George – Denneoord Forest Walk

About the Birding

From the starting point of the walk, where the railway line crosses over Caledon Street, take the trail that leads up along the left-hand side of the railway line, as you walk in the direction of the Outeniqua mountains (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.946505, 22.465354). Please note that there is no signage at the start of the trail.

Keep an eye out for Forest Buzzard and African Harrier Hawk flying overhead, especially along the first kilometer of the walk. Also scan the two large pine trees on the left-hand side, shortly after starting along the trail (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.944767, 22.464502; & Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.944077, 22.463863). These trees are the favourite vantage points for several raptors including African Goshawk, Black Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon, and in the early evening, also Spotted Eagle Owl. The latter will nest in the large fork of the first pine, given that the resident pair of Egyptian Geese allow them to nest there.

Once you reach the edge of town, cross over the railway line and follow the path along the firebreak, with the railway line now on your left (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.940577, 22.462801). There are several cuttings along this stretch of the railway-line, and Black Saw-wing nest in the clay banks along some if these cuttings. Keep an eye out for these beautiful black swallows as they fly along the firebreak.

The dense shrubbery to the right, along the edge of the firebreak, is home to Burchell’s Coucal and Knysna Warbler. Sometimes, especially after there has been a fire up in the mountains, listen for the distinctive song of the Victorin’s Warbler. This is a good spot for African Firefinch, and in the summer months, also listen carefully for the melodious song of the Marsh Warbler, a species that has been recorded here on several occasions.

The dense pine forest to the left, beyond the railway line, soon gives way to tall shrubbery with dotted pine and eucalyptus trees that stick out well above the shrubbery. This is an excellent place to find the largest species of pigeon in South Africa, the African Olive Pigeon. These pigeons often gather in tall trees, sometimes in large flocks, coming to feed on the fruit of the Bugweed that is growing in the shrubbery below. Unfortunately, Bugweed, Solanum mauritianum, is an invasive species from South America, and the African Olive Pigeons are the main disperser of the seeds of this alien plant.

Following the firebreak along the railway-line, one will soon reach a four-way junction. Continue straight along the firebreak (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.939012, 22.465649). About 80 metres further the firebreak veers off to the right. Do not continue along it, but instead follow the path that continues ahead, veering slightly towards the left (still following close by the railway-line). This path soon leads onto the railway-line and from here on, there is a dense forest of (mostly) exotic trees to the right. In Spring and early Summer this stretch of path can be particularly good for Buff-spotted Flufftail. They call first thing in the morning and also in the early evening.

Once back on the railway-line, walk along the right-hand side of the line for about 100 metres, and then take the trail that veers off to the right (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.936979, 22.467563). Follow along this trail for about 200 metres, and then you will reach the end of the exotic forest and the start of the indigenous forest patch (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.936774, 22.469839). This is the Denneoord Forest patch, nestled between the railway-line and the edge of the suburb, Denneoord, it is only about 3 hectares in size.

Initially the path follows along the edge the forest, and here one can enjoy some good forest edge birding. Listen especially for the loud call of Green-backed Camaroptera, as well as the high pitched song of the Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. Also listen for the soft call of Collared Sunbird that like to feed on the nectar of the flowering Wild Pomegranate (Burchellia bubalina). There is a Wild Peach tree (Kiggelaria africana), growing low over the path and this tree is the host species for the Acraea horta butterfly. Its caterpillars enjoy feeding on the poisonous leaves of the tree. These hairy caterpillars are a favorite food of many a cuckoo species. Scan this tree carefully for Klaas’s Cuckoo and African Emerald Cuckoo. Red-chested Cuckoo is also common in this area, and you are bound to hear them calling from the taller exotic trees that stand North of the railway-line.

About 130 metres after having arrived at the edge of the indigenous forest, there is a path that turns off to the right and leads directly down into the forest (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.936812, 22.471230). Following down this trail one immediately finds oneself inside the interior of the forest. The forest is quite dark inside and the forest floor is littered with leaves. This is the perfect habitat of birds such as Chorister Robin-chat and Terrestrial Brownbul, that inhabit the forest understory. After only 80 metres the path breaks out of the forest and brings one to the edge of town. Forest Canary and Swee Waxbill regularly visit bird-feeders in the gardens that are adjacent to the firebreak. From here the easiest option is to head back up to the contour path that follows close to the railway-line, and to continue along it, heading further East.

Once back on the contour trail, it will soon start to veer slightly away the railway-line leading deeper into the forest. Once back inside the forest again, listen for the distinctive songs of the White-starred Robin, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Grey Sunbird. The path leads down to a stream, with a wooden bridge spanning across it. Beyond this stream, the trail leads up the hill, and it is here that one can enjoy good views into the forest interior. Search the forest canopy (to the right) for the elusive Narina Trogon, and also search for the unobtrusive Lemon Dove on the forest floor (to the left).

There is also a second path that turns off to the right and leads deeper into the forest, heading in die direction of the town (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.936667° 22.472998°). However, at this point it is probably a good idea to turn back, following exactly the same way that you came. If one was to continue along the contour path, then, soon after this point, the contour path will exit the indigenous forest and arrive back at the railway-line. This is the end of the Denneoord Forest patch and the start of the George Municipality’s water purification plant.

The adventurous birder can continue down the smaller path that starts at the link provided above, but please take note that this path has sections that are quite steep and slippery, especially when crossing over the stream. This path allows access into excellent forest habitat and is good for both Buff-spotted Flufftail and White-starred Robin. It eventually exits back out onto the firebreak in front of the suburb, Denneoord. From here you can walk back along the much easier path that lead back up through the forest to the contour path, completing a small loop through the forest patch. Keep a careful look out for Green Wood Hoopoe, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike and Black-bellied Starling in the forest canopy. The entrance of the path that leads back into the forest and up to the railway-line is located opposite the top of 5th Avenue (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.937510, 22.471373).

About the Birding Site

The Denneoord forest is a small, but pristine patch of southern Afro-temperate Forest. The site can be reached by following along a trail that starts at the public parking bay on Caledon Street. This public parking bay is located opposite the Voortrekkersaal (56 Caledon Street), and also next to the Aloe Entrance to Garden Route Botanical Garden (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.946478, 22.465108). Please note that the walk does NOT enter into the botanical garden, but instead, the trail starts near the point where Caledon Street crosses over the railway line (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.946505, 22.465354).

The trail follows next to the railway line towards the Outeniqua mountain for about 1.65 km until one reaches the start of the indigenous forest. The total walking distance (there and back again), is roughly 4 km. It is essentially a contour trail and therefore it is fairly easy-going. Please note that the trail is NOT sign-posted at all, so please follow carefully the directions given in the birding write-up above.

Even though the Denneoord Forest patch skirts the northern border of the suburb Denneoord, access to this forest patch form this suburb can be a problem. There are red lines clearly indicating that there is strictly NO parking allowed at the top of 5th Avenue (which would be the nearest access point to the forest). That is why it is best to start the trail at the public parking bay in Caledon Street.

However, if one is unable to walk the 4 km trail as described in the write-up above, then the closest parking would be along the road verge in Olive Close (Link to Maps: or GPS: -33.938075, 22.471825). Here there is space for no more than one or possibly two cars parked on the street right next to the kerb. From here it is only about 80 metres walk to the edge of the Denneoord Forest. Please do note, if starting at Olive Close, then one will miss out on all the fantastic forest edge birding that can be enjoyed along the trail that follows the railway-line all the way from Caledon Street.

Other Related Information

It is important to reiterate that this trail has no official name or entrance board and there is no signage along the trail.
Access is open to the public and there is no entrance fee.

When walking along the railway line, please be aware of the comings and goings of the Outeniqua Powervan as it still uses this line on a regular basis. There is a trail next to the railway-line, so there is no need to walk on-top of the line.

Also be aware of cyclists, as this is a popular mountain biking trail. It is also a popular trail for dog walkers. All this activity adds to the relative safety of the trail. Even so, there are no security measures in place, so also please do take personal safety measures.

Text prepared by:
Christiaan Viljoen
Qualified Nature Guide
Phone: +27 (0)83 703 9482

Key species:

African Olive Pigeon, Black Saw-wing, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Collared Sunbird, Forest Buzzard, Forest Canary, Green-backed Camaroptera, White-starred Robin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.

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