Port Elizabeth and surrounds – The Island Reserve

About the Birding

The Island Forest Reserve is one of the last remaining indigenous coastal forests near Port Elizabeth, encompassing an area of roughly 480 hectares. Other notable habitats include bushveld thicket and open grassland. The reserve is conveniently situated on the outskirts of the city and is recommended for mid-week birding only as the weekend attracts many picnicking visitors. A morning visit of 2-3 hours is preferable to maximise chances at finding all of the forest specialties.

The water feature in the middle of the large picnic area is a popular drinking spot for a diverse array of species allowing uncharacteristically good views of many shy forest residents. White-starred Robin, both Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Knysna Turaco, Black-headed Oriole, Black-bellied Starling, Terrestrial Brownbul and Brown Scrub-robin are all daily visitors for those with patience enough to sit and wait. Alternatively, explore the forest edge along the driveway into the reserve for these same species.

A walk into the forest interior along the Bushbuck Trail will likely produce Black-backed Puffback, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, while the soft duets of Cape Batis are a constant echo. Note that it is not necessary to walk all 16km of the trail to encounter these species. Listen for African Emerald Cuckoo, an annual summer visitor to the reserve. Other noteworthy species to look for include the Grey Cuckooshrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Red-necked Spurfowl, and Forest Buzzard.

Key species:

Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Forest Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Black-bellied Starling, Brown Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin

About the Birding Site

Port Elizabeth, an idyllic coastal city, is perhaps the most accessible port of entry into the Eastern Cape. Known as the ‘Friendly City,’ Port Elizabeth offers a superb value-for-money holiday base with a diverse selection of attractions, within easy reach, including a number of scenic nature trails, historic heritage, cultural experiences and several bird and wildlife viewing hotspots. Perhaps most important are the core section of Addo Elephant National Park and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Complex; both under 1hr drive from the city’s international airport.

Other notable hotspots within easy reach are Settler’s Park, the Swartkops Estuary, Tankatara Road, Cape Recife Nature Reserve, and the Island Forest Reserve.

Key species:

Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Forest Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Black-bellied Starling, Brown Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin

Other Related Information

Follow the national highway ‘N2’ west in the direction of Cape Town for roughly 25km, before taking the Seaview offramp to the left. The reserve is signposted to the left shortly after the Collen Glen/Kragga Kama road intersection at -33.9862, 25.3683.

Alternatively, follow the M9 west from Port Elizabeth until it merges with Seaview Road. Continue along Seaview Road for roughly 18km to reach the entrance to the Island Reserve.

Other related information:

The nearest towns are:
Port Elizabeth: 25Km
Uitenhage: 36Km
Jeffrey’s Bay: 66Km

Access and Facilities:
A small fee is payable at the entrance gates. Gate times are between 08:00 and 16:30 on weekdays, and 08:00 and 16:00 on weekends.
The Island Reserve offers numerous walks, the most well-known being the 16km Bushbuck Hiking trail which begins just outside the main office buildings. Ablution blocks and braai facilities are provided.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently listed for the wider Port Elizabeth area. However, there are many accommodation options in Port Elizabeth and Bluewater Bay that cater for diverse budgets and requirements.

Local guide information:
Local birding tours within the wide Port Elizabeth area can be organised through:

Bird & Eco-tours
Tour/guiding/free information service in the Port Elizabeth area
Tel: +27 (0)41 466 5698

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

Key species:

Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Forest Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Black-bellied Starling, Brown Scrub-robin, White-starred Robin

Contact details:

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

Tel: +27 (0)41 581 7540 / +27 (0)42 582 2573
Fax: +27 (0)42 581 7544 / +27 (0)41 582 2573
Email: info@nmbt.co.za
Website: www.nmbt.co.za

Island Reserve contact details:

Tel: +27 (0)41 378 1634/ +27 (0)87 086 2498
Reserve manager: +27 (0)71 609 1383
Section ranger: +27 (0)73 378 4324