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Velddrif is one of the most popular bird-watching destinations in South Africa, with the tidal mudflats and salt marshes presenting more than 250 bird species—that is 25% of all bird species ever recorded in the Southern African region.

The estuary, floodplain and saltpans extend 40 kilometres inland along one of the Cape’s largest rivers. This area contains a wide range of habitats, including sandy beaches, mudflats, reed beds, riverine channels, strandveld and floodplains.

The estuary is one of the most important birding areas in the world. It has also been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) locally and internationally and declared a wetland of importance, a Ramsar site.

The floodplain itself, is very seasonal and difficult to access. The mudflats and salt pans provide the most rewarding birding, and have proven excellent for rarities. Ornithologists have shown that these mudflats support the highest density of waders along the entire east Atlantic seaboard.


Looking across the river, one can see large numbers of Egyptian Geese, Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Cape Shovelers and Red-knobbed Coots swimming around with smaller numbers of Spur-winged Geese, Common Moorhen and maybe even Blue-billed Teals.

The reedbeds along the river edge teem with little brown birds (LBJs) like Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers as well as Levaillant’s Cisticolas while the brown tones are also broken up by more colourful reedbed birds like Cape and Southern Masked Weavers and Southern Red Bishops. The reedbeds also hold some more secretive species and, if one is really lucky, you might even spot an African Swamphen, a Black Crake or perhaps even an African Rail. Kingfishers are also a regular feature of the river, in particular Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, while raptors are prolific in the area including the African Fish Eagle with its “call of Africa”.


In summer, the numbers of birds are augmented with many species arriving from the Northern Hemisphere. Although the migrant species include Swallows, Swifts and Terns, the real spectacle is made up by the Palearctic waders that arrive here in their thousands. Most numerous are Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Common Greenshank and Grey and Common Ringed Plovers, but a number of other species also visit in lower numbers like Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Ruff, Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Red Knot and even the much sought after Terek Sandpiper.

Although Velddrif has always been known as a good birding area, it really first made its mark on the local birding map when a Little Blue Heron was found on the mudflats in April 1992. Why the significance of this particular record? Well, it was the very first time that a Little Blue Heron had ever been recorded in Southern Africa and it was one very lost bird! The natural range of this species is from the southern parts of the USA through the Caribbean and Central America down as far south as Peru and Uruguay. Amazingly, this visitor remained in the area for about 4 years before eventually disappearing,

Over the years, Velddrif has continued to entrench its reputation as a birding site that regularly produces rarities i.e. birds that turn up there that are just not supposed to be anywhere near the area.               Examples are: Red-necked Phalarope. Hudsonian Godwit, Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper and Wilson’s Phalarope. Also: Common Redshank, Pectoral and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Caspian Plover, American and Pacific Golden Plovers, Black-tailed Godwit, Elegant Tern, Franklin’s Gull and even a Greater Frigatebird.

Velddrif has also played host to a number of regionally out of range species including Bateleur, Palm-nut Vulture, Pink-backed Pelican, Great Egret and Red-backed Shrike. So, you never know what birding treasures you will find when you visit.


You can self drive, or take a wonderful Birding Cruise on Cracklin’Rosie, a small boat with Wendy as your knowledgeable guide. See …..

Here are some places to see the birds and what you might see:

Bokkom Lane is Velddrif’s oldest road with a real mix of places from fisheries to a stunning roasted coffee house, art studios and places to have a cocktail or eat. What you may see:

  • African Darter
  • African Spoonbill
  • Pied Avocet
  • Common Greenshank
  • Common Whimbrel
  • Egret
  • Grey Plover
  • Heron
  • Kingfisher
  • Little Stint
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Sandpipers
  • White Pelican

Where the R27 crosses the Berg River

The Cerebos salt works are one side of the bridge.  The evaporation pans of this conveniently non-tidal locality are particularly good for Chestnut-banded Plover, and roosting waders that flee the mudflats at high tide. Another advantage here is that the birds are often closely approachable from the comfort of your vehicle; ask permission at the office to drive around but only in summer otherwise you will get stuck and slip.

  • Cape Teal
  • Caspian Tern
  • Black-necked Grebe
  • Capped Wheatear
  • Chestnut-banded Plover
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Greater and Lesser Flamingo
  • Kittlitz’s Plover, often nesting on the road edges.
  • Little Stint
  • Ruff Ringed Plover
  • Thick-billed Lark

On the opposite side of the bridge (east) is a small selection of waders:

  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Pied Avocet
  • South African Shelduck
  • Red-necked Phalarope (recorded here)

To reach the back entrance of the salt works, take the R399 Vredenburg road and follow the Flaminkvlei right turn. This road initially passes some farmland:

  • Thick-billed Lark
  • Stonechat
  • Jackal Buzzard
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Just beyond the buildings, follow a sandy track to the coast to see Cape Long-billed Lark

The Riviera Mudflat has a well-known bird hide for a diverse selection of waterbirds. This is the best area to bird spot! Several rarities have been spotted here and it is excellent for migrant waders. The best time is about 90 minutes after high tide in Table Bay. Collect the key from reception at the Riviera Hotel.

  • African Spoonbill
  • Caspian Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Greater and Lesser Flamingo
  • Little Egret
  • Purple Heron
  • White Pelican

The De Plaat Mudflat holds similar birds and a couple, below are easier to see. We suggest the trip on Cracklin’Rosie is the best way to see this area. The best viewing begins about 3.5 hours after the ‘High tide in Table Bay’.

  • Curlew
  • Bar-tailed Godwit

An excellent area for Strandveld birds may be reached along the R27, 10 km south of Velddrif, opposite the turnoff to ‘St Helena / Stompneus’. Continue along the unsurfaced road to the east for 1 km, and the strandveld area to observe is near the crest of the hill. Birds present here include:

  • Southern Black Khoraan
  • Bar-throated Apalis
  • White-throated Canary
  • Layard’s Titbabbler
  • Karoo Lark
  • White-backed Mousebird
  • Southern Grey Tit
  • Cape Penduline Tit
  • Long-billed Crombec

Happy birding!

(Adapted from Cape Birding Route)