Overberg – De Hoop Nature Reserve

About the Birding

De Hoop lies on the southern-east corner of the Agulhas Plains. It is reached by several major dirt roads from either the N2, Bredasdorp or Malgas. These roads cut across a predominately agricultural landscape, with a few remaining patches of critically threatened Renosterveld. Roadside birding should turn up several specials including the Agulhas Long-billed Lark. This species is best located by its ascending/descending seeu-seewoo call. In the early morning they can be seen perched on fence posts. Another lark to listen out for is the distinctive Agulhas form of Cape Clapper Lark.

Once considered a separate species, this bird favours patches of pristine Renosterveld. A highly mobile population of Karoo Korhaan can also be found enroute to De Hoop. The larger Denham’s Bustard is also a fixture in this area.

The main section of the reserve is accessed from the junction on the Bredasdorp/Malgas road (-34.3721, 20.4150). This access road crosses a series of unique calcified dunes. Black Harrier is often seen in the old dune troughs. On arrival at the entrance gate, take time to enjoy the panoramic view of the reserve. The Koppie Alleen dune field frames the view to the south, with the large De Hoop Vlei to the West, and Potberg Mountain to the east.

The road drops onto the limestone plains with its unique form of Fynbos. This habitat is home to a number of highly sought after endemics/near-endemics, including Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, “Agulhas” Cape Clapper, Fynbos Buttonquail, nominate Cloud Cisticola and Grey-winged Francolin. The best strategy to locate these specials is to bird the stretch of road between the Opstal junction (-34.4544, 20.4243) and the Koppie Alleen turnoff (-34.4840, 20.4328). The buttonquail is nearly impossible to see, but has been known to dart across the road or scuttle in open areas with limestone rubble. This habitat is also home to large ungulates like Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebuck, and Eland.

The old farm fields and airfield near the main accommodation complex is good for Crowned Lapwings, Grey-winged Francolins and Namaqua Sandgrouse. Night birding usually turns up Fiery-necked Nightjars and Spotted Eagle Owls. This area and the adjacent milkwood thickets is also good for nocturnal mammals like Porcupine, African Wildcat, Bat-eared Fox and Zorilla/Polecat.

The aforementioned Milkwoods are home to Knysna Woodpeckers. They are best located by their distinctive “Skead” call. They are best around the campsite (-34.4520, 20.4020), and in the large Wild Fig trees in the old farm courtyard (-34.4549, 20.3986). Be aware that Cardinal Woodpeckers can be common in these habitats. Searches for the woodpecker will also turn up Southern Tchagras, Bar-throated Apalises, and Sombre Greenbuls.

De Hoop Vlei forms the western edge of the reserve. These elevated cliffs near the restaurant and above the boathouse are excellent vantages to scan for waterbirds. The wetland is an important provincial site for Great Crested Grebes. The large flotillas of birds are predominately made up of Red-knobbed Coots, Cape Shovelors, Egyptian Geese, and Yellow-billed Ducks. Great White Pelicans are common. Other notable species regularly seen include Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Water Thick-knee, Pied Avocet, African Fish Eagle, and Western Osprey (summer). Cape Clawless Otters are infrequently spotted around the vlei. An organised boat ride offers a great opportunity to see many of the species listed above.

Take time to scan for aerial feeders in the skies above the vlei. In summer the mixed feeding flocks can produce African Black, Alpine, Little, and White-rumped Swifts, Rock and Brown-throated Martins, and White-throated, Barn, and Greater Striped Swallows. Much rarer is Horus Swift which reaches the western edge of the range around De Hoop.

The marine reserve at Koppie Alleen (-34.4759, 20.5087) is famed for the large numbers of Southern Right Whales that return to calve every year. The rocky shoreline is home to large numbers of African Oystercatchers, while open stretches of sand are good for White-fronted Plovers.

The Potberg section of the reserve is home to the only remaining Cape Vulture colony in the province. If you are staying in main section of the reserve, retrace your route back to the junction on the Bredasdorp/Malgas road (-34.3721, 20.4150), and continue east to the Potberg entrance (-34.3731, 20.5176). Scan the passing farm fields for Secretarybirds, Denham’s Bustards and Agulhas Long-billed Larks.

After signing in at the small office, continue around and park at the Potberg Educational centre (-34.3768, 20.5340) or Whale Trail Office (-34.3747, 20.5331). Positioning yourself anywhere in this general area will allow you to see vultures flying overhead towards the colony in a valley on the eastern side of Potberg. You can get closer to the actual colony by hiking the Klipspringer trail. Cape Siskins are common along this trail.

The seemingly lifeless groves of Eucalyptus trees are home to Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, both Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, and occasionally Knysna Woodpeckers. Cape Sugarbirds are sometimes abundant when these trees are in flower.

Key species:

Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Cloud Cisticola, Great Crested Grebe, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, African Oystercatcher, Denham’s Bustard, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier

About the Birding Site

De Hoop Nature Reserve is the flagship reserve in the Western Cape. This sprawling reserve protects a wealth of biodiversity, cultural and archaeological treasures. It offers birders a wide variety of marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats to explore. It is home to the only remaining vulture colony in the province, as well as a stronghold of threatened endemics like Black Harrier.

Key species:

Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Cloud Cisticola, Great Crested Grebe, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, African Oystercatcher, Denham’s Bustard, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
De Hoop main gate: -34.4216, 20.4087
Potberg gate: -34.3731, 20.5176
Main reception: -34.4541, 20.3994
Admission costs: Adults: R50 daily conservation fee
Children R30 daily conservation fee

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
WildCard applicable.
The accommodation facilities are disabled friendly. The hiking trials are not suitable.
A map is downloadable at https://www.capenature.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/De-Hoop-Map-and-Brochure.pdf

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The reserve offers a wide variety of accommodation ranging from camping to luxury suites.

Local guide information:
Absolute Birding: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800486296-4d544ea0-b3b6
Birding Africa: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800843201-e0dd8be5-1491
Birding Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837069054-d73b5915-e2a1
Cape Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837703508-e06f57e0-d098
Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and custom Safaris: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d
Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d

Text prepared by:
Vincent Ward, Birding Africa Tours.

Key species:

Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Cloud Cisticola, Great Crested Grebe, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, African Oystercatcher, Denham’s Bustard, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier

Contact details:

De Hoop Collection
General enquiries: +27 (0)87 087 8250
Accommodation: +27 (0)21 422 4522
Website: https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/de-hoop-nature-reserve/