Western Cape – Garcia Pass Sites

    About the Birding

    To date 149 different bird species have been recorded in the area surrounding the Garcia Pass and along the hiking trails in the adjoining mountains and the two mentioned district roads that lie to the north of Garcia Pass.

    The focus area also includes a description of birding along the gravel district road section that runs from west to east and lies on the Klein Karoo side of the Langeberg Mountain Range. This 26km long link road section is included as it lies within easy reach from the Riversdale area which lies immediately to the south of Garcia Pass. This area provides the opportunity of locating Klein Karoo special birds which are totally different from the bird species occurring on the mountain slopes or to the south of the Mountain Range.

    The 12km long Langkloof Road is also discussed as it provides the only opportunity to access this part of the Langeberg Mountain in a private vehicle. This dead-ended road runs eastwards along the Langkloof Valley.

    Three different day-trip hiking trails exist in the Garcia Nature Reserve section, namely the Sleeping Beauty Trail, The Buchuberg Trail and the Kristalkloof Trail. Only Sleeping Beauty and Buchuberg Trails are detailed in this document. Kristalkloof is not discussed as the trail is not well maintained and thus difficult to hike. The environment covered by the Sleeping Beauty Trail is however very similar to the habitat encountered along the Kristalkloof Trail. Sleeping Beauty Trail and Kristalkloof trail are in the same kloof but on different sides of the R323 road, Kristalkloof runs eastward and Sleeping Beauty westward to the top of the well-known Sleeping Beauty Peak. The hiking trails traverse through predominantly Mountain Fynbos habitat, which is again completely different from the Fynbos habitats which cover most of the area between the Langeberg Mountain Range and the coastal belt.

    About the Birding Site

    Birding for this area is thus discussed in five different sections, namely:

    1. Garcia Pass (R323)

    2. Sleeping Beauty Hiking Trail

    3. Buchuberg Hiking Trail

    4. Langkloof Road

    5. Klein Karoo road link – Road R323 to R327 (VanWyksdorp to Herbertsdale Road)

    Birding along the main tarred road (R323) along the Garcia Pass section is not easy as only a few safe stopping points are available from where active birding can be conducted. Only stop at safe places where the vehicle can be stopped totally off the adjoining road surface. Be wary and watch out for fast travelling approaching vehicles.

    Birding on the hiking trails is easy and rewarding although the Sleeping Beauty Trail is very steep and strenuous. The Buchuberg trail however is basically a contour path making hiking easy.

    Birding along the Langkloof and Klein Karoo Roads is much easier as much less vehicles travel along these two roads.

    The southern start of the Garcia Mountain Pass is located at GPS -34.0195˚S, 21.2252˚E and the northern end of the Pass is at GPS -34.9429˚S, 21.2268˚E. The length of the road section between the outskirts of Riversdale on the R323 road and the turnoff to the Klein Karoo link road to Road R327 (Herbertsdale) is approximately 24km with the Mountain Pass section being approximately 12km long. The road gains approximately 400m in elevation along the route to the top of the mountain pass.

    Stop at the parking spot on the western side of the road at GPS -33.9823˚S, 21.2233˚E. Scan the bracken fern next to the road carefully and pay attention to sound as well as the slightest movement within the bracken. The extreme skulkers, little Victorin’s Warblers, are often encountered here. Knysna Warbler, Cape Batis, and Bar-throated Apalis can be found in the dense thickets along stream beds. Orange-breasted Sunbirds and Cape Sugarbirds are easy to locate when the protea and pincushions are in bloom. Red-winged Starling and Cape Rock Thrush specimens can be seen where they perch on top of rock outcrops. Single Red-necked Spurfowl is also located along the verges of the road at times. Alpine-, Common- and African Black Swifts can all be seen in favourable conditions. Raptor species that can likely be encountered are Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Jackal- and Forest Buzzards, Booted Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, and with luck a Verreaux’s Eagle on flying over.

    Along the road verges Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Tchagra, Fork-tailed Drongo, Karoo Prinia, Speckled- and Red-faced Mousebirds, Tambourine Dove and African Olive Pigeon can be found.

