This reserve is an avian oasis only 10 km along the N1 from the centre of Cape Town. It is located within the Century City, an area of upmarket development. Intaka (bird in the Xhosa language) is a 16-ha area of wetlands and bush habitat completely surrounded by a canal – hence an “island”. Located 100m from the Canal Walk shopping centre, which hosts 20 million visitors annually, the Intaka reserve remains amazingly tranquil and, because entry over the canal is controlled, is perfectly safe, even for single ladies.
Intaka has two distinct halves. One is an area of seasonal pans surrounded by natural strandveld bush habitat. This area has been preserved to protect some rare plant species. The pans flood from June to September (sometimes as late as November) and then support Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-winged Stilts, Water and Spotted Thick-knees, and sometimes Greater Flamingoes and even Great White Pelicans.
The other half of Intaka is totally artificial yet supports most of the birds. It has been created from a sandy area formerly covered in alien scrub. In this 8-ha section there are 4 wetlands -2 reedbeds, a small lake, and a wet marsh. These waterbodies are surrounded by a range of largely indigenous bushes and trees. The wetlands are small but very productive of aquatic insects. These support a range of insectivorous birds including African Reed and Lesser Swamp Warblers as well as White-throated Swallows (summer), Brown-throated Martins. Nectar bearing plants attract Southern Double-collared and (seasonally) Malachite Sunbirds.
Bird use of Intaka has been monitored monthly across the past 20 years. Though such a small area, and surrounded by near continuous urban development, 120 bird species have been recorded. 40-60 species can usually be seen across a 1-3-hour visit. There are two bird hides – one, much used by photographers – and a small hill, “Bird Mountain”, which provides views across the lake towards Table Mountain. There are well maintained walkways through this section of the reserve (few people visit the pan area though there is a path around it).
Formerly 11 species of wading birds, including spoonbills, black-crowned night herons and glossy ibis, bred within 10 m of the visitor entrance but, unfortunately, they have been displaced by predatory water mongooses. Efforts are being made to get these waterbirds to return. Branch Islets structures in the lakelet are used by breeding Reed and White-breasted Cormorants and African Darters. Three species of Kingfishers occur –Pied and Malachite seen daily, the Giant occasionally. The best place to see passerines is from the little bridge between wetlands 2 and 3 where Cape Canaries and Cape Bulbuls amongst other birds come to drink and bathe in the flowing water. Little Bittern and Purple Heron breed in the reedbeds. Male Southern Red Bishops -like buzzing flying tomatoes – can be seen close by in August-October. Peregrine Falcons breed on an adjacent building. Greater Painted Snipe and African Spoonbills occur in the marsh where Baillon’s Crake has been recorded.
This is an excellent reserve to get acquainted with the range of birds common within greater Cape Town. A visit can easily be combined with shopping or eating in the upmarket Canal Walk shopping centre.
Intaka is a very popular outing for school groups during weekday mornings and parking can then be problematic but the children are well controlled and seldom disturb birders.
Intaka is easily reached from the N1 national road. Turn off the N1 at Sable Road – and travel down the main Boulevard to the end of the high rise buildings then turn right to a small circle, again right, and then left to reach the parking which is next to two antique locomotives (this is all signposted -maps available on the Century City website). The entry building has toilets, and a continuous slide show of birds photographed in the reserve.
Boat rides around the extensive canal system are available. These offer further birding, and the ability to stop off at the shopping centre. It is best to check the Century City website for details -with maps, boat times, and the modest entry fees.
Entry fees current December 2019
Day Visitors: Adult R22.00 Children (under 12 years) R13.00 Pensioners R13.00
Add Boat Ride (Booking is Essential) Day Visitors: Adult R65.00 Children (under 12 years) R55.00 Pensioners R55.00