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.
[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.
I found several of these gorgeous Protea eximiae, commonly known as the broad-leaf sugarbush, in bloom on the lower slopes of Towerkop (near Ladismith) recently. The shrubs often grow into small trees and mainly flower through spring into early summer (August to October) but, being one of the more robust protea species, they are occasionally seen flowering in mid winter and late summer. This plant’s particularly vibrant as it’s soaked from a heavy mist and lit by soft muted light – the ideal lighting for photographing plants.
Text & Image: Shaen Adey
Most people would immediately leave the water at the sight of a two-metre high dorsal fin cutting through the glassy surface. Not Dave Hurwitz. When the owner of the Simon’s Town Boat company (the sole permit holder for whale and dolphin watching in False Bay) got news of orca sightings just off the coast south of Simon’s Town this week he was quick to launch his boat. And the reward was quality time with a very relaxed pod of 6 killer whales. Dave recorded the first sightings of orca this year only 10 days previously when a pod of was spotted on one of his scheduled trips out to False Bay’s Seal Island. Read more about these and daily marine sightings at www.facebook.com/boatcompany
The hour has finally arrived. The adventurers are gathering, and soon we will announce the Nightjar Adventurer 2013. The winner will receive a R5000 Cape Union Mart Gift voucher, sponsored of course by Cape Union Mart, and a GoPro Hero3 Black edition, sponsored by @GoPro. Then, the Readers' Favourite (Thank you all for voting!) will receive a R1000 Cape Union Mart voucher, and a GoPro Hero3.
Finally, we have further bundles generously sponsored by Adventure Inc. (importers of Buff and lots of other cool gear) and we will have a draw for the readers who signed up online, for R500 Cape Union Mart vouchers. Oh, and it's Nightjar Travel's 1-year birthday today, just to top it all off :-) So, this is going to be one Fantastic evening!
If you can't make it tonight, we will miss you, but do check out the tickets we are giving away to the guest speaker series at One&Only Cape Town (on the Nightjar Adventurer 2013 Awards page). Ok, no more spoilers from me...
Yay, they’ve arrived! Having swum thousands of kilometres from their summer feeding grounds in icy Antarctica, the first of this year's southern right whale visitors been spotted at the De Hoop marine reserve.
Watching these gentle giants is a real privilege. According to Meredith Thornton of the Mammal Research Institute at University of Pretoria there are now about 10 000 southern right whales in the world’s oceans, still a long way off the estimated 80 000 which once existed.
South Africa’s waters are home to approximately 4 000 of today’s global population (for those of you who are numerically challenged that’s a whopping 40%) and every year over 300 southern rights come to mate and calve in the sanctuary off De Hoop - one of the most important breeding and calving areas in the world for their kind.
Fishing, boating and exploitation of any kind is prohibited in the pristine reserve so it’s an understandably popular nursery where the females and calves can swim, undisturbed, in the clear waters, while the males put on spectacular displays. (What is it about guys that they are constantly trying to impress?) The breaching, blowing and belly-flopping happens so close to the shore that you don’t even need binos. So head down to the dunes with a bottle of wine and a blankie and spend a couple of hours watching the antics as you celebrate another fine day in Africa.
– Fiona McIntosh
Check out www.dehoop.co.za for details of special events and accommodation deals over the whale-watching season.
Today sees the launch of new archaeology tours to Mossel Bay’s Pinnacle Point Caves, which have revealed the earliest evidence for modern human behaviour.
The caves, which have been the subject of intensive study since 2000 by the SACP4 Project (South African Coastal Palaeoclimate, Palaeoenvironment, Palaeoecology, and Palaeoanthropology Project), under the direction of Professor Curtis Marean of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, have recently been declared a Provincial Heritage Site.
According to research published in 2007 by Prof Marean and his team, this is probably where the small, core population that gave rise to all humans alive today first began to exhibit significantly modern behaviour. It was here that man began to harvest the ocean systematically, to use ochre for symboling, and to embed bladelets into other media to create complex tools.
A later study under Dr. Kyle Brown – also of the SACP4 Project - showed that it’s most likely that this is where man first used fire to improve the quality of stone tools.
The remains in the caves – which date as far back as 164,000 years - were discovered during an archaeological survey, as part of the environmental impact assessment into the proposed development of the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort, conducted by Jonathan Kaplan, the director of the Agency for Cultural Resource Management, and Peter Nilssen.
The ‘Point of Human Origins’ tours of the caves begin in June and will be conducted by Peter Nilssen or a similarly qualified scientist. They will also be offered as optional adds-on to one of the best slackpacking trails in the country, the Oystercatcher Trail (www.nightjartravel.com/slackpacking/western-cape). Bookings are now open.
Anyone interested in ancient history must visit Ephesus in Turkey. This hub of early Christianity, Greek mythology and Roman history is best experienced in a guided tour. Amongst many attractions, you could stand in the amphitheatre in which the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesians or you could admire the detailed features of the commonly known Greek mythical creature, Medusa. The architecture of the towering ancient ruins is breath-taking and one can see immaculate patterned details that have remained all these years. Be sure to take a hat if you visit during Summer as it gets very hot!
– Pasqua Heard
Photographer: Jane Jager – Ephesus, Turkey
This walking trail on the Robberg peninsula, just outside Plettenberg Bay, must be one of the most stunning and most easily accessible hikes along the entire South African coast. As you walk, marvel at the indigenous fynbos, revel in the secluded coves and beaches and discover a whole new world sea creatures, like the Cape fur seals that frolic in the surf. You may also be tempted by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean after you’ve completed a few of the trail’s steeper ascents! There are three routes of different lengths and degrees of difficulty to choose from; ensuring that there are suitable options for everyone, from families to experienced trail runners (http://www.nightjartravel.com/trail-running/robberg-express-trail-event).
