Intaka Island, a 16ha wetland reserve in the middle of the Century City development 7km from central Cape Town, is a unique example of conservationists and property developers working together to achieve a harmonious outcome. It's a haven for birders, photographers or those who just want to enjoy a quiet stroll through nature.

Did you know?

'Intaka' means 'bird' in Xhosa.

It could so easily have been drained and built over but, instead, Intaka Island has become one of Cape Town's best places for a spot of urban birding.

Intaka is home to 212 indigenous plant species (including 24 Red Data species that are threatened with extinction) and 120 species of birds, many of which can be observed from two hides overlooking the wetland area. The hides are popular with bird photographers, especially in the early mornings.

The whole area is contained within a 7km canal system that runs around the outer edge, thereby enhancing its sense of seclusion. The beauty of this system is that the reed beds in the wetlands are used to clean the water in the canal in a natural way, while simultaneously creating a rich habitat for birds and fish.

If you sit next to one of the ponds and watch a variety of birds, from coots to kingfishers, going about the business of feeding, building nests and interacting with each other, you'll find it hard to believe that you are only 10 minutes' drive from central Cape Town.

Visitors to Intaka Island can take a stroll along self-guided footpaths (there's a 2km circular path and a 1km route) or ask to be shown around by a field ranger, who will explain more about the birdlife and fynbos vegetation that has been planted here. Boat rides on the Century City ferry that navigates along the Grand Canal are also available.

When Century City was first developed in 1996, the entire 250ha area was covered with mainly invasive vegetation, but was also found to have an enormous heronry (a nesting area for herons and other waterbirds) on a large water body that was there.

Consequently, an environmental impact assessment recommended that a multi-purpose nature reserve be created alongside the other plans for the area. To this end, an area of constructed wetlands was created and an existing seasonal pan was retained, while plants indigenous to the area were rescued and replanted. Today, Intaka Island enjoys voluntary conservation status from CapeNature, the provincial environmental authority.

In 2010, the Intaka Island Eco-Centre opened its doors to visitors and is a model of sustainability that includes elements such as wind turbines, solar geysers and rainwater harvesting in its design. It can accommodate up to 75 people.

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles