Kariega and Bushman’s River – Ngciyo pans and hide

About the Birding

Water levels within the Ngciyo Pans are distinctly seasonal and the pans tend to only fill in years of heavy rainfall. The pans are frequently dry in drought periods. However, when wet, the area supports immense numbers of waterfowl. Most numerous are the Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Red-billed and Cape Teals, Cape Shoveler, and both White-faced Whistling and Yellow-billed Ducks. Southern Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, and Maccoa Duck are occasional visitors. The extensive reedbeds support Purple Heron, African Swamphen, Little Bittern, Red-chested Flufftail, and large breeding colonies of weavers including the scarce Yellow Weaver.

Muddy edges should be scanned carefully for Baillon’s Crake, African Snipe, African Rail, and a plethora of migrant waders in the summer months. Flocks of Greater Flamingo appear when the pans fill, while Black Stork is occasional when the pans begin to empty. Goliath Heron is frequently present on the extensive salt marshes, nearer the Bushmans River.

The surrounding succulent thicket is rich and birders should be attuned to the calls of both Knysna and Olive Woodpeckers, Southern Tchagra, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Lazy Cisticola, Olive Bushshrike, Dark-backed Weaver, Golden-breasted Bunting, and African Firefinch. The nominate race of African Barred Owlet is known from undisturbed thickets in the area and birders should remain vigilant for this species at all times. Open grasslands nearer Alexandria support the Black and African Marsh Harriers, Denham’s Bustard, Red-winged Francolin, and Plain-backed Pipit.

Key species:

Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Swamphen, Goliath Heron, Red-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra

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 with notable populations of 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, though most species are common in the area and can be found with 2-3 days to explore public sites.

Key species:

Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Swamphen, Goliath Heron, Red-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra

Other Related Information

Directions:
The Ngciyo Pans are located along a public gravel road connecting the R72 between Alexandria and Kenton-on-Sea, and the R343 between Kenton-on-Sea and Salem. If travelling between Alexandria and Kenton-on-Sea, turn to the north at -33.6540, 26.5353 to the pans. Alternatively, if travelling between Kenton-on-Sea and Salem, turn west at -33.6161, 26.6119. The pans are located on either side of the Bushman’s River and are viewable from several places along this access road.

The nearest towns are:
Alexandria: 16Km
Kenton-on-Sea: 18Km
Port Alfred: 41Km
Grahamstown: 55Km

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Note that the Ngciyo pans are located within a private nature reserve, containing dangerous game, and access to the pans is strictly prohibited. However, the pans are easy viewable at several points along a public gravel road connecting the R343 and R72 though a telescope is recommended. Note that the bird hide is no longer operational.

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.

The Ngciyo Pans themselves are located on the Kariega Private Game Reserve, where several high-end accommodation options are available in a ‘Big 5’ reserve. Accommodation through Kariega Private Game Reserve can be arranged by contacting:

Kariega Private Game Reserve
Private bookings
Email: reservations@kariega.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)46 636 7904/5/6
Website: www.kariega.co.za

Tour operator bookings
Email: res1@kariega.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)46 636 7904/5/6
Fax: +27 (0)46 636 2288

Marketing & Head office enquiries
Email: mark@kariega.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)41 581 2606
Website: www.kariega.co.za

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:

Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Swamphen, Goliath Heron, Red-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Marketing & Head office enquiries

Email: mark@kariega.co.za
Tel: +27 (0)41 581 2606
Website: www.kariega.co.za

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