Birds Of Eden, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay

1st June 2010

A visit to Birds of Eden is truly special. Beneath a cathedral-like structure of support masts and wire mesh, a wooden boardwalk wends its way through 1.5 kilometres of indigenous forest, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with our feathered friends. The birds are used to the presence of people and tend to fly by in close proximity to visitors and even perch on one’s shoulder. Birds of Eden however, enforces a strict policy of no touching, no feeding and no interference with its wingéd wonders. Feeding trays are placed at strategic points along the sides of the boardwalk allowing visitors to obtain a better view of the birds.

I was fortunate enough to be taken on a walk through Birds of Eden recently by the manager of the enterprise, Lee Dekker. The whole experience left me gobsmacked and awestruck. The aviary is set betwixt hills and a valley and is a veritable fairyland of sights, sounds and sensations. The indigenous forest has a mystical, enchanted quality about it, is filled with the singing of birds and is a pastiche of verdancy, texture and contrast . High overhead birds fly and glide at will beneath a structure that is imposing rather than captive. More than that, at Birds of Eden a river runs through it, so that the gurgling and sloshing of water provides a lovely backdrop to the encounter. Half of the passerines at Birds of Eden are from Africa and the other half come from other countries of the world. On our traverse through the sanctuary we were able to see the Blue and Gold Macaw at first hand – a sensational bird exhibiting plumage of bright iridescent turquoise and cobalt blue complement by secondaries in a blazing golden yellow. The Scarlet Ibis from the Americas exhibits a coat of cadmium red and is an amazing sight. Equally eye catching is the Aracaris and the Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot.

Birds of Eden is a wonderful destination for school outings and a 200 seat capacity amphitheatre provides space for instruction and task work.

The venue has also hosted church services, a christening and a wedding; it could serve just as well for organisational seminars and team building exercises. Said Dekker during the course of our walk “Many local residents purchase a season ticket at a cost of R300 and come to walk through the aviary once a week, because they enjoy it so much”.

Dekker also commented on how visitors are usually bowled over by the adventure of experiencing Birds of Eden for the first time, with remarks such as “This is a complete wow. I’ve never seen anything like it before”

The boardwalk begins at the level of the forest floor and zigzags its way up to the canopy of the trees so that different birds can be observed in a range of habitats. Along the way there is a waterfall, a misty valley that simulates a rain forest and a spectacular suspension bridge. Prior to the end of the delineated route a lake provides refuge for a number of aquatic birds, including a pair of handsome black swans.

A restaurant facility overlooks the lake, but is closed at present for want of a capable catering organization to run the food outlet; a pity since a light meal with liquid refreshment, at the end of a walk through Birds of Eden would seem the perfect way to end such a fabulous outing.

When vagrant birds are brought to Birds of Eden they are assessed individually and go through a process of rehabilitation and learning to fly again over a period of time that may last from a few weeks to three months. Inculcating the /modus operandi/ of flight back to a bird may sound strange but caged birds usually have lost this facility entirely and have to be taught again one of their most basic life skills.

A good deal of the success of Birds of Eden can be attributed to the high profile promotion of the facility by Marketing Manager, Lara Mostert lara@monkeyland.co.za   The result is that Plettenberg Bay can boast a free flight aviary of international standard. An enthusiastic team of 32 people, all drawn from local communities, provide staffing of the reception area, guided tours, supervision, cleaning and maintenance such that everything is kept in tip-top condition.

Birds of Eden is located 24 kilometres to the north of Plettenberg Bay along the N2 highway and a short turn-off, that is clearly signposted.

In order to make your visit worthwhile set aside two to three hours. Our walk through the sanctuary took just under two hours, during the early part of the morning, from 08h00 until 10h00 and was quite delightful.

Later that same day, the boardwalk was thronged with coach loads of international tourists. Cost of admission is R150 per adult and R75 for children up to the age of 12 years (under 3's are free of charge). Senior citizens in advance of 60 years of age pay 10% less. Hours of opening are from 08h00 until 17h00 every day of the year. You can book a tour online now-a-days too!

Birds of Eden can be contacted either by telephone at 044 534 8906 / 0796467474 / 0829795683 or by Email at info@birdsofeden.co.za  

There is an excellent website at www.birdsofeden.co.za that is well worth perusing prior to any planned outing. For visitors to The Garden Route, an excursion to Birds of Eden will be one of the highlights of a holiday.

*Combine a visit to Birds of Eden with a visit to Monkeyland. You can book your combo walking safari here.

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