Exploring Bitou’s Birding Wonders: Plett Tourism hosts BirdLife SA & journalists 

An avitourism sanctuary at Kwendalo
Published: March 20th, 2024
by Plett Tourism Team

Exploring Bitou’s Birding Wonders: Plett Tourism hosts BirdLife South Africa and nature journalists

In a harmonious collaboration between Plett Tourism, the Garden Route & Klein Karoo (GR&KK) and Birdlife South Africa, nature and birding journalists were hosted on a media trip in Plettenberg Bay that took them to various sites in the Bitou Area including a sneak peek at the new bird hide at Kwendalo Wellness Farm, the Bitou Bird Hide Project and a visit to Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre.

The Garden Route and Klein Karoo (GR&KK) is a world-renowned ecotourism destination with a diversity of habitats ranging from forest to fynbos and from marine to montane. This range of habitats hosts more than 450 species of birds – over half of South Africa’s bird species. Just under 50 of the country’s 69 endemic and near-endemic bird species, which occur nowhere else in the world, are found in this region.

Views from the Kwendalo Bird Hide ideal for birding in Plett
Views from the Kwendalo Bird Hide

The Avitourism Project aims to effectively develop and market these enviable birding tourism assets and to establish the GR&KK as a premier birding destination to unlock additional tourism income and employment opportunities from this niche market. As such, avi-tourism is recognised as an exciting addition to the tourism offering in Plettenberg Bay.

The focus of the media visit was to showcase the new bird hide at Kwandalo, the upgrade and reopening of the Bitou Bird Hide project, with accommodation and dinner hosted by Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation & Awareness Centre. Plett Tourism played host, alongside Kwendalo and Birdlife SA, during a lunch media tour at Kwendalo’s Green Cafe during the visit. The Plett Tourism Association was represented by CEO, Patty Butterworth, and the Plett Trails Network was represented by Frank Carlisle, owner of Bhejane Tours and coordinator of the Bitou Bird Hide project, and local guide Justin Bonado from the Kranshoek community.

“At Plett Tourism, we believe in the importance of maintaining and developing new relationships with journalists and media representatives to ensure accurate and favourable coverage of our town, and in particular the tourism industry. We encourage building positive relationships with the media, which in turn assists us to effectively manage both our association and the town’s reputation to the industry and to potential travellers,’ says Plett Tourism CEO Patty Butterworth.

The new Kwendalo Bird Hide – built in collaboration with BirdLife Plettenberg Bay – was officially launched at an intimate ceremony a  few days later. From seasoned birdwatchers to curious novices, this natural viewpoint offers a serene space on the vlei and a haven for all who seek solace in nature’s winged wonders.

Dr Matthew Zylstra, programme director and conservation ecologist at the Kwendalo Institute expands from birding into wellness: “Many people are unaware of the health and wellbeing advantages of birdwatching. Along with the better-known benefits of physical activity and being outdoors, birdwatching, specifically, has been shown to promote better mental health (e.g. mood, stress reduction), creativity (e.g. cognitive flexibility) and attention restoration (e.g. reduced mental fatigue).”

Dr Matt Zylstra introducing Kwendalo
Dr Matt Zylstra introducing Kwendalo

Dr. Zylstra – a specialist in the science of nature connectedness – emphasises that birding is one of the best gateways into a deepened sense of connection with nature. He explains: “Birdwatching also supports mindfulness, multi-sensory engagement and social connection. It is increasingly being recognised as an effective therapeutic intervention. This aligns with the Kwendalo Institute’s Nature Referrals (NRx) programme currently being piloted with healthcare professionals with the aim of enabling them to feel confident to formally ‘prescribe’ nature-based activities as a complementary lifestyle medicine intervention.”

Media representation on the tour included journalists from Farmers Weekly, Landbou Weekblad, Daily Maverick, Weg! & Go!, Platteland, Sunday Times Travel, dpa German Press Agency, The Herald’s Weekend Post, African Birdlife, and instagrammer, Jennifer Rendie.

About Plett Tourism:

Plett Tourism is a leading authority in promoting sustainable tourism and preserving the natural beauty of Plettenberg Bay. Committed to fostering a harmonious relationship between visitors and the environment, Plett Tourism strives to create unforgettable experiences while safeguarding the region’s ecological integrity.

Plett Tourism welcomes all businesses from the tourism industry of the greater Bitou area. The Association provides a platform for collaboration, networking, and advocacy within the industry and the community. With a growing membership, we are able to strengthen credibility and influence for the local industry, allowing us to effectively represent the interests of our members to private and public stakeholders.