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Frantic Tortoise Beetle
5 Sep 2013

This Frantic Tortoise Beetle could offer the apocryphal hare some divine retribution. Scurrying around at a frenetic pace on long slender legs, it almost seems to glide across the hot sands of Namaqualand, where this adult was seen in a rare moment of respite. Feeding on plant and animal detritus, it likes to hang out out in coarse gravelly sand, hard silt or at the base of small shrubs.

The waxy bloom that develops under hot, dry conditions apparently assists in retaining water and regulating temperature and may play a part in avoiding predators. Also known as the Koffiepit, it certainly acts as if it's seriously overdosed on caffeine. Perhaps the old hare could rethink its strategy.

Review: Black Diamond Mercury 75 Backpack
4 Sep 2013

Black Diamond Mercury 75 Backpack

Every so often you come across something so different that you wonder why all manufacturers haven’t thought of it. The pivoting hip belt that you find on the Black Diamond Mercury is one. I tried it out the eight-day Namib Naukluft trail – opting for a larger than usual pack to accommodate a four-season sleeping bag and both an inflatable and solid cell sleeping mat. (I’d been warned about the cold and thorns!) Once you’ve adjusted the fit to your back you really notice the difference between this and a ‘conventional’ design, particularly if you’re scrambling or on rough terrain. The pivoting hip belt allows the rest of the pack to stay stable against your back rather than throw you off balance on big steps so you feel more confident and mobile. And as you’d expect from Black Diamond the pack is robust, yet sleek and well designed with a front zippered panel for easy access and all you could need in the way of pockets and dividers. Try it. You’ll notice the difference.

Also available in a women’s version, the Onyx 65 

 – Fiona McIntosh



4 Sep 2013

This week we have another excerpt from the Apex Predators newsletter:

Normally the sharks’ predatory tactics are breaches or tight twisting turns that enable the shark to line up the seal. I guess this is mostly due to the way the seal moves (using agility to tire the shark rather than trying to make a run for it) and this in turn dictates how the shark should hunt.

We had an interesting event a few mornings ago. A shark had made a successful kill and we moved to the area hoping to catch the shark feeding on the surface. As we got there a small group of seals unfortunately moved directly over the predation area. We are not sure if it was the same shark that had made the kill but the group was attacked by a shark and the group splintered. One seal was left on its own and unfortunately did the wrong thing by trying to move as fast as possible to the Island. What followed was an incredible display of speed and strength as the shark powered through the water and easily caught the seal. The power was shown by the amount of water that was pushed around as the shark moved, and the speed was shown by the ease in which it caught the seal.

For more stories and photos, check out


Durban Segway
4 Sep 2013

I loved experiencing Durban’s beachfront with Segway Gliding Tours. Based at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, regular tours depart daily, both of the Golden Mile which stretches up to uShaka Marine World, and of the stadium itself. 

Guides Soyiso Qulu and Siyabonga Ntshiza ran me and my fellow adventurers through a brief training session where we learnt how to control the Segway. This two wheeled self-balancing cross between roller skates and quad bikes is surprisingly easy to get the hang of and soon we were off, pressing down on the balls of our feet to accelerate, and leaning back to stop. 

The Durban beachfront is a reel of colour, sound, smells and activities. There are surfers with their boards, vendors selling pineapple chunks dipped in spices (a local speciality), children with buckets and spades and buskers playing for coins. Occasional rickshaws compete with joggers and vendors selling crafts, hats and giant beach towels. 

It’s all fun and sun and hustle and I felt like a character in an animated game, weaving in and out of the busy walkway, over cracks in the paving, up and down the piers. I kept waiting for a bell of some kind to signal how many points I’d scored each time I missed a child or made it up or down a tricky slope. 

