Birding in Plettenberg Bay is as diverse and magnificent as there are many distinct habitats found across the area. Most days in Plett are sunny and moderately warm offering birders the unique opportunity to witness a myriad of species across coastlines, mountaintops, forest and fields – all in the space of a few spectacular and rewarding days.
Plett, bordered to the east by the warm Indian Ocean and Tsitsikamma Mountains and the west by indigenous forests, is in the heart of the Garden Route providing a heaven South African bird species, and occasionally visitors needing a place to rest. A diverse selection of endemic bird species, such as African Black Oystercatcher, Protea Seedeater, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-Breasted Sunbird, Knysna Turaco and Victorins Warblers, Knysna Woodpecker and many more species, gives the bird lover an excellent reason to flock to the area.
Plett Game Reserve, specifically, is home to two awe inspiring secretary birds, rescued and released into their new home after the devastating fires of 2017. Post fire, the starving birds were picked up at two different locations and after a few months of rehab and TLC by the caring staff at Radical Raptors, the pair were successfully released, just in time for spring. They’ve been doing very well at the reserve and if you are a keen birder, you will enjoy meeting them. Other birds you are likely to encounter on your safari are Eagle, Heron, Ducks, Vultures, Buzzards, Hawks falcons, Crab plovers, Doves, Kingfishers, Warblers and Weavers. That’s quite an ensemble. The only requirement for the safari is that you wear long, comfortable pants and closed shoes, and it doesn’t hurt to bring along an extra bit of enthusiasm.
A few nights’ stay at the game reserve will ensure that none of the feathery residents here will escape your eye. Pack your best set of binoculars and settle in on the deck of your suite, armed with a tasty cocktail and an eagle eye. The Baroness at the reserve offers accommodation that is uniquely African at heart. Hidden in the brush are units that offer not only privacy and comfort but create that ‘Out of Africa’ feel. Rich with history and tall tales of adventurers of yesteryear, the lodge offers quiet accommodation, ideal to recharge your batteries. The lodge is the perfect springboard to put you in touch with an area that is rich in birdlife. Plett is home to a diverse range of different habitat zones and microclimates conducive to wintering and breeding birds. As a result, this area has excellent viewing with more than 350 recorded bird species to provide an outstanding birding experience.
A unique opportunity awaits at the reserve with a guided bird-watching safari on horseback. You may say, “Well that’s not so rare. I have a friend who travelled to Transylvania, to the Villa Abbatis, and enjoyed birdwatching on horseback.” Yes, that may be so, however, if you have a phobia of vampires and long plane rides with multiple stop overs, then here is the perfect solution for you. If your heart goes pitter patter for our feathered friends and striding across the plains on horseback sounds like something you could really get your teeth into, then Plett Game Reserve has a treat in store for you.
Other areas in Plett, apart from Uplands where the game reserve is located, to focus on when seeking the perfect birdwatching experience are Nature’s Valley, Bitou River Wetlands, Keurbooms Estuary, Harkervill Forest / Kranshoek picnic and Lookout. Rare sightings of African Finfoot, Northern Rockhopper Penguin and White-browed Scrub Robin are not uncommon. The Natures Valley Trust has been at the forefront of conservation in the greater Bitou area for many years now. Spearheaded by Dr Mark Brown, their focus is to conserve and most importantly impart knowledge to locals on how to have a positive effect on nature. Amongst their many projects, NVT is involved in tagging birds of the area. The process of bird ringing is an important part of the conservation work. Each ring has a unique number on it which can then be used to track the birds’ movements and life history. For example, this data can be used to understand birds’ migratory patterns, monitor population and even feeding behaviour.
Getting the community involved at grassroots is a passion. To this end, NVT often invite the community to witness conservation in action. Dr Mark Brown takes visitors through the whole process of bird ringing, from using mist nets to capture the birds, to taking measurements and scientific data. With years of experience with birds, Ornithologist Mark is a dab hand at identifying the different species, and perhaps most importantly, helping others to do so too. Highlights are often seeing paradise flycatcher, Kynsna woodpecker, karoo prinia and plenty of sunbirds and sugarbirds.
There you have it. Stay at PBGR for a spell and you’ll leave a lot chirpier than when you arrived. It’s good to be in Plett.