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South Africa - birding trips in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces, 2002,
South Africa is a birders paradise. When part of my family moved there January 2002 because of my wifes studies at Helderberg College, I and some of my sons took the opportunity to visit some of the best bird spots in these two provinces.
South Africa as a country is fantastic, one of the best countries I have ever visited. It has a 3000 km long coastline and divided into 9 provinces. The climate is said to be one of the best in the world, especially the Cape Town area. South Africa is in most ways like a western-European country with a well-developed infrastructure (excellent roads), high standard of accomodation and excellent network of national parks and private nature reserves. Prices are much lower than in western Europe (less than half the price in average I would say), so you get good value for your money. But of course the gap between rich and poor is enormous, even if about 20% of the black people belong to the middle class now. After Apartheid you also find poor white people. This country lacks a developed social welfare system, like we enjoy here in western Europe. Still most people seem to be happy and enjoy life - despite the high percentage of unemployment, especially among the black people.
We lived in a house on the campus itself, bought a second-hand car and drove 26 000 km in one year (well, except for June/July when we enjoyed the summer-vacation in Norway). From our house I was able to tick 83 species, and the total on the whole campus was 92.
Around Cape Town, which is looked upon as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the area we lived, the scenic diversity is great. The interior of the country is rather dry (half-desert) - most of it a plateau 1800 metres above sea level. Here few people are living and therefore much less traffic.
Western media tell us about how dangerous it is in South Africa. Well, it is dangerous in cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria, especially after dark. But in the countryside and the area we stayed, I can only say that I never felt threatened or experienced any bad or scary episode of any kind - day or night (including Cape Town). The traffic on the other hand may be dangerous, especially around New Years time, when the South Africans combine holiday and vacation. They say that more than 10000 people die every year on the roads, mainly pedestrians crossing roads/highways.
The best time to go birding is undoubtedly springtime. The majority of the region receives its rain in winter, so the best months for birding are Sept./Oct. But birding is great all year, and we went on birding trips mostly in summer/autumn. There seems to be more insects in Norway than in these two Cape Provinces, and there is no malaria, not even in Kalahari. In South Africa you find malaria only in the northeastern parts. You dont have to take many precautions before you leave or upon arrival. Vaccinations are unnecessary. We didnt take any at all. And you can drink the water right from the tap almost everywhere. South Africa boasts of very clean water, but alas so lukewarm.
In a 2 - 3 week trip you can easily visit all the localities mentioned below and expect to observe more than 300 species in these two provinces. Of the more than 50 endemic bird species in South Africa, more than 40 of them occur here.
It is natural to start our itinerary in close distance to where we lived. There are many interesting places to visit in less than one hours drive from Helderberg and Somerset West - many more than listed below.
"Essential Birding Western South Africa" by C & C Spottiswoode was as the title says: Essential! "Birds of the southwestern Cape and where to watch them", is also useful.
We used Sasols "Birds of Southern Africa" with all the updated bird-names.
A) Helderberg area
Helderberg Nature Reserve is a beautiful place visited by all types of people. Walking trails are plenty and from here you may follow one of them to the top of Helderberg Mountain, (it takes about one hour) where you will find the much sought after Cape Rock-Jumper. We went to the top 3 times (April 20, Oct. 30 and Dec. 18) and every time we observed it at very close range. One of the best birds we saw this year.
A few years ago there was a big fire in the Reserve, destroying the habitat of the Protea Seed-Eater among others. But this species arrived back in 2002, where we saw it high up in the Reserve. Victorins Warbler can be heard in the undergrowth of the upper streams and Cape Siskin is rather common. 3 Sunbirds can be seen simultaneously and Cape Sugarbirds are "everywhere". Many raptors have been seen here. Redchested and Striped Flufftails are resident, but seldom seen. At the dam I once saw the Giant Kingfisher, and the magnificent (while breeding) Yellow Bishop is common. We went to the Reserve on several different occasions - not only to watch birds.
Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary is situated at Strand close to the beach and the neighbour of a golf course. Here we went twice (Feb.24 and April 13) and had good observations of White-backed Duck, African Black Duck (in the river), African Goshawk, Giant Kingfisher, Little Rush-Warbler and Lesser Swamp-Warbler. You find a good variety of waterbirds including Black-Crowned Night-Herons, which are common, as well as African Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis. Malachite Kingfisher is resident.
Between Somerset West and Strand there is a big lake which we checked only once and found many individuals of Pied Kingfisher among others.
The beach in Strand is closed by a fence to the west made into a reserve where big colonies of Terns stay during summer together with many Waders, Gulls and Cormorants.
On the campus of Helderberg College we observed many interesting birds. Raptors like Jackal Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene), Yellow-billed Kite and Booted Eagle were often seen during summer. But we also saw African Fish Eagle, Black Harrier - a rare bird here that we saw 3 times, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk and Lanner and Peregrine Falcon. Most Swallows and all the Swifts were observed almost daily during summer. Other birds: Red-chested Cuckoo, Burchells Coucal, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Wood-Owl, White-backed Mousebird, African Hoopoe, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Grassbird, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Bar-Throated Apalis, Cape Batis, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Bokmakierie, Pin-tailed Whydah, Swee Waxbill and many others.
B) Strandfontein Sewage Works
This is the best waterbird locality close to Cape Town - very extensive and exceptionally rich in birdlife. About 80 species in a few hours during the summer is what you can expect, and you can comfortably do birding from your car. The dams are connected by relatively good gravel-roads. We visited this site 4 times (Jan. 24, Feb.23, Oct. 20 and Nov. 28), and had very strong wind 3 of the times, and two of the times we were here only to take pictures. See the species list.
Only a few km away there is another location called Rondevlei Natural Reserve - a site we visited only once, and then it was closed. Here there are good hides making it easier to find several interesting birds as well as a colony of Hippos, though very difficult to see.
C) Paarl Bird Sanctuary
North of the town centre is the Paarl Bird Sanctuary - a productive sewage works that attracts an excellent diversity of waterbirds in a very nice setting. From your car or the three bird hides you can enjoy close views of birds like Malachite Kingfisher, White-backed Duck, African Black Duck, Maccoa Duck, White-faced Duck and I even observed two Hottentot Teals. African Spoonbill, Little Bittern, Lesser Flamingo, African Snipe, White-winged Tern, African Fish Eagle, Black Crake, Water Thick-Knee and Red Bishop are resident or regular. We visited this place 4 times: April 8, May 5 and Sept.16 and Oct. 22.
Even if we never visited the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, it is well worth exploring if you are in the area, if only to see the elusive Protea Seed-Eater.
D) Cape Town area
This area consists of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden - a beautiful place where you may enjoy good birding too, which we didnt Sept. 13. Kommetjie (a small town) is a very good place for the rather rare Bank Cormorant and here you also find the Antartic Tern during the winter. White-Fronted Plover is resident.
The Cape of Good Hope Reserve is a top hot spot for tourists (second after Table Mountain), and good for both plants and birds. The Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope are excellent places for seawatching, and Cape Gannet is seen close to the shore. Among relatively common birds are Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Red-winged Starling, Cape Grassbird, Plain-backed Pipit, Sunbirds, Cape Siskin and Cape Bunting. Hottentot Buttonquail is resident, but very hard to find. Ostriches graze in the open near the parking area along the beach. Watch out for the cheeky Chacma Baboons here!
We really didnt go here in order to do birdwatching, but more like ordinary tourists March 11 and Dec.12.
Boulders Beach in Simons Town is the home of a colony of African Penguins ( about 1000 pairs). Here they swim among people and seem to be very tame. But watch out for their beaks if you try to touch them!
Table Mountain is a must - mainly because of the fantastic view. But there are no birds found here you cant easily see elsewhere. The same holds good for Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for so many years.
Constantia Greenbelts/Tokai Plantation (south of Kirstenbosch) is the best place to see many forest specials. The secretive Knysna Warbler, which is almost impossible to see, is found in the streamside tickets. The Cinnamon Dove is found walking noisily on the forest floor. Other interesting birds are Sombre Bulbul, Red-chested Cuckoo, Buff-Spotted Flufftail (only heard), African Wood-Owl, Forest Canary and the introduced Chaffinch (the only place in South Africa where it is found after all these years since it was introduced). Burchells Coucal and Forest Buzzard are also found here. Unfortunately we spent only a couple of hours here March 11, and I dont think we found the right/best place either.
E) The West Coast
March 20-21 we visited the West Coast National Park at Langebaan. This park is the best site for waders and other waterbirds in the whole country. In the summer they gather here by the thousands. Greater Sand Plover made a lot of fuss among birdwatchers when we were there. When the tide is right you come very close to the birds from two of the hides. Especially the Geelbek hide is excellent, but also the hide at Seeberg is outstanding and the road between them is tarred. In the sea you see the Southern Right-Whale.
Abrahamskraal waterhole also attracts many birds coming to drink and we saw Black Crake, African Spoonbill, Three-banded Plover and Wattled Starling. Anywhere in the park you can see Black-shouldered Kite and Black Harrier. Southern Black Korhaan and Grey-winged Francolin are found most easily outside the park close to Langebaan - at the roadside. Karoo Lark and Cape Long-billed Lark are also present. Ostrich is common and so is Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Scrub Robin, Long-billed Crombec, Orangethroated Longclaw, Bokmakierie, Southern Masked Weaver, Yellow Canary and Streaky-headed Seed-Eater. African Rail, African Marsh-Harrier, Layards Tit-Babbler and Cape Penduline-Tit may also be seen here. We found a Cardinal Woodpecker in a tree at the parking lot at Geelbek. My wife and I were so lucky to observe a Caracal for many minutes at Seeberg birdhide.
Veldrif is a small town north of W.C.N.P., where we went just in order to have a look at Chestnut-banded Plover and Lesser Flamingo at some saltpans. On our way to Kalahari we stopped at Lamberts Bay April 24 to enjoy the panorama view of the big colony of Cape Gannets on Bird Island (more than 8000 pairs).
The road between Vredenburg and Paternoster Bay is particularly good for species like Sickle-winged Chat, Ant-eating Chat, Cloud Cisticola and different Larks, including Grey-backed Sparrowlark.
Between Cape Town and Langebaan you find the small town of Darling, about 20 km from the coast. This area is good for birds like Blue Crane, Namaqua Dove, Pied Starling and different Larks as well as Capped Wheatear. Secretarybird has been seen here on several occasions.
If you are at the west coast late August - early Oct. the spectacular wildflower displays, which attracts people from all over the world, will take your breath away. My wife took time from her studies going with me to experience this fantastic sight Sept. 9.
F) The Karoo
To get here you drive through a scenic landscape and pass three superb mountain passes, which is good for some interesting birds. We didnt stop for them, but were lucky enough to see a Black Stork. The first pass is shortly after the town of Wellington, where a colony of Lesser Kestrels of several 1000 roost during the night - like they do in Malmesbury too.
Karooport is the gateway to the Karoo, where some dryland specials are found. We drove on gravel-roads from here and up to Katbakkies - on the road to Calvinia. The landscape is fascinating - mostly semidesert, where you find the coldest nights in the whole country. Sutherland also has the biggest astronomical observatory in Africa (because of the clear sky). We enjoyed a full day here finding birds like Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Karoo Korhaan, Pririt Batis, Ant-eating Chats, Rufous-eared Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Grey Tit, Mountain Wheatear, Pale-winged Starling, Layards Tit-Babbler, Karoo Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush and different Larks. But we never found the Tractrac Chat, Yellow-bellied and Karoo Eremomela and Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. Just before entering this area - in the early morning light of March 22 - we saw both Hamerkop and Ground Woodpecker.
Karoo National Park at Beaufort West was visited April 3 and May 5. This park is also good for game where you can drive safely around on good tarred roads. 3 tricky species are found here: Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, African Rock-Pipit and Short-toed Rock Thrush, of which we observed only the last species. Neither did we see Southern Tchagra. But there are plenty of birds around the camping-site and we saw among others here: All 3 species of Mousebird, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Karoo Trush, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Ant-eating Chat, Red-eyed Bulbul, Mountain Chat and Dusky Sunbird. Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Spike-heeled Lark, Chat Flycatcher, Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Pale-winged Starling, Wattled Starling, Black-headed Canary and Lark-like Bunting were seen elsewhere in the park. Not far from this park, on our way from the coast at George, we saw Verrauxs Eagle, Greater Kestrel and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
G) Overberg and the South Coast
This area we visited just once - Nov. 12 - 15. First we went to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, (in the eastern Langeberg mountain) where there is an afromontane forest - the most noteworthy indigenous and largest in the Western Cape and also the richest in bird diversity. There is a campsite here as well as an information centre. Inside the forest there is a canopy level birdhide and also one at the edge of the forest. Inside the forest we didnt see that much, but very close to it we saw: Wood-Owl, Red-necked Francolin, Bar-throated Apalis, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing Swallow, Olive Bush Shrike, Forest Canary, Cape Siskin andVictorins Warbler. Inside the forest you may see these species: Forest Buzzard, Cinnamon Dove, Narina Trogon, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Warbler, Knysna Warbler, (which is easy to hear, but almost impossible to see), Sombre Bulbul, Terrestrial Bulbul. We saw only a few of them.
To the southeast of Swellendam (the third oldest town in S.A.) lies the Bontebok National Park. This park is the home of both Denhams Bustard and Clapper Lark, but we missed them both. The whole year in South Africa I searched in vain for the Clapper Lark, and on this trip we really searched hard for Denhams Bustard, which is not supposed to be uncommon in this area at this time of the year. But no!
Close to the restcamp, offering both camping facilities and caravans for hire, there is excellent birding. Weather wasnt great when we were there, so we didnt spend so much time as hoped in looking for birds. Southern Black Korhaan, Cardinal Woodpecker, Sombre Bulbul, Southern Boubou and the best of them all, Fiery-necked Nightjar (only heard), were some of the birds we observed.
On our way to Cape Agulhas, (the southernmost point in Africa) where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet, we stopped at Potberg to see the Cape Vulture, which were plenty here. Because of different reasons we had to skip both De Hoop Nature Reserve and De Mond Nature Reserve - both good places for Waders and Terns, including the rare Damara Tern, and the first also for Knysna Woodpeckers and Horus Swift. Southern Tchagra is rather common here. We visited the Damara Tern colony at the beach just before Struisbaai, but unfortunately it was about two weeks early for them to breed. This is probably the best place to see them - in December.
Farmland Loops - the area between Swellendam and De Hoop Nature Reserve - are very good for Blue Crane (the national bird of S.A.) and Agulhas Long-billed Lark as well as other Larks, like Red-capped Lark and Large-billed Lark. In this area there is a colony of Horus Swifts. Unfortunately I cant find my log from this trip, meaning that the species list is not accurate, i.e. that I know I saw more birds than you find on the list, but not sure which.
Hermanus is a tourist town, and here you can easily observe the Southern Right-Whale from June (when they calve) to the end of Nov. We saw more than a dozen in the bay every time we were there in the spring and some of them at very close range. Hermanus also has a nice Nature Reserve, but it is not famous for its birds.
Closer to Somerset West - at Bettys Bay - you find the other of the two mainland colonies of African Penguins. Here Bank Cormorant also breeds - maybe the best site to see this bird.
Not far from Bettys Bay Harold Porter Botanical Garden is a good place to spend a couple of hours birdwatching.
H) Bushmanland and Augrabies Falls National Park
On our way to Kalahari we stopped at Koa Dunes just south of Pofadder to find the rare endemic Red Lark (April 25). We were able to find one individual here after a short time. Other birds in the area around Pofadder that we saw: Pygmy Falcon, a bird you often see in connection with Sociable Weaver and their huge nests, Rock Kestrel, Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, Sabota Lark, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Tractrac Chat, Ant-eating Chat, Karoo Robin, Cape Penduline Tit, Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, Chat Flycatcher, Cape Glossy Starling, Dusky Sunbird, Scaly-feathered Finch and Lark-like Bunting. It was our plan to drive the 50 km to the Orange River at Onseepkans at the Namibian border to see the Rosy-faced Lovebird and other species, but the gravel-road was closed due to heavy rain in February.
The gravel-road between Calvinia and Kenhardt southeast of Pofadder is good for the hard to find Sclaters Lark, but we chose another and better road.
Augrabies Falls National Park is 130 km from Upington and 40 km from Kakamas. The landscape is very stony and the Orange River meander through the park. We spent two nights and one day (April 27) at the lovely campsite before proceeding to Kalahari. Good birds here were: Goliat Heron, Hamerkop, Verreauxs Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, African Palm-Swift, Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Thrush, Longbilled Crombec, Namaqua Warbler, Marico Flycatcher, Orange River White-Eye, African Pied Wagtail, Brubru, Dusky Sunbird, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-throated Canary.
The most interesting experience we had just when the sun was setting. We were excited to watch a Falcon (not sure which) catch a Rock Martin just above our heads.
I) Kalahari Gemsbok National Park/Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
This faraway park (1300 km from Cape Town and 900 km from Johannesburg) was our final destination. We spent 6 nights here from April 28 to May 4. The park is about 300 km north of Upington - excellent roads all the way, except for the last 60 km when you have to drive on a really bad gravel-road. Along this road you are able to find many of the species you also see inside the park, and Grey Hornbill and Groundscraper Thrush we observed only in this nice savanna area. There are three rest-camps in the park and the space is limited, except for Twee Rivieren (two rivers) at the entrance, so you have to order many weeks in beforehand. This park is popular all year through. Call S. A. N. P. in Pretoria: 0123431991.
There are more birds here in the summer, when many migrating birds spend the European winter here. Going in April/May, however, you dont have to bother about muddy roads or too hot temperature as the "rainy season" is over. The temperature is around 30 degrees instead of the normal 40 plus in the summer. Nighttemperature is between 8 and 12. In the winter nighttemperature often goes down to below zero.
The main reason many go to Kalahari is because of the game and the density of raptors. They are "everywhere". Every day we observed between 15-20 different species. We saw all the species of raptors, except Brown Snake-Eagle. 3 species of Vultures, 5 species of Eagles, 2 species of Hawks, 5 species of Falcons/Kestrels, one species of Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Secretarybird and 5 species of Owls. All in all we saw more than 300 individual raptors. And remember that summer is even better, as 7 more species are common. Then you can find several (I have heard up to 6) species of Eagles in the same tree.
The camp-sites themselves are productive for birds like Crimson-breasted Shrike. What a bird! What colours! It is a pity that it hides itself so well. In Twee Rivieren we found quite a few species: Pygmy Falcon, Spotted Tick-Knee, Acacia Pied Barbet, Brubru, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Black-chested Prinia. We also found, after some searching one day, two Barn Owls in the same tree and a restless Pearl-spotted Owlet. We didnt find Southern White-faced Scops Owl here, but in the small tree just outside the reception in Nossob camp.
The western part of the park is more arid, and so there are less birds. Fawn-coloured, Starks, Sabota and Pink-billed Larks, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Desert Cisticola,, Ant-eating Chat and Rufous-eared Warbler are common and Northern Black Korhaan and Burchells Sandgrouse are strutting along the roadside in the morning and the Ostrich is never far away. We also saw one White-headed Vulture.
On the road to Nossob - at the first waterhole (there are waterholes for about every 30 km) - we notice a lonely Abdims Stork. It is not supposed to be here at this time of year (in the summer they can be seen in huge flocks), but we dont mind. In a tree just behind a sleepy lion, the boys observe a Common Scimitarbill hunting for food. Further up a Lilac-breasted Roller is really having a hard time killing a scorpion. In a neighbouring tree we notice her "sister", the almost just as beautiful Purple Roller. Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater and Namaqua Sandgrouse (surprisingly little shy) are common. Later in the day we are attracted to a strange sound and find it belongs to an Ashy Tit. While watching a whole family of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, a Green Woodhoopoe nearly escapes our watchful eyes. All the way up to Nossob Kori Bustard and Secretarybird are very common.
The first raptor we spot is Lanner Falcon. Tawny Eagle is the second most common raptor (after the Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk) - in all its variety of colours. The most beautiful of them all is of course the Bateleur, but is it the male or female that wins the price? It is a common bird here. Black-chested Snake-Eagle is also very common and beautiful. You come surprisingly close to most of the raptors, so identification is never a problem.
We discover a screw of raptors and suddenly they come down towards us, giving us the chance to check for sure what we already had found out, that they are Lappet-faced and White-backed Vulture, Martial Eagle and Marabou Stork - a strange combination.
Nearer to Nossob Gabar Goshawk, Red-necked Falcon and Great Kestrel, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and Red-headed Finch get more common. We also saw Double-banded Courser and Burchells Starling. In Nossob camp we enjoyed birds like the Verreauxs Eagle Owl (ask the ranger where you can see it during the day), Marico Flycatcher, Red-billed Quelea, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Cape Glossy Starling and a lot of Shaft-tailed Whydahs. The last morning at Nossob the boys found the Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Before leaving we attempted once more to find the gorgeous Violet-eared Waxbill and our persistency bore fruit. We found a couple near the workers houses. I wonder if not this was the "best" bird we had in Kalahari. During our stay in the park we saw almost all the species one can expect to see this time of the year (98) - as only about 96 are resident. But between October - March it is possible to find 40 more species that overwinter from Europe and Asia.
