Western Cape – De Rust and Surrounding Areas

About the Birding

To date, 235 different bird species have been recorded in the area surrounding De Rust. The area is blessed with diverse and varying habitats ranging from mountain fynbos, succulent Karoo, montane grasslands, kloof shrublands, waboom-veld (Protea nitida), arid fynbos, spekboomveld (Protulacaria afra), and afro montane forest areas. This variety in habitats provides for excellent opportunities to locate diverse bird species along any of the drives discussed in this section.

About the Birding Site

The area surrounding De Rust is dominated by intensely developed agricultural fields and the majestic Grootswartberg (Great Black Mountain) Mountain Range to its north with the Kammanassie Mountain to the southeast. For the Loop Road circling the Kammanassie Mountain please view the Kammanassie pin on this website.

Birding in the areas surrounding De Rust is discussed in two different sections hereafter, namely:
• Meiringspoort (N12 National Highway)
• Oude Muragie and Vergelegen Loop Road including Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall

Birding along the roads in the area, especially along the southern foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range along the Oude Muragie Road section is most rewarding.

The National Highway (N12) through Meiringspoort is arguably one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the country with exceptional majestic rock formations of the Cape Fold Mountains on display throughout the length of the drive through the gorge.

The drive through Meiringspoort along the N12 National Highway on the northern side of De Rust is arguably one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the RSA. The peculiar and majestic rock formations of the Cape Fold Mountains are visible from almost everywhere along the entire approximate 21km long drive through the poort (gorge). The road crosses the Grootrivier (Great River) 24 times at concrete causeways that often get flooded during heavy rainstorms.
A few very neat picnic spots with good ablution facilities exist along the length of the drive and stopping at these points are recommended to observe the birding at these points. For most of the drive, almost no safe stopping for birding is possible except at some of the causeways at which stopping off the road is possible. Birders are however cautioned to be aware of speeding vehicles along the entire length of the drive.

Around the halfway mark of the poort at one of the picnic spots a short walk to the nearby beautiful waterfall, Meiringspoort Waterfall, is recommended. The pathway to the waterfall is well maintained and easy to walk, but several stairs need to be climbed along the way. A natural rock pool at the foot of the fall is available to swim in, but the water is very cold all year long.

The first road through Meiringspoort was built in 1858 for £5 018 and was called the Boer (“Farmer’s”) Road. The road was upgraded by the famous road engineer, Thomas Bain, in 1886. During the period 1948 to 1953, the road drifts were upgraded to become causeways. This was done for £10 000. The road was surfaced for the first time during the period 1966 to 1971 at a cost of R1,6m. Following serious flood damage that was suffered during the late 1990s on the road and the causeways, major upgrading works of the road and causeways were undertaken at a total cost of R70m.

A total of 180 different bird species have been recorded in Meiringspoort to date. Interesting bird species can normally be encountered within the upper reaches (northern end) of the poort where bird species that are normally associated with the arid Great Karoo landscape can quite easily be located at the picnic spots in this area. Bird species like Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Pririt Batis, Grey- & Cape Penduline Tits, Layard’s- & Namaqua Warblers, Fairy Flycatchers, Karoo Thrush, Dusky Sunbird, and Southern Masked Weaver can be encountered along the upper reaches of the poort.

Birding along the southern end of the poort normally yield species like Verreaux’s Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Cape Rock Thrush, Red-winged Starling, Ground Woodpecker, Pied-, Malachite- & Giant Kingfishers, Little-, White-rumped-, Alpine- & African Black Swifts, White-throated- & Pearl-breasted Swallows, Rock Martin, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Bulbul, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Wagtail, Southern Double-collared- & Malachite Sunbirds, Cape White-eye, and Cape Bunting.

The Oude Muragie & Vergelegen Loop Road is an 84km long gravel loop road that passes the Rust-en-Vrede waterfall as well as passes within 5km from the world-renowned Cango Caves. The drive through the foothills of the Grootswartberg (Great Black Mountain) is extremely scenic with beautiful views of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range to the north. Snow-capped mountain peaks can often be observed during winter months from this route.

The route starts in the east at GPS -33.5031˚S, 22.5014˚E (Oude Muragie East) and follows the alignment of the Nelsrivier up to the watershed. The Nelsrivier Valley is covered with extensive olive tree estates on the valley floor. The road continues and crosses the Meulrivier (Mill River) and the Grootrivier (Great River) until it reaches the turnoff to the Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall to the north at GPS -33.4103˚S, 22.3381˚E (Rust-en-Vrede). A visit to the Rust-en-Vrede waterfall is highly recommended.

Beyond the turnoff to the waterfall, the road continues westwards and descends along the banks of the Klein-LeRouxsrivier (Little-LeRoux’s River) and passes the Koos Raubenheimer Dam, which is the main raw water supply reservoir to Oudtshoorn.