Having opted for the 45 minute tour (there are longer options too) it was all over too soon but I had a clear, if somewhat cinematic, impression of the beachfront and what it has to offer. You can see where else in the country Segway Gliding Tours operates here: There is info on the Nightjar site here:

 – Dianne Tipping-Woods

SANParks Week
3 Sep 2013

It is almost time for the annual SANParks week! Not only do RSA citizens get free entry into almost all of the 19 SANParks, but there are several other benefits as well. Here are some more details...

The annual South African National Parks (SANParks) Week takes place between 9 and 13* September 2013 and offers all South African citizens free entry into almost all 19 South African National Parks. The only exceptions are Namaqua National Park and the Boulders Penguin Colony in Table Mountain National Park.

Grab the opportunity that SANParks Week provides to get out and explore the 3 South African National Parks closest to you–Bontebok, Table Mountain and West Coast – for FREE! These Parks have extended the offer of free entry to include Saturday the *14th of September. Here are some ideas of what to see and do in the aforementioned Parks during SA National Parks Week:

Table Mountain – visit Cape Point and spend the day exploring the majestic most south-westerly point in Africa. Free guided walks along the coast of the Cape of Good Hope are available from Tuesday 10 – Thursday 12 September on a first come first serve basis. Walks are scheduled for 10h00, 11h00 and 12h00 from Tuesday to Thursday and are 2 – 3 hours in length. Early registration is essential, as there is only space for 20 people per walk – email [email protected] before Thursday 5 September to sign up.

Metrorail and their preferred bus-service provider HGTS Tours are offering daily return train-trips from Cape Town to Simons Town, followed by a luxury-coach journey to Cape Point for the duration of SA National Parks Week (including Saturday 14 September). The cost for this transport package is R120 per adult and R60 for children (0 – 12), students and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Meghan Horne of Metrorail’s Rail Tourism Promotions Department on 021 449-3018 / 2366 or email [email protected]

The Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point will also run a promotion for the duration of SA National Parks Week, where 1 kids meal will be free with every main meal ordered (Applicable to the restaurant only. NO Take-Aways, and restricted to the amount of kids actually present at the table. Only valid for SA Residents with a valid ID). The retail shops will also be offering a Cape Point water bottled (valued at R95.00) FREE with purchases over R400.00.

West Coast, close to Langebaan – it is flower season, so make the most of the Postberg section of the Park, which is only open during August and September every year. Have something to eat at Geelbek Restaurant and then go off to experience the spectacular colourful carpets of wild flowers. Be sure to explore the entire park including the Seeberg Lookout Point, Mooimaak (by bicycle only) and Postberg. To save time in the queue at the gates, be sure to download the gate registration form off the website ( and fill it out before arriving; use both the R27 and Langebaan gates as this will ease congestion at either one gate; head to the park early in the morning, especially if travelling on a weekend or sunny day as these are the more popular days for visitors.

Bontebok, just outside Swellendam – Take a drive through the Park and spot some game; unwind alongside the Breede River; or take a walk through hills of Aloe.

Please remember to bring along your green bar-coded SA ID to gain free entry into any of the Parks. If you’re an avid instagrammer (@san_parks) or tweeter (@TableMountainNP / @BontebokNP / @WestCoastNP) – remember to tag us in your photos of your free entry day. For more information, please contact Wanika Rusthoi via email: [email protected] or visit us online at

The Lonely Bull
3 Sep 2013

The difference in perspective between walking and driving in a big 5 area is huge. Without the protective shell of a vehicle, you’re reduced to the level of the animals you encounter. They’re all better equipped than you are for their environment and on day one of the Lonely Bull backpack trail in the Kruger National Park, I missed the size and security of a vehicle and the predictability of a well-marked road with clear lines of sight.