    The start of the Sleeping Beauty Hiking Trail is located at GPS -33.9532˚S, 21.2259˚E along the Garcia Mountain Pass between Ladismith and Riversdale. The steep hiking trail covers approximately 14km from the Old Toll House on Garcia Pass to the crest of Sleeping Beauty and back. The trail ascends 844m from the start of the trail to the top. The trail is described as a relatively easy hike for fit hikers. The crest can be reached within 3 to 4 hours. Numerous streams are crossed along the trail. The trail initially runs through Fynbos until the Yellowwood forest is reached at the top of the ravine. From the forest the trail winds its way to the top behind the Sleeping Beauty Mountain peak. The last stretch is a steep 1,5km to the crest from where the most magnificent panoramic view of the Langeberg Mountain Range is attained.

    Hikers are recommended to first search more hiking information on the web prior to attempt summiting the peak. The Mountain and Trail section forms part of the Cape Nature conservation area.

    Birding along the trail is however quite rewarding. In the Fynbos areas Karoo Prinia, Grey-backed Cisticola, Neddicky, Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird should be quite easy to locate as well as Brimstone Canaries and Cape Buntings. Special birds to be on the lookout for on the south facing mountain slopes in the moist bracken fern areas is Victorin’s Warblers.

    In the forest area search for Red-chested and Black Cuckoo, Cape Batis, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Bush-shrike, Cardinal-, Olive- and Knysna Woodpeckers, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Forest Buzzard, as well as African Paradise-, Dusky-, and Blue-crested Mantled Flycatchers. Red-necked Spurfowl can also be spotted with luck in this almost furthest western extent of their normal range.

    In the section at high altitude above the forest canopy try and locate the elusive Cape Rockjumper, Red-winged Starlings, soaring Cape Vultures and possible Verreaux’s Eagles. Alpine Swifts should also be flying high overhead.

    No permits or entrance fees are currently required to undertake the Sleeping Beauty Hiking Trail and vehicles can be parked at the Old Toll House on Garcia Pass.

    The start of the BuchuBerg Hiking Trail is located a couple of hundred meters to the south of the parking area that is located at GPS -33.9821˚S, 21.2234˚E along the Garcia Mountain Pass between Ladismith and Riversdale. The easy hiking trail covers approximately 12,5km from the Garcia Pass to the top end of the Garcia State Forest pine forest.

    The trail ascends 844m from the start of the trail to the top. The trail is described as a relatively easy hike for fit hikers. The crest can be reached within 3 to 4 hours. Numerous streams are crossed along the trail. The trail initially runs through Fynbos until the Yellowwood forest is reached at the top of the ravine. From the forest, the trail winds its way to the top behind the Sleeping Beauty Mountain peak. The last stretch is a steep 1,5km to the crest from where the most magnificent panoramic view of the Langeberg Mountain Range is attained.

    Hikers are recommended to first search for more hiking information on the web prior to attempting to summit the peak.

    Other Related Information

    Recommended accommodation sites nearby:

    There are a number of guesthouses on some of the farms in the area between Riversdale and Herbertsdale, or near Albertinia, as well as other accommodation types which are available through booking sites. Currently there are no Birder Friendly Establishments listed for this area.

    Text prepared by:

    Francois Furstenburg, Stilbaai U3A Bird Group

    Key species:

    Special bird species that can be located along the route of the pass and along the hiking trails are Victorin’s- and Knysna Warblers, Orange-breasted-, Malachite- and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Sugarbird, Karoo Prinia, Cape Grassbird, Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Grey-winged Francolin, Yellow Bishop, Bar-throated Apalis, Swee Waxbill, Cape Canary, and Cloud Cisticola.

    Special bird species that can be added to the above list when the Klein Karoo Road is travelled are Sickle-winged-, Ant-eating and Karoo Chats, Namaqua Dove, Grey Tit, Red-capped Lark, Lark-like Bunting, Karoo Korhaan, Blue Crane, Secretary Bird, Martial Eagle, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Pririt Batis, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fairy Flycatcher, and Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler.

    Contact details:

    Garcia Pass

    Stilbaai Tourism Bureau: +27 (0)28 754 2602

    Email: stilbaaiinfo@easycoms.co.za

    Web: www.stilbaaitourism.co.za

    Stilbaai U3A Bird Group

    Krysia Stenvert: +27 (0)83 287 5227

    Francois Furstenburg: +27 (0)82 578 6933

    Email: krysiasolman@gmail.com or ffur@icloud.com