Situated about 10 km from central Cape Town, Intaka Island, which is located in the heart of the sparkly, bustling Century City suburb, is a compact 16 hectare semi man-made wetland reserve that is both home and rest stop for a vast number of local bird species, thus making it a particularly popular drawcard for a lot of Cape photographers and birdwatchers (or twitchers as the British would call them).
Historically the land on which Century City is built was always just a patch of impassable wild filled with invasive alien plant species, but during the environmental impact study phase of the development project, it was discovered via aerial flights over the land that this impenetrable wall of Port Jackson actually harboured what turned out to be a vital (though seriously degraded) Cape wetland ecosystem.
Pleasingly, the land developer decided to comply with conservation measures and opted to maintain a part of the wetland system, rehabilitating it in such a way that it became a green lung for Century City, purifying the canals and providing a much needed green sanctuary in what quickly became major commercial and leisure hub for Cape Town.
Visiting Intaka Island is an enjoyable experience, with loads of amenities like wooden boardwalks, benches, restroom facilities, and bird hides, and with an eye on education and preservation awareness, its eco environmental centre plays a pivotal role in teaching children about conservation and green living. As for the island itself, it is completely isolated thanks to the surrounding canals that form such a big part of Century City, and consists of a number of ponds known as ‘cells’, plus a seasonal salt pan as well as a small elevated hill (known as Bird Mountain) that affords views over much of the grounds. The biggest water cell is home to particularly interesting, man-made heronries – big floating platforms filled with sticks on which the numerous herons and sacred ibis then actually breed and live on. (In addition to all the surrounding bird life, the ponds are also home to a number of fish and frog species, providing a valuable food source for many of the birds.)
This particular visit to Intaka Island came about after picking up my brother Ryan to join me on a stroll through the discussion provoking Long March to Freedom sculpture display currently housed on the Century City grounds, following which I decided to first drag him along for a walk through the wetland sanctuary, and then an exploratory visit to the Durbanville Nature Reserve, a little bit further on in the northern suburbs. Now I hadn’t been to Intaka for a couple of years, and one of the striking things that both he and I picked up on was just how much the reeds have grown and taken over one of the wetland cells, so much so that visibility onto that particular body of water is virtually zero at the moment! But other than that, the visit was a pleasant one, the island quiet and thus giving us plenty of time to slowly dawdle about and relax in the bird hides while watching some birds flap about.