For an unparalleled opportunity to photograph Knysna Turacos and other forest birds, a visit to The Island Nature Reserve is a must. This delightful forest haven is situated 25kms from Gqweberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) on the Seaview Road and is open every day of the week. It provides amazing birding opportunities from both the bird hide and walks along its numerous paths. Hiking is also a favourite pastime for visitors.
At The Island, if you sit quietly at their bird hide, the Turacos come in numbers to the man-made water fountain in a small forest thicket. Although they remain somewhat shy, if you avoid startling them, they do come in, allowing you to capture amazing pictures of them. It’s a treat to watch these beautiful birds bathing and drinking, along with the other regulars who use the fountain.
We were very excited to have the White-starred Robin come to bathe, joined by other uncommon birds for us, such as the Lemon Dove, the Tambourine Dove and the Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. The bright Greater-collared Sunbirds were ever present, as were the Cape White-eyes, Forest Canaries and Dark-backed Weavers. The gorgeous Paradise Flycatcher also came in briefly to drink. Both the Terrestrial Brownbul and the Sombre Greenbul paid a visit to the fountain.
The grounds around the bird hide are filled with indigenous trees, and the calls of the turacos, cuckoos and tinkerbirds filled the air. There are several picnic spots, with tables and barbeque facilities, making this area lovely to visit.
During our time at the hide, it was visited by a sweet little Blue Duiker and a family of Vervet Monkeys. The monkeys, although entertaining, did keep the birds away until they left. It was a pleasant diversion, however, and we didn’t begrudge the time they spent in the area.
As this is a popular destination for families wanting to hike and picnic over a weekend, we would recommend visiting on weekdays, if possible, for a more peaceful bird-watching experience. Entry is free for members of Birdlife South Africa, if you produce your membership card.
Definitely well worth the short drive from the national road, this is a birder’s paradise and should not be missed.