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Augrabies Falls National Park
16 Dec 2012
 
     

So, you think Augrabies is all about the waterfall. Well, maybe not. I personally find waterfalls quite boring. Just lots of water gushing over an edge. So? And this isn’t even an edge, its just a crack! 

But there are so many more reasons to visit this park. For starters, the landscape is multi variate in composition; shades of pastels in colouration and totally beguiling. If you can’t find at least one angle for a special landscape composition, you should think about donating your camera to somebody more deserving. 

And then there is the fauna. Who would have expected to see giraffe in this forbidding landscape, and then such an attractive animal to boot? Light in coloration, majestic in bearing, these guys are always a pleasure to look at, and even more so in this stark environment.

(We've taken in so much stunning scenery in the last week, tripping through the Northern Cape, that some of us are getting a bit blazé about it!)

Northern Cape - Day 4
16 Dec 2012
 
     

We dragged Nightjar Junior along on our Northern Cape road trip; mostly for his luggage-bearing capabilities but also partly for his sense of humour. Eventually, we asked him what he had to say for himself…

Awake at 7 again? This is not how I wanted to start every day of my holiday. On the other hand, wrestling with gnarly rapids and fighting to keep the current at bay? That I would not mind. I guess one has to accept the bad with the good, a splash of a day on the white waters of the Orange River is definitely worth lugging a few life jackets, paddles and boats across sand and rocks. 

On the flats, between swimming back to my boat and shoving others off theirs, there was hardly enough time to appreciate the splendor floating past. We used Kalahari Outventures who operate out of the Augrabies Falls National Park and they were excellent.

 

www.kalahari-adventures.co.za

Northern Cape - Day 3
15 Dec 2012
 
     

Rumour has it that the beer mugs at the Pofadder Hotel have bicycle bells on their handles. Makes the refill process so much easier. We were almost tempted to head straight there, but a last minute decision saw us take the scenic route through Riemvasmaak and the Vredesvallei (Peace valley). What an experience! It you took the Richtersveld and compressed it by 80%, this is what you get. 

Although this stretch of road is only about 20km long, we spent more time out of the car taking photos than driving. So, we only connected with the main drag to Pofadder four hours later and sensibly decided to stop over at Aughrabies Falls for the night. Pofadder will have to wait.

But back to Riemvasmaak; there is a hot spring with eight 4-bed chalets 4km out of town, which is an ideal base from which to explore the area, and in particular the three 4x4 routes that criss-cross these mountains. We have already made our June booking.

www.greenkalahari.com/riemvasmaak.html

Tel: (054) 431 0945

Guided Night Walk
14 Dec 2012
 
     

Things that go bump in the night – a walk with guide Richart Jesslitz after nightfall is a must if you are ever in Witsand Nature Reserve. We walked into the dunes to the accompaniment of a chorus of Bubbling Kassinas. These diminutive frogs are desert specialists. After rains they crawl up the sand dunes where they bury themselves for the day. When they come out in the evenings, their skins are parched dry, and super sensitive to moisture, helping them navigate to the next pool. 

Next on our sighting list was a sand frog, followed by a dancing spider and a plethora of other insects. But the big daddies of the night were the scorpions. Watching the veld light up under Richard’s ultra violet light was amazing. Pound for pound, scorpions are some one of the most poisonous animals on earth. To crown the night out, we were lucky enough to see one of these little creatures stop a flying beetle in his tracks in less than two seconds with one of his powerful stings. What an experience!

Witsand Nature Reserve
14 Dec 2012
 
     

Nestled in a beautiful region that blends Karoo vegetation, and Kalahari dunes, this nature reserve is a kiddie's playpen for photographers. "White sand" may feel like a misnomer, but after hours of driving through red kalahari sands, it really does feel like someone knocked over a bleach bottle! Just be very careful about walking around barefoot - the thorns here mean business (and so do the scorpions)!

We have some more images here.

Northern Cape - Day 2
14 Dec 2012
 
     

Witsand Nature Reserve is a smallish reserve that packs a lot of punch. There is enough beauty to please the casual drive-through visitor, and yet also sufficient complexity to keep the more demanding visitor engaged. It is one of the few places in the area where permanent water can be found and has consequently been inhabited from the earliest Stone Age times. 

The vegetation of the reserve is a complex convergence of three major vegetation types: Karroid Kalahari Bushveld, Kalahari Mountain Bushveld and Orange River Nama Karoo… and not nearly as boring as it sounds. One of the pleasant surprises for us was that it was green and lush, and the trees beautiful – not what we expected at all. The reserve is hilly - a mix of plains, dolorite koppies and, of course, flowing sand dunes. The chalets are nicely spread out, private and roomy. Our only regret was that we could not stay for longer.

Northern Cape
12 Dec 2012
 
     

As we mentioned earlier, we're in the field at the moment with a focus on the Destination Guide.  This week, we are on a mission to explore the Northern Cape.  This desolate yet beautifu province gets far less attention than it deserves, and every day thus far has been more of an eye-opener than the previous!  We'll start you off with this photo while we sharpen the old pen and paper and write up the trip...

In the meantime, check out the magazine article that inspired us: Five fun adventures in the Northern Cape!

Mphongolo Wilderness Trail
11 Dec 2012
 
     

The Mphongolo Wilderness Trail

There are many ways to experience the Kruger National Park either on your own or with a guide. If you truly want to immerse yourself in the park’s wildest areas though, the best way is on foot. The Mphongolo Wilderness Trail is 1 of 3 multiple-day backpack trails through the park.

