Tsitsikama - Plettenberg Bay

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Tsitsikamma National Park is situated in the De Vasselot area of the Eastern Cape. It stretches for about 80 km from the mouth of the Groot river at Nature’s Valley in the west to another Groot river, which has its source near Kareedouw, in the east. The IBA also includes the De Vasselot Nature Reserve. The park extends 3–4 km inland along the 40–220 m high gorges of the Brak, South, Bobbejaans and Groot rivers. The coastal plain, the sheer cliffs dropping into the ocean, and the deep narrow valleys cut by rivers flowing down from the Tsitsikamma mountains are the dominant topographical features of the park. The interior is hilly, rugged, and deeply incised by narrow valleys. The impressive gorges of the Storms, Groot, Elands, Elandsbos, Lottering and Bloukrans rivers all dissect the park.

The vegetation of the coastal belt is primarily dominated by typical Afromontane forest, as part of the large Knysna Afromontane Forest complex. On hot, dry aspects with shallow soils, thorny shrubs and very dry scrub-forest occur, including elements such as Maytenus, Carissa, Scutia and Dovyalis. On well-drained steep slopes with shallow soils and warm aspects, dry high-forest occurs, including dominants such as Cassine, Rhus, Maytenus and Canthium. In valleys and on deeper soils, moist, tall forest develops, including dominants such as Podocarpus, Celtis, Ocotea, Diospyros, Apodytes, Maytenus, Ilex, Cunonia, Trichocladus and Rapanea. There are two primary fynbos communities: the mesic mountain fynbos, which grows on the steep coastal escarpment, and a second community on the inland escarpment, which varies from tall closed shrubland to low, open restioid cover. The park also holds a number of coastal cliffs, offshore stacks and small islands.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. At least 280 bird species have been recorded in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Both Turnix hottentotta nana and Sarothrura affinis have been recorded in low fynbos scrub adjacent to the park, and they almost certainly occur within it. Nectarinia violacea is widespread in the ericas, while Promerops cafer is almost restricted to the proteoid elements. Francolinus capensis, Pycnonotus capensis and Serinus totta are widespread within the fynbos, while Bradypterus victorini is found in moist seeps in the hilly areas. The isolated forest patches hold several forest endemics, including Buteo oreophilus, Tauraco corythaix, Campethera notata, Cossypha dichroa and Serinus scotops. The area also probably holds more than 10% of the world population of Bradypterus sylvaticus. Other forest species include Telophorus olivaceus, Apaloderma narina and Stephanoaetus coronatus. The grassland patches hold Neotis denhami, Circus maurus and Sagittarius serpentarius.

Non-bird biodiversity: The endangered proteoid Leucospermum glabrum occurs in De Vasselot. The national park is important for a number of vertebrate species with global ranges restricted to South Africa’s southern coastal strip, including Myosorex longicaudatus (VU), Chlorotalpa duthieae (VU), Bradypodion damaranum, Cordylus coeruleopunctatus, Breviceps fuscus and Heleophryne regis. The threatened sea-turtles Chelonia mydas (EN), Caretta caretta (EN) and Eretmochelys imbricata (CR) all occur irregularly in the waters of the Eastern Cape.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The park was proclaimed in December 1964. In 1987, the De Vasselot Nature Reserve, which was originally established in 1974, was transferred from the Forestry Department to the stewardship of the National Parks Board. The clearing of indigenous vegetation in the Tsitsikamma region for the development of pine plantations and agricultural pastures has fragmented the fynbos in various areas. Much of the Afromontane forest and fynbos of the Eastern Cape is controlled by the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and the Directorate of Nature Conservation of the Eastern Cape Province. Although some of the areas could be commercially afforested in the future, theoretically their conservation status appears secure.

On the coast there is a high rate of nest desertion in Haematopus moquini, presumably due to disturbance. The protection of nest-sites from humans during the breeding season has been suggested as a conservation measure.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tsitsikama - Plettenberg Bay. Downloaded from on 13/08/2022.