Western Cape – Garden Route – Heidelberg

About the Birding

Start in the Culla Uys Nature Garden, also called the Heidelberg Nature Reserve (-34.0830, 20.9580). Park in front of the little hut which has a map of the different “birding routes”. You may be greeted by Spotted Thick-knees, Swee and Common Waxbills, and Fiscal Flycatchers. As you explore the short walking paths around the garden, be on the lookout for Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape White-eye, Cape Batis, and Greater- and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. There is a path (usually overgrown) down to the Duiwenhoks River on which you could hear (and possibly see) Dideric and Red-chested Cuckoo in summer. Other common species include Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Cape Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird, and Southern Fiscal.

From the nature garden head towards “Quarrykloof Dam” via “Altus Koppie”. Follow the arrows up the stairs and walk a few meters to where a gravel road starts. These few meters can produce some of the best birding. Look out for fruit-eating birds, such as Red-faced Mousebirds, in the surrounding trees and raptors, such as African Harrier-Hawks, sitting at the top of the trees or flying overhead.

Follow the arrows up over a small canal, behind the last row of houses onto a jeep track (-34.0811, 20.9578). African Black Ducks are often on the canal water and African Paradise Flycatchers are in the surrounding trees (summer). After a few meters, you will get to a gate with a signboard of bird species you may see. Squeeze your way around the gate, access is permitted. Follow the Jeep Track for a kilometer until you get to a T-junction. This section is good for Black-headed Heron, Neddicky, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Olive Bushshrike, Bokmakerie, Southern Tchagra, Bar-throated Apalis, Amethyst Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird and Cape Robin-Chat. You may also see bushbuck and, if you’re lucky, porcupine or a caracal.

At the T-junction walk left up the slope (-34.0777, 20.9522). Follow the arrow on a path through the bush (which is often overgrown). If you don’t want to run the risk of getting scratched, then walk through the open gate on the right and follow the fence to the Quarrykloof Dam. Both paths get you to the dam and you may see Karoo Prinia and Red-faced Mousebird in the bush and Denham’s Bustard and Blue Crane on the open slopes.

The Quarrykloof Dam (-34.0803, 20.9487) is surrounded by a forest of Eucalyptus (blue gum) trees. These trees are particularly good for Olive Woodpeckers. You can usually hear them drumming while walking around the dam. Other species to look out for in the trees are Cape Batis, Cape Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, and the Red-chested Cuckoo in summer. On and around the water you should see a Red-knobbed Coot, African Darter, Southern Red Bishop and Cape, and Southern Masked Weaver. White-faced Whistling Ducks are sometimes present, as are Burchell’s Coucal and three kingfisher species (Malachite, Pied, and Giant). African Fish Eagle and Black Sparrowhawk may be seen flying over or sitting in the trees.

About the Birding Site

All that most people know about Heidelberg is the N2 Wimpy one-stop. But there is far more to the town than that. Without a single traffic light, and with the only possibility of traffic being a herd of cows crossing the road, Heidelberg is a quaint and quiet rural town with friendly people and natural beauty. It is surrounded by farmlands (which are scattered with bright yellow canola fields in winter) and overlooked by the magnificent Langeberg mountain range (which is sometimes white with snow in winter). The Duiwenhoks River flows through the town, adding to the beauty of the landscape, and providing good habitats for birds. The river flows from the Langeberg mountains, passing by the Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve, which is another beautiful birding spot just 20 km from Heidelberg.

The river continues towards the town through farmlands and hillsides with patches of fynbos, renosterveld, and rocky outcrops. A casual drive on the gravel roads in this area north of Heidelberg will produce an array of bird species amidst the picturesque countryside. After the river flows through the town, it passes through more farmlands, and the village of Vermaaklikheid, until it meets the sea at Puntjie Nature Reserve. A drive on the gravel roads in this area to the south of Heidelberg will also produce an array of bird species, with some additions. Capped Wheatears, Agulhas Long-billed Larks, and Blue Cranes are likely to be seen.

In the town of Heidelberg itself, the Culla Uys Nature Garden (Heidelberg Nature Reserve) and the Quarrykloof Dam are the best birding sites. These two sites are linked by a walking trail through some pristine renosterveld with panoramic views to match.

Other Related Information

GPS Points:
Culla Uys Nature Garden (Heidelberg Nature Reserve): -34.0830, 20.9580
Quarrykloof Dam: -34.0803, 20.9487
Gate at the start of walking trail linking nature garden and dam: -34.0811, 20.9578

There are no admission costs for any of the sites mentioned. They are all freely accessible to the public. However, the infrastructure is not the best and the paths are often overgrown. The sights are not wheelchair-accessible or disability friendly.

Text prepared by:

Peter Martin

Key species:

Olive Woodpecker, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, African Fish Eagle, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Canary, Bar-throated Apalis

Contact details:


If you have contact details for this site, please email: gobirding@birdlife.org.za