Birds of Eden just outside Plettenberg Bay is one of the most awesome attractions on the Garden Route. I used to visit it quite often when I was a tourist guide and recently had an opportunity to pop in there with a couple of friends. This is the second visit to Birds of Eden that I'm posting about and I'm sure it won't be the last.
The two hectare Birds of Eden dome spans over a gorge of indigenous forest and covers the world's largest free flight aviary with over 200 bird species. Personally I think its best to get there early in the morning before there are too many people about and while its still cool and most of the birds are active. Its really something else walking through the forest with the sound of literally hundreds of bids in your ears.
The first section of the more than one kilometer walkway snakes through the forest from the reception area down towards a forest stream. This part of Birds of Eden is ideal to spot the forest dwelling birds like loeries and hornbills as well as macaws and conures up in the canopy. Other than actually spotting a loerie up close, one of the highlights for visitors must be seeing the magnificent Golden Pheasant scratching around in the undergrowth.
There are guided walks available through Birds of Eden and the guides are extremely knowledgeable, pointing out and naming birds before you even see them. Because I've been to the park so often before I decided not to go on the guided tour this time around which was a good call as the group was quite big and I wanted to stop and listen to the birds and not people chattering.
Some of the best spots to see birds along the walkway are at the feeding platforms. These platforms contain water, seed and fruit and gets cleaned and restocked every morning before sunrise so that the birds don't associate people with the food.
The canopy walk suspension bridge takes visitors right up into the trees with great views down into the forested gorge. From here you also have a literal bird's eye view as some of the birds swoop down from the tree tops skimming close overhead.
As visitors exit the forest a whole new habitat comes alive. This section contains grassland, marsh, woodlands and waterway birds and is the part where you will see the greatest number of birds due to the openness of the area. The fact that there aren't a lot of big trees around also gives you the opportunity to see the birds flying overhead.
Every time I visit the park the bird that amazes me the most is the scarlet ibis. I get the grey hadida ibis visiting me at home and sometimes see the sacred ibis along the road in places, but these brilliant red birds just take my breath away. As I drive away from the park I always think how lucky these birds are to be kept in such a big natural environment compared to some of the small aviaries that I have seen at places.