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Situated on the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula and the south-western extremity of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, recently incorporated into the Cape Peninsula National Park not only offers a variety of birding opportunities to visitors, but also holds some of the most breathtaking scenery in Africa. Together with the numerous endemic species, the Reserve also offers some of the best land based seabird watching in the world.

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Specials

Hartlaub's Gull, Bank Cormorant, Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Cape Sugarbird, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia, Cape Longclaw, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Siskin as well as numerous seabirds.

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Habitats

The reserve is covered predominantly by fynbos, but holds small patches of strandveld and alien vegetation. The reserve is surrounded by 40km of both rocky and sandy shoreline from Smitswinkel Bay in the west to Shuster Bay in the east. The point holds large cliffs, which support a number of nesting birds.

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Facilities

Provided one keeps to the designated paths and roads, one can explore the reserve on bike, foot or car. A good road network allows access to most parts of the park. A restaurant and shop are situated near the point. A funicular at Cape Point car-park transports people from the car park to the lighthouse. The Park also offers fishing, boating, diving and hiking. In order to do it justice, one should spend at least a full day exploring the Reserve, however a full morning or afternoon should allow one time to explore most of the Reserve.

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Birding

1. The fynbos between the Entrance Gate and the cape Point car park holds a number of species including Grey-backed Cisticola, Yellow Bishop, Bokmakierie and Cape Grassbird. Check the larger flowering plants for Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird.

2. The south-western cape race of the Cloud Cisticola can be found in the interior of the reserve around the circular drive. The restio plains in this area also hold relatively large numbers of Black-rumped Buttonquail, but may require quite a bit of work to find. This bird lacks the black rump of the Hottentot Buttonquail.

3. The fynbos around the car park and the point is home to a variety of species including Cape Siskin, Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola,Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Grassbird, Red-winged Starling and Cape Bunting. Check the radio masts near the lighthouse for Peregrine Falcon.

4. Thickets within the reserve hold species such as Southern Boubou, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia, Fiscal Flycatcher and Brimstone Canary. Rocky areas along some of the coastal areas and in the mountainous areas hold Ground Woodpecker (check on the rocks between the cape Point car park and the Cape of Good Hope car park), Sentinel Rock-Thrush and occasionally Cape Rock-Thrush.

5. Seawatching (watching for seabirds) from one of the many vantage points can be very rewarding. Some of the best vantage points are on the cliffs near the Cape Point car park as well as above Cape of Good Hope car park. The best time of year is during the winter months and particularly when the north-westerlies are blowing (i.e. after and before a frontal system). Birds seen frequently from vantage points within the reserve include Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger, Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Northern Giant-Petrel and Southern Giant-Petrel, Pintado Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel and Great-winged Petrel.

6. Together with the seabirds, the rocks in front of the Cape of Good Hope parking lot support Crowned Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant and Bank Cormorant. The rocky shoreline in other parts of the Park supports numbers of African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Swift Tern, Antarctic Tern (winter), Common Tern and Swift Tern. Sandy shores hold Sanderling, White-fronted Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Common Ringed Plover.

7. In addition to the diversity of birding opportunities, the Reserve has produced a large number of vagrants in the past. Vagrants to the park include Macaroni Penguin and Rockhopper Penguin, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Icterine Warbler, Greater Sheathbill, Baird's Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and Little Blue Heronto name a few.

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General

Directions: There are various routes to the Park from Cape Town. The easiest route is via the M3, over Ou Kaapse Weg pass and then over the Glencairn Expressway towards the coastal town of Simon’s Town. From Simon’s Town, one heads south along the coastline, up Smitswinkel Pass, and the entrance gate is on your left. Alternatively, the drive through Kommetjie, Misty Cliffs and Scarborough is also very scenic, and you approach the park from the other side.

Opening times:

Table Mountain National Park:
  • Summer (September-April) 06:00 - 18:00
  • Winter (May - August) 07:00 - 17:00

Cape Point Funicular:
  • Summer (September-April) 09:00 - 18:00
  • Winter (May - August) 09:00 - 17:30

Contact Information: Park: Tel +27 21 780 9526 Visitor Centre: Tel: +27 21 780 9010/11

A fee is payable at the entrance gate. Birders visiting the Reserve should be aware of the problems associated with Baboons on the whole of the cape Peninsula. Not only are Baboons a danger to visitors, but feeding has severe implications for the animals and should be discouraged at all costs.

Sanparks Website

Andrew Hester 2001.
Afton Grove


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