Another wonderful birding drive in the Garden Route starts near Klein Brak River, a route that is most rewarding in summer, when the non-breeding migrants are back from Europe and Asia (from November to April).

Geelbekvlei Birding Drive

This route takes you past a variety of habitats including riparian forest, thicket, farmland, farm dams, rivers and salt marshes. Coming along the N2 from George or Mossel Bay, as you pass by Klein Brak River, take the 401 off-ramp from the N2 onto the R102, and head north. Continue until you reach the T-junction – if you turn left the R102 leads to Hartenbos, and if you turn right you will go to Sorgfontein (known as Moordkuil Sint on Google maps). Turn right here and head in the direction of Sorgfontein and Botlierskop.

This road will lead you past lush green pastureland and soon you will arrive at the bridge over the Moordkuil River. This small river meanders through riparian forest-like vegetation and several sought-after bird species have been recorded at this bridge, including the Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot. Shortly after this bridge, and after you have passed the turn-off to Botlierskop (a detour worth exploring), there is a split in the road where the tar road goes up to the right (leading to Oudtshoorn), and a gravel road veers off to the left (leading to Brandwag). Take the gravel road to the left. According to Google Maps this is the Blesbok road, but it is actually the Geelbekvlei Road.

After a short drive along the Geelbekvlei Road you will notice a large dam with reedbeds on the left. This dam is a good place to look for various waterbirds including African Darter and African Swamphen. Scan the open fields surrounding the dam (and those fields surrounding the nearby Riverside Holiday Resort), as these plains sometimes sport flocks of Black-winged Lapwing and Blue Crane. Continuing past the turn-off to Riverside (note that here the road makes a sharp bend to the right) and on towards the river, you will drive alongside a small drainage line with low-growing Sweet Thorn Woodland on the left and Succulent Thicket on the right (against the hillside). Listen for the melodious call of the Willow Warbler in the woodland, a summer visitor to this area, and for the loud whistles of the Southern Tchagra in the Thicket.

Continue until you reach the Brandwag River. This river joins up with the Moordkuil River to form the Klein Brak River. At this point the road again turns sharply to the right; you can park on the left, overlooking the river. Here you will also notice an old low-water bridge going across the river. In this area you should scan the riverbank for Common Sandpiper, Water Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover and Kittlitz’s Plover. Also check the fence posts for Pied Kingfisher and even Giant Kingfisher. The salt marshes beyond the low-water bridge and up-river from the place is known as Geelbekvlei, an excellent feeding area for various waders such as Ruff, different species of sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts. Keep a careful lookout for these birds as you drive further along the gravel road with the salt marshes on your left.

Once you have left the marshland, you will pass farmland where you can find various LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) such as African Pipit and Red-capped Lark. Also look out overhead for birds of prey and scan the open fields for Denham’s Bustard. Before long you will reach the low-water bridge crossing over the Brandwag River. Here the lush riverine vegetation is home to many smaller birds, such as canaries and waxbills, coming down to the water to drink. Listen for the songs of warblers, hiding away in the vegetation. Not 100 m further along the road you will reach the T-junction with the R328. From here you can turn left and return to Hartenbos/Mossel Bay and the N2 intersection, and return to the N2 the same way you came.