CARD MAGAZINE TM
2016 SA PUBLICATION FORUM
A beloved migrant needs our help
3 DAYS IN
Rural rambles from Rhenosterkop Cottages
adrenalin THRILLS FOR
GARDEN ROUTE Whizz through fynbos & forest MARLOTH Tackle a hard-core hike
SURICATE & MONGOOSE: CUTEST BABIES EVER!
POSH NEW REST CAMP AT ADDO 9 771993 790001
MICRO SAFARI | WHAT RUBBING POSTS REVEAL
explore | conserve | enjoy
Wild SPRING 2017
8 Addo’s latest jewel Luxe self-catering at Nyathi
22 Agulhas triple play Enjoy three very different day walks from charming Rhenosterkop cottages
88 Parks protocol Stay safe on safari by keeping these critters at bay
30 Adventure in Wilderness Explore the park by canoe, Segway and scooter — all in a weekend
94 Map of the Wild parks
12 River pool ramble Limietberg’s Waterfall Trail 14 West Coast cottages New spots to stay over 18 From seeds to cedars Conservation in the Cederberg 20 Spring trip planner Dreamy treehouses
48 Swellendam Hiking Trail Five days of heavenly views and fabulous flora, four nights of star-studded skies
93 Become a member 96 Competition Win a stay at Agulhas National Park
SPRING 2017 WILD 1
Wild SPRING 2017
CONTENTS 62 68
WILDLIFE 16 Hello stranger! Migrants arrive on the West Coast 40 Meet the gangsters Why mongoose and suricate live in social groups 58 Rubbing posts How animals scratch an itch 62 Kruger micro safari Zoom in on the little critters 68 European rollers These summer visitors need our help â&#x20AC;&#x201D; log your sightings 76 Hoopoe hooray Look for this unmistakable bird 2 WILD SPRING 2017
BOTANY 78 Prince-of-Wales heath Pretty pink flowers are a treat for birds and bees alike PHOTOGRAPHY 80 Whiter shade of pale Desaturating images KIDS 86 Golden oldies These long-lived creatures know how to age gracefully COVER IMAGE
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FROM THE EDITOR
EDITORIAL BOARD HAPILOE SELLO, SANParks SHERAAZ ISMAIL, CapeNature TEBOHO MOKOENA, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife MBONISENI DLAMINI, Msinsi Resorts ANN REILLY, Swazi Big Game Parks HEIN GROBLER, Wild Card
WILD CARD ENQUIRIES 0861 GO WILD (46 9453) firstname.lastname@example.org International Wild Card members call
+27-12-428-9112 EDITOR Romi Boom | email@example.com DEPUTY EDITOR Magriet Kruger | firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR Riaan Vermeulen | email@example.com DESIGNER Leon Kriel TEXT EDITOR Marion Boddy-Evans PROOFREADER Margy Beves-Gibson DIGITAL EDITOR Arnold Ras CONTENT DIRECTOR Igna Schneider EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Joan Kruger CREATIVE DIRECTOR Petro du Toit MAGAZINE ENQUIRIES
CONTRIBUTORS Bridgena Barnard, Emma Bryce, Peter Chadwick, Gareth Coombs, Nick Dall, Tate Drucker, Albert Froneman, Jenny Hishin, Andrew Hofmeyr, Joël Roerig, Ron Swilling, Ann and Steve Toon, Morgan Trimble, Dale Wright PHOTOGRAPHY & ART Afripics, Johan and Bridgena Barnard, Romi Boom, Peter Chadwick, Gareth Coombs, Tate Drucker, Albert and Marietjie Froneman, Jenny Hishin, Istockphoto, Bernie Olbrich, Joël Roerig, Daleen Roodt, Shutterstock, Ron Swilling, Steve and Ann Toon, Morgan Trimble, Heinrich van den Bergh, Henk Venter, John White
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ately two marvels of the botanical kingdom have endeared themselves to me. These are not showy bushveld beauties, but modest inhabitants of very specific pockets in the Western Cape. The endangered status of the Clanwilliam cedar, an iconic tree, inspired around 300 conservationists, including schoolchildren, to participate in the annual tree-planting ceremony in the rural Cederberg village of Heuningvlei. Read more about this unique day in the wilds on page 18. On my doorstep, along the Walker Bay coast, I regularly admire the Prince-ofWales heath, one of our most popular ericas. In this issue it is stunningly depicted by Wild’s botanical artist, Daleen Roodt. Visit www.wildcard.co.za to witness the intricate artistic process she has perfected. Imagine a safari where you witness heart-stopping kills, see bunches of beautiful baby animals and observe the fascinating, rarely observed behaviour of creatures you’ve never seen before. “Expect all this and more on a micro safari,” enthuses Joël Roerig (page 62). “It will change the way you appreciate nature forever.” In keeping with our ‘small is sensational’ theme, we snoop on two of Africa’s most complex mammals: clans of suricate and banded mongoose in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Kruger National Park respectively (page 40). For these hyperactive and highly social gangs, life appears to be one jolly get-together, but membership is dependent on serious teamwork. Having your eyes opened to wild wonders is what this issue is all about. With celebrity sportswoman Letshego Zulu, we zip through fynbos and forest in the Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park (page 30). Zooming downhill on a single track, having exchanged her mountain bike for a self-propelled heavy-duty scooter, is just one of the thrills this adventurer packed into an active weekend. More than 80 member parks and reserves are waiting to be explored. May you, too, make memories wherever you travel with your Wild Card this spring.
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4 WILD SPRING 2017
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VARIETY OF WILDLIFE
This pic of my family was taken at the Environmental Centre in Karoo National Park. We enjoyed every aspect of our visit. The camping facilities were well kept and cared for, the staff friendly and helpful, and we had wonderful animal sightings. The vistas were amazing, from watching the sunrise and sunset tingeing the mountains with gold to the variety of wildlife and birdlife we saw. Definitely worth a return visit! Thanks for a great magazine, always fantastic content, which gives us very itchy feet to travel. Liz Sanders
Having read the Autumn 2017 issue of Wild I realised I’d recently taken some pictures of impala that were pertinent to certain interesting facts in your article. These pictures of impala show their grooming behaviour with such specialised teeth. I was simply lucky to be at right place at the right time. Congratulations on the wealth of interesting and out of the ordinary topics in your magazine. Barry Palm
Send us your letter
WINNING for the chance to win.
Liz Sanders wins a pair of Sierra X-Lite Low outdoor casual shoes (R1 199) from HI-TEC.
Available in designs for men and women, the Sierra X-Lite Low casual shoe is tough enough for the outdoors yet stylish enough for city life. The sole offers traction both uphill and downhill, while the synthetic and mesh upper is hard-wearing and breathable. Just the shoe for easy spring excursions.
| ERRATA | THENDELE David A’Bear pointed out that the caption on page 47 of the Wild Autumn 2017 issue should have read Thendele Hutted Camp (Royal Natal National Park).
CAMPFIRE DELIGHT We first camped in Kruger, at Punda Maria, in 1974. On our last visit, to Letaba Rest Camp, we found that the public campsites are now equipped with concrete slabs to enjoy sit-around fires. Standard braai set-ups let your feet and legs freeze when you want to enjoy a traditional campfire. Thousand thanks and please expand this feature to all campsites. Wilfried and Dagmar Wesslau, Barberton www.wildcard.co.za
N’WANETSI The N’wanetsi picnic site lies on the Sweni River rather than on the N’wanetsi River (page 14, Wild Autumn 2017). The same applies to the attractive cliff-top viewpoint on the hill adjacent to the picnic site. The confluence of the Sweni and N’wanetsi rivers lies further east and is not visible from the viewpoint. Thank you, Rudolph Bigalke, for pointing out this misnomer, which has surely confused many visitors. SPRING 2017 WILD 5
ONLINE COMMENTS “In 20 minutes I have made a visit to my favourite park while seated in front of my PC! How fantastic it is to be able to enjoy sharing fellow park visitors’ personal experiences. A wonderful privilege.” – Ray Radue “Absolutely love receiving the Wild Card emails and love receiving the Wild Card magazine even more. I read the magazine from cover to cover.” – Beulah Bradbury
MUSSEL FATIGUE We recently hiked the 42 km Otter Trail from Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve to Nature’s Valley and it exceeded all expectations and more. It is a must for anyone who loves the outdoors. The views were breathtaking; of what little breath you have left after the steep uphills. Hiking with 15 kg on your back is gruelling and you need to train with a pack. I was fortunate I did not pull any mussels (excuse the pun). It was a trail of selfdiscovery and appreciation for what South Africa has to offer. We were lucky enough to spot otters on our third day, which was an absolute highlight. They were swimming and catching fish just below us. This photo was taken from Scott’s Hut and represents the love and light I have for my fiancé, family and beautiful country with its amazing diversity of trees, birds, insects and animals. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Nicole Hudson-Lamb
“Always very informative and interesting articles. I like reading about the smaller animals that we do not always get to see.” – Allan and Bernice Impey
We could not agree more, which is why Wild went on a micro safari in Kruger (see page 62) – Ed.
