About Swartkops Estuary

It might be right in the heart of urban living but the Swartkops Estuary, 8 km north of Port Elizabeth, and its adjacent salt pans are a highlight for any bird fundi intent on sighting estuarine waders and terns.

Did you know? The Swartkops Estuary forms part of the Zwartkops Conservancy that includes the Swartkops Valley (on the estuary's north bank)and Aloe nature reserve, protecting succulent thicket.

Over 10 000 waterbirds summer here. As such Swartkops is regarded as one of the best birding venues in Port Elizabeth, and certainly one of the most important estuaries for waterbirds in the province. It also has the third largest area of salt marsh in the country.

The estuary has IBA status (a globally important bird area) and 18 South African Red Data species occur here, 10 of which you should be able to see on a daily basis.

Go at low tide (essential) and allow at least three hours' viewing to spot birds. Migrants are resident during summer (from Russia and even Siberia), and include grey plover, curlew sandpiper and wimbrel.

Not only is the estuary the most important natural area in the Nelson Mandela Bay, it is also one of the most important estuaries in the country. The reason for this, strangely enough, is not the birds - although over 200 species make the estuary their home, depending on the time of year – but the huge number and variety of invertebrates, also known as bait species. These are a source of food for the many fish in the inter-tidal mud banks.

There are not only salt pans, but fresh water pans as well. These are also attractive to water birds attracting further numbers to the estuary, so that in certain years the total number of birds in the area has numbered 20 000 or more. The estuary also acts as an important fish nursery, with a permanently open tidal inlet connecting it to Algoa Bay.

To reach Swartkops Estuary travel east on the N2 from Port Elizabeth towards Grahamstown and look out for Swartkops and Bluewater Bay signs.

Need to Know

WhereSwartkops Estuary, Redhouse, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Telephone+27 (0) 41 582 2575

OvernightStay in Port Elizabeth Accommodation, Eastern Cape


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