Thursday, 17 September 2015

Birds of Eden

The Garden Route of South Africa in the region of Plettenberg Bay hosts a vast range of entertainment attractions to satisfy every whim of the diverse range of tourists that visit the coastal region. One of which I have been interested in visiting for a long time is Birds of Eden, an immense walk in aviary boasting 200 species with thousands of individual birds.

With a few days off I decided to treat the family (or myself?) to an afternoon here. Treat being the word – because with an entrance fee of R175 per adult, this is a fair whack of money for most South Africans. There are combo tickets available should one also wish to visit MonkeyLand next door (R280 for entrance to both), but since we’d been chasing hungry Vervet monkeys from our doorstep in the morning, Monkeyland just wasn’t on our wishlist.

The aviary has a very long walkway that winds through forest, with a gushing stream in the valley below. The roof is very high overhead, with plenty of flight space for the birds: staring up I felt as though I was in the fighting arena from the Hunger Games movies: just no Mocking Jays to be seen.

Food tables with very tolerant birds line the route. The bird diversity is represented by birds from all over the world, so Cape Weaver and Red-eyed Doves from Africa (probably among the most common birds) feed alongside Blue-and-Yellow Macaws and Red-faced Parakeets from South America. Spectacular Golden Pheasants fed below our feet while a variety of Turacos bounced among the branches above us.

Despite it being mid-afternoon bird activity was plentiful. The attention we could pay to the birds was frequently compromised by our kids getting sometimes a bit over-excited by the proximity of some of the more tolerant birds; but also unfortunately by wheelbarrows ferrying sand along for some construction project. The calls of birds in some places were indiscernible above the sound of compressors and machinery. Very, very annoying since we felt compelled to hurry through several hundred meters of walkway.

The highlight of the trip was Elena being courted by a Burrowing Parrot, who followed her on foot for a good section, and dropped flowers at her feet. The parrot also put in a good effort chasing off Charlie when he got too close.

Overall, if I had to give a score out of 5 it would be 2. While I’m not excited about animals in captivity, I’m not against them either if there is a strong educational and conservation motive. This is lacking at Birds of Eden, where the motivation is clearly financially driven and there is ample room for improvement. The Eden district of South Africa is home to 8 species of birds endemic to South Africa: 7 endemic to the Fynbos, and 1 to the Forest (the Knysna Warbler); yet there is no mention of these anywhere. There are also several impressive bird research and conservation projects being undertaken in the region through Mark Brown and the Nature's Valley Trust; but how or if any of these are benefiting from the Birds of Eden cash cow is not clear. 

I'm afraid to say I won't be back anytime soon. 

There are several green Turaco species in the aviary.

One of the World's most spectacular birds: Golden Pheasant (male)

Busy bird feeders with a good choice of food

Deja Vu: this photo could easily have come from my study sites in the Tambopata

White-faced Ducks and many other species look like they are at home

Scarlet Ibis is always a winner

Typical scenes from the long board walk through the aviary.

Fulvous ducks didn't get the thumbs up from the kids...
... not when your boyfriend is a Burrowing Parrot that gives you flowers!


  1. that's rather cute - to the exotic mauve lady he brings matching mauve flowers ;~)

    Yesterday we were at a talk by Jenny Cullinan about the bees at Cape Point. Hadn't realised that the winter rainfall Cape bees were so interesting and so unique. Endemic flowers, birds, and bees.

    I think the birds at Bird of Eden are sourced from unwanted exotic pets, or birds found injured - so that much, is good. A sanctuary?

    1. Thanks Di. There could certainly be more information panels or pamphlets or something provided for visitors, as it is I do not get the impression of a sanctuary (good if some of these birds are rescued birds). Nothing except the entrance is provided for, the guide book costs extra. All the birds we saw were in good condition, so they are clearly well cared for. As for our endemic bees - yes very interesting and of course very important in the garden!


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