The end of the Oude Muragie Road is reached at a T-junction, GPS -33.4274˚S, 22.2515˚E (Oude Muragie West), where this road intersects with the main road (R328) leading northwards to the Cango Caves and the notorious Swartberg Pass which links Oudtshoorn with the Great Karoo further to the north.
The loop road detailed here however turns southwards (left) at the T-junction onto road R328 and leads you to Oudtshoorn along the R328. The loop road follows the R328 for roughly 13km to GPS -33.5337˚S, 22.2450˚E (Vergelegen West), the turnoff onto the gravel road signposted as Vergelegen.

The Vergelegen section of the loop road is also a gravel road and is approximately 22km long and ends at GPS -335605˚S, 22.4192˚E (Vergelegen East). The Vergelegen Road is a somewhat less scenic drive compared to the Oude Muragie Section but still has much to offer birders and nature lovers alike. The western section of this road traverses intensely developed agricultural fields but then the road veers into the adjoining Grootswartberg foothills where amazing scenery is on offer. The hillsides and mountains along the route are all in mostly unspoiled natural condition and provide for excellent birding.

Birders are advised to consider undertaking this full loop road drive, including a visit to the Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall, as a full-day excursion. Driving conditions are normally good but sections of the road can be seriously eroded following heavy rainstorms. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended under such conditions.

To date, 235 different bird species have been recorded along the loop road. Due to the varying habitats covered by the two road sections, birding along the loop will be discussed in separate parts namely firstly the Oude Muragie section and secondly the birding along the Vergelegen section. Birding at the Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall is also discussed separately from the rest.

Birding along the Oude Muragie section of the loop road provides opportunities to spot many Klein Karoo birding specials as well as a few forest dwellers that can be encountered especially the Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall, but also in some of the streams that are covered with stands of indigenous forests.

Along the Oude Muragie Loop Road, 185 different bird species have been recorded. Special bird species that can be encountered include Martial- & African Fish Eagles, African Goshawk, Karoo Korhaan, European Bee-eater, Cardinal- & Olive Woodpeckers, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Chat, Karoo Prinia, Long-billed Crombec, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Grassbird, Rufous-eared-, Chestnut-vented- & Layard’s Warblers, Swee Waxbill, as well as Black-headed- & Forest Canaries.

In the area surrounding the Rust-en-Vrede waterfall 136 bird species have been recorded. Special bird species that will most likely be observed in the area surrounding the waterfall include Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, Jackal Buzzard, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Rock Kestrel, Acacia Pied Barbet, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Common Quail, Grey-winged Francolin, Greater Honeyguide, Fork-tailed Drongo, Alpine Swift, Cape Sugarbird, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Tchagra, Orange-breasted- & Malachite Sunbirds, Pale-winged Starling, Cape- & Forest Canaries, Cape Siskin, Cape-, Cinnamon-breasted- & Lark-like Buntings. In addition, Grey Wagtail has been spotted on at least three occasions.

Along the Vergelegen section of the Loop Road 198 different bird species have been recorded to date. Special bird species seen along this section of the road include African Darter, African Spoonbill, Pale-chanting Goshawk, African Harrier-hawk, Southern Black Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Spotted Thick-knee, Western Barn Owl, Namaqua- & Tambourine Doves, Lesser Honeyguide, Spike-heeled Lark, Karoo- & Sickle-winged Chats, Karoo Thrush, Wattled Starling, Neddicky, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo- & Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Namaqua- & Rufous-eared Warblers, Karoo Prinia, Cape-, Yellow-, Black-headed-, White-throated- & Brimstone Canaries, Cape Penduline Tit, Pin-tailed Whydah, and Cape Bunting.

Other Related Information

Permits are only required to enter the Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall site and are obtainable at the entrance gate to the reserve. Visiting hours are from 09h00 to 16h30, Mondays to Sundays. The entrance fee (2023) is R80 per vehicle (1-6 people).

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are several guesthouses offering farm stays on farms surrounding De Rust or in the town itself as well as other accommodation types in the area which are available through the normal accommodation booking sites.

Local guide information:
There are no community bird guides available for this area.

Text prepared by:
Francois Furstenburg

Key species:

Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, Rock Kestrel, Jackal- & Common Buzzards, African Goshawk, South African Shelduck, Grey-winged Francolin, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo- & Southern Black Korhaans, Double-banded Courser, Alpine- & African Black Swifts, European Bee-eater, Cardinal- & Olive Woodpeckers, Ground Woodpecker, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Chat, Karoo Thrush, Pririt Batis, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-Tit, Layard’s- & Namaqua Warblers, Fairy Flycatcher, as well as Dusky Sunbird.

Contact details:

Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall:
Tel: +27 (0) 44 203 3112

De Rust Tourism:
Tel: +27 (0) 44 279 2532
E-mail: enquiries@oudtshoorn.com