Garden Route – Tsitsikamma National Park

About the Birding

The indigenous forest and fynbos of the Tsitsikamma National Park holds many restricted-range and biome-restricted assemblage species. Striped Flufftail and Hottentot Buttonquail have both been recorded in low fynbos scrub, though seeing either of these species requires a dedicated search and much patience. The Orange-breasted Sunbird is widespread among ericas, while Cape Sugarbird is almost entirely restricted to the proteoid elements but has infiltrated urban areas too. Cape Bulbul and Cape Siskin are widespread and common in fynbos.

Large numbers of Victorin’s Warbler are found in moist seeps in hilly areas and this species is best detected by its high-pitched warbling call. The Cape Spurfowl is something of an enigma in fynbos habitats, but the species almost certainly occurs at the boundary between the Eastern and Western Cape provinces. Isolated grassland patches potentially support Denham’s Bustard, Black Harrier and Secretarybird.

Forest patches hold the highest diversity of species within the Tsitsikamma National Park including several forest endemics. Forest Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-Chat and Forest Canary are all relatively common. The area also holds a substantial proportion of the global Knysna Warbler population. Knowledge of the warbler’s call is essential to locating this highly sought-after endemic. Other forest species include the Olive Bush-shrike, Brown Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Swee Waxbill, and Crowned Eagle.

African Finfoot and Half-collared Kingfisher have been recorded along the brackish rivers and are known to breed in Nature’s Valley and along the nearby Keurbooms River. White-backed Night Heron has also been recorded near Plettenberg Bay and there is a good chance that this species also occurs along rivers within the Tsitsikamma National Park.

The offshore stacks and islands hold breeding White-breasted and Cape Cormorants. Kelp Gull similarly breed in very high numbers along the coast, with the nearby Keurbooms River estuary supporting nationally significant numbers. African Black Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern and White-fronted Plover breed along the beaches.

A number of other interesting species with global ranges restricted to South Africa’s southern coastal strip can be seen within the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve. These include the Long-tailed Forest Shrew, Duthie’s Golden Mole, Knysna Dwarf Chameleon, Blue-spotted Girdled Lizard, Plain Rain Frog and the almost-mythical Southern Ghost Frog. Other South African endemics include the Forest Shrew, Zulu Golden Mole, Cape Grysbok in fynbos, and Cape Sand Frog, Striped Stream Frog, Bronze Caco, Rattling Frog, Knysna Leaf-folding Frog, Arum Lily Frog, Marbled Leaf-toed Gecko, Cape Girdled Lizard, Bblack Thread Snake, Cape Legless Skink and Short-legged Seps. Other threatened mammals in the forest include Leopard and Blue Duiker.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Striped Flufftail

About the Birding Site

The Tsitsikamma National Park covers an estimated area of 24 000 hectares, stretching 80km along the South African coastline between the Sout River in the Western Cape and the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. Typically, the reserve extends 3-4Km inland along the gorges of the Brak, Sout, Bobbejaans and Groot Rivers though in places it is limited to the steeply sloping coastal escarpment. The region boats some of the most picturesque landscapes anywhere in South Africa …

… characterised by a particularly rocky coastline with deeply incised river gorges, viewed against an impressive backdrop of fynbos blanketed mountains and lush evergreen forests. The reserve is comprised of two primary vegetation types: Tsitsikamma Sandstone Fynbos and Southern Afro-temperate forests. The vegetation of the coastal belt is dominated by the typical Afro-temperate forest species that form part of the larger Knysna Afro-temperate Forest Complex. Thorny shrubs and very dry scrub forest grow on steep slopes with shallow soils and a hot aspect, whereas moist tall forest develops in valleys with deeper soils. Nearer the coast, true forest plant species are replaced by dune salt-resistant thickets. The forests themselves often lay adjacent to the fynbos and the boundaries between the two vegetation types are often quite abrupt. However, only about 30% of the reserve is covered in Tsitsikamma Sandstone fynbos. This vegetation type is split into two distinct parts: mesic mountain fynbos typically grows on the steep coastal escarpment, and the inland escarpment fynbos which varies from tall closed shrubland to low and open restioid cover. The reserve also features one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, conserving an estimated 11% of South Africa’s temperate south coast rocky shoreline.

