The sleepy seaside town of Rooi Els is best reached by following the sinuous Clarence’s Drive (R44) from Gordon’s Bay (-34.1569, 18.8704). The ancient mountain slopes of the Kogelberg Mountains dramatically contrast with the wide open expanse of False Bay. On a clear day, the entirety of the Cape Peninsula can be seen. Have a passenger scan the boulder covered slopes for Klipspringer antelope, while the driver navigates this winding coastal road.
In season, stop at the numerous roadside whale-watching spots, scanning for Southern Right Whales (July to December), Humpback and Bryde’s Whales. Occasionally, large pods of Common Dolphin feed in the bay. The Great White Shark spotting station above the Kogelberg Resort beach (-34.2268, 18.8429) is also worth a quick visit. The damp mountain stream courses between the resort and Rooi Els are particularly good for the secretive Victorin’s Warblers.
Immediately before reaching Rooi Els, stop at the view point (-34.2968, 18.8222) and scan the seabird roost at the river mouth for Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls, Greater Crested Terns (all year), Common and Sandwich Terns (summer). This roost has held a vagrant Elegant Tern in the past few years.
After crossing the bridge, take the second turn to the right onto Porter Drive (-34.3029, 18.8200). Scan the prominent rocky outcrop to your right for Cape Rock Thrush, and Ground Woodpeckers.
If there is time, explore the town’s extensive areas of pristine fynbos. The local gardens are especially good for nectivores like Cape Sugarbirds, Orange-breasted, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds. Please remember to be respectful of the local residents while birding in the town.
Continue along Porter Drive as it transitions from paving to gravel and park at the gate (-34.3076, 18.8176). Here you will see new signage reminding birders to respect the local birds and environment.
Before proceeding past the gate on foot, scan the prominent cliff face of Klein Hangberg for a distinctive horizontal crack. This is home to breeding Alpine and African Black Swifts in summer.
As you walk south along the track, keep an eye open for Cape Rock Thrush and Familiar Chats perched on the telephone lines. Scan the hillside for Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Siskins, Cape Bunting and Nicholson’s Pipit (rare). Listen out for the distinctive call of Neddicky. This diminutive cisticola loves to sing from the tops of large pointed rocks.
Stop at the lone telephone pole on the mountain side of the track. Look back at Klein Hangberg and scan for the two old Verreaux’s Eagle nests. The eagles occasionally visit this cliff face but have not bred here in recent years. White-necked Ravens, and Rock Kestrels are however seasonal breeders in this area. At this spot, begin scanning for Cape Rockjumpers on the mountain slopes. They are frequently seen busily feeding on the ground; occasionally hopping up onto a sandstone boulder before dropping down. The key to locating any of the family groups spread along the slopes is listening for the distinctive piercing “pee-pee-pee-pee-pee” alarm call. Be careful not to be confused by the more abundant Red-winged Starlings which have a similar size and colour. Cape Rockjumpers are uncommon past the second driveway down to the sea (-34.3174, 18.8234), so turn around here and retrace your steps. Remember to remain on the track at all times. This entire area is all private property, despite lack of fences. Playback is also strictly forbidden at this locality.
The other sought-after specials are the Ground Woodpeckers. This large, terrestrial woodpecker species is easiest to see when gathering in small family groups to sun themselves in the morning. Cape Rock Thrush is common on the slopes while Sentinel Rock Thrush is only present in winter.
Scan the low scrub on the seaward side of the track Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Grassbird and Yellow Bishop.
Leopard are resident in the Kogelberg Mountains but are incredibly difficult to see.
The town of Rooi Els lies at the foot of the Kogelberg Mountains on the eastern False Bay shoreline. The mountain slopes immediately south of the town are arguably one of the best places to see Cape Rockjumper. This charismatic species shares this montane Fynbos habitat with a plethora of other Fynbos specials. Situated in easy reach of Cape Town it is a great jumping off point for the rest of the Overberg and beyond.