Western Cape, Garden Route – Hartenbos Estuary and the Regional Waste-Water Treatment Works

About the Birding

Hartenbos Estuary, located at -34.1179, 22.1223, offers superb birding opportunities, particularly for waterbirds. The best times to explore are early morning or late afternoon. Begin your birdwatching at the eastern end of the estuary near the river mouth, where you can observe Caspian Tern, African Fish-Eagles or Western Osprey flying overhead.

As you walk along the estuary’s edges, you’ll have the chance to see African Spoonbills, Pied Avocets, and Common Greenshanks feeding in the shallows, with Water Thicknee on the side. The vegetation surrounding the estuary also provides habitat for skulking specials like the Knysna Warbler, Long-billed Crombec, and the Southern Tchagra. Keep an eye out for other raptors such as the African Marsh Harrier, Black Sparrowhawk, or Black-winged Kite. In summer, Greater Flamingos frequent the estuary, adding a splash of pink to the landscape.

Upstream from the estuary is the Mossel Bay Regional Waste Water Treatment Works, with a wetland on the far side (-34.1098, 22.1053), offering fantastic freshwater birding opportunities. Common species found here include Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, Red-knobbed Coot, and Black-winged Stilt. Look out for Black-crowned Night-herons among the Cape Weaver nests in the thickets behind the wetland. Lesser Swamp Warblers, African Snipes, Black Crakes, Glossy Ibises, and African Swamphens can be found moving in and out of the thick cover provided by the reeds or grasses. Specials such as the African Jacana and Blue-billed Teal have been spotted lurking around the water’s edge, staying close to cover.

During the summer, various Swallows and Martins, such as White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Brown-throated Martin, African Palm Swift, White-rumped Swift, and Black Saw-wing, can be seen flying over the wetland. Neddicky, Zitting Cisticola, and Levaillant’s Cisticola are some of the smaller LBJs that could be found in the same vicinity.

About the Birding Site

Hartenbos Estuary is located in Mossel Bay. The estuary is surrounded by reed beds, mudflats, and coastal thicket, providing a diverse range of habitats for birds. The area is also frequented by birders and nature enthusiasts, so you’re likely to encounter other wildlife enthusiasts during your visit.

Mossel Bay Waste Water Treatment Works offers a unique birding experience, with the actual birding spot being the wetland adjacent to the treatment works. Situated next to a busy road, visitors should exercise caution and be mindful of the noise from passing cars. Despite this, the wetland is a haven for birdlife, especially in the early mornings when activity is high. The wetland’s proximity to the treatment works provides a variety of habitats, attracting a diverse range of bird species. Early mornings are often better than late mornings for birdwatching, as the birds are more active and the noise from traffic is minimal.

Other Related Information

Hartenbos Estuary (-34.1179, 22.1223), &
The wetland adjacent the Mossel Bay Waste Water Treatment Works (-34.1098, 22.1053)

Key species:

African Fish-Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Greater Crested Tern, Common Tern, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, White-fronted Plover.

Contact details:


Text prepared by:
Rudi Minnie
Cell: +27 (0)72 837 0242
Email: rudi.minnie@gmail.com