 species of birds – that is 25% of all the bird species that have ever been recorded in the entire Southern African region. The estuary, floodplain, and saltpans cover a large area, extending 40km inland along one of the Cape’s biggest rivers. This area encompasses a wide diversity of habitats, including sandy beaches, mudflats, reed beds, riverine channels, strandveld and floodplain, and it is famously rich in birdlife – with the highest density of waders along the eastern Atlantic seaboard.
The estuary is the third biggest in SA and is rated as one of the most important birding areas in the world. It has also been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife South Africa and BirdLife International and declared a wetland of importance by the Ramsar Convention (referred to as a Ramsar site).
Visitors can expect to spot many resident bird species – with the river and reed beds teeming with bird life. The sight of hundreds of greater and lesser flamingos in a large swathe of pink is always an incredible sight. Egyptian geese, yellow-billed ducks, Cape and red-billed teals, Cape shovelers, red-knobbed coots, spur-winged geese, moorhen, warblers, weavers, southern red bishops, kingfishers, and the African fish eagle are just a very few examples of what can be spotted there.
The iconic Bokkom Laan, the oldest road in the town (and a heritage site) which snakes up the edge of the Berg River is a must-visit for anyone to the area. This quaint dirt road is dotted with jetties on the water’s edge and historic fish-drying sheds – many of which have been converted into eclectic coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries and gift shops.
Park your car and stroll along to spot greats white pelicans, the African marsh harrier, kingfishers, grey herons and many more different species. You can also visit the ‘’Bokkomhuise’’ and taste bokkoms, pop in at the Riverstudio to see the work of local artist Marina Clunie art, or Die Vishoekie art studio to see Saralize Tolken’s art. Or enjoy a meal at the Avoo Health Café which specialises in locally produced produce.