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How doth the little crocodile
7 Nov 2013
 
     

How doth the little crocodile… protect those eyes and ears? Well, this one, about 1m in length, was photographed in the Okavango River next to the pier with a flashlight shining directly into one eye. You can see the nictitating membrane, which also protects the eyeball underwater without cutting out vision completely. A reflecting mechanism inside the eye makes for better night vision, while in the daytime the pupil narrows vertically, like a cat's.

Those eyes, ears and nostrils on top of the head allow almost total submersion while hunting. With highly developed senses of smell and hearing, there are also special muscles that raise and lower special flaps over the eardrums for watertight protection – worthy of the envy of any diver who has suffered the agonies of ear pain.

Green With Envy
6 Nov 2013
 
     

There are so many great little spots in Durban to go grab a coffee with friends, and my latest discovery was the gem which is ‘Green with Envy’.  Upon arrival my friends and I were in awe by the peaceful miniature rainforest we found ourselves in… the further we explored, the more excited we became about our new refreshing and charming coffee spot. ‘Green with Envy’ not only has a great greenhouse resembling a café, but also a quirky art gallery, small gift shop and a neat nursery. We couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves and laugh away a couple of hours under the trees along with friendly and caring staff!

– Ashleigh Bargate

Various Viewpoints
5 Nov 2013
 
     

Various viewpoints in Durban

Durban has some of the most breath-taking views which I am in awe of time and time again! The chance to see the extent of Durban’s coastline, Moses Mabhida stadium and the harbour, whether at the break of dawn, sunset or under the stars, cannot be missed! First up is ‘The Cube’ on Innes Road which not only offers a great lookout point but also showcases the work of some local artists. The small park on Currie Road, just past Surrey Mansions, also holds the promise of a spectacular view. Lastly, and my top contender, is ‘The Viewpoint’, also on Currie Road, which presents a view of the majority of this beautiful city as well as a great picnic spot for some time with loved ones.

 – Ashleigh Bargate
Photo by Calum Oberholzer

Capetonians
4 Nov 2013
 
     

There’s so much to explore!                                                  

Capetonians are snobbish and full-of-themselves; I can say this because I’m one of them! This self-importance is largely justified by the exciting and diverse beauty which surrounds us. Mountain-biking, trail running, a superb coastline, paragliding,  and the list goes on. What’s got me hooked is our hills!  I’ve spent hours scrambling up them, hanging off them and happily damaging myself on them. 

Training for my big mountain expeditions is pretty simple; you run up a lot of mountains. What’s nice about this is I have fun and get fit. On top of it we are spoilt for choice!

“If we just had snow, we’d live in paradise,” a typical snobby Capetonian catch phrase. Paradise was sprinkled all over the Cape this year, even TM! Immediately, my Osprey pack was stuffed to the brim with rope, axes and my warm CapeStorm High-Down, ready for Jonkershoek. Steep climbs began and with my lungs feeling energised, a day of snow, climbing and utter guilt that I hadn’t played around this part of the world more, began! 

That day, my snobbish love for the Cape swelled up like a fat blister I found on my foot, that evening.  

– Kai Fitchen

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to http://www.nightjartravel.com/nightjar-adventurer-2014

Kai prepares to his next adventure
3 Nov 2013
 
     

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

KAPE 2 ATACAMA has been a rough year in the making. An expedition like K2A involves a lot of TLC. From building the right team, fund raising, ironing out logistics for 8 months at sea and on the road.

Training for everything from those big snowy peaks to prepping for the Cape to Rio (Say, what?!?). Ensuring I have the lightest and best gear and then *most importantly*, tirelessly searching for at least one inspirational quote for the all important Facebook page . (I’m still unaware of the importance of those silly hash-tags.)

I’m living my passion and my head is always submerged in K2A prep. I’m stubborn and obsessed with making next year as successful  as possible, however, with this tunnel-vision comes the dilemma of not enjoying this wonderful journey I’m on. The people I’ve met this year have been so inspiring and how MY KAPE has grown, is really something to be proud of. So, even when proposals are rejected (which happens a lot!) and when things don’t always go my way… it ultimately comes down to celebrating and embracing uncertainty and failure.

