Game Reserves in Eastern CapeGhio Wetland Nature Reserve
The Ghio pans lie barely inland of Kenton-on-Sea on the floodplain of the Bushmans River. During times of drought they dry out completely, which is why they are described as either 'erratically flooded pans' or 'a wetland that is sometimes dry'.
The pans form part of any Eastern Cape birder's itinerary because of the number of waterbirds when the pans are in flood. The valley floor tends to flood for long periods after rain, but can lie dry for months on end.
Birds found on the pans include African spoonbills, Cape shovelers, black-winged stilts, little stints, ruffs, common terns, greater flamingo, Kittlitz's plover, osprey, southern pochard and even black storks, southern ground hornbills and whiskered terns. Recently rare sightings of African jacanas and Baillon's crake have caused excitement amongst local birders.
There is a bird hide in amongst the pans for close viewing – follow the rather overgrown path to the hide - but a good vantage point also occurs from the road for good views over the pans (with reason, as the reserve has rhinos). With binoculars it shouldn't be difficult to spot waders, ducks, sand pipers and ruffs. Black-winged stilts and blacksmith plovers, as well as ducks, breed in the reserve.
The pans form part of the Ghio (or Ngciyo) Wetland Reserve. They are under severe threat from influx of sewage from nearby ostrich farm paddocks, resulting in less daphnia in the water (tiny aquatic crustaceans commonly known as water fleas) and thus fewer breeding birds.
The nature reserve does not only provide a sanctuary for birds. Look out for white rhino, eland, springbuck, impala and ostrich. Take along a pair of gumboots when the pans are in flood.
To reach the pans drive towards Alexandria on the R72 in the direction of Port Alfred. 16 km past Alexandria turn left onto a gravel road signposted Ngciyo/Emlanjeni and cross the bridge over the Bushmans River. There should be a sign showing the pans. Enter the reserve via a pedestrian gate.