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LOCAL TIME: 03:21 am | Tuesday, 23 July
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Birding at the Berg River Estuary, West Coast

The Berg River estuary seen from the Eastern side of VelddrifThe Berg River Estuary and flood plain around the town of Velddrif, cover a vast area, extending 40km inland along one of the Cape’s biggest rivers, provides a wide diversity of wetland habitats, including mudflats and salt pans. The estuary is most exciting to visit when the popular waders are here for summer. Flamingos, Great White Pelicans and a host of other waders are all to be seen. Many rare species have been recorded, some of them for the first time in South Africa. These include the Little Blue Heron, Lesser Gallinule, Franklin’s Gull, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Hudsonian Godwit, Redshank, Black Tern, Wilson’s Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope.

Be sure to visit on the correct tide: the best viewing begins about 3.5 hours after the ‘High tide in Table Bay’.

Best spots:

  • The Riviera Mudflats (a proposed RAMSAR site) is where some rare birds like the Little Blue Heron and Lesser Yellowlegs can be found.  A hide is situated off Voortrekker Road, past the Riviera Hotel, where the key to the hide is kept. The hide overlooks an area of intertidal mudflats and salt marshes, where more than 200 species of birds can be viewed.
  • Cerebos salt works to view the Chestnut-banded Plover and roosting waders that flee the mudflats at high tide. Park and ask permission to enter at the office.
  • The De Plaat mudflat can be reached by taking the R399 and turning right into Vrede Road. Turn right again, follow this road to its end, and walk down past the eucalyptus trees to the wooden jetty.
  • To reach an area of riverine channels and reed beds , where a variety of herons, warblers and other water birds may be found, take the main road east past the bird hide, and turn right along the road signposted ‘Bokkoms Industry’ and continue to the banks of the river.
  • At the harbour on the river mouth in Laaiplek, a selection of cormorants, gulls (a good site for the scarce Grey-headed Gull) and terns roost. In summer look for the Arctic Skua just offshore.
  • Rocher Pan, a large water body protected in a nature reserve 24 km north of Velddrif, may be reached via the hamlet of Dwarskersbos.

Getting there: take the R27 from Cape Town and follow it along the coast to the town of Velddrif. The town lies on the estuary itself.

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Lower Berg River Estuary