– Dianne Tipping-Woods
How often do we speed past a small roadside business? Sometimes the locals you meet can be as memorable as the places you visit. I met this family early morning after overnighting in Middleburg. We’d just got going, but the quirky handmade windmills and broad smiles were a photo opportunity a begging. The children were helping to set up shop for the day, carefully arranging the different sized windmills. Now every time we look at our windmill we see the family behind it and it reminds us of our trip. And it’s great to support local entrepreneurs.
– Megan Pilditch
There are few beaches that rival Dalyan Beach in Turkey. Most beaches are commercialised and one has to enter a restaurant and pay for something on the menu before entering the beach. Dalyan's simplicity is its draw-factor. It is not crowded with restaurants whose music turns into a cacophony when played all at once. Even the hundreds of thatch umbrellas that line the beach are natural-looking. The sand is scorching hot, so it is best to stay on the wooden boardwalk that leads to the shore. Once you get to the water, you cannot help but gasp at the sight that greets you: an expansive Mediterranean Sea inviting you to wade in its still waters.
– Pasqua Heard
Photographer: Jane Jager – Dalyan Beach, Turkey
My first reaction when I saw the advert was that it must be a belated April Fool’s joke. ‘A groundbreaking FREE alternative to drinking and driving’? Yeah yeah. However it seems it’s not only genuine, but might work. The DRYVER mobile app is pretty simple – by creating a mobile community network of friends from your existing phone contacts, you can call for help or arrange lift home at any time when you’ve had one too many.
In a nutshell you set your status to ‘DRYVING’ or ‘DRINKING’ then your mates can see your status and make a plan before heading out for an evening or to hook up with a sober driver when out and about.
And if you’ve really had a skinful, and are too tipsy to organise a lift home, you can activate the ‘Rescue Me’ and DRYVER will send out and SOS message with your current location to all the active drivers on your list! Provided one of your buddies responds it’s brilliant.
Hands up those of you who love sushi? Well how about learning the craft? The Nuri Sushi Factory hosts sushi classes every second Wednesday at it’s recently opened premises Cape Town and they are a hoot. Wannabe sushi chefs are given aprons, super sharp knifes and an array of spices and sauces then, after demonstrations of how to make tempura prawn rolls and other delights, let loose. The results from the launch evening were surprisingly good. The creative juices flowed and the resulting specialty rolls not only looked good, they tasted superb.
The next class is on Wednesday the 24th of April @7pm. R300 a class.
Call 021 461 8719/078 374 5034 to book.
Nuri Sushi Factory, 8 Parliament Street, Cape Town is open Monday to Saturday, 12pm – 9pm.
- Fiona McIntosh
After weeks of extreme adventure, it is time to choose a winner. Nightjar Travel and Cape Union Mart will be hosting the Nightjar Adventurer 2013 Awards at the Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre at Canal Walk on Wed., 8th May, and we would like to invite you to come and meet your favourite adventurers... If you haven't registered yet, hurry because there are only 30 or so tickets left!
Details, cost (free), etc can be found here:
The Mediterranean is a must-see. Unlike South Africa's majestic, thrashing seas, the Med is smooth and one can swim with minimum effort for miles. For the ultimate Mediterranean experience, one should hire a boat for the day. There is nothing better than lazing on a deck and enjoying Turkey's sunshine whilst knowing that back home in South Africa it is freezing. When the heat gets too much, you can simply drop your anchor and hop overboard for a dip in the clear waters. You may have a visit from local ice-cream sellers who travel via speedboat to their customers – so be sure to take extra Liras on board!
- Pasqua Heard
Photographer: Jane Jager – A day on the Mediterranean in Bodrum, Turkey
We recently bumped into Chris and Monique Fallows from Apex Shark Expeditions. Chris is one of the leading authorities on Great White shark behaviour, and, along with Monique, runs a blog with some of the best shark photos you can find! They've facilitated many international shark documentaries over the years, including the lead show on Discovery's Shark Week 2010 - Ultimate Air Jaws. They send out a regular newsletter, and in it was the beautiful photo above.
Here's what Monique had to say about the storm:
Chris & I are definitely closet storm chasers! Whilst bad weather means we have to cancel trips we do hope that when this happens the weather is bad enough to make it exciting if we have to be stuck on land. Chris spends a lot of time watching the weather and is good at predicting exciting and wild approaching storms by looking at wind and swell strength, direction and height, as well as the intensity and length of the blow, state of the tides etc.
This past Easter weekend a big high pressure system approached Cape Town and with a big southerly swell and spring tide it looked like a Kalk Bay Harbour lashing was in the making. Chris always likens any possible storm to the last 'biggie' of Easter 1993 and ironically this was Easter weekend 2003, 20 years later. It is very seldom that Spring tide, the right direction of a big swell and gale force S-SE winds all line up together but it looked good for this past weekend.
It can be hugely spectacular when all these elements come together. Big winds will build the swell further and as the waves crash against the harbour wall amazingly wild and exciting sights can be seen.
So, after watching the weather predictions for a few days Chris & I were really excited to see what Easter Saturday would bring. The sea did not disappoint as we watched nature at its wildest and dramatic best, with 80knot gusts being recorded at Cape Point with a 4.5m Southerly short period swell, no boats were damaged in the storm. Although not nearly as spectacular in the end as the Easter '93 storm it was still probably in the top 10 biggest in the past 20 years in terms of spectacular Kalk Bay harbour bashings.
To see the Apex Shark Expeditions blog, visit www.apexpredators.com
Some of my favourite posts in their blog: