There is a lot to do in Lamberts Bay, but the highlight is a visit to the Cape Gannet Colony on Bird Island. Not only will birders and nature lovers be spellbound, every visitor will be, including children

Statue of Driftwood Harry

At the entrance introduce yourself to Driftwood Harry. This huge statue of a seaman made from driftwood and regarded as the Guardian of the Sea and all its creatures was interesting and amusing. I couldn’t resist having a photo taken of myself holding his hand.

The path to the hide is covered in seashells and it is here you have your first view of this huge colony of thousands of gannets. A large whale bone faces the colony where visitors can rest while watching these gannets go about their business.

Cheryl holding hands with Driftwood Harry
Whale Bone bench in front of Gannet Colony, Bird Island

Watching Cape Gannets is Entertaining

The hide has two levels. The bottom level has two-way glass so its possible to be very close to the birds without disturbing them. Upstairs it is open (only has a roof) and it is here where photographers can get wonderful photos of  the birds in flight.  Take the opportunity of chatting to the guide. His knowledge of the birds and the area is informative and interesting.

Watching these birds is entertaining. They are all huddled together – no space for anyone else. That is until one comes flying in over the colony, sees his mate and decides to land. With his tail spread wide, webbed feet comically sticking out sideways, wings hunched up he starts his decent. Ignoring the warnings from birds below yelling ‘warrah, urrah’ he lands with a clumsy thump. Somehow the rest move out the way and the mate warmly preens him before they start their mating ritual of bill scissoring, bowing and sky pointing.

Gannets are mainly black and white with golden yellow crowns. They have pale blue pointed beaks lined with black and light silvery eyes. In my opinion they are extremely beautiful. With all their beauty you would expect them to be elegant. They certainly look it, especially when in flight. Don’t be fooled, their clumsy oafish landing spoils their reputation. I saw a few fall flat on their faces. Highly amusing.

Cape Gannet landing
Two Cape Gannets Bill scissoring
Cape Gannet landing

Look out for the Cape Fur Seals basking on the Rocks

Once you’ve had your fill, walk to the end of the pier where you will come across Kelp Gulls sunning themselves. They are photogenic and happy to pose for you.

There are a number of other birds in the mix. We saw breeding Cape Cormorants nesting on handmade posts, various terns including the Demara Tern which was a lifer for me. White-breasted cormorants are also regular visitors, as well as penguins.

At the end of the rocks is a large colony of Cape Fur Seals basking in the sun. A few returning from feeding were trying to land on the rocks. The sea was very rough and it was interesting to watch them riding the wave as it washed over the rocks.  Those that finally landed on the rocks then scrambled clumsily before the next wave hit them and washed them off again.  It all looked precarious to me.

I couldn’t help wondering how often these creatures just didn’t make it home again.

Cape Gannet in flight.

Put Bird Island with its spectacular Gannet Colony on your travel shopping list. I did, and it was worth it.

Click here to read my blog ‘A Visit to Lamberts Bay’.

Note:  Most photos were taken by Marie Lister.  I did not have my lens.  Thank you Marie, this blog would not be what it is without your photos.

Colony of Cape Gannets
Kelp Gull

Stuff you should know when visiting:

  1. Entrance to Bird Island is from the harbor where there is safe parking. The cost at the time of our visit was R5.00
  2. Entrance fee to the nature reserve is R40.00 per adult, children R20.00. If you have a Wild Card it’s free.
  3. Opening Times: Summer (Oct – Mar) : 7h00 – 19h00  Winter (Apr – Sept)   : 7h30 – 18h00
  4. The walk to the hide is easy and suitable for everyone. Just don’t cross in bad weather or high seas. Also watch your children, there is no protection on the side, you don’t want them falling off.
  5. This is birdwatchers dream, but also fantastic for photographers.
  6. There is an exhibition building with skeletons of seals, dolphins and gannets. We didn’t have time to pop in but no doubt it will be fascinating especially for children.
  7. Bird Island Nature Reserve only accessible place in the entire world to be able to watch Cape Gannets breeding.

9 Comments

  1. Rosalyn bruwer

    Beautiful next time Shane and myself go to the Cape, we will make a plan to go there, I know Shane will loved it. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Cheryl King

      Pleasure Ros. Spend a few days up the West Coast, it is a wonderful place.

      Reply
  2. Shane Bruwer

    Very good report look forward to visiting myself.
    Regards

    Reply
    • Cheryl King

      Thank you Shane. You will love taking photos there, its a photographer’s dream.

      Reply
  3. Debbie Davison

    Photography excellent! Definitely showcases the beauty of the Gannets………never knew what truly beautiful birds they were! Thanks for the article, Cheryl…….would also like to meet Driftwood Harry…..looks quite a character……really enjoy your blog…..keep the articles coming…..thank you!

    Reply
    • Cheryl King

      Thank you Debbie. Its well worth a visit, and Driftwood Harry will definitely appeal to you!!

      Reply
  4. Elle

    Oh, cool. I’ve seen the Australasian gannets here (the colony is about a half hour’s drive from my place) and also the Northern gannets when we were in Scotland. I didn’t know there were Cape gannets too!

    Reply
    • Cheryl King

      Thanks for popping by, you will have to visit us in SA now!! I visited you, loved the song that puts in you in a good mood. Had a good chuckle.

      Reply
  5. Karin

    Very interested. Love the West Coast! Stunning pics

    Reply

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