Western Cape – Jongensfontein

    About the Birding

    The popular and very scenic town of Jongensfontein is located about 8km by road west of Stilbaai. Jongensfontein overlooks a beautiful secluded bay with predominantly loose strewn rock boulders along most of the coastline.

    The town is surrounded by coastal dunes, Milkwood patches, Renosterveld and dry dune veld. Birding within the town boundaries as well as in the adjoining developed agricultural areas is very rewarding and species that can be observed in the town and the surrounding agricultural small holdings are distinctly different from birding in the adjacent drier dune veld and more intensely developed agricultural areas.

    A multiple day visit to the town and its adjacent nearby agricultural areas should yield 115 or more bird species in summer with slightly less numbers in winter when the migratory birds are obviously absent.

    During periods of strong onshore winds, it is well worth the effort to endure the strong gusty winds to try and observe the scarce close to shore seabirds like, Cape Gannets, Sooty Shearwaters, Southern Giant Petrels and possibly an Albatross. All these species, excluding the Cape Gannet, normally are not venturing near the shoreline in mild windy conditions.

    The greater Jongensfontein area has a bird list that comprises of about 130 bird species of which 60 to 70 species can easily be recorded during a short two to three hour visit.

    About the Birding Site

    Birding in and around Jongensfontein offers diverse opportunities and habitats but the best birding spots are the following:

    Jongensfontein shoreline hiking trail

    Jongensfontein to Stilbaai coastal hiking trail

    Blombos to Jongensfontein coastal hiking trail

    Jongensfontein Nature Reserve hiking trails

    A paved coastal hiking trail follows the shoreline of Jongensfontein. The trail can be accessed at many spots along the length of the trail and be hiked in any direction. Benches for resting are scattered along the length of the trail including a couple of braai areas. Access to the trail is not controlled and hiking along the full length of the trail is considered very safe.

    Swift- and Common Terns are the most abundant Tern species, but Sandwich-, Arctic- and Caspian Terns are also regularly reported. Kelp Gull is the most common Gull species, but Grey-headed Gulls have also been spotted along the trails. African (Black) Oystercatchers, Pied Kingfishers, Little Egrets, White-breasted Cormorants, and Whimbrels are easy to locate with distant views of Cape Gannet diving for their catch behind the breakers. White-fronted Plover can be seen on sandy beaches with the odd Ruddy Turnstone foraging amongst the rocks.

    The trail that extends towards the east from the main beach starts at GPS -34.4261˚S, 21.3996˚E, and ends at the last houses. The one-directional length of the trail is approximately 1,35km. The hike can be extended eastwards along the sandy beach where White-fronted- and Kittlitz’s Plovers, Sanderling, and Curlew Sandpipers are often encountered.

    At the parking area at the end of the gravel track that extends further eastward from the end of the hiking trail be on the lookout for Ground Woodpecker that is spotted at irregular intervals at the parking area.

    Along the stretch of the trail in front of the beach houses all the local garden bird species can be encountered. Malachite-, Southern Double-collared-, Amethyst-, and Greater Double-collared sunbirds, Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, Cape Robin-Chat, and Cape Sugarbird are regularly seen.

    The western section of the trail starts at the same GPS coordinate mentioned above and runs westwards along the very rocky shoreline. The paved hiking trail ends after about 0,9km but it is advisable to extend the hike for another approximately 1km to the parking lot at the end of the gravel road that runs further west from the tidal pool. The waves along this stretch of the trail are very impressive to see.

    The western trail section has very limited views onto sandy beaches and hence only rock-loving bird species can be located like African (black) Oystercatchers, Little Egret, White-fronted- and Cape Cormorants, Pied Kingfishers, and Whimbrel.

    Southern Tchagra, Karoo Scrub-robin, Karoo Prinia, Southern Tchagra, Cape Bulbul, and Sombre Greenbul can all be seen in the thickets along the trail and gravel road section.

    The start of the approximately 8km long Jongensfontein to Stilbaai Coastal Hiking Trail is located at GPS -34.4200˚S, 21.3505˚E. Check the weather conditions prior to engaging the hike as it is best to hike with the wind in your back rather than in your face and with the sun at your back. The one-way hike can comfortably be completed in approximately 3hours. Take sufficient supply of fresh water along, as well as adequate protection against the sun. In the late spring, the notorious Stilbaai Gnats can be very annoying. Local pharmacies sell ointments that can be applied to your face and neck to protect you against Gnat attacks. During windy periods the Gnats are less of a problem. Decent footwear is recommended for the trail as most of the trail is a narrow footpath that crosses either through sandy beach sections, loose rock boulders, rock outcrops, or coastal scrub areas.

    It is recommended to arrange for a pick-up at the end of the drive.

    Most of the route of the hike is not negatively affected by high tide except for the last couple of meters in the Bosbokduin area near Stilbaai. This last section of the trail is difficult to cross under especially spring tide conditions.

    Birding along the trail is basically restricted to coastal and beach birds due to monotone type vegetation of predominantly coastal scrubs along most of the route. Typical thicket-loving bird species that are likely to be observed include Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, soaring Jackal Buzzard, and Rock Kestrel on flying over. Be on the lookout for Ground Woodpecker that is irregularly observed at the end of the sandy beach near the start of the trail.

    Shore birds likely to be observed along the trail include African (Black) Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher, White-fronted Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Whimbrel.

    Marine birds that are likely to be encountered under favourable conditions include Cape Gannet, Kelp Gull, Common-, Sandwich- and Swift Terns, White-breasted- and Cape Cormorants, Sooty Shearwater, Southern Giant- and White-chinned Petrel.

    Whale watching in late winter months is quite good along this walk and dolphins and seals are regularly seen as well as the odd Cape Clawless Otter.

    A good stopover point for a snack out of your backpack is located at Jongensgat at GPS -34.4142˚S, 21.3782˚E. The waves over ancient times have eroded an interesting 3x2m tunnel through the rock mass here, quite high above the current sea level.

    Also of interest is the small information plaque which was erected at Bosbokduin along the trail to commemorate the first offshore gas strike along the RSA coastline.

    A Tern roost is located at the marine point at Bosbokduin housing estate near the end of the trail. Common-, Sandwich- and Swift Terns are most common at the roosting site. White-breasted- and Cape Cormorant, and small flocks of African (Black) Oystercatchers and Whimbrel are normally present along with the odd Little Egret and in summer Ruddy Turnstone.

    The last couple of hundred meters of the trail runs along the shoreline at Bosbokduin housing estate. Check the ancient fish traps (“visvywers”) that were constructed out of loose rocks in semi-circular patterns to trap fish washed in during high tides. The local Khoi-San people then harvested the trapped fish by spearing them. Each one of the first traps has a unique name. The streets in the nearby Skulpiesbaai housing estate were named after these fish traps. Interested local people still maintain these fish traps to try and preserve them for our ancestors.

    The start of the 14,5km long Blombos to Jongensfontein Coastal Hiking Trail is located at GPS -34.4023˚S, 21.2130˚E but the entrance to the small Jeep farm track that leads to the starting point is located at GPS -34.3747˚S, 21.2251˚E along the gravel road that runs westwards from the Jongensfontein access road to Blombos and Vermaaklikheid. The turnoff is not signposted and appears to be a private farm track, but it is open for access to the public. The access gate to the Jeep track should always be closed after entering or leaving as livestock roam the farm fields. The Jeep track is slightly sandy in places, but any wide tyred vehicle with good ground clearance can easily drive the 3,2km to the starting point.

    The hiking trail along the coast is very rewarding but difficult to locate in areas and to traverse. The commercial-run Alikreukel slack-pack hiking trail follows the same route, but the public can also privately engage in the trail. Hiking along the track is not recommended for the faint at heart, unfit, elderly, people with mobility constraints, vertigo anxieties, etc. A serious amount of boulder hopping, lengthy sandy stretches, crossing on narrow rock ledges and other difficult areas need to be overcome along the route. Nevertheless, for the fit and brave at heart, this is an extremely rewarding hike. Be well prepared and take a sufficient supply of fresh water along for the 4 to 5-hour hike. The hike is best to undertake from the west to the east as is detailed here. Arrange for a pick-up vehicle at the Jongensfontein end of the hike.

    A locked gate is encountered at the 3,2km mark where all private vehicles need to be parked. The area is very safe due to its remote location thereof. From the parking area, hike along the private vehicular access track until you reach the beach and then look out for the start of the trail at the left.

    Birding along the access trail will provide Bokmakierie, Karoo Scrub Robin, Southern Tchagra, Southern Boubou, Speckled- and Red-faced Mousebird and possibly Grey-backed Cisticola.

    Birding along the trail is restricted to coastal scrub and beach birds. Typical thicket-loving bird species that are likely to be observed include Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra and Rock Kestrel on flying over. Special birds to be on the lookout for are Cape Siskin drinking at the freshwater fountains (seeps) just above the high-water mark and Ground Woodpecker.

    Shore birds likely to be observed include African (Black) Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher, White-fronted Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling and Whimbrel.

    Coastal birds include Cape Gannet, Kelp Gull, Common-, Sandwich- and Swift Terns, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants, Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned- and Southern Giant Petrels.

    A huge natural rock arch is reached at the 2,5km mark. Take care not to disturb the sand dune below the arch as this is very sensitive environment. Follow the track around the arch on the seaside and don’t attempt crossing underneath. Just beyond the arch at roughly the 2,8km mark you will note the secured Blombos Cave where international archaeological teams are conducting very interesting research on the earliest homo sapiens known to mankind. This archaeological site is world-renowned. More information on the site and the archaeological findings can be studied at the archaeological museum that is located at the Stilbaai Tourism Information Centre.

