Return to SA Birding Main Site
Between the Olifants and Berg River Estuaries on the West Coast, lies an interesting stretch of coastline with a number of excellent waterbird localities. A full day would be adequate to cover the area fairly thoroughly.



Great White Pelican, Lesser Flamingo, Jackal Buzzard, Chestnut-banded Plover, Fairy Flycatcher, Yellow Canary and White-throated Canary and the possibility of various vagrant waders.



A large saline pan is present at Wadrif, and an extensive area of vlei, reedbeds, marsh, and seasonally flooded grassland at Verlorenvlei. The area is predominantly West Coast strandvlei, which also occurs on the rocky hillsides and various types of low scrubby vegetation. Sandy beaches line the coast, except at Baboon Point just south of Elandsbaai where there are small rocky sections.



There are hotels and guesthouses in most of the villages in the area (e.g. Lambert's Bay, Elandsbaai and Redelinghuys), as well as shops and petrol stations. There is a viewing tower at the Lambert's Bay Cape Gannet colony.



1. Moving north up the coast, Verlorenvlei is the first birding locality. The vlei itself is narrow but very long, stretching almost 30km all the way from the sea to Redelinghuys; a road runs alongside it for most of its length. A good variety of waterbirds are present including Great White Pelican, Hottentot Teal, South African Shelduck, Malachite Kingfisher, Purple Heron, Little Bittern and African Marsh-Harrier. African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail lurk in the extensive reedbeds. Local rarities recorded here in recent years have included Black Heron, Goliath Heron and Palm-nut Vulture. There is often a mixed gull and tern roost on the rocks and beach adjacent to the mouth of the vlei.

2. Wadrif Soutpan, about mid-way between Elandsbaai and Lambert's Bay, is a vast ephemeral saline pan cut in two by the Sishen-Saldhana railway line, which also makes a good vantage point from which to scan the pans, ideally with a telescope. Huge numbers of terns, ducks, flamingos and waders are usually present, and it is well worth scanning carefully through flocks of the latter, as the pan has in the last few years produced a number of interesting rarities including Pectoral Sandpiper, American Golden Plover and Pacific Golden Plover. Black-necked Grebe, South African Shelduck, Grey Plover and Chestnut-banded Plover are all regular.

3. Lambert's Bay is a fishing port best known for its easily accessible Cape Gannet colony on "Bird Island", which is not really an island at all, and can be reached by walking along the harbour breakwater. Please respect the fences surrounding the colony; photographers can make prior arrangements with Cape Nature Conservation should they wish to enter the colony to take pictures. Other species breeding on the periphery of the year-round mass of gannets are White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant and African Penguin. gull and tern species roost on the rocks.

4. Strandveld birds common to the whole area include European Bee-eater, Karoo Scrub-Robin, White-throated Canary, Ant-eating Chat and Fairy Flycatcher.



The most direct way to access this section of coast is from the N7: to reach Verlorenvlei, turn off at Piketberg onto the R366 to Redelinghuys, and to reach Lambert's Bay turn off at Clanwilliam onto the R364 via Graafwater. The dirt road connecting Elandbaai and Lambert's Bay passes across Wadrif soutpan: please note though that the southern section of this road (i.e. between Elandsbaai and Wadrif) is a private service road for the railway line, and that a small toll is therefore payable. The turn-off onto this road is just east of Elandsbaai village proper, right next to the railway bridge.

Claire Spottiswoode and Callan Cohen 1997.

Copyright © 2008 SA Birding cc