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Goukamma Lodges
21 Jul 2014
 
     

Goukamma Lodges

Nestled in the picturesque Goukamma Nature Reserve sits Buffalo Valley, the site of three new fully-equipped self-catering timber lodges from CapeNature. Able to sleep between four to six people, the lodges are equipped with fireplaces, sundecks, solar-powered lights and gas appliances. They’re both comfortable year round and environmentally sustainable. Just two kilometres upstream from the Indian Ocean, the new accommodation offers safe seclusion in the 175-hectare conservation area and a wealth of activities for the whole family: the Buffalo Valley area includes a three-kilometre circular drive and an 800-metre bush walk up to a lookout hide, with coastal views all the way to Mossel Bay.

Leopard
14 Jul 2014
 
     

Leopard

Did you know that leopards are the most widely distributed of any of the world’s large cats? They inhabit more diverse habitats than any other mammal, with the exception of humans and certain rodents. They’re masters at camouflage — the under parts of both the body and tail are slightly lighter in colour than the upper parts, to helps with light deflection. And while they’re smaller than lions, leopards are often more feared, thanks to their exceptional hearing, good eyesight and sensitive, extra-long whiskers which help them avoid obstacles in the dark. It’s no wonder, then, that all African tribes regard the leopard as an animal that symbolises the epitome of courage, nobility and honour.

Whale Trail
7 Jul 2014
 
     

Whale Trail

CapeNature’s pristine Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve was recently the location of South Africa’s newest and perhaps most gruelling trail run. Mountain Runner Events hosted the “Whale of Trail” on 10 May 2014, which challenged runners to complete the five-day hiking trail from Potberg to Koppie Alleen in one stretch. The mountain and coastal course takes a maximum of 150 competitors along fynbos-covered peaks with stunning views and pristine waterfalls, along cliffs, dunes, secluded beaches and the shores of the Indian Ocean. Runners interested in learning more or keeping an eye out for registration for the 2015 event can check out: http://mountainrunner.co.za

Cederberg
30 Jun 2014
 
     

Cederberg Wilderness Area 

Only two-and-a-half hours from Cape Town by car, the Cederberg Wilderness Area is the perfect weekend getaway for those seeking peace, quiet and outdoors activities. 

It’s a plant lover’s dream, with rare and endangered flora such as the red disa, snow protea, and Clanwilliam cedars. For a moderately-steep hike with great rewards, try the Middelberg Waterfall hike, a trail of switchbacks that leads from campsite 23 at the Algeria Forest Station to thundering falls in about one-and-a-half to two hours. Hikers can enjoy a picnic in the cool misty oasis before making their way back to camp. Other, more challenging hikes are also abundant, including the eight-hour trek to Wolfberg Arch.

Zebra Stripes
26 Jun 2014
 
     

Zebra Stripes 

The varying stripes of a zebra’s coat have long puzzled scientists. Some argued the black and white patterns helped females choose their mates, while others said they aided with camouflage when zebras ventured to waterholes for a drink in the moonlight. Still others thought they might act as some sort of “barcode” which allowed zebras to identify individuals amongst themselves. But the mystery is no more — at least according to research from Tim Caro at the University of California. He says zebras’ striping (and striping on other equids) deters biting tsetse flies. Studies dating back to 1930 show that the flies prefer to perch on all-black or all-white surfaces, rather than stripes.

Augrabies Falls
7 Apr 2014
 
     

Those visiting Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape were alerted to a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience between 22 and 25 March, as heavy rains bolstered the Orange River's majestic falls. Park manager Frans van Rooyen said the river was currently flowing at about 200 cubic meters per second but would reach a peak of 820 cubic meters. Known as "Aukoerebis" — meaning "the place of great noise" — by local Khoi, Van Rooyen says the sight and sound of the water’s cascading power will not easily be forgotten. The park is located about 120 kilometres west of Upington and hosts a diverse variety of flora and fauna including quiver trees, aloe plants, Hartmann's mountain zebra, springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.

Photo: SANParks

Baby Springbok
31 Mar 2014
 
     

Baby Springbok

The months leading up to summer can be a rewarding time to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park — predators frequent the arid region’s waterholes and massive herds of springbok roam the riverbeds. During a November visit to the Kalahari, Katja Soehngen from Germany was fortunate to witness springbok lambing season. As she drove from Dalkeith Waterhole to Mata Mata Rest Camp, Soehngen encountered a newborn springbok struggling to walk with spindly legs. Clumsy and awkward but gaining confidence with every step, the lamb somehow managed the way to his mother, ducking beneath her and finding milk. Soehngen described the experience as “awesome and very emotional”, to see how tenderly the mother encouraged her new young in its first moments in the desert.

Photo: Katja Soehngen

Elegant Tern
24 Mar 2014
 
     

Elegant Tern

Bird Island is an important roosting site 100 metres off the Cape West Coast and is the world’s only publicly-accessible Cape gannet breeding site. While most visit the Cape's Bird Island National Park to see these roosting gannets, bird enthusiast Daniël Kotzé made an exciting find during a recent trip to Lambert's Bay. Kotzé encountered a vagrant elegant tern — a medium-sized tern with a shaggy crest and a long, slightly-drooping orange bill that's typically only seen along North America's Pacific Coast. His sighting of the rare elegant tern was only the sixth ever recorded in Southern Africa. 

Photo: Frans-Hendrik Joubert

Warona Leopard
24 Feb 2014
 
     

Warona Leopard

Keen photographer Michele Nel came across this young female leopard near Gemsbokplein in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The leopard was lying down when a slender mongoose ventured out of a rocky crevice. The spotted cat immediately went into hunting mode. Luckily for the mongoose, she wasn’t quite quick enough and the little creature made it safely back to the crevice. Dr Matthew Schurch of the Kgalagadi Leopard Project has identified the leopard as Warona. It seems she is still honing her hunting skills as she has been spotted pawing at a weaver’s nest, attempting to bite a tortoise and missing a ground squirrel. For the full sequence of pictures, go to www.wildcard.co.za.

Shimuwini
23 Jan 2014
 
     

Over the summer school holidays when the Kruger National Park was fully booked for weeks on end, we managed to relax away from the crowds. Shimuwini Bush Camp lies on the Letaba River and there are just 15 chalets. An atmosphere of peace and quiet reigns. Guests watch the comings and goings of hippo and waterbuck from the stoep – the birdlife is also plentiful. Shimuwini is a camp for bush afficionados who don't need the trappings of a large resort; there's no shop, restaurant or cellphone reception (although there is hotspot under a large jackalberry if you get desperate). The camp offers guided game drives in the morning, for sunset and after dark.

Riverine Rabbit
23 Dec 2013
 
     

Great news from Anysberg Nature Reserve! They’ve discovered the reserve is home to riverine rabbits, a species that is considered critically endangered. In fact, scientists think there may be as few as several hundred animals left. The riverine rabbit is endemic to the Karoo but up until now was only known to occur on privately owned land. Anysberg, which is situated near Laingsburg, is the first formally protected area that provides a haven to these rabbits. Although sometimes confused with Cape and scrub hares, the riverine rabbit does have distinguishing features. Look for a white ring around the eyes and a dark brown stripe along the lower jaw. Let’s hope these rabbits stay safe in Anysberg.

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse
16 Dec 2013
 
     

Doesn’t the Cape Agulhas lighthouse look spiffy? After almost 12 months of restoration, the lighthouse reopened to the public on 10 December.

The lighthouse began operating in 1849 in response to the many ships that sank off this rocky coastline. Today it is the second oldest lighthouse in operation in South Africa. The building’s design was inspired by the Pharos of Alexandria, a towering lighthouse that was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The red and white stripes are discernible from sea and since every lighthouse is painted in a unique pattern, sailors can use the pattern to determine where they are.

Visitors to Agulhas National Park can visit the lighthouse for a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It is open from 09:00 to 11:30 and 12:00 to 17:00, R22 an adult and R11 for children under 12.

Man, Cheetah, Wild
9 Dec 2013
 
     

We were so excited when we heard about wildlife filmmaker Kim Wolhuter’s latest project “Man, Cheetah, Wild”. Kim spent 18 months with a cheetah family, bonding in a way that he’d never imagined and learning much about their behaviour. The thing that surprised him most was that cheetahs favour bundu bashing. Whereas lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs preferably follow game paths, cheetahs won’t stick to an existing track for long. “They are very secretive animals and being the lowest ranking of the big predators are always trying to stay out of the public eye,” Kim says. “I think that’s probably why they do so well in thick bushveld, contrary to what we think of them belonging in the open plains.”

Catch “Man, Cheetah, Wild” at 20:30 on Discovery Channel (DSTV 121) from Monday 16 December.

Ground Hornbill
25 Nov 2013
 
     

Wild Card member Peter Hahn came eye to eye with a family of Southern ground hornbills in the Kruger National Park. These striking turkey-sized birds are usually found in small family groups of three to five individuals foraging on foot. When Peter stopped at the sighting, a single sub-adult bird was stalking about. Juvenile birds have yellow facial skin in contrast with the adult’s bright red. This bird was in that unfortunate in-between stage – almost like a teenager with pimples! Peter’s patience was rewarded when the rest of the family emerged from the grasses and eventually lined up along the driver’s side. Southern ground hornbills make a deep booming call that can resonate as far as three kilometres across their territory.

Picture by Peter Hahn

Flamingos
18 Nov 2013
 
     

No, it’s not a mirage! These flamingos were spotted one afternoon on Wilderness Beach along the Garden Route. Photographer Johanna Hedderwick says the birds have been seen on the beach for several weeks. Flamingo feathers get their rosy colour from pigments in the food the birds eat. These pigments are known as carotenoids and may be blue or green in the original organism, but once digested turn coral, rose and pale pink. You can see the same effect in prawns when they change colour during cooking. Flamingos are colonial breeders so it is customary to see groups together – a flock of these birds is known as a flamboyance of flamingos.

Picture by Johanna Hedderwick

Fountain Shack
11 Nov 2013
 
     

Adventurer Scott Ramsay is spending a year travelling to South Africa’s most special parks and reserves. He recently spent the night in Fountain Shack, a rustic fisherman’s cottage on the Robberg Peninsula. The cottage looks out onto a rocky island and white-capped waves. “Wake up to this view and try be in a bad mood – I promise you, it’s impossible,” Scott says. Fountain Shack is the only accommodation option in the Robberg Nature Reserve, so if you spend the night here, you’ll have the reserve to yourself. There are rain tanks for water and solar panels for light – you’ll have to carry in your own food and sleeping bags. But the walk is beautiful and you’ll feel like real explorers heading out.

Photo by Scott Ramsay

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