Posted on the 31st May 2010

A BIRD’S EYE VIEW - Opening of Rooisands Bird Hide at the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa.

(The new bird hide at Rooisands was officially launched on Friday and we have adapted this press release to mark the opening of the hide - Ed.)

The Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa and Cape Nature, together with BirdLife South Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Hangklip-Kleinmond Tourism, have officially opened the newly constructed bird hide at Rooisands Nature Reserve on Friday, 28 May 2010. The new bird hide is a valuable addition to the Overberg Birding Route and will further promote the Overberg’s avian riches amongst local and international birding fraternities and within the South African bird-watching tourism sector. The bird hide opening coincided with the launch of the Overberg’s inaugural Biodiversity Festival, which ran between 26th and 29th May at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens.

Rooisands Nature Reserve, which borders the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa and is under the hotel’s curatorship from CapeNature, forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The construction of the bird hide and walkways are part of the hotel’s phase 2 development and their mandate from CapeNature to create accessibility to the Rooisands Nature Reserve for the surrounding local communities.

Immature Little Bittern

Says Friedrich Schaefer, Area General Manager – Arabella Starwood South Africa, “There is so much natural beauty and outdoor adventure activities around the hotel, and bird-watching on and around the estate is truly fascinating. Our golfers and hotel guests often see rare birds on their annual migration or nesting on the estate and lagoon. The new bird-watching facilities in the Rooisands Reserve makes one of the top bird watching spots in South Africa accessible to the novice and serious minded bird-watching community alike. The wild horses also living in the reserve may also be observed.”

Says Riaan Gous, Executive Director for Arabella Starwood SA, “We worked with Birdlife SA, local bird club members, CapeNature and others to ensure there is little to no impact on the environment, and we anticipate that the reserve will attract school children learning about our ecology, as well as local, national and international bird watchers.” Bird-watching tourism is regarded as one of the fastest growing ecotourism segments in South Africa and a major Western Cape tourist attraction. As one of the top birding destinations in the world, bird watching is a key element in revenue generating eco-tourism in South Africa. The Overberg Birding Route encompasses diverse ecosystems, giving bird enthusiasts an opportunity of birding in mountain, coastal, river and estuarine habitats. The region is home to a vast array of birds such as the Blue Crane, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rock-Jumper, Cape Siskin, Victorin's Warbler, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Black Harrier, Cape Penguin and African Black Oystercatcher.

Pied kingfisher with catch

Says Anton Odendal, chairman of BirdLife Overberg “The Kogelberg region between Kleinmond and Rooiels is one of the most underrated bird-watching destinations in the Western Cape province. Several great birding hotspots such as the Botriver estuary, Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, Stony Point and Rooiels are found here and give easy and safe access to many endemic bird species. The new Rooisands bird hide will add significantly to the area's already impressive birding tourism infrastructure, and the Biodiversity Festival will serve to not only introduce the birding potential of the region to the broader public, but to also illustrate how BirdLife South Africa and SANBI could collaborate towards the conservation of the environment in general.”

The Overberg region is also the centre of the famous Cape Floral Kingdom, well-known for its prolific fynbos vegetation, with more than 8 600 plant species, many of which are unique to the area. The Harold Porter Botanicals Gardens, set between mountain and sea, encompasses 10 hectares of cultivated fynbos garden and more than 190 hectares of pristine natural Cape fynbos. The Overberg has an excellent year-round tourist infrastructure and visitors to the area will enjoy legendary hospitality, fine wines and food and an abundance of eco-tourism activities, including mountaineering, biking, hiking, nature walks and running trails, as well as eco-quad biking, horse riding and eco-marine activities.

The Rooisands bird hide was designed by architect and Deputy Chairman of BirdLife South Africa, Vernon Head. Construction of the hide was carried out by sustainable contractors Touching the Earth Lightly and project managed by Atvantage, under supervision by CapeNature, the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa and an appointed advisory committee. The hide, a proud statement in conservation “best-practice,” is made entirely out of alien invasive timber sourced from within local Cape Town nature-reserves. Clearing invasive alien timber from within local nature reserves supports fynbos restoration in previously infested “high-value” conservation areas and increases water run-off in local catchment systems to adjacent communities. Alien invasive timber used in construction of the hide includes Pine trees, Black Wattle, Australian Wattle and River Red Gum; species which are known to choke the water catchment systems country-wide. The project team also followed the example set by the Working for Water Program and used the construction of the bird hide as a local job-creation opportunity. All new developments were built using local un-skilled labor from the Kleinmond informal settlement.

The wheelchair-friendly walkway

The bird hide is positioned to afford birders optimal bird viewing opportunities, overlooking the Rooisands Estuary and the spectacular Botriver Lagoon, the largest natural lagoon in South Africa. Visitors to the hide enter via a 60 meter, wheelchair-friendly walkway covered on both sides with alien timber latte, which obscures human traffic from birds’ view. Once inside, visitors have a choice of four seated angles to view from, all through discrete viewing slots that open and close from the inside. Arm rests provide space for birding books, binoculars, water bottles and personal belongings. Each winter the bird hide will be either fully or partially surrounded by water, attracting different bird species to the area. There is also a pleasant water’s edge hike to two simple and rustic lunch deck’s which also afford excellent bird-viewing opportunities, particularly for viewing the impressive flamingo flocks which reside in the Rooisands Reserve.

The Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa is the first accredited bird-friendly luxury hotel to be recognised by BirdLife South Africa. Says Robert Kucera, General Manager of the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa, “We have established the Arabella Community Bird Watching & Conservation Club, members of which will enjoy preferred hotel accommodation rates. As part of the hotel’s Skills Development Programme and commitment to responsible tourism and sustainable job creation, local bird guides, drawn from the surrounding communities, will be identified and trained by the hotel.” To further promote the Overberg Birding Route, BirdLife Overberg, together with BirdLife South Africa is in the process of developing a detailed visitor information brochure and bird checklist.

The Rooisands hide

The inaugural Biodiversity Festival, launched by SANBI and BirdLife Overberg is aimed at both bird and plant lovers, and promises to be an enriching experience for nature enthusiasts of any level. The lineup includes lectures presented by field authorities, exhibits, outings and hikes guided by birders and plant experts. The festival programme also included The Flight for Birders identification and conservation course, presented on the 26th and 27th May by Anton Odendal. The purpose of this course was the creation of a birding interest group for the Kogelberg region. The course covered the basic steps in the identification of birds, with emphasis on locating rare and endemic birds in southern Africa, and also educated bird-watchers on bird conservation.

For more information or to join the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa social networks, please visit their website: or call Tel: 028 284 0000, or

[Source: BirdLife Overberg, Touching the Earth Lightly and Atvantage Project Managers]

Compiled and submitted on behalf of Arabella Starwood Hotels by:



TEL: 021 762 9117 /

The entrance to the walkway
Cape Siskin









View of water that should come closer after more rain


Panoramic view from the Rooisands hide










The turn-off is clearly signposted on the R44











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