Generally referred to as Yzerfontein salt pans just outside the village of Yzerfontein, the larger pans are no longer accessible to the public as they are now a gypsum works.
However, two smaller ephemeral pans known as Rooi Pan in the same area are worth a visit for a pleasant few hours coastal birding and open to the public.
Local groups have created a nature reserve of the area with coastal strandveld and fynbos bordering the pans.
Rooi pan is a good example of ephemeral pans. They usually hold water after winter rains attracting good numbers of coastal and wetland species. In summer the water evaporates gradually until the pans are dry. This increases the salinity which attracts different species in summer.
In winter small flocks of both Lesser and Greater Flamingo feed here, with significant numbers of roosting African Black Oystercatcher always present. Equally large tern roosts can be seen; Swift and Common Tern (in winter and summer), Caspian Tern is often present. Sandwich Tern adds to the numbers in summer. Look out for Little Tern which has been recorded in summer.
Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gull are always present, as are Black-winged Stilt and Avocet.
Great White Pelican occasionally roost when the pans are full. White-fronted and Kittlitz’s Plover can be seen and nest in the area.
During summer, palearctic migrant waders occur, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plover, Sanderling. European Oystercatcher a vagrant, has occurred more than once.
In the surrounding strandveld Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Bulbul, Bokmakierie, Pied Starling, Cape Wagtail are all common, as are Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Weaver, Cape Bunting, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbird. Black Harriers can also be seen hunting low over the strandveld.
An additional birding option after the pans can be made to the coast at Yzerfontein village and harbour. Bank Cormorant does breed on the small offshore island of Yzerklip (Meeurots) and often many thousands of Cape Cormorant are seen flying low over the water in long flocks going to roost on the island or around the harbour.
In summer during strong winds and bad weather flocks of Sabine’s Gull come close inshore to the harbour to roost in sheltered waters in the evenings.
Access to Rooi Pan, coming from Cape Town is along the R27 West Coast Road, turning left at the Yzerfontein/Darling intersection. Continue along this road, past the Blombosch lodge road, past the Afmine gypsum works road (both these are locked gates) to a right turn onto a gravel road signposted ‘Strandkombuis and Captain’s Cabins. Private property is on the right further down, so do not be put-off by ‘private property’ signs, this is public access.
This gravel road winds through good coastal strandveld that in spring, after rains, has spectacular floral displays. The road swings left, note signs ‘Nature Reserve’ and direction to the Strandkombuis restaurant, which shortly brings you to Rooi Pan, left and right of the road. Viewing can be done anywhere from here down to the restaurant. The larger left hand pan generally has more birds but do not ignore the right hand pan, a road does travel along the west side of this pan for closer viewing.