Even if you are not a bird watcher, visiting the ird hides around the country can be an enjoyable experience. With this in mind, Home Food and Travel visited three fantastic bird hides and enjoyed a pleasant few hours snacking, whispering, watching and sipping on sweet, hot tea poured steaming from a flask. The tranquil solace of the dim interior, quiet surroundings and hushed tones does wonders for the stretched, urban soul.
Birds weren’t all that we saw either as rhino, kudu, otters, butterflies, grysbok, amongst others, graced us with their presence. The birds abounded too and they weren’t bothered by the rustling and shushing from their hidden neighbours. Goliath herons, purple gallinules and marsh harriers went about their business without so much as a glance in our direction.
The best time of the day to visit these sites is sunrise or sunset, as the hotter the day becomes the less likely the birds and game are to emerge from the shade. Many birds migrate northwards in our winter, so for species variety, summer is best. However, even in the depths of the coldest months, South Africa still has more bird species than almost any other country on earth. If you venture to take a peek, there will be plenty to see.
Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve
The Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort has an enormous bird hide with picnic benches and even basic ablution facilities. Because of its remoteness, the thatched bird hide is seldom used, except by the birds themselves. A family of redwinged starlings soon got over the shock of sharing their home with us and made regular foraging trips to feed their young.
We had brought our own forage and in no time had laid out a veritable feast. It was here that we saw the black rhino which left us wide-eyed and excited with the closeness of its presence. The hide looks out over a large expanse of water and we spent hours watching a pair of malachite kingfishers feeding, preening and just sparkling in the sun.
This is one of my favorite bird hides in the country.
Cape Recife Nature Reserve
Cape Recife Nature Reserve, one of my favourite places, is home to a well-placed and maintained bird hide. A stretch of mown lawn to the left of the hide reminds me of Central Park on a hot summer’s day, except that the Cape Receife lawn is crowded with all types of birds and not all types of people. The hide offers views in three directions and has been built over a small lake.
If you venture there at sunrise you will, in all likelihood, see the resident family of otters. I have witnessed some unusual sights here including a juvenile fish eagle doing aerial combat with a squadron of kelp gulls! This hide is so close to the heart of Port Elizabeth that you can pay a visit during your well-earned lunch break and return to work refreshed and rejuvenated.
Seekoei River Nature Reserve
The Seekoei River Nature Reserve just outside Jeffery’s Bay has an elevated bird hide that is set well back from the river and requires a good set of binoculars to appreciate the avian fauna. The hide itself is perhaps not the best spot for a picnic, but the nature reserve does offer a wonderful lapa near the car park where visitors may enjoy a great picnic or braai. This reserve has plenty of aloes, and at this time of the year they are in full bloom, thus making a very attractive meal to the wide variety of sunbirds found in the Eastern Cape.
So pack your picnic baskets, don your woollies and focus your ocular enhancements! There is plenty to do this winter besides sitting next to a roaring fire.
If you’re looking for places to stay on your visit then visit our accommodation section for a great selection of hotels, guest houses and self catering units.