Accompanied by your guides, carrying your own supplies and even digging for your own water, you’ll engage all of your senses during this special wilderness experience. Increasingly immersed in your environment, you will reconnect with the natural world at the most basic level and enjoy magical encounters with Kruger’s wildest creatures.

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

Nightjar Travelled
10 Dec 2012
 
     

Just outside of Jo’burg there’s a nature reserve that is one of the city’s better kept secrets (unless you’re a bird watcher or cyclist). It covers an area of about 11 595 hectares and is home to a variety of mammals, including eland, zebra, red hartebeest, mountain reedbuck, duiker, steenbok, blesbok, and kudu. 

On Saturday, a perfect Highveld morning of deep blue skies and birdsong, it was bursting with life. Driving around the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, we had sightings of most of the mammal species and the birders recorded a total of 98 bird species. Back at the picnic area, to work up an appetite for lunch, we did the shortest of the reserve’s hiking trails, the 4.2 kilometre Cheetah Trail, and were treated to an absolute riot of summer wild flowers, washed clean by the recent rain.

We also got to see how busy the N3 was with holiday traffic – I do hope that everyone arrived safely!

Festival of Bubbles
7 Dec 2012
 
     

We took our own advice and headed out to Franschhoek’s Festival of Bubbles this weekend... And what a party it was. Most bon vivants embraced the black and white dress code, turning up in larney outfits and hats that would have impressed even at prestigious events like the Durban July.

The bubbly was flowing, there were oysters, chocolates and a host of other spoils and by the end of the day we were dancing on the stage along with the revellers. A great start to the festive season!

- Shaen Adey

The Royal Kraal at Ondini
5 Dec 2012
 
     

When the sun sets over the Makhosini Valley, it catches the smoke rising from cooking fires of its sprawling villages, turning the air golden. From the vantage point of the royal kraal at Ondini, 20 km east of Ulundi, it’s easy to imagine the old Zulu king, Cetshwayo, strategising with his councillors more than 100 years ago. 

This royal residence, which was both the judicial and legislative capital of the Zulu Kingdom from 1873 to 1879, was burnt down by British forces after the battle of Ulundi on 4 July 1879; the last battle of the Anglo Zulu War. The royal enclosure, an important archaeological site and a national monument, was reconstructed in the 1980s, along with a small site museum. I stayed at the Umuzi tourist facility on the eastern side of the complex, in a traditional Zulu homestead with modern kitchen and ablution facilities. 

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

C'est la Vie
4 Dec 2012
 
     

Great news for caffeine addicts! C’est la Vie has found a new home – 20, Main Road, in Kalk Bay, right across the road from the tidal pool at Dalebrook. Jo, the owner, has brought a touch of France into the area with her simplistic yet tasteful décor, hot loaves of artisan bread, and patisseries including delicious pain au chocolat.

But it’s the wonderfully aromatic coffee that will draw you through the door. They also offer freshly squeezed juices, yummy breakfasts and lunches every day from 07.30-15.00 (except on Mondays and Tuesdays). Even better is that trade at their temporary ‘hole in the wall’ premises - C’est la Vie on the Park, right on Lever Street community park - has been so good that it will remain open daily except Wednesdays and Thursdays from 07.30 to 13.00. Yippee, we’re spoilt for choice!

- Shaen Adey

The living legend
4 Dec 2012
 
     

Amongst the green heart of Cape Town, Company Gardens hides a very unusual and unique animal, the albino squirrel. Tree squirrels were imported by Cecil John Rhodes in the 19th century from Europe and although an alien species they aren’t too invasive. 

Open daily, the gardens, which are the oldest in the country, have a rose garden, restaurant, an avery, pathways and plenty of open areas to picnic. A favourite activity amongst tourists and locals alike is feeding the squirrels that have evidently become quite tame. So have you seen the living legend?

- Megan Pilditch

Nightjar Travelled
3 Dec 2012
 
     

Climbing Lion’s Head to celebrate the full moon is a long standing tradition, and we were on the peak this Wednesday, somewhat buffeted by a howling south easter! ‘Training’ for the summit assault had however been curtailed by the inaugural Red Bull Lion Heart event held last weekend, when the mountain was ‘closed’ to hikers.

Thirty-two men and eight women qualified from Friday’s prologue for the 4.4km round-for-round knockout format on Saturday. Three Peaks winner, AJ Calitz, yet again topped the log in the final stage, blasting his way to the top and back down in 27 minutes and 16 seconds ahead of Michael Bailey, (28.54), trail running supremo Ryan Sandes (29.09) and Bernard Rakadz (30.07).

Carla van Huyssteen [pictured] romped home ahead of Katia Soggot (34.13) and Landie Greyling (34.34) to take the women’s title, finishing in 33 minutes and 21 seconds. Mmm. Our champagne would definitely have been a little shaken at that pace.

For more, check out http://nightjar.travel/Sx8RGL

Big News
2 Dec 2012
 
     

So I heard on the grape vine that Gondwana Game Reserve, situated in the Garden Route, is celebrating the birth of two free roaming lion cubs - which are believed to be the first wild lion cubs born in the Southern Cape for the last 150 years..!

We are so proud of this milestone in your conservation effort... Well done!

Disclaimer: This pic is from my personal collection. For photos of the actual cubs, and more info, check their blog:

http://www.gondwanagr.co.za/news-blog

The babies are here!
27 Nov 2012
 
     

Good morning! Those of you who love the Kruger will have been eagerly anticipating the birthing of the impala... Well, Dianne Tipping-Woods let me know that they dropped over the course of the last week - and aren't they beautiful! Lovely to see the cycle of life continue like clockwork.

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