 – Kai Fitchen

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to http://www.nightjartravel.com/nightjar-adventurer-2014

The Corner Cafe
2 Nov 2013
 
     

THE CORNER CAFE

If you’re a bit of a foodie, a supporter of the 'going green' movement and looking for a place that embodies everything that’s Durban, then you need to make your way to the corner of Brand and Cromwell Street. In front of you will be a graffitied wall, heart-shaped decor and one of the friendliest restaurant owners on the East Coast. At The Corner Cafe you are treated to a gourmet menu that changes almost every day 'to keep everyone on their toes'. Everything that is cooked, baked, made or sold is organic and environmentally friendly and the cafe plays host to a tattoo parlour, a barbershop and a boutique. The atmosphere epitomises Durban culture – laidback, warm and friendly. The cafe is open daily until 4pm excluding Fridays, on which it opens at 6pm for a themed dinner night. 

– Daniella Toscano

Aristea major
31 Oct 2013
 
     

Although found in the wild in southern Africa and Madagascar, these evergreen Blue Sceptre (Blousuurkanol) plants that belong to the Iris family are not your typically impatient novice gardener's choice. They are best cultivated from seed and it takes at the very minimum three years - often longer - before they start flowering. But the results are well worth the wait. 

They grow in thick clumps of tall flowering stems, each producing a multitude of star-shaped flowers that open a few at a time over spring and summer. They have even been spotted in California and New Orleans, no doubt nurtured by a select few who probably take Le Carre's title, The Constant Gardener, quite literally.

Stilbaai
31 Oct 2013
 
     

Did you know that Stilbaai, located approx. 4 hours out of Cape Town along the Garden Route, is also known as the Bay of Sleeping Beauty? This little dot on the map became a municapility in 1965, and is now part of the Hessequa Local Municipality.

It is a classic holiday resort town with its small number of permanent inhabitants and warm coast for surfing and swimming. During the height of summer, care should be taken as many bluebottles could be blown to shore when the easterly wind is blowing. Stilbaai has a moderate climate and rainfall is almost the same for the different seasons; the temperature averages between 12° and 20° Celsius in winter and 20° and 28° Celsius in summer. 

There are several unusual natural wonders in the area such as caves and strange rock formations and a large number of eels populate the streams. Quite a few nature reserves are found in the area, such as the Pauline Bohnen Nature Reserve with various hiking routes, and the Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve situated near the harbour. The Geelkrants Nature Reserve is situated close to the ‘Pulpit’ rock formation.

Stilbaai is also host to a number of interesting archaeological sites, including ancient fish traps thought to have been built by early ancestors of the Khoi people of the Southern Cape, and a shell landfill that has been carbon dated to around 1000 BC.

Interesting features of the area include a group of caves at Blombos cave, about 12 kilometers from Stilbaai, where artefacts of ancient early inhabitants have been found. Further evidence of later human presence can also be found at Stilbaai in the fish traps, known as vywers (ponds), some of which are still in use today.

– Gerhard Brits

A Brief History of Parys
30 Oct 2013
 
     

Parys began in 1883, when a Village Management Board was appointed and became a municipality in 1887. It is situated on the banks of the Vaal River in the Free State province of South Africa and falls under the Fezile Dabi District Municipality. The town was named after Paris because the location of the town on the Vaal River reminded the town surveyor of Paris on the River Seine.

The towns in the northern Free State were situated very far apart in the late 1800s and members of different churches had to travel great distances to participate in religious services and it was then decided by the Ring of the Dutch Reformed Church to start a congregation in this area. The first erven were laid out in 1876, and the town of Parys was born.

Because it was situated on the route to Johannesburg from the south, the gold rush of 1886 on the Witwatersrand brought life to Parys. It was ideally situated for a stopover and later developed as a trading post.  In 1905 the completion of the railway sideline to Parys meant that Parys had become even more accessible and this in led to the growth of the town as a holiday resort and industrial centre. The town was soon marketed as The Pride of the Vaal and visitors came to enjoy the inviting river banks and accommodation provided by the Village Management Board of the time. 

