A bird-lover’s paradise
Bird Island lies about 100 m off the shore of Lambert’s Bay on the Cape’s West Coast. It offers visitors a rare opportunity to see the blue-eyed Cape gannet up close. Bird Island is one of only six sites world-wide where Cape gannets breed, and it is the only breeding site easily accessible to the public.
The island, which is almost three hectares in size, is connected to the mainland via a breakwater. It is an important breeding and roosting site for seabirds, particularly Cape gannets and cormorants. Cape fur seals can be seen sunning themselves on the island’s rocks.
In the island’s well-situated gannet lookout, visitors can get close to the birds and witness their unique mating dances. The bird hide is signposted with interesting information about these seabirds and their habits.
The lookout provides an excellent vantage point for visitors to study the island’s gannets. There are signs across the island providing background information on the West Coast’s birds.
Visitors should cross the breakwater carefully. Entrance is prohibited if rough seas make it too dangerous to cross the breakwater.
If travelling from Cape Town, take the N7 towards Clanwilliam. On the approach to Clanwilliam, take the R364 Graafwater/Lambert’s Bay road to the coast. Once in Lambert’s Bay, follow the signs to the harbour and Bird Island. The whole journey should take no more than four hours.
GPS: 32 5 22.13 S 18 18 8.95 E
Office hours: 08:00 to 18:00
Tel: +27 (0)71 657 5651
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250
(Bird Island pictures by Kim Stevens)
Take a scenic drive along the West Coast on your way to Bird Island. On the way you may see these majestic creatures close to the shore, as southern right whales enjoy the warm water after migrating from icy Antarctica. Whale season is from June to November.
As the only accessible spot in the world to see Cape gannets breed, Bird Island is a bird-watcher’s paradise. The island’s hide is perfectly situated to observe their activities first-hand and learn more about their breeding habits. Other birds include the African penguin, the Cape cormorant and the kelp gull.
Bird Island is not only a tourist destination, but used for scientific research.
The research done on the island relates to the bird populations, in the form of monitoring, censusing and patrols. The Gannet colony at Bird Island is one of the most monitored colonies in the world. It is censured (population recorded) every day, while all eggs stolen by gulls are recorded.
All chicks leaving the Island and caught by seals when leaving the Island are accounted for while all mortalities are recorded. Surrounding beaches are patrolled to account for wash-ups from the Island, while monitoring staff assist Oceans to Coast with monthly Cape Gannet diet sampling and recaptures as well as annual Cape Gannet fledgling ringing. All of the information collected on Bird Island is also sent to CapeNature’s Scientific Services department in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch.
Bird Island is roughly three hectares in size and connected to the mainland of Lambert’s Bay by a breakwater. It is one of just six breeding colonies of Cape gannets on Earth and is also an important nesting and roosting site for a variety of other seabirds. Cape cormorants and kelp gulls are common.
A hide-cum-interpretation centre has been built at the site where visitors can observe and film at close quarters the activities of these resolute birds.
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