Sea Birding Pelagic Trips South Africa, Cape Town Pelagics


  Resources - Seawatching from the Cape Peninsula


Those who don't trust their sea legs may consider taking their telescopes out on a windy day and gazing out to sea to search for pelagic seabirds that are blown inshore. Although the popularity of this pastime has declined recently due to the increased availability of pelagic birding trips, there are still some sites worth visiting on the Peninsula if you are a hardened seawatcher.

In winter, seawatching is best on the western side of the Peninsula when a strong northwesterly is blowing. Try to find a position elevated enough to preclude your quarry dipping infuriatingly behind the wave troughs, and if possible sheltered from light rain squalls.


The best spots are at the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point in the Cape of Good Hope reserve, and the village of Kommetjie on the Peninsula's Atlantic seaboard. Even the casual seawatcher is bound to see a sprinkling of Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwater just offshore. If there is a strong wind, Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses may also be seen, with regular appearances made by Sub-Antarctic Skua, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Yellow-nosed Albatross, Wilson's Storm Petrel and Broad-Billed Prion.

In spring, summer and autumn, the persistent southeasterly winds produce good seawatching and the best vantage points are Glencairn and Cape Point. Glencairn, made famous by dedicated seawatcher Mike Fraser, is a small suburb on the east coast of the Peninsula found between Fish Hoek and Simon's Town. The best vantage point here is the whale-watching site 1 km north of the railway station. The seawatching is best in spring and late summer (October and February-March) on the first or second day of the southeaster. Birds are blown into False Bay and are best viewed in the late afternoon as they move south, out of the bay. Most common are Cape Gannet, Arctic Skua, Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel. Less common but regular nonetheless are Pomarine Skua and Cory's Shearwater. Scarcer still are Soft-plumaged Petrel, Great Shearwater and Long-tailed Skua.

In summer, scan offshore from the Mouille Point Lighthouse, just west of Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for distant flocks of Sabine's Gull (October to April), Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel, Arctic Skua and Swift Tern.