Wilderness On Sea has the distinction of being situated on some pretty high caliber birding territory along the peerless shores of Wilderness in South Africa, gem of the Garden Route. Birders from all over the world flock to this location annually just to see the sheer number of birds that can be found only here. They are not just your common finds either, the birds that can be photographed here are among some of the rarest seen in the wild today. These birds vibrant colors and vibrato songs are sure to captivate you.
The area doesn’t just encompass a beachfront that rivals many others, but it contains within a series of hiking trails, forests and marshlands to explore. Inside the forested areas of the Oteniqua Mountains you can ride horseback to, you can find birds like the Knysna Lourie and Wood Owls among the canopy. You’ll also likely see Bar-throated Apalis, Green-backed Bleating Warblers, Chorister Robins and Terrestrial Bulbul among the forest’s many offerings.
Lower in the forest’s canopy, birds like Cape Batis, Dusky Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Warbler, Sombre Bulbul, Blue-Mantled Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker and even a rare spotting of an Olive Bush Shrike can be found. The unique birds to watch for on your hiking adventure are birds like Black-headed Oriole, Black-bellied Starling, Grey Cuckooshrike, Narina Trogon, Red-billed Woodhoopoe, and the famed Knysna Loerie.
If capturing the perfect photo of that most elusive bird are more your thing, then this is certainly the area to watch for them. Super special sightings are the Red-necked Francolin, only seen in the early morning and evenings at the edges of the forest among open areas. Buff-spotted Flufftails let you know when they’re nearby from the distinctive hooting sound they make, found mostly at night. African Goshawks, and Crowned Eagle can be found circling overhead here, and along the opposite part of the forest among the litter of the ground are Cinnamon and Tambourine Doves… but usually only seen when flushed out by walking through.
Easily the most rarely seen bird in the area is the Great Reed Warbler, which is found in extremely few places anywhere in the Cape, but can rarely be seen in more abundance than elsewhere among the reeds in the Touw River. There’s plenty of other water birds to see while here however, in the many bird-hides of the area, which can be the only way sometimes to see birds like Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail and Baillon’s Crake, another crowd favorite who is found at reed edges in the very early hours of morning.
Birds in sheer numbers that are found nearly all the time are birds like Yellow-billed Egret, Purple Heron, African Fish Eagle, Osprey in summertime only, African Marsh Harrier, Malachite Kingfisher (which are SO much fun to watch), Cape Reed, and African Sedge Warbler. Rondvlei and Langvlei bird hides are probably the best stops to see these, but bird hides are common in the area within the wetland and finding one that suits your tastes is very easy.
Bird watching does not begin once you enter Wilderness however, so watch for them as you’re on the way along the Garden Route to see some remarkable finds. Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill, Greater Double-Collard Sunbird, Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, and Starred Robin can be found easily at your first rest-stop along the road, about a few minutes hike into the woods. The birds who have no problem sharing the roadway with you are the Forest and Steppe Buzzard, the latter which is only seen in the summer months, making it a prize to be able to identify the difference between the two.
My favorite picks for birds not found anywhere else, and absolute must-see birds while in Wilderness are the Great Crested, and Black-necked Grebe, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, and Great Blue Heron, Little Egret, Red-knobbed Coot, Maccoa and White-backed Duck, White-fronted Plover, Caspian Tern, Purple Gallinule, Red-billed Teal, Hottentot Teal, Cape Teal, and the Southern Pochard.
Make sure to make a stop in the Milkwood Friday Market in the heart of the village in Wilderness, where you can expect fresh foods, organic foods, homemade crafts and craftsmanship that includes things like clothing as bright and beautiful as the birds you came to see. Take a part of Wilderness home with you and be sure to come back for more!