Bird Island Nature Reserve, Western Cape
The worlds most accessible Cape gannet colony can be found on an island, linked to Lamberts Bay by a breakwater wall. Bird Island also gives shelter to thousands of cormorants and penguins, whilst Cape fur seals can still be found on the rocks on the sea side of the island.
The three hectare Bird Island Nature Reserve is an important breeding and roosting site for this cacophonous and, on the face of it, unruly bunch of birds that serves as both an environmental educational opportunity, and a tourist attraction of note. Bird Island is one of only six sites where Cape gannets breed in the world. It is also the only breeding site that the public can so easily access, although, on the downside, the breakwater has also given domestic cats access to ripe pickings, particularly the chicks and eggs. One can also reach the island by ferry.
It also means that visitors are less subject to the incredibly strong smell of guano, collected from the island between 1888 and 1990 for use in fertilisers and known as white gold. As a result of this regular collecting, the penguin community sharply declined, particularly because their eggs were regarded as a delicacy. Penguins are being encouraged back. Visitors to the island can also explore an aquarium, auditorium, penguin pool, curio shop and coffee shop, and there is a video on the history of the island available in a number of different languages.
Visiting hours are from 07h00 to 19h00 in summer, and until 17h00 in winter. Entrance may be prohibited if rough seas make it too dangerous to cross the breakwater. Visitors are however warned to be very careful at all times.