The road bridge over the Vaal River was opened for traffic around December 1915. As a consequence of the bridge over the Vaal, Parys was seen as a new market for farmers from the then Transvaal side. The town developed rapidly as more traffic ran through the town.

Only a handful of industries remain in town today, but the town is still popular as a weekend and holiday destination with facilities for day visitors and camping with The Mimosa Grounds as the main resort for visitors to Parys.

– Gerhard Brits
Photo by Vije Vijendranath 
www.vimagemedia.com

Hoedspruit
29 Oct 2013
 
     

Hoedspruit is a town situated on the T-junction between the R527 (the road from Blyde River Nature Reserve and Swadini) and Klaserie Road at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg in South Africa's lowveld region. The town has a pleasant climate most of the year, although summers can get a bit hot with daily averages of around 30°C, and consequently has numerous game lodges, reserves, and other nature-related tourist attractions. It is in close proximity to the Kruger National park (the Orpen and Phalaborwa gates) and is located in an area known as the 'Valley of the Olifants'.  

The town used to be fairly agricultural, but these days you will find the ‘Kamogelo’ tourism centre just after you drive in. With the wealth of things to do hidden in the surrounding bushveld, this makes for a good first stop to orient yourself.

Hoedspruit is also known for its wildlife breeding and care centres such as The Hoedspruit Research and Breeding Centre for endangered African wildlife species which is engaged in research and breeding of endangered species, especially the cheetah, African wild dog and black-footed cat.

The Hoedspruit Air Force Base was opened outside of town on 1 July 1978. 

 – Gerhard Brits

Photo by jespahjoy

ABD: Meerlust Chardonnay
28 Oct 2013
 
     

ABD: Meerlust Chardonnay

My love of wine began a couple of decades ago when I was working in London. We’d hit the wine bars on a Friday after work and quaff varietals from all over the world, but in particular new world Chardonnays. Then came ABC – Anything But Chardonnay, the backlash against the glut of heavy, oaky chardonnays that were flooding the market. And I have to say that I’ve been a Sauvignon blanc – and even occasionally a Chenin blanc – drinker ever since.

Until last night when I had dinner with Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, the ex-CEO of Cape Town Tourism. To celebrate our first visit to her new home she opened a birthday gift, filling my glass with a pale gold wine. The oaky, buttery aroma gave the grape away and I hesitated. 'Try it; it’s a Meerlust Chardonnay. One of my all time favourite wines' Mariette enthused. Truth be told it smelt divine; and it tasted even better; positively ABD – A Beautiful Drink. I am now a convert: GMCAD. Give Me Chardonnay (of this quality) Any Day.

- Fiona McIntosh

Nightjar Travelled
28 Oct 2013
 
     

Clanwilliam

Watching the late afternoon sun stroking the grass in the Clanwilliam valley, I can see why this spot was chosen for settlement. Clanwilliam is actually one of the 10 oldest towns in South Africa, and still holds many historical buildings. Venture out of town, and the rugged scenery will surely win you over. There are also a myriad of trails to explore in the area.

  – Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)

Hout Bay Market
26 Oct 2013
 
     

Hout Bay is a pretty tranquil and quiet town, but on the weekends it comes to life at one of the best markets in the Western Cape. From chocolate covered strawberries, to sushi, to house decor, to clothing, this market literally has it all. There is something for those with fat wallets and something for the struggling students and everyone can enjoy the live music and entertainment it offers. The market runs every Friday night and Saturday morning and is situated near the harbour. 

My advice? Go with a group of friends, take some cash and be prepared to not want to leave.

– Daniella Toscano

Banff Mountain Film Festival
25 Oct 2013
 
     

Hold on to your hats; the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour 2013  is an absolute corker. The iconic tour is always a highlight of the outdoor adventure calendar in South Africa – and I was lucky enough to get sneak preview of what’s in store when the film festival kicks off in a couple of weeks time.

The 11 short films cover an eclectic range of adventure sports from the breathless footage of death-defying wingsuit flying to the beautifully shot, quirky film of mountain bike ace Danny MacAskill showing off his skills on the industrial architecture of an abandonned ironworks. Some made me green with envy; I just wanted to be with the guys in Being There, standing on remote Norwegian peaks waiting their turn to carve down impossibly steep, and even more impossibly beautiful, virgin slopes and to join speed-riders Maxence Cavalade and François Bon as they glided above the clouds in the French Alps. Others, like the Wide Boyz - in which Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, two plucky youngsters from the ‘norf’ of England, are shown training in their customised Sheffield basement before confounding the international climbing community by grunting and grinding their way up some of America’s ‘unclimbable’ off-width crack lines - had me shuddering at the awfulness of their chosen endeavour.  

There are inspiring stories like The Gimp Monkeys in which three disabled climbers (with only four legs between them) take on the iconic big wall of El Capitan and a hilarious documentary on the first Afgan ski championships – you guessed it, featuring a band of intrepid locals who’d only been introduced to the sport two weeks before the event. And this year, for the first time, a locally made documentary will be screened in the South African leg of the tour. Path to the Future,  an evocative account of two paragliders soaring with threatened Cape vultures, was the winner of Cape Union Mart’s Adventure Film Challenge 2013, a local competition aimed at encouraging budding filmmakers to capture South Africa’s local outdoor adventure lifestyles. 

But the star of the show for me was the ebullient Lily the Jack Russell who takes all the obstacles in her stride as she stays on the tail of a mountain biker carving out new lines in Utah. I laughed for the full four minutes. And it reminded me why I love Banff so much. It’s not just about the terrifying risks that modern adventurers take as they push their limits or about the grandiose scenery of remote Arctic environments. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is just as much about having a giggle and celebrating everyday life in the great outdoors. It’s a wonderfully fun night out for all the family.

 – Fiona McIntosh

Hosted by Cape Union Mart for the eighth consecutive year, the Banff Mountain Film Festival will be screened at five Ster-Kinekor cinemas across the country from 25 October to 1 November 2013. Ticket prices are the same as a standard Ster-Kinekor ticket and can be booked online via www.sterkinekor.co.za.

Cape Town: Cavendish Square, 25 Oct – 1 Nov & Tygervalley Centre, 25-31 Oct
Johannesburg: Sandton City, 25 Oct – 1 Nov
Pretoria: Brooklyn Mall, 25-31 Oct
Durban: Gateway Centre (one screening only on 1 November)

For more information, visit www.banff.co.za 

Entries for the 2014 Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge are now open, visit www.banff.co.za/adventure-film-challenge-2014.php

The Wreck of the Aristea
24 Oct 2013
 
     

Whether it was the fault of a tipsy captain, or the notoriously heavy seas and thick winter fog along the shores of Hondeklipbaai, the Aristea ran aground five kilometres south of the town on 4th July 1945 with a crew of twenty-four, suffering one loss of life. 

Built in 1934 in Scotland as a fishing vessel for Irvin & Johnson, the Aristea was taken over by the South African Naval Force for deployment as a minesweeper in WWII. It was handed back to I&J in 1944 and used as a coal-engine trawler until it met its doom. Climbing onto the wreck at low tide, it is fascinating to get a close up view of the variegated effects created by saltwater corrosion over the past 68 years.

Turtle Tours
22 Oct 2013
 
     

Turtle Tours

If you’re anywhere near iSimangeliso or Kosi in KZN include a turtle tour into your itinerary. Between November and March Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles waddle onto the beach at night to lay their eggs, returning each year to the exact same spot. The accredited guides are eco-sensitive and allow you to take photos at the right time, this was a snap of a Loggerhead turtle that I was lucky enough to capture during my turtle tour. This is for all those non-divers out there - this is your chance to see these magnificent creatures up close!

 – Megan Pilditch

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Nightjar

Welcome to our website. South Africa is awesome and you've come to the right place to help you explore it!

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Erik