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IIntaka Island, a 16-hectare 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.
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.
The wetland is home to 212 indigenous plant species (including 24 Red Data species, 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 250-hectare area was covered with vegetation (most of it invasive aliens), and an enormous heronry (a nesting area for herons and other waterbirds) was discovered on a large body of water on the site.
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 wetlands was constructed and the 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 – it 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.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Intaka Island (Century City Management)
Tel: +27 (0)21 552 6889
How to get here
Take the N1 towards Paarl and keep left when you see the Century Boulevard sign. Turn off the highway and turn right at the first traffic lights. Follow the boulevard as it circles around and look for the Intaka sign, where you turn left into Park Lane. Park outside the Intaka Island Eco-Centre.
Best time to visit
Intaka Island is open from 7.30am to 5.30pm from May to September (which can be very wet and windy), and 7.30am to 7pm from October to April (spring, summer and early autumn, when Cape Town’s weather is at its loveliest and the daylight hours are long).
Around the area
Canal Walk mall within Century City has cinemas, restaurants, shops and plenty of entertainment on offer. Nearby Ratanga Junction Theme Park offers rides and other activities.
Tours to do
You can book a guided tour of Intaka Island with a field ranger, or simply follow the signs yourself.
At Intaka Island, on foot or by boat ride. Self-drive is the most convenient way to get to and from Century City, although it is on a bus route, and you’ll have no trouble finding metered taxis or app-based rides in Cape Town.
What will it cost?
The Intaka Island entrance fee is R22 per adult (R65 with boat ride) and 13 per child or pensioner (R55 with boat ride). School groups cost R10 per learner (entrance only) or R40 with a guided 3-activity educational program.
Length of stay
Set aside at least 2 hours for your visit, although serious birders could easily spend half a day exploring the wetland.
What to pack
Sensible walking shoes, sunscreen, hat, binoculars and camera.
Where to stay
Century City, which is only 10 minutes’ drive (except in rush hour) from central Cape Town.
What to eat
Pack a picnic if you want to enjoy it on a bench at Intaka Island or in one of the bird hides.
Buy the very informative Sappi guide to Intaka Island if you want to learn more about how the system works and what birds, plants and animals you’ll find there.