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AJ Wins
21 Jun 2013

Last week we detailed the 100km Verdon Canyon Challenge that Andre Calitz was taking part in - well, of course, AJ won! Not only that, but he added a few km to his race when he took a wrong turn at a junction that had spectators obscuring the signage. This reduced his lead of 90 minutes to an eventual lead of 15 minutes when he finished, as he had to wait for the marshals to advise him as to how to proceed. AJ also struggled with a failed headlamp early on. It took him 14:15:04 to run the 106km... Wow! We are, of course, super impressed.

Image: Ian Corless


Kai conquers Spitzkoppe
21 Jun 2013

Remember Kai Fitchen?  Well of course, most of you guys voted for him as Readers' Favourite in Nightjar Adventurer 2013... now, remember his hilarious story about not finding the start of the trail to get up Spitzkoppe?

Kai recently went back with a group of climbers and made sure that he got to the top! He says that the route was not too challenging, but still exciting, and a little claustrophobic - as you can see in the photo! Do read his slightly cheeky but very entertaining account:

Scouting new hiking routes!
21 Jun 2013

Fancy yourself as intrepid? Well try this for size. Adventurous hikers are being offered a once in a life-time opportunity to scout their OWN routes for a new hiking trail in the rugged western Baviaanskloof, part of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site. Between Sunday 6th and Saturday 12th October, four groups of four guinea-pig hikers maps will be issued with satellite images, rustic accommodation and other basic support and sent off to map what they consider to be the best route for the proposed 5-day Leopard Trail. Although the end product will be a slackpacking trail that the organisers hope will achieve the same international acclaim as the Whale Trail or Otter Trail, only fit, self-sufficient and experienced hikers need apply for the scouting exercise; there are no existing paths or trails, rather this is a wilderness experience on which you need to provide all your personal equipment, food etc. You have been warned….. But what fun!

For more information see

MapStudio ParkSpotter
21 Jun 2013

Have you heard about MapStudio's ParkSpotter Africa app? In essence, this app allows you to take photos and upload the locations of animal sightings, but goes on step further by coming, as you would expect from MapStudio, with offline access to excellent maps and park information – accommodation info, contact details, point of interest info, flora and fauna info... sounds like game rangers are in trouble!

The app looks awesome - please let us know if you guys check it out. More info on

AJ in France
13 Jun 2013

K-Way Athlete AJ Calitz is currently in Europe running some pretty insane trail events. Three weeks ago, he took a tumble in Spain and sliced his knee open. The race doctor prevented him from continuing, and he got staples to seal the wound. Sounds like the perfect excuse to relax a bit and enjoy the sights... But not for AJ! 

He and his wife removed the staples with nail clippers and a Leatherman, and this weekend he hopes (depends on the weather) to run the 100km Verdon Canyon Challenge. Over the expected 12 or 13 hours, AJ will do 6,500m of positive ascent.

Image: Ian Corless

Ray Chaplin update
13 Jun 2013

Our eagle-eyed readers will remember Ray Chaplin from an earlier magazine piece detailing his inspirational quest to riverboard the Orange River from source to sea. Well, Ray is now nearly halfway into his 2,300km journey! He is now long past the point where he had to carry all his gear because the river is still too small, although as you can see in the picture he still does a bit of walking on the regular! Ray is providing regular feedback on pollution along the river, as well as collecting water samples. Sadly, the upper reaches of the Orange River are far from pristine, but fortunately Ray is stopping at local communities to provide education on waste management and recycling, and the response seems to be positive. For more photos, more reading, and links to his regular updates, check out the full article: 

Exotic travel
8 Jun 2013

Air travel used to be glamorous. But with low cost airlines, more and more people taking to the skies and endless security checks it’s lost all its allure. After waiting in the immigration line in Miami airport for nearly two hours, then another half-hour for the hotel transfer bus I was about to throw in the towel. Landing in Belize City completely restored my faith.

Far from the main hubs air travel is still exotic. A band was playing in the arrivals hall; the air was thick with the smell of freshly ground coffee and the immigration officers smiled as they addressed us, their English heavily accented with Creole. Our onward connection was in a Caravan, with only one pilot at the helm (I’m sure that’s against all airline regulations!) Five minutes after take off it touched down on the tiny reclaimed strip that serves as the downtown airport, and then we were airborne again skimming low over the island-studded waters and reefs of the Gulf of Honduras. It was wonderfully laid back; how travel should be.

 – Fiona McIntosh

Bragging rights
3 Jun 2013

Bragging rights! Oh yeah!

Given Rooiberg Winery’s claim that their gargantuan red chair, on the R60 between Worcester and Robertson, is the “Biggest Chair in Africa” I immediately wondered where, and how big, the grand daddy of all chairs could be. A brief search on Google had me traveling around the world following the trail of "who’s been trying to outdo who" since 1905. It’s comes as no surprise that many of the bigger chairs are in the USA, but the Italians held the title for a while with their 65-footer, located in a turning circle in Manzano. The seat of power now goes to Spain with their 85-foot (8 storey) chair in Lucena.

