Designated 28 June 1991
The Wilderness Lakes system represents one of only a few coastal lake systems in southern Africa. It comprises a lagoon and the floodplain of the Touws River, linked by a natural channel (the Serpentine) to the three lakes Elandsvlei, Langvlei and Rondevlei, which are fringed by coastal fynbos and evergreen forests. These lakes are classified as warm-temperate and together with the nearby Swartvlei system are the only warm-temperate coastal lakes having a marine connection in South Africa.
Situated between George and Knysna in the Western Cape, the Lakes form an important wetland for several species of waterbird during the winter months as conditions deteriorate at the inland wetlands where they breed. Three categories of waterbirds can be recognized: non-breeders such as blacknecked grebe Podiceps nigricollis; non-breeders with resident breeding populations such as reed cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus; and moult migrants such as the yellowbilled duck Anas undulata and Cape shoveller Anas smithii. Large numbers of yellowbilled duck and Cape shoveller, which is a southern African endemic, occur on the lakes. Two species of waterfowl classified as rare, namely the little bittern lxobrychus minutus and the Caspian tern Hydroprogne caspia can also be found. Several species of fish use the lakes as a nursery area, including spotted grunter Pomadasys commersonnii, Cape stumpnose Rhabdosargus holubi and Knysna halfbeak Hyporhampus capensis. They enter the estuary as juveniles and migrate up interconnecting channels to the lakes where they mature, before returning to the sea to spawn.
If you have any comments on this page, or need more information, please contact John Dini at nat_jd>@ozone.pwv.gov.za. This page is maintained by the South African Wetlands Conservation Programme and was last updated on 9 September 1999.