Rooisand bird hide looks out over Bot River Estuary. Pictures by Romi Boom

Situated halfway between Kleinmond and Arabella along the R44, Rooisand is an easy outing for visitors to the Whale Coast town of Hermanus. From the bird hide you can look for several species of waterbirds, including some real specials. By Romi Boom

On a sunny winter’s morning this week we set out to the Bot River estuary to explore this part of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Surprisingly we had the entire place to ourselves and upon entering the reserve, we came across a threesome of free-roaming horses which took our arrival in their stride.

The herd, which roams the flats of the estuary, comprises the descendants of horses that were abandoned after the Anglo-Boer War. They are feral but certainly not wild. There is ample grazing, including the succulent water grasses in the vlei, and green shoots everywhere despite the veld showing the charred remnants of a recent veld fire.

From the parking lot we took a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk to the hide, which is situated on the western shore of the estuary. There was water everywhere, so no particular excitement at the hide, but we were entertained by numerous blacksmith lapwings and saw little egret, Caspian tern and South African shelduck.

The Rooisand Ramble is an easy 2 hour walk of about 5km and the trail will take you to the northern side of the estuary, which usually presents far better sightings. Several species of terns abound; apart from Caspian, you may also spot common, Sandwich, swift and lesser crested tern. Believe me, identifying these can be very frustrating to a novice birder. We were hoping to spot kingfishers, osprey or African fish eagle, but no such luck. Some of the specials that will excite keen birders are African openbill, European oystercatcher, African grass-owl and Hottentot buttonquail, with southern tchagra along the access road.

Rooisand Nature Reserve, which borders the Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa, is under the hotel’s curatorship from CapeNature. For the surrounding local communities, the construction of the bird hide and walkways created employment and accessibility.

As part of the Kogelberg Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rooisand forms the more resilient buffer area of the reserve. An inland fishing license, which is required for fishing at Bot River estuary, may be obtained at the Kogelberg office.

An informative brochure called Birding in the Overberg, featuring a map and advice on the local bird life, can be obtained from Anton at [email protected].