Greater George – Garden Route Botanical Gardens

About the Birding

Whether you enter the garden at either of the two entrance gates (“A” or “G”, see map above), you will be able to walk straight up to the Main Dam, the original water reservoir for the George, built in 1811. Cape Weavers nest in the overhanging branches all along the edge of the dam. The dam has plenty of fish, and these, in turn, attract water birds such as African Darter and Reed Cormorant.

Adjacent to the Main Dam is the Wetland (these are clearly marked on the map below). This wetland habitat is home to Little Bittern, African Rail, Black Crake, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Rush Warbler, and Levaillant’s Cisticola amongst many others. There is a lovely bird hide (marked as “D” on the map), from where you can enjoy good views of the wetland birds.

The gardens around the dam and wetland are alive with bird activity and you should be on the lookout for Black-headed Oriole and Brown-hooded Kingfisher. However, the most exciting birding that the Garden Route Botanical Gardens has to offer is that which you can enjoy in the new section of rehabilitated forest. To get there, walk along the Mushroom Meander Trail that starts at “E” on the map. On the way to the Mushroom Meander trail, you will walk past the Aloe garden and the Protea garden where (when these plants are in flower) you should be lookout for various sunbirds and for the endemic Cape Sugarbird. Also scan for Forest Buzzard overhead.

This well-maintained trail allows good access into the forest. Look out for Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill, and African Firefinch at the start of the trail. The trail then leads you down to a lovely, quiet picnic spot (“F” on the map) at the stream. The vegetation along the stream near the picnic spot is very good habitat for the elusive Knysna Warbler. Going further along the trail, which, at this point, follows the small stream up towards the Northern boundary of the garden; you will enter areas of lush forest where you should be on the Lemon Dove, Tambourine Dove, Chorister Robin-chat, White-starred Robin, and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Black-bellied Starlings are found here in large flocks when the Cape Beech (Boekenhout) trees are in fruit. Little Sparrowhawks and Buff-spotted Flufftail have also been seen along this trail as both of these species are resident in the area.

Black-collared Barbet have now also been added to the Garden Route Botanical Garden’s bird list, this being the most Westerly record of this species. It is not unlikely that these barbets will soon settle in the garden, as there are many fig trees providing lots of food for them.

Key species:

Knysna Turaco, Forest Buzzard, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Warbler, Black-winged Lapwing

About the Birding Site

Situated along a broad coastal plain with a backdrop of the Outeniqua Mountains, which overlook farmlands, wooded gorges, coastal forests, fynbos covered mountain passes and a section of the dry Klein Karoo providing a mosaic of birding habitats.

The Garden Route Botanical Gardens has developed to become an excellent birding spot with wide array of birds. Its extent of the Gardens is now just over 40 acres with a many well maintained paths and paved walkways. A new section of the garden, about 15 acres in size, has been rehabilitated into natural forest, and because of the ease of access, this is rapidly becoming an easy spot to find many of the Garden Route’s special forest birds. The garden is also home to a good variety of other birds, including various water birds that are attracted to the large dam and wetland area. This botanical garden is safe place to go birding, both for young and old. This is an excellent place to explore, especially for someone who is new to the hobby birding and or bird photography.

Key species:

Knysna Turaco, Forest Buzzard, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Warbler, Black-winged Lapwing

Other Related Information

Directions:
Enter the Gardens at the entrance point (-33.94795, 22.4636) , marked as “A” and to use the parking area marked as “B” on the map above. There is, however, an alternative parking area and a second entrance point, marked as “G”. There are toilet facilities and a small restaurant at “C”, as marked on the map.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
You will need to pay a small entrance fee at the entrance booth. Go on the website for up-to-date entrance rates and other relevant information such as opening and closing times. These vary from season to season (and with COVID-19 regulations). However, under normal condition, the gate opening and closing times are usually from 07:00 to 19:00, September to April and from 07:30 to 18:00, May to August.
Here is a link to the Garden Route Botanical Garden’s website (please note that there is also a detailed bird list available on the website): https://www.botanicalgarden.org.za/activities/

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance gate that leads to the main parking area: -33.947884, 22.463628
Alternative entrance gate and parking area: -33.946366, 22.465045
Bird Hide with view over the wetland area: -33.945452, 22.463697

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There is a good variety of accommodation available in the Great George area.

Local guide information:
No BirdLife South Africa Birder Friendly tour operators in the area.
Christiaan Viljoen
Cell: +27 (0)83 703 9482
Email: christiaan.viljoen.25@gmail.com

Text prepared by:
Christiaan Viljoen

Key species:

Knysna Turaco, Forest Buzzard, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Chorister Robin-chat, Knysna Warbler, Black-winged Lapwing

Contact details:

N/A

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