Western Cape – Knysna – Goukamma River Mouth and Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Close to the eastern edge of the Goukamma Nature Reserve is a large picnic area and reception, with a few accommodation options. Walking around this little “rest camp” can be quite rewarding for birds.

The picnic area lies on the bank of the river, where one can see several waterbirds such as Pied Kingfisher, Grey Heron, and Osprey.

Patches of thicket around the picnic area can hold several endemic species, including Cape Bulbul, and Karoo Prinia. Numerous Sunbirds can also be seen, such as the Greater and Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

Going toward the ferry crossing at -34.06428, 22.94220, one passes through a patch of milkwood forest. Olive Bushshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, and Knysna Woodpecker can all be found here. Black-bellied Starling and Knysna Turaco often dance about in the tops of the trees too.

Going over the ferry, one gets access to multiple trails of varying lengths. Much of the trails pass through Knysna dune fynbos, where one can look out for Southern Tchagra and in summer, European Bee-eater.

Views onto the beach can offer African Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plover.

Closer to the western edge of the reserve by Groenvlei, milkwood forest becomes more prominent and birds such as Chorister Robin-chat and Green-backed Camaroptera become possible.

The Goukamma River Mouth offers even more diversity, and at low tide the exposed mudflats attract all sorts of waders. Whimbrel, Common Greenshank and Grey Plover are sometimes around in low numbers, while smaller waders such as Common Ringed Plover and Sanderling could be seen too.

A gull and tern roost by the river mouth bring birds such as Common and Sandwich Tern, as well as White-breasted Cormorant.

Multiple raptors frequent this area, and African Fish Eagle, Black-winged Kite, and Jackal Buzzard are all common, while Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite are around in Summer.

About the Birding Site

Protected by Cape Nature, this fairly extensive reserve is mostly untouched by human development. Many endemic and special species call this area home.

Multiple key habitats make this site very ideal for birding. Milkwood forest, dune fynbos, river, estuary, and coastline make for a very diverse area. Several trails and roads mean these habitats are also easy to access. Over 100 bird species are possible in a day in summer.

Other Related Information

Goukamma Nature Reserve office is situated at the picnic site at -34.06861, 22.94791 (https://maps.app.goo.gl/WMZaAr8NEgkgNauBA).

The trails can be accessed at many points. A map is available at https://www.capenature.co.za/uploads/files/Cape_Nature_Goukama_V3-03.2023.pdf.

The reserve charges a conservation fee for visitors:


  • Day visitor: R50
  • Overnight visitor: R40


  • Day visitor: R30
  • Overnight visitor: R20

A Wild Card can be used as well.

The reserve is open from 08:00 – 18:00.

Accommodation, picnic, and bathroom facilities are all available at the picnic site. Shops are available in the town of Buffalo Bay around the corner. However, fuel stations are only available in Knysna and Sedgefield.

Due to the nature of the terrain, most of the trails are not accessible with wheelchairs.

Text prepared by: 

Justin Ponder

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, Olive Bushshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Southern Tchagra, Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, Sanderling, Whimbrel, African Oystercatcher

Contact details:

Contact Cape Nature:

Tel: +27 (0)87 087 3945/46

Goukama Nature Reserve Office:

Tel: +27 (0)87 087 3946

Website: https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/goukamma-nature-reserve