Kariega and Bushmans – Bathurst and Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The seldom visited Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve is situated on the ebb-and-flow of the Kowie River, roughly 16Km inland of the coastal village of Port Alfred. The reserve supports around 110 species, split mainly among thicket and forest species and including several notable endemics. It is suitable for a morning visit and lists of between 40 and 50 species are expected.

As one enters the reserve from Bathurst, look out for species typical of the Eastern Cape thicket ecosystem. Notable mentions include Sombre Greenbul, Olive Bush-shrike, Black-crowned and Southern Tchagras, Green-backed Camaroptera, and Knysna Woodpecker. The latter is common throughout the reserve and is best detected by its high-pitched shrill call. Several viewpoints are provided, overlooking a large horseshoe in the Kowie River. Here, it is recommended that you scan for the Crowned Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Jackal Buzzard and African Fish Eagle; all of which breed in the reserve.

Descending to the riverside picnic site, there are several walking trails that pass through the forest and provide views along the river and dam upstream of the picnic site. Scan the dense riverside vegetation for roosting White-backed Night Heron, which frequently nest near the small dam, as well as both Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot. Forest specials in this area include both the Olive and Knysna Woodpeckers, Green Woodhoopoe, Terrestrial Brownbul, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin-chat and Brown Scrub-robin.

The nearby village of Bathurst holds a surprising diversity of forest specials and time spent exploring this quaint village should yield the Tambourine Dove, Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Dark-backed Weaver and Chorister Robin-chat.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron

About the Birding Site

The Bushmans and Kariega Rivers drain two small basins in the Eastern Cape, both entering the Indian Ocean on either side of the small coastal town of Kenton-on-Sea. Both rivers flow permanently across much of their lengths, supporting large agricultural and conservation areas. The Bushmans and Kariega triangle is of ecological significance, supporting several endemic and highly threatened species. This includes the almost mythical nominate race of the African Barred Owlet – which likely constitutes a true species and would thus be endemic to the area – as well as the critically endangered Eastern Cape Cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii).

Large areas in the region have been converted from private farmland into high-end ‘Big 5’ conservation areas, harbouring vast tracts of forest, coastal grassland, succulent thicket, dune thicket as well as isolated patches of fynbos. Among the most important of these are the Kariega Private Game Reserve, Thomas Bains Nature Reserve, and Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve. Other notable hotspots in the area include the coastal strip between Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea, Assegai Trails farm, and the Golden Mile farming community. Access to several of these sites is limited to overnight guests only, through most species are common in the area and can be found with 2-3 days to explore public sites.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron

Other Related Information

The tiny village of Bathurst is located along the R67 between Port Alfred and Grahamstown. The village itself is 43Km from Grahamstown, and 14Km from Port Alfred. Turn to the west on the well sign-posted gravel road opposite the historic Pig and Whistle Inn in Bathurst town, to reach Waters Meeting Nature Reserve. The reserve entrance is 4km west of Bathurst.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Waters Meeting Nature Reserve offers several well-marked hiking trails, of various lengths and intensities, as well as a picnic spot complete with braai facilities. A small entrance fee is payable to enter the reserve.

A self-guided 21Km canoe trail is also available from Port Alfred up the Kowie River to Waters Meeting including overnight accommodation in a self-catering wooden hut near Waters Meeting Nature Reserve.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishment is located in the small coastal village of Port Alfred.
Pomeroy Lodge offering five luxurious and fully-equipped self-catering chalets overlooking 300ha’s of mixed grassland, thicket and riverine forest. The property includes many well-maintained tracks and paths and is easily accessible for all vehicle types. A total of 130 species are known to occur on this small reserve including Crowned Eagle, Knysna Woodpecker, and Black-bellied Starling.

For more information, refer to:
Address: Pomeroy Lodges, South Seas, 6172, Eastern Cape
Tel: +27 (0)63 268 4549
Email: judith@pmeroylodges.com
Website: www.pomeroylodges.com

A diverse array of accommodation options are also available in the towns of Port Alfred and Grahamstown, to suit a range of budgets and requirements. This includes several camping sites, caravan parks, self-catering and more luxurious options.

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators are currently available for the Kariega and Bushamans River Valleys. However, birding tours in the general area are available through:

Tim Cockcroft
Website: https://timwcroft.wixsite.com/timcockcroftbirding
Email: timwcroft@gmail.com
Tel: +27 (0)72 314 0069

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron

Contact details: