Cape Recife

This 370ha nature reserve is situated on a headland at the southwestern tip of Algoa Bay. It is the best place near Port Elizabeth to see marine and freshwater birds and is one of the “must see” birding venues in Port Elizabeth. The tern roost at Cape Recife point is the best place in South Africa to see Roseate Tern, and Antarctic Tern are common in winter. There is a bird hide at the water reclamation ponds. The reserve can be comfortably birded in 3-4 hours, when you can expect to see 60 of the 190 regularly occurring species.



Seven species of tern, including Roseate Tern, Antarctic Tern and sometimes Damara Tern. African Penguin and pelagics offshore. Little Bittern, South African Shelduck and other waterfowl, African Black Oystercatcher and other waders, Southern Tchagra.



Mixed rocky and sandy beaches. Two freshwater reclamation ponds. Coastal dune scrub and fynbos mosaic.



There is an Information Centre and ablution block at the entrance and a bird hide beside one of two sewerage reclamation ponds. Road access is good, there is a picnic site and a walking trail.



1. There is nearly always a mixed species tern roost on the headland past the lighthouse. Drive to the end of the main internal road, park and walk along the beach (avoid high spring tides). Roseate Tern are most conspicuous during winter when they are in breeding plumage and Antarctic Tern are also common at this time. Damara Tern are seen with increasing frequency during summer, when there are a variety of Palearctic waders. African Black Oystercatcher are common breeding residents. In the right conditions a number of pelagic seabird species can be seen. The world's largest colonies of African Penguin and Cape Gannet breed on islands in Algoa Bay and they often feed off the point (1 hr).

2. To reach the sewerage reclamation ponds, park at the first big bend from the entrance and follow the bird hide sign and trail markers (the beach at the parking place is good for waders). From the hide on the first pond, reedbed species such as Black Crake, African Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron and the elusive Little Bittern may be seen. Follow the trail to the larger pond for a wider variety of waterfowl (1 hr).

3. Look out for Cape Bulbul, Southern Tchagra, Yellow Canary and Jacobin Cuckoo (spring) in the coastal dune scrub. The 9 km “Trail of the Roseate Tern” includes all the main features of the reserve (4 hrs).



Cape Recife is always open and is signposted from Marine Drive 2.5 km south of Summerstrand. If you wish to take a vehicle into the reserve (it is a 2.5 km walk to the point from the entrance) a weekly permit (R 17 per vehicle for 2001/02) is required, obtainable from Pine Lodge Resort (where a variety of accommodation is available), 100m before the entrance boom. Birdlife and WESSA members are allowed free access on production of their membership card. A trail leaflet is available from the Information Centre, Tourism Outlets and the Municipal Parks & Recreation Department. Access arrangements may change in future if a public/private partnership initiative succeeds. For further information contact the Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Tel. +27 41 581 7540 / +27 41 582 2575 Fax: +27 41 581 7544 / +27 41 582 2573 email:
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Website

Bird & Eco-Tours provides a tour/guiding/free information service in the Port Elizabeth area tel. +27 41 466 5698.

Paul Martin 2001.
Bird & Eco-Tours, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
, Tel: +27 41 466 5698