So, whats behind Rooiberg’s big chair? Well apart from trying to invite you in to take a seat on top of their famous landmark (and enjoy a spot of wine tasting or snack at their scrummy Bodega de Vinho bakery and delicatessen) the unveiling overlapped with the launch of their latest Red Chair wine range, a low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc De Lite, and a “Bean There Pinotage” - coffee flavoured of course .... 

And yip, been there done that!

Text & Image: Shaen Adey

30 May 2013

We recently came across this gem of an old abandoned train station in the Karoo. Instead of taking the tar road between Klaarstroom and Willowmore, take the dirt road “short cut” (it’s still 94km!). Vondeling is about a third of the way from Willowmore. We only wish we had more time to explore all the nooks and crannies of this establishment. Wouldn’t it be fun to go there with a few pieces of period costume (parasol included) and spend a day recreating scenes from yesteryear. 

29 May 2013

Having slogged up to the top of Towerkop recently I have new respect for Mr Nefdt, the first person to scale the peak back in 1885. Towerkop (2189m) is one of the five major peaks in the Klein Swartberg range, the highest being Seweweekspoort Peak (2325m) which also happens to be the highest peak in the Western Cape. Legend has it that a witch was flying home one evening and became frustrated when the mountain kept looming higher and higher in front of her so she took out her broomstick thwacked the peak splitting it into two!

We spent a night at Nel’s cave before keeping with tradition and climbing Nefdt’s route. The whole way up my mind boggled as to how the hell he not only managed to scale the peak without a stitch of climbing gear (apparently even barefoot) but even more impressively, survived the descent. Nefdt was clearly after the prize money, a whopping £50 up for grabs to the first person to scale the mountain. Of course no one believed the poor man and all he earned was the reputation as a liar – “not even a lizard could scale the peak”. Angrily he returned to the mountain, dragging a few witnesses. They watched him scale the peak a second time, before he dropped a rope and hauled them onto the summit. Of course the sock he left on his previous climb was found, redeeming his reputation. And Nefdt probably didn’t even know he’d opened the first rock climbing route in South Africa.

Text: Fiona McIntosh 
Image: Shaen Adey 

Roger Young Woodwork and Photography
27 May 2013

One of the most scenic roads in the Western Cape is the dirt road that runs from Calitzdorp to the foot of the Swartberg Pass. For the moment, it can probably still be called a hidden gem, but probably not for much longer: every time we travel down this track, we marvel at the number of old shacks and barns that have been fixed up since our last visit.

One of the people who has made this valley his home is woodworker and photographer, Roger Young. His gallery can be found just beyond the junction where the road splits off to the Cango caves (coming from the Calitzdorp side).

Roger’s gallery boasts two rooms full of gripping Karoo images, mostly in black and white, but with a smattering of colour here and there. For those who are interested, Roger also runs the occasional photographic workshop from here.

+27 44 213 3296

Mako Shark Trip
26 May 2013

Another interesting photo and story from the team at Apex Predators -

By the way, Chris Fallows is speaking at One&Only Cape Town next month, win tickets here:

Mako Shark Trip by  Monique Fallows

After a month of pretty bad weather we anxiously watched the forecast of good weather stay true for a great opportunity to head of Cape Point in search of Mako and Blue sharks. The weather did not disappoint and as we headed of Cape Point the sea was even calm for the open ocean!

Just before heading off Cape Point we came across a school of about 500 common dolphin at the mouth of the Bay. We spent a good 30 minutes with them accessing their behaviour. Of course we had seen a pod of Orcas just 3 days before so we wanted to make sure they were not around before driving further south … all seemed quiet so we continued our journey in search of warmer water , it was just 13C at The Point!

It was still pretty cold until we hit strong current line about 17 miles from Cape Point. There was also a great temperature break on the other side of the current line and we watched the water temperature climb up to just under 18C, perfect for the sharks! We set up our slick and began our wait …

Our bait had attracted a number of white chin petrels, great shearwaters, and also a couple of Shy Albatross around the boat. While we waited for the sharks the birds put on a great show as they fought over scraps of fish. We particularly enjoyed various chest butts and loud squawking noises! Just under an hour later we had a small 1.2 meter blue shark approach the bait. It has been some weeks since we were offshore so we were really happy to see this little fellow.

Very soon after he arrived we had a good size mako of about 1.7 meters also arrive and a couple minutes later a second mako shark of a similar size also came in. Its not often that we get to see 2 mako sharks together. The interactions are always great as they generally do not like each other. So, when they find themselves approaching the bait together they put on huge bursts of speed in an effort to create distance from one another. The second mako did not stay long but shortly a third mako shark arrived. 

The water visibility was on the green side but it was still a great dive to have 2 mako’s together with a small blue shark thrown in the mix! We had just about finished for the day and were busy packing things up when a larger fourth mako shark for the day arrived! In Mako shark terms, seeing 4 in one day is considered extremely lucky. This shark was particularly keen to stay around and was perfectly happy swimming on the surface. As such it was a great opportunity for Chris to use his pole – cam for some close up shots.

The mako was really interested in the camera and this gave way to some unique mouth-open, gill gazing images! As we headed back to Cape Point and Simonstown in a beautiful following sea I quietly reflected on how amazing the open ocean environment is off Cape Point and what a privilege it is that we can access it and the various marine wildlife out there so easily…

23 May 2013

A story from Tom Swartz – Instructor at Manta Marine Dive Centre (East London):

Over the last few years greater focus has been placed on the Sardine Run (The Greatest Shoal On Earth).  As East Londoners this time of the year also means an explosion in our local population of Raggies (Ragged Tooth Sharks), gathering in large groups on our 3 Sisters Reef not only to catch the passing meal but more importantly to breed.

During our spearfishing outings we started noticing the Raggies a lot more often and behaving more aggressively than normal, so we decided to scuba the next day in search of larger groups of the Sea Puppies to observe things a bit more closely.

To our delight the winds favoured our trip and with viz in excess of 10m (outstanding for East London) we descended on the southern pinnacle of the Sisters Reef and bottomed out on what seemed to be 20+ Raggies. Scarred bellies showed the tell-tale signs of their aggressive mating ritual where the male bites a hold on the female’s belly and twists himself upside down to ensure claspers are not disrupted.  

Their behaviour was that of a standard dive with these mystical creatures, inquisitive yet still keeping a healthy distance. One or two females ventured close enough for me to get a good pic, but the rest seemed disinterested in us.

It was an amazing dive for all and for one of us, his first time diving with sharks, 20+ Raggies was enough to raise not only his heart but also his air consumption rate.

Contact: [email protected]

The Punt at Malgas
23 May 2013

What a novel way to cross a river. We have used the punt across the Breede River at Malgas a number of times over the years, but still feel like little kids in a candy store when we do so. The novelty just never wears off. The tariff for a crossing is R40 for cars and bakkies (R15 for a tractor), but there are monthly and annual tariffs, so for some folk this must be like a trip to the office. The ferry is “hand operated”, meaning there are two guys who pull it across, and the whole process takes no more than a few minutes from one side to the other.

Blue Cranes
21 May 2013

These magnificent birds occur in very small numbers outside of South Africa, so their survival is really a function of how well we can protect our national bird ourselves. Today the two largest populations of blue cranes can be found in the Western Cape (± 12 000 birds) and the Northern/Eastern Cape (± 5 000 birds). Although the blue crane is still on the “vulnerable” list, they are seen in increasing numbers, particularly as one drives thorough the cereal crop fields and dryland pastures of the Overberg. This is largely due to the sterling work of the Overberg Crane Group and other conservation bodies. These birds were photographed on the road between Elim and L’Agulhas.

Adventurous Adventurer Guests
20 May 2013

[Remember to check out our give-away!] We celebrated the Nightjar Adventurer 2013 awards recently and in the audience were several folk who had embarked on equally ambitious, foolhardy and pioneering expeditions that passed completely under the radar. My friend Richmond MacIntyre, with whom I completed the Drakensberg Grand Traverse last November, is a case in point. He’s ticked most of the boxes having climbed the Seven Summits etc, but most of his adventures, usually undertaken with his brother Chris, have been more spontaneous – done simply to satisfy their curiosity, and, at the same time get in a bit of exercise. Over the last couple of years they’ve achieved world firsts like kayaking 2000km through the Okavango Delta region with minimal support; a journey that took them down the Okavango River from the Namibian border to Maun, along the Boteti River to Lake Xau on the border of the Makgadikgadi Pans, on to Seronga in the Delta and finally to Victoria Falls via the Selinda Spillway, Linyanti, Chobe and Zambezi Rivers. And they were the first to make a complete crossing of the Makgadikgadi Pans on bikes. 

 – Fiona McIntosh

Now you might not have heard of either of the crazy MacIntyre brothers, though you’ll certainly know of Wilderness Safaris, the company that Chris co-founded with Colin Bell.

May 2013 is Wilderness Safaris 30th birthday and the company has grown substantially from its humble beginnings - offering rustic mobile safaris to like-minded guests who were passionate about nature and exploring the Botswana’s remote wildlife areas – not only in size, but also in its ability to positively impact Africa. It was the first safari outfitter at the time to realise the need for its financial benefits to flow back to the country and its people, ultimately ensuring the sustainable protection of Botswana’s diverse wilderness. Happy Birthday Wilderness. Looking at Botswana 30 year on, we’re grateful for that vision.

More info:



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