    At the 4,8km marked the large owl cave is located on the vertical cliff facing the ocean. Spotted Eagle Owls favours this site, but human activity disturbs their nesting site. Please do not enter the cave.

    Hikers are requested to respect the privacy of the beach houses scattered along the route.

    This route is rough and difficult to traverse but very rewarding for anyone with a keen interest in any aspect of nature in the wilderness-like setting.

    The Jongensfontein sewage oxidation ponds are located at GPS -34.4268˚S, 21.3277˚E within the Jongensfontein Nature Reserve but the access gate to the ponds is locked to visitors. Birding at the oxidation ponds can only be done through the fence.

    The oxidation ponds can either be reached by vehicle or via a network of short, but rather steep, hiking trails through the coastal thickets, if hiking starts at the topmost streets in town. The access road starts at the tennis courts at the back end of Fontein Crescent where it enters the Jongensfontein Nature Reserve and ascends along a steep gravel road to the top of the dune where the oxidation ponds are located adjacent to the refuse disposal site. The semi-circular contour trail that runs along the top of the dune provides excellent views across the Jongensfontein Bay and the town below. Rewarding coastal scrub and dune-veld birding can be done in this area.

    Special birds to be on the lookout for at the oxidation ponds are Black-winged Stilt, Water Thick-Knee, African Darter, Pied Kingfisher, Red-billed and Cape Teals, White-faced Whistling Duck, Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Shoveler, and Little Grebe. Common Ringed Plover, Whiskered Tern, and African Spoonbill are all irregular visitors to the ponds. During the summer months, almost all the local Swallow, Martin, and Swift species that occur in the area can be seen overflying the ponds. Barn-, White-throated-, Greater Striped-, and Pearl-breasted Swallows, Rock-, Brown-throated- and Common House Martins, as well as White-rumped-, and Little Swifts are all present at times. Alpine Swifts are also irregular visitors to the area.

    The Nature Reserve area is good for finding Bar-throated Apalis, Karoo Prinia, Cape Bunting, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Sugarbird, Grey-backed Cisticola, Neddicky, Malachite- and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard, Fiery-necked Nightjar and Spotted Eagle Owls.

    Hiking in the Nature Reserve area can also be extended to include the area surrounding the adjacent “Previlistea” venue and the game farm across the road. The open fields with short grass cover provide an excellent opportunity to find African- and Plain-backed Pipits, Large-billed Lark, Blue Crane, Crowned- and Blacksmith Lapwings, Brimstone-, Cape-, and Yellow- and White-throated Canaries, African Stonechat as well as Capped Wheatear.

    Other Related Information

    Most of the walking trails in Jongensfontein are not readily accessible for persons with disabilities, but the mobility impaired can make use of the main road section (Strand Street) that runs along the coastline.

    Local guide information:

    There are no community bird guides available for the Jongensfontein area.

    Residents of Jongensfontein are welcome to join the Stilbaai U3A Bird Group which hosts regular early morning (1 to 2 hour long) walks to interesting birding spots in Stilbaai. Prior arrangement to participate in any of these walks is however required. Further information and details in this regard can be obtained from Francois Furstenburg at 082 578 6933.

    The Stilbaai U3A Bird Group manages a WhatsApp group where interesting local bird sightings in the Hessequa Municipal Area, or close to its borders, are communicated to the WhatsApp group members. Anyone interested in joining the WhatsApp group should contact Francois Furstenburg directly at 082 578 6933.

    The Hessequa Local Municipal area is actively atlassed as part of the national SABAP2 bird atlassing project whereby each of the 75 pentads in the Hessequa Municipal Area is regularly atlassed in a systematic approach. Jongensfontein lies at the heart of the Hessequa Municipal area. This bird atlassing process is managed by a local Stilbaai resident, Johan van Rooyen. Johan has a very good knowledge, database, and understanding of all 75 pentads located within Hessequa. He can be contacted for further birding-related information regarding the region surrounding Jongensfontein as well as further afield within the boundaries of the Hessequa Municipal Area.

    Johan van Rooyen can be contacted at 082 808 5652

    Text prepared by:

    Francois Furstenburg, Stilbaai U3A Bird Group

    Key species:

    African Black Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plover, Knysna Warbler, Olive- & Knysna Woodpeckers, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Gannet & Blue Crane

    Contact details:

    Jongensfontein

    Stilbaai Tourism Bureau: +27 (0)28 754 2602

    Email: stilbaaiinfo@easycoms.co.za

    Web: www.stilbaaitourism.co.za

    Stilbaai U3A Bird Group

    Krysia Stenvert: +27 (0)83 287 5227

    Francois Furstenburg: +27 (0)82 578 6933

    Email: krysiasolman@gmail.com or ffur@icloud.com