Weaving through the mopane though, I began to tune into the environment. By the second morning, I could feel which way the subtle breeze was blowing as the sweat dried on my neck. Branches didn’t tug at me as much because I’d adjusted the way I was walking to anticipate them. I wasn’t navigating by sight alone; instead I was listening for the ox-peckers that might signal animals ahead. On day three, when our guide Mark Montgomery smelt a young elephant bull in musth, I was also rewarded with a whiff…

I have done several backpack trails in Kruger National Park (they’re my favourite activities) and none have failed to restore and move me. Compared to the gorgeous austerity of the Mphongolo trail, the Lonely Bull is characterised by an abundance of water seeping, oozing and flowing through the streams and small rivers that feed the mighty Letaba River. Getting to know the landscape step by step, you feel it slowly begin to accept you as part of it. And to feel part of something so real, so magnificent and so wild is truly awesome.

 – Dianne Tipping-Woods

Snow surprise
2 Sep 2013

Recently, some snow fell in South Africa - although you'd be in the minority if you didn't know this already, given the buzz that it generated... and perhaps rightly so, because the mountains do look beautiful at the moment! This got me thinking - what do you do when it snows? I assume several of you grab your camera and rush off to the tallest hill for a photo, some of you use it as an excuse to have several cups of hot chocolate in the evening, and maybe some of you go on as if it didn't happen... We fall into the first camp, I suppose. This weekend we jumped in the bakkie, found a remote dirt road in the Jonkershoek valley outside Stellenbosch, and practised our photographic art. What did you do?

Nightjar Travelled
2 Sep 2013

Joburg Rose

Did you know that there are over 6 million trees in Johannesburg?! On a recent trip up North I noticed that this buzzing city of commerce is actually surprisingly green. Even in the hub of Sandton's shopping you don't have to go far to find a patch of green, and more often than not someone will have taken the time to pop in a colourful flower or two. 

Here's an interesting read on the history of the city's trees:

 – Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)

1 Sep 2013

We came across this beauty while hiking in the appropriately named Snake Gulch, near Kanab in Utah. There are 32 known species of rattlesnake, with between 65-70 subspecies, all native to the Americas.

Rattlesnakes live in a wide array of habitats, and hunt small animals such as birds and rodents. They kill their prey with a venomous bite, rather than by constricting.

Rattlesnake bites are the leading cause of snakebite injuries in North America, and cause approximately 80% of snakebite fatalities. However, they rarely bite unless provoked or threatened; and if treated promptly, the bites are rarely fatal. Still, humans kill very large numbers of rattlesnakes every year and rattlesnake populations in many areas are severely threatened.

For our part, we only had a 24-70mm zoom lens on the camera. So after tiptoeing as close as we could get, we fired off a quick shot and beat a hasty retreat. Rather safe than sorry. Live in peace, snake!

Firehole River, Yellowstone
1 Sep 2013

Firehole River, Yellowstone

The Firehole River is one of two major tributaries of the Madison River. The river is surrounded by geothermal features, which empty water into it. One effect of this is to increase the temperature of the water, and temperatures have been measured as high as 30°C and average 5°C to 10°C higher than areas upstream of geothermal influence. It is quite bizarre to drive past spots where steam is coming off the river, just to fish it a few kilometres downstream.

We fished an evening hatch of Caddis, and what a frustrating experience it turned out to be.  The river was absolutely boiling with fish, and if only we knew how to imitate an insect hovering 2cm above the surface, we would have had a glorious evening’s fishing.  We did take a few fish by running a fly over the fast lip of a pool, presumably in imitation of a drowned fly, or skating it along the surface, but success was few and far between.

- The Travelling Fisherman

Moyo Cocktails
31 Aug 2013

Winter is the best time of the year on the east-coast. The days are filled with blue-skies and the nights are tranquil. It’s also the best time of the year to have sundowners on the pier and enjoy the Moyo experience as the sun sets and the city lights take your breath away. The Moyo Pier Bar is known as one of the best beachfront venues in South Africa: the cocktails are delicious and reasonably priced, the atmosphere is bursting with culture and the free face painting never disappoints. 

Only in Durban can you spend an evening in winter sitting on a pier overlooking the ocean with a cocktail in hand and the sunset illuminating the city behind you.

 – Daniella Toscano

Review: Mountain Equipment Arete Down Jacket
30 Aug 2013

Mountain Equipment Arete Down Jacket 

One of the most versatile pieces of gear I own is a lightweight down jacket. Commonly known overseas as ‘sweaters’, these close fitting technical duvet jackets provide exceptional warmth for their weight and bulk, but they have only recently become widely available in South Africa. The fashion-stitched Mountain Equipment Arete weighs only 460g, has a windproof outer shell and is stylish enough to wear as a regular day-to-day garment when the mercury drops - or in the pub after a day in the hills. 

 – Fiona McIntosh


Review: Osprey Aether 70 Backpack
29 Aug 2013

Osprey Aether 70 Backpack

Once you’ve tried out an Osprey pack you’ll understand why it’s the biggest backpack brand in the US. The family firm focuses on clean lines and incredible attention to detail; little things that are so obvious, yet usually overlooked such as extra-large zipper pulls that you can put a gloved finger into and compression straps that operate both inside and outside the side pocket so that you can still put your water bottle in even when you’ve strapped on a sleeping mat. The Aether 70 is ideal for multi-day hikes or mountaineering trips with all the features you could possibly want in a big bag including loads of pockets, two ice axe loops and removable straps. Weighing in at only 2.27kg, it’s light, well-balanced and features a custom mouldable hip belt, removable top pocket and a cool ‘stow on the go’ system so you can quickly stash your trekking poles and free up your hands. It also has with small pockets on the waist band - one of the things I really like for in order to have my camera and snacks always to hand - but unusual to see in a big pack. The workmanship is superb and all Osprey bags are covered by the ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ promise of repair or replacement in the unlikely event anything goes wrong. As our American cousins would say ‘neat’!

Also available in 85 and 60L sizes. The Arial sister version is a women’s fit. 

 – Fiona McIntosh


Turner’s Thick-Toed Gecko
28 Aug 2013

‘Now, here you see the magnificent, peeling bark of an indigenous Newhouredvilla [Nieuwoudtville ed.] quiver tree and shhh…! If we go a little closer, you may catch a glimpse of the delightful little creature, commonly called Chondrodactylus turneri - of the Gekkonidae family - or gecko, if you prefer. Notice the specialised toe pads: self-cleaning, with extraordinary adhesion, they peel off by lifting upwards from the tips, hah! 

‘We all know geckos lick their eyes instead of blinking, but did you know that their eyes are 350 times more sensitive than ours? Unlike us, they have nocturnal colour vision, and unlike other lizards, they are vocal. Listen carefully when they interact with each other and you may hear the intriguing chirping sounds these little beauties make. Astonishing!’

DePuy Spring Creek, Montana
27 Aug 2013

DePuy Spring Creek is a world-class trout fishery nestled between the breathtaking vistas of the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges in Paradise Valley south of Livingston, Montana. 

This is a classic western spring creek in every sense. The mayflies, midges, caddis, terrestrials, and other aquatic insects are richly abundant, and the hatches predictable and prolific.

The number of rods per day is limited to 16, on 5km of water. At busy times, there are almost always 16 rods on the creek (at up to $100 a rod)! On the positive side this means that the trout are well habituated to fishermen, and not easily put off. On the other hand, even the slightest sniff of micro drag will have them ignore a drift.

Of course we cheated when the afternoon got slow (or maybe we were just not good enough), and took quite a number of unsuspecting fish on the trusty old RAB. It probably counts as cheating, but it still put a smile on the day.

- The Travelling Fisherman

Route 395
25 Aug 2013

Route 395 is the long way to get from Reno down to Death Valley and on to Las Vegas in Nevada, but as always, the long way is the scenic way. It runs along the eastern side of the Sierras and for much of the way, you are surrounded by mountains and desert.


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