Garden a feather in Rolf’s cap

These two black swans have a section of their own in this bird paradise.

When welcomed into an inconspicuous home in Sunset Beach, the last you expect to find is a backyard transformed into a sanctuary for exotic bird life.

But this is exactly what awaits visitors to Rolf Dubs’s home. He has dedicated the past 16 years of his life to creating the ultimate bird paradise.

Looking through the large patio door that leads from the open-plan kitchen to the backyard, you see mandarins, pheasants and several duck species, but the swans are the real show-stoppers as they glide through the water, necking with their partners.

For bird lovers this must be utopia; for the rest of us it is simply majestic. Tabletalk last visited Mr Dubs’s garden 14 years ago when he first shared his little suburban oasis with the public (“Sunset Beach swansong,” Tabletalk, 2002).

The 75-year-old Swedish expatriate meanders through the garden soothing the birds as they become alert to visitors. The trees, plants and ponds are carefully demarcated to prevent fighting between certain birds.

“Nature is a wonderful thing. Certain birds don’t get along and they will fight and hurt each other if not kept apart,” he explains.

Mr Dubs started the garden in 1996 on the plot next to his home. The whole plot was meant for the birds, but he later built a house on it and sold the one next door.

“I knew what I had in mind when I started creating the garden,” he says. In the middle of the garden, is a pole with the Swedish flag hanging from it. He bought the flag when he visited his home country a few months ago, but quickly adds that he is a “Capetonian”. “I love Cape Town. This is my home. I came here with R1 and started a hat company in Paarden Eiland. Only through hard work can you achieve something.”

He points to a pair of jet-black swans with blood-red beaks enjoying a tiny pond of their own.

“They originate from Australia,” he says. Pointing to a pair of black-necked swans, he adds, “And they are from northern Europe.”

He continues introducing the different species that call the garden home, dropping little bits of information about their personalities and quirks along the way.

His encyclopaedic knowledge is impressive, but should come as no surprise really because he spends about two hours a day working in this enthralling space – there are always trees to be trimmed and other maintenance needs to be seen to. Once a month, he empties the ponds and cleans it out with a high-pressure hose. These are all tasks he describes as “pleasant jobs.”

Besides his beloved birds, Mr Dubs also has three cats he adores.

“My whole life revolves around animals. I love them. They don’t complain. They only want tender love and care,” he says, stroking a cat sitting on the table.