Kalahari is excellent for game, and we were so lucky to see two Cheetahs crossing the road just in front of us just north of Nossob. Unfortunately we never saw the leopard. Highlights were also when we observed 4 Spotted Hyaenas playing and bathing in a waterhole and when I chased a Cape Cobra (which was insane actually, but I didnt know how dangerous it was until later when I understood that it was a Cobra). Lion (the whole campsite at Nossob woke up very early one morning by the roars of several Lions), African Wild Cat, Brown Hyaena, Bat-eared Fox, Small-spotted Genet, Springhare and Ground Squirrel were some of the other mammals seen besides Springbok, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest (28 species).
Watch out for stealing Black-backed Jackals. We put the shoes of one of the boys under the car during the night because of the smell. In the morning they were not there. We soon found out that the Jackal was the guilty one, so we started operation searching - finding one shoe here and a sock there. Having just found them, we met a man that asked us if we had seen his sandal, as one of them was missing. The year before a Jackal had stolen the handbag of an Italian lady with all her money, passport and creditcards, and she never found it.
Mata Mata is the campsite closest to Namibia. Unfortunately we were not able to go there due to the fact that it was fully booked. You need a week if you want to explore the whole park. From Nossob to Unions End at the border of Namibia further north it is a full days excursion - 120 km. We didnt go very far in that direction. From Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata it is 120 km and up to Nossob 160 km. Even if the roads are very sandy, they are good, and you dont need a 4 wheels drive or a big car. We drove 900 km on these roads inside the park without any incident/accident whatsoever, not even a puncture, but beware the camelthorns along the roads and under the trees.
At the headquarter at Twee Rivieren you find all the facilities you need - a petrol station, good cabins, a small shop, a restaurant, car maintenance, a swimming pool and other things. It is very cheap to sleep in a tent and stay in the park as well as going on evening Safari.
Every night, just before sunset, they arrange a Safari, making it possible to watch mammals and birds (like Spotted Eagle Owl) that you dont see during the day. You shouldnt miss this.
No one leaves the Kalahari unaffected. It is a place that does something with you and I think that those who have been there always will long to go back. It probably is something with the atmosphere that is so attractive to those who are genuinly interested in nature.
J) The Garden Route
At Easter our family went to camp meeting at Mossel Bay March 28 - 31, and after that we drove up to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay and a short trip to Valley National Park at the border of Eastern Cape Province. Some of my sons and I went to Wilderness National Park March 31 to enjoy species we hadnt seen earlier. In just a few hours we had some great observations: Two Martial Eagles flying just a few metres over our heads, Cape Crow, Amethyst Sunbird, Streaky-headed Seed-Eater and two Greater Double-collared Sunbirds at the campsite. But the best was yet to come - in the vicinity of the "Big Tree" in the Woodville Forest. African Crowned Eagle was a highlight, but so was also Narina Trogon, having a sound that is easy to recognize. Other good birds here: Forest Buzzard, Cinnamon Dove, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black-headed Oriole, Terrestrial Bulbul, Chorister Robin-Chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Black-backed Puffback, and Forest Canary - all these in about an hour.
April 2 one of my sons and I went early in the morning to Natures Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park. The highligt here was when we stood on a small bridge dreaming about the Half-collared Kingfisher when it suddenly was there, out of the blue, flying towards us. What a beauty! Knysna Turaco was common here, noisily eating from the trees. Common was also Black-headed Oriole and Green Wood-Hoopoe. We also saw Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Terrestrial Bulbul, Sombre Bulbul, Chorister Robin-Chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Black-backed Puffback.
The same day we stopped at Victoria Bay to swim and also to search for the Knysna Warbler, but instead we were happy to find a Little Sparrowhawk at the parking lot. From here we crossed the mountain to Beaufort West. (See under F).
I never took courage to board a boat and go seabirding due to fear of getting sick, which most people do on such trips - even on a day when the wind isnt too strong. But my son, Erlen, tried the luck May 26, and experienced many more species than is normal. 7 species of Albatrosses I think is a record. Seabirding is better in winter than in summer, as Antarctic birds tend to come much closer to the shore when the conditions are tough during the Antarctic winter. But it is definitely worth it to go in the summer too. The pelagic trips from the harbour of Simons Town leave about once or twice a month - depending on the weather condition. On board there are always one or several experienced birdwatchers that can help you identify all the birds you see. I absolutely recommend such a trip, and it is worth the 100 US dollars it costs, as long as you dont get that seasick. See the last page of the species list. The species mentioned there are those that you dont find in the original list, except for two, White-chinned Petrel and Sooty Shearwater.
3812 Akkerhaugen, May 20 - 2004