Birdwatching in Knysna and Surrounds

Image of Half-collared Kingfisher sitting on a rock
Half-collared Kingfisher. © Allan Drewitt

The Garden Route – the region from Mossel Bay to the Tsitsikamma – is well-known for its beautiful mountains, forests, lakes, and indigenous fynbos. Bird species you can expect to see here include Forest Buzzard, African Crowned Eagle, Emerald Cuckoo, Half-collared Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Knysna Woodpecker, the Knysna Warbler, Olive Bush-Shrike, and the famous Knysna Turaco.

Knysna Lagoon

The tidal lagoon and open estuary of the Knysna River offer excellent spots for bird viewing. At Woodbourne Pan (situated on the left near the turnoff to Leisure Island), at low tide in summer you will find waterbirds and waders, such as African Spoonbill, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, African Snipe, and Caspian Tern.

Leisure Isle and the surrounding salt marshes are home to a rich variety of birds. Many of the usual garden birds can be seen, including the Burchell’s Coucal or ‘Rain Bird’. Near the small boat Harbour, you might see Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern. African Fish Eagle breed is present all year and Osprey in summer. The Knysna Warbler is present at The Heads which also offers a lovely walk.

For more information on birding at Leisure Isle, contact Steenbok Nature Reserve:
Roger Voysey: +27 (0)83 754 5390
Website: www.steenboknaturereserve.org.za/birds/

Diepwalle forest – Garden Route National Park (Knysna Lakes section)

This Afromontane forest has a large presence of yellowwoods, such as the King Edward VII tree – an enormous 600-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood. The well-known Elephant Walk begins at Diepwalle and offers a number of circular route options. Some common species found here include Bar-throated apalis, Green-backed camaroptera, Terrestrial brownbul, and Green wood-hoopoe.

For more information, contact the Garden Route National Park:
Tel: +27 (0)44 302 5600
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/

Garden Route National Park – Wilderness section

Situated between George and Knysna, the reserve provides a range of habitats – rivers, lakes, beaches and an estuary – which makes for some excellent birding viewing.

There are four walking trails, named after local kingfisher species: Giant, Brown-hooded, Half-collared and Pied Kingfisher. Two hides, accessed via short boardwalks, overlook the lakes.

For more information, contact the Garden Route National Park:
Tel: +27 (0)44 302 5600
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/

Robberg Nature Reserve

Situated on Cape Seal point, just south of Plettenberg Bay, the reserve provides easy access to a rocky headland – a great vantage point for viewing seabirds. There are three circular walking trails to choose from: The Gap, Witsand and the more strenuous Point trail. The routes are fairly rough and in places may be quite steep. Endemic fynbos species to look out for include the Orange-breasted sunbird and the Cape Sugarbird. Cape cormorant is also present.

For more information, contact Cape Nature:
Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190
Website: www.capenature.co.za/

Nature’s Valley – Garden Route National Park, Tsitsikamma section

Nature’s Valley lies within the Tsitsikamma National Park at the eastern end of the Garden Route. Meandering in a gentle loop through the forest, the Grootrivier Trail (5 km) begins at the De Vasselot campsite. Spot the Giant & Pied kingfishers, and the Half-collared kingfisher. Listen for the calls of the Knysna turaco, White-starred robin, Narina trogon, Knysna woodpecker and Olive bush-shrike.

For more information, contact the Garden Route National Park:
Tel: +27 (0)44 302 5600
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/