Rooi Els is a small, yet extremely well known birding location about 80 kilometers east of Cape Town. It is located around the coast after Gordon’s Bay and just before Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay. It’s close proximity to Betty’s Bay often sees the two accessed together by birding groups. The area is also extremely safe, especially compared to some other birding locations and I am not aware of any incidents that have occurred at this site.
The reason why Rooi Els is such a popular location is primarily thanks to a single species the Cape Rockjumper, an endemic species which has very few reliable locations, of which Rooi Els is probably the best known and easiest to access. Ground Woodpecker are another special that are quite reliably found here, though it can require a bit of luck as some days, despite great conditions the birds don’t seem to be around. This may make a few trips required before being able to see these species.
The main birding route is easily accessed by a gravel path which leads to a gate, at the gate there is a small area for parking. One then enters around the gate and begins the walk along the pathway. Near the entrance it is common to see a variety of Sunbirds as well as Cape Sugarbird. Cape Bunting, Familiar Chat and Cape Rock Thrush can also be found quite regularly along the path. Keeping an eye on the sky and the tops of the cliffs, you may be able to see one of the Black Eagles, which can sometimes be seeing soaring overhead. Other raptors in the area include Peregrine Falcons, Jackal Buzzard and more.
If you’re lucky you’ll also have the possibility of encountering Sentinel Rock Thrush here, though are much less frequently seen than the Cape Rock Thrush, which are abundant in the area.
While Rooi Els is not known for its sea birding, it is possible to encounter some unique sea birds from the shore line that many often rely on pelagic cruises for. During winter storms you can occasionally see Shy Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Cape Gannet and perhaps a Petrel or two. Birding would be best done here with a spotting scope, as the birds do tend to stay quite far off shore and only occasionally may come within view of the naked eye.
At the Rooi Els river mouth, there is a good Tern roost where you can see large numbers of both gulls and terns. In early February 2017 there were even 2 different Elegant Terns recorded at this roost. Other birds here include White Fronted Plovers, African Black Oystercatchers and more.