At least 300 bird species have been recorded within the Tsitsikamma National Park including globally significant breeding populations of several notable coastal seabirds, and other range or biome restricted species. Top among these are the Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Turaco, Chorister Robin-chat, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird and Forest Buzzard. With such an impressive species total, it is of no surprise that the region is considered one the Eastern Cape’s top birding routes. Several days are recommended to explore the region to its full potential, though most specials are not particularly difficult to find.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Striped Flufftail

Other Related Information

Directions:
Follow the N2 west from Port Elizabeth in the direction of Cape Town. Roughly 4km beyond the Storm River Bridge, turn to the left towards the village of Storms River. The Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, situated within Tsitsikamma National Park, is located roughly 5km south of the village besides the mouth of the Storms River. From there, it is possible to explore the surrounding areas using a detailed network of roads and trails.

Other related information:

The nearest towns to main rest camp at Tsitsikamma National Park are:
Storm’s River: 18Km
Plettenburg Bay: 66Km
Jeffrey’s Bay: 116Km
Port Elizabeth: 184Km

The Nature’s Valley Rest Camp is situated in the De Vasselot section of the Tsitsikamma National Park on the banks of the Groot River, about 30km from the town of Plettenberg Back and about 40Km further to the west of the Storms River Rest Camp. To reach the Nature’s Valley Rest Camp, turn to the south roughly 22kms before Plettenberg Bay, just after the tollgate.

The nearest towns to Nature’s Valley rest camp at Tsitsikamma National Park are:
Storm’s River: 40Km
Plettenburg Bay: 34Km
Jeffrey’s Bay: 138Km
Port Elizabeth: 206Km

Facilities and access:
A standard daily conservation fee is payable at the main offices for both day visitors and overnight guests at either the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp or the Natures Valley Rest Camp. Wild Cards are accepted. Office hours are between 08:00 and 17:00 daily and gate closing times are 22:00. Note that overnight visitors who arrive after 17:00 may check in at the main gate, though please make SANPARKS aware of your late arrival. Day visitors are permitted to enter between 08:00 and 17:00 only.

The nearest fuel station is at Witelsbos, roughly 30Km from the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. A restaurant and small convenience shop are available at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp though accommodation is mostly of a self-catering nature and visitors are required to be mostly self-sufficient.

Outdoor lighting is provided though is somewhat limited within the camp sites and torches are essential for those camping overnight. However, all self-catering units are serviced with electricity.

Several activities are available including the 42Km long Otter Trail (www.footprint.co.za), several short nature trails ranging from between 1 and 3 hours and covering most important habitats, boat rides, and kayaking on the Storms River among others.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishment is in the coastal village of Plettenberg Bay, roughly 65Km away from the Storms River. The 3-star rated Masescha Country Estate is set on a 12ha property and against a pristine forest backdrop. For more information, contact:

Masescha Country Estate
Tel: +27 (0)44 532 7647
Cell: +27 (0)79 568 2895
Email: mwmasescha@mweb.co.za
www.masescha.co.za

Alternate self-catering and camping accommodation is available through SANPARKS at either the Storms River Rest Camp or the Nature’s Valley Rest Camp. To reserve accommodation through either of these camps, contact:

SANPARKS reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Fax: +27 (0)12 426 5500
reservations@sanparks.org

Local guide information:
No Bird Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Turaco, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Striped Flufftail

Contact details:

For more information, visit:

The Tsitsikamma Tourism Association

Email: info@tsitsikamma.info
Alt. email: info@ectour.co.za
www.tsitsikamma.info

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