Did you know?
The wing feathers of the blue crane were once sought after by Zulu kings for their royal headdresses.
South Africa is home to three crane species, all of which are managed through a dedicated breeding programme at the Hlatikulu Crane & Wetland Sanctuary.
At this bird sanctuary, visitors can learn more about the rescue, rehabilitation and captive breeding programmes created to preserve the blue crane, grey crowned crane and wattled crane.
Due to the loss of its preferred grassland habitat to forestry and farming, blue crane (Anthropoides paradisea) numbers have dropped by approx. 90%. Injured, poisoned or confiscated birds are rehabilitated at Hlatikulu before being released into the surrounding area.
The wattled crane is critically endangered in South Africa, with only 240 individuals remaining in the wetland regions on which they depend for breeding. These cranes construct a large moat around their chosen nesting spot where one or two eggs are laid. Since only a single chick is reared by the parents, the other egg is removed to the Johannesburg Zoo where wattled cranes are also reared for captive breeding purposes.
The crowned crane is the most versatile of the South African crane species, having adapted to life in parklands, farmlands and even on golf estates. Their nests consist of a flattened nest mound in wetlands or near water sources, where up to four eggs are laid at a time. Major threats to the crowned crane include poisoning, powerline collisions and capture for the pet industry.
While the Hlatikulu Crane & Wetland Sanctuary is mainly focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of South Africa's three crane species, the facility also acts as a general sanctuary for other wetland bird and mammal species.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary
Tel: +27 (0)33 263 2441
How to get here
From the N3 take the Nottingham Rd turn off toward Rosetta. At Rosetta turn left toward Kamberg Valley and Giant’s Castle. Follow road for approx. 40km. After passing Northington Estate, take the D11 dust road, signposted as the Hlatikulu Crane & Wetland Sanctuary. After approx. 4km you will see a track to the right signposted as the Crane Centre.
Around the area
The nearby Giant's Castle Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site worth visiting, as are the Bushman Museum and Kamberg Rock Art Centre.
What will it cost
Admittance is free, but donations are welcome. Hlatikulu also runs an adoption programme that allows individuals or groups to 'adopt' a bird of their choice for six months to a year.
Length of stay
The sanctuary is open between 8am and 5pm from Monday to Friday, and on weekends by appointment only.
Where to stay
A little off the beaten track, the Antbear Guesthouse is a rustic cottage overlooking the Bushman's River and Giant's Castle.
What to eat
Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse offers superb fine dining (and is another good accommodation option). The Kamberg Store is great for country lunches and excellent pizzas.