BUSH LOVER I have no desire to travel out of Africa or, in fact, South Africa again, because everything that attracts my heart lies in the Kruger National Park, with its peace, beauty and dusty roads. It is my favourite place in the world and it tops places I’ve been to, such as the top of the Eiffel Tower and the streets of Rome. This photo, with my boyfriend, Kyle Massyn, was taken on the H1-6 at the Letaba River bridge, where you can get out of your vehicle. Carla Scamuzzi 6 WILD SPRING 2017
I reunited with the Wild Card and went on a seven-day tour of the Kruger National Park with friends. What a special place. The Wild magazine that I have just received shows South Africans that the biggest tourist resorts in the world are not necessarily the best. We have a beautiful country and all of us must be proud of it, keep it clean, and respect the natural life in it. I wish that every South African would get the chance to see one of our fantastic places. Marian Williams, Noordhoek
SNAKE IN THE GRASS
I spotted this ground hornbill with a snake wrapped around its beak on the road from Phalaborwa Gate to the Letaba River. It was being eagerly pursued by four other hornbills. I thought it quite unusual. Is that a skaapsteker? Colin Fraser, Leopard Rock
During our visit to the Kruger National Park we spotted this waterbuck on the H12, between Skukuza/Tshokwane and the Skukuza/Lower Sabie roads. It is pretty obvious that this beautiful animal is not normal. What is the possible cause for this unusual appearance of the head, horns and nostril? Even the tail end protrudes too much. Corrie and Helena Venter
Herpetologist Johan Marais from the African Snakebite Institute responds: “It is a western yellow-bellied sand snake Psammophis subtaeniatus, backfanged and mildly venomous. It is a common diurnal snake that is very fast moving. I am surprised that the ground hornbill managed to get the snake as they are so quick. I would not be surprised if the snake had been accidentally killed or injured by a passing car.”
According to Dr Danny Govender, veterinarian in Kruger, it looks like an early embryonic development deformity. “When the embryo forms, the face is made up of lateral arches that grow towards the centre and merge early on in development. If there is a problem when those lateral arches form (either genetic abnormality, environmentally induced or the presence of certain pathogens), it can result in various abnormalities including cleft palate (when they stop too soon), cyclops (when they stop too late), etc. In this case it seems like the left arch kept migrating and was engulfed in the right arch, resulting in the nose, forehead and horn being abnormal and smaller. It looks like the animal has problems in the hindquarters as well. The body wall musculature on the hind quarters might be weak, resulting in rectal prolapse.”
GET THE WILD E-READER Want Wild magazine in your pocket? Download the Wild e-reader, available for Apple and Android devices. The digital version of the magazine is enriched with extra photos, trip reports and route information. Individual issues cost R49.99 a copy; the printed magazine remains free to Wild Card members who pay annual fees.
Where did you go with your Wild Card? Send us a picture of your card in the parks and you could win free renewal of your membership. Email your image to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Card). For rules, visit www.wildcard.co.za/category/ competitions.
Benjamin Prian wins free renewal with this picture of his family’s visit to Table Mountain National Park. www.wildcard.co.za
INSIDE TRACK N YAT H I R E S T C A M P A D D O E L E P H A N T NAT I O NA L PA R K
PURE LUXURY Addoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nyathi Rest Camp offers classy lodgings and, most importantly, tranquillity.
Each chalet has a private deck that incorporates a splash pool.
The modern luxury traveller will look far to find selfcatering accommodation of this calibre in the bush. With lofty ceilings, an eclectic mix of indigenous style and furnishings, plus a huge open kitchen, this could be your sophisticated home from home. By Bridgena Barnard
SPRING 2017 WILD 9
Night sneaked silently over the horizon,
s we passed through Nyathi Rest Campâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gate, solitude and serenity washed over me. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a world away from the tourists and wildlife devotees in neighbouring Addo Main Camp. Thatched roofs appeared through Albany thicket, their sharply defined profiles rising into the azure sky. Inside, traditional Xhosa design married modern luxury, starting with long, slender oryx-horn door handles. The spacious and opulent living area gave way to breathtaking 180-degree views from the balcony. I opened the block-out curtains and stepped onto the balcony to find an entertainment area concealed on the side of the unit, featuring a crystal clear pool for two and a braai. A well-designed kitchen
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contributed to the ease of prepping food and drink. The kitchen view flowed beyond the living area and balcony, into the wild. I had to force myself to focus on sorting out something to eat rather than the surroundings outside. We sat on the balcony and indulged ourselves in wildlife roaming across the seasonal river. Kudu quenched their thirst right below us, watched by baboon troops. Elephants grazed on lush green vegetation, a small herd of buffalo ambled past and amusing warthogs ran along in family order. A first for me were two bush pig sightings. Later in the afternoon we strolled down to the waterhole behind the units, basking in the sun and enjoying a different view. Birding entertainment included
bringing new sounds and calls.
JOHAN & BRIDGENA BARNARD
mousebird, jackal buzzard, Cape bulbul, various doves, the echoes of Burchell’s coucal and a rock thrush. Night sneaked silently over the horizon, bringing new sounds and calls. A candy floss mist moved in and wrapped the camp in a soft blanket. I whispered to myself, “Do I really want to share the news of this wonderful spot with those in search of complete isolation and tranquillity?”
This jewel is perfect for a luxurious break from everyday responsibilities and pressures, or if you need new encouragement. Without cellphone reception, you can enjoy the silence and beauty of the Zuurberg surroundings free from interruptions. We sipped on beverages, engaged in conversation and shared memories, but mostly sat in complete silence, just us and the bush.
Clockwise from top left: Nyathi Rest Camp; the chalets are stylishly furnished; Addo is known for elephant sightings; a bath with a view.
TRIP PLANNER Getting there Nyathi Rest Camp is 12 km from Addo Main Gate, at the foot of the Zuurberg. Conservation fees R62 an adult, R31 a child, valid Wild Card members free. Accommodation Cottages R1 800 a night for one or two people. Family cottages, which sleep six, are R3 800 a night for one to four people, R480 an extra adult, R240 an extra child. Contact SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org
Addo Elephant National Park is about 70 km from Port Elizabeth. SPRING 2017 WILD 11
INSIDE TRACK L I M I ET BE RG NAT U R E R E SE RV E
Short and sweet
Splash in golden river pools on the Waterfall Trail, starting at Tweede Tol in the wild and wonderful Limietberg Nature Reserve near Wellington. By Ron Swilling
he Waterfall Trail, a two-hour circular route, is a relatively effortless hike that quickly takes you deep into Limietberg Nature Reserve. It gets the blood moving while giving you ample opportunity to swim before draping yourself on hot rocks to dry. As you enter this magic enclave of mountains, rock and fynbos, you seemingly step through a transparent door into a secret world where all worries disappear. Simply lace up your boots and follow the path from the far side of the campsite. Yellow footprints painted on the rocks show the way. The path crosses
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the small Wolwekloof River to the opposite bank, where it continues for a while before leading you back down to the river. On an early morning walk, we disturbed a Verreaux’s eagle. It rose into the air right in front of us, stopping us in our tracks and leaving us in a stupor of wonder. The path along the river follows the gurgling water to a series of rock pools, each more magical than the next. One was dubbed ‘Jenny’s pool’ by the camp staff after the wife of a newly married couple who lost her wedding ring in the pool. Although they have spent hours looking for the ring, it remains glinting among the
The path along the river leads to a series of rock pools. stones on the riverbed, adding to the enchantment of the river valley and perhaps to catch someone’s eye one day. Pause and enjoy the idyllic setting, the pools and their short cascades enclosed by a jumble of rocks softened with tufts of greenery. Then climb over the rocks to the topmost pool, where rock walls create a small gully, an entranceway to a shaded pool with a waterfall.
Otter scat on a rock reveals that you are not the only ones to frolic in the water. If you sun yourself lazily on the rocks, you will likely be joined by lizards. After revelling in the last pool, a steep uphill climb leads you out of the riverbed to a gravel road. This can be followed at a good pace to return to the campsite for brunch or an indulgent afternoon siesta.
Opposite: A crystal clear pool in the Wolwekloof River. Above, clockwise from top left: yellow footprints show the way; a Cape spurfowl; the Waterfall Trail is aptly named; Tweede Tol Campsite is well shaded.
TRIP PLANNER HOW TO GET THERE Tweede Tol lies between Wellington and Worcester on Bainskloof Pass, about 16 km from Wellington. CONSERVATION FEES R40 an adult, R20 a child, valid Wild Card members free. ACCOMMODATION There are 20 standard campsites dotted along the river under large trees and sharing a communal ablution block. From R300 a site for one to six people a night. There are also seven private campsites which are slightly further back, fenced off and with their own shower and toilet facilities. From R500 a site for one to six people a night. GOOD TO KNOW The Waterfall Trail is accessible to overnight campers only. Day visitors can enjoy the picnic area and the swimming holes in the Witte River, below the campsite. CONTACT CapeNature 021-483-0190, www.capenature.co.za www.wildcard.co.za
Limietberg Nature Reserve’s Tweede Tol Campsite is an hourand-a-half’s drive from Cape Town. SPRING 2017 WILD 13
Van Breda Cottage is a great base for exploring the park.
Looking for an active escape? Visit www.wildcard. co.za to view our video of fun activities in West Coast National Park.
W E S T C O A S T N A T I O N A L PA R K
Walk this way B
Newly restored cottages near Geelbek Homestead place you within walking distance of West Coast’s many charms. By Tate Drucker arely an hour from the bustle of Cape Town you can spend the night in a comfortable cottage surrounded by nothing but the sounds of birdsong and the crackle from the fireplace. Two newly renovated cottages in the heart of West Coast National Park sit on opposite corners of the Geelbek Stables, amid trees and open fields where herds of eland and red hartebeest graze while ostriches wander in the sunlight. Steytler and Van Breda cottages are in a prime spot for exploring the park as many highlights are easily reached on foot. Just around the corner lies the Geelbek Restaurant, with its iconic Cape Dutch architecture and excellent menu and wine list. There are also two bird hides nearby, on Langebaan Lagoon. Guests at the cottages can stroll to these hides at their leisure, so take your time to observe the exceptional birdlife in the park. I could
have spent many more hours watching the flamingos. For those who wish to explore further afield, the cottages are conveniently located for visits to some of the park’s top spots, such as Seeberg Viewpoint with its sweeping panorama of the lagoon. Or you might want to tackle the mountain-biking paths and hiking trails that range from strenuous to leisurely, depending on what you choose. In springtime, a visit to the Postberg section is a must. Open to the public during August and September only, Postberg is renowned for its wildflowers. Both cottages are set up for selfcatering, with well-equipped kitchens. At Van Breda there is a braai facility and outdoor dining area for the warmer months. For chilly evenings there are large fireplaces, heaters and hot-water bottles. Come settle in and embrace the peace and quiet of the night. /
TRIP PLANNER West Coast National Park is about 100 km north of Cape Town. 14 WILD SPRING 2017
CONSERVATION FEES Outside flower season R50 an adult, R25 a child; flower season R70 an adult, R35 a child; valid Wild Card members free. ACCOMMODATION Steytler Cottage sleeps two, from R1 120 a night. Van Breda Cottage sleeps up to six, R1 500 a night for one to four people, R410 an extra adult, R205 an extra child. BOOKINGS SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org
Endless summer Come spring, West Coast National Park is a safe haven for many migratory birds that chase the sun. By Dale Wright
etâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s put ourselves into the shoes, or rather the feathers, of one of our winged friends for a minute. As a tiny shorebird or wader, you spend your long summer days in the northern hemisphere, foraging around a large intertidal mudflat or tundra marsh, feeding your newly hatched chick and yourself on the riches of the summer season. Slowly the days begin to shorten and you frantically fatten up both yourself and your young, in preparation for a long trip. When the timing feels right, you and many others of your species take to the wing and cross mountains and oceans, flying around deserts and over great rainforests, as you chase the sun. This journey, however, is fraught with dangers such as the illegal hunters and netters out
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to trap small birds, plus the loss of key areas of habitat that help you complete the arduous journey. Some species increase their body mass by up to 35 per cent before embarking on this journey. Try doing that before your next trail run! Many of our summer visitors to the world-famous Langebaan Lagoon make their way carefully down the west coast of Africa, arriving on our shores in spring. A visitor to West Coast National Park may encounter these birds while sitting in a bird hide at Geelbek, watching the thousands of waders such as curlew sandpiper, grey plover, ruddy turnstone, red knot and sanderling probing the mud for a tasty morsel. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been a decline in the number of birds visiting these shores each year,
BIRD MAGNET Langebaan Lagoon is a hot spot for shorebirds and waders from the northern hemisphere.
CHARLESJSHARP, ARNSTEIN RØNNING, PETER WALLACK, STEVE BERARDI
but the tricky question is are these real declines in total numbers? Or are ‘our’ birds simply choosing to stop off elsewhere on their long journey, perhaps finding plenty of suitable habitat in the mud flats of Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania? Sites such as these, further north along the flyway, provide essential stepping stones, patches of habitat that allow the birds to touch down briefly and refuel before continuing their journey. An ambitious project is being undertaken to get answers to these questions. Scientists from the University of Cape Town, together with many bird club volunteers, conducted a ‘total flyway count’ in January 2017. This required counting the birds at all of the major sites along the entire East Atlantic Flyway, including West Coast National Park. The flyway represents the migratory path stretching along the coast of West Africa and Western Europe and Asia. The idea is that by counting all of the sites over the same time period, we can gain a
better understanding of whether the birds have simply chosen a different summer vacation spot, or if we need to become concerned about real declines. The West Coast National Park Important Bird and Biodiversity Area hosts one of the highest numbers of migratory birds along this flyway, and across our country, and is important as one of the few, fully protected summer spots for these birds. The other ‘stepping stones’ or over-wintering sites along our coastline are unprotected and under severe threat. BirdLife South Africa and other partners are working hard to protect and conserve such sites so that they may offer similar refuge for these migrant birds. The next time you’re soaking up the beauty of Langebaan Lagoon and West Coast National Park, take a minute to scan the tiny grey birds out on the mudflats, and appreciate the massive effort it has taken for them to arrive here. Read about one of our most splendid summer visitors to the bushveld on page 68 – Ed. SPRING 2017 WILD 17
Great cedars C E DE R BE RG W I L DE RN E SS ARE A
FROM LITTLE SEEDS GROW The community of Heuningvlei takes pride in an annual conservation event, which has seen some 2 000 Clanwilliam cedar trees planted over the past 15 years. By Romi Boom
Children plant seeds to protect cedar trees.
The Cederberg Wilderness Area lies 200 km north of Cape Town. 18 WILD SPRING 2017
he 4x4 route to the remote village of Heuningvlei is opened once a year, when CapeNature banners indicate the turnoff into the wilds from the top of the Pakhuis Pass. The 12-kilometre route on a stony track through rugged scenery takes the better part of an hour. On a donkey cart, the traditional mode of transport in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, the trail takes two and a half hours. En route, mountain fynbos proliferates. This is a World Heritage Site, about three hours from Cape Town, and home to the laurel protea, the red disa, rooibos and the rare snow protea as well as the Red Datalisted Clanwilliam cedar tree. A vital part
of the Cederberg region’s biodiversity, the species, which grows nowhere else, is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Heuningvlei is slightly more accessible from the winding mountain pass that leads to Wupperthal. Even so, the hamlet remains isolated, with only 25 families currently living there, one of 14 outposts of the local Moravian Mission Church. The community takes great pride in the annual cedar tree planting event, when young and old join about 300 conservationists from all over the Western Cape. The objective each year is to plant 200 cedar tree saplings just before the onset of winter, in the hope that they will survive
SEE IT FOR YOURSELF Heuningvlei is the base for heritage hiking and donkey cart adventure trails offered by the Cederberg Heritage Route, a CapeNature partner. Visit www.cedheroute.co.za for more information.
The Clanwilliam cedar is one of 43 conifer species worldwide that are the focus of special international concern. bush fires and lack of water. The first batch of 20 trees provided by CapeNature in 2003 were eaten by eland. The wilderness in the koppies above Heu ningvlei has since been identified as a suitably rocky setting at a height of between 800 m and 1650 m above sea level. The mountainous area is a natural fire exclusion zone. So far about 1 800 two-year-old trees have been planted in the wilderness and a further 200 trees in the groves at Heuningvlei. Annually about 1 000 seeds are also planted by children, mainly from Elizabethfontein Primary School, and propagated into seedlings. These are nurtured in the nursery at Bushmans www.wildcard.co.za
Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat, for future transplantation back into the wilderness. Seeds are produced only once the tree reaches full reproductive maturity, after 20 to 30 years. With fires in the Cederberg fynbos area occurring at intervals of about 11 to 15 years, successful seedling growth after fires is vital, although it is doubtful whether there are enough young replacement trees. We can only hope for the Heuningvlei saplings’ survival and support the annual planting. Read more about CapeNature and Bushmans Kloof’s 2017 cedar tree planting event on www.wildcard.co.za. /
LONG TIME COMING Although it is a cypress and not a true cedar, the Clanwilliam cedar is a durable, fragrant wood. It was excessively harvested for furniture, fences and telephone poles when farmers settled along the Olifants River during the mid-18th century. The San and Khoi used fire to stimulate grazing and to flush out game, thus destroying many seedlings. Fossilised pollen shows a steady population decline over the past 14 600 years, possibly due to climatic changes. SPRING 2017 WILD 19
TRIP PLANNER Make your childhood dreams come true when you check into one of these treehouses. You can’t get closer to nature than this. By Magriet Kruger
The Solitude Seeker recommends
Kameeldoring Treetop Chalet, Mokala National Park
It’s an iconic African scene: grounded in rich red earth, a camelthorn tree spreads its branches umbrella-like against a blue sky while nearby antelope drink at a lonely waterhole. What makes the setting wonderfully different is that the camelthorn cradles a wooden cabin among its branches. The thatched-roof hideaway has a double bed, bathroom cubicle and kitchenette with gas burner. Rustic but comfortable. Best of all is the large deck that looks down onto the waterhole. By day you can while away hours watching the parade of wildlife; at night you can braai and dine under the stars. Rate Treehouse from R1 270 a night, minimum two nights, maximum four Contact Book directly with the park on 053-204-8000
The Stargazer recommends
Tinyeleti Treehouse, Kruger National Park
Situated in the canopy above the Sabie River, this luxurious treehouse is a large wooden deck open to the sky. The name Tinyeleti, meaning ‘many stars’, couldn’t be more apt. Deep in the wilderness, you’ll find the night sky velvety dark and the stars impossible to count. But don’t let that stop you from trying. The platform has a telescope for your use and you can stargaze from the comfort of the couch or the four-poster bed. A night at Tinyeleti starts just before sunset when twinkling paraffin lamps foretell the impressive night sky and sundowners are followed by a gourmet picnic hamper. Rate R3 850 a person for the treehouse, in addition to the nightly tariff of R9 975 a person at Lion Sands, which includes meals, beverages and activities Contact 011 880 9992, email@example.com
The Romantic recommends
Marataba Treehouse, Marakele National Park
Want a night the two of you will remember for the rest of your lives? A stay at this dreamy refuge is a treat for the senses. Picture an indulgent picnic dinner, an unparallelled panorama of the Waterberg and the music of the bush as your soundtrack. The treehouse is unfenced and has no electricity, but comprises all manner of creature comforts including a deluxe king-size bed. The platform puts you at a safe distance above the ground while allowing for close sightings. Due to open in October, the Marataba Treehouse is a unique place for a honeymoon or special anniversary. Rate R2 750 a person for the treehouse, in addition to the nightly tariff of R6 895 a person at Marataba Safari Lodge, which includes meals, beverages and activities Contact 011 880 9992, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harkerville Forest Treetop Chalet, Garden Route National Park
Perched on a platform high above the forest floor, this enchanting retreat puts you at eye-level with the woodland birds. Listen for the call of the Knysna warbler and keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway flash of red signalling a narina trogon. The four-star chalet boasts two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen and a cosy lounge with a fireplace. Running the length of the chalet, the deck is where you can braai, have dinner, relax on loungers, read and birdwatch. Head into the forest on your mountain bike or take a wander along one of the trails. Rate R1 495 a night for one or two people, R480 an extra adult, R240 an extra child Contact SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org /
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The Woodland Lover
Kameeldoring Treetop Chalet, Mokala www.wildcard.co.za
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
On a long weekend escape to Africa’s southernmost tip, stay in a heritage cottage to explore the fynbos and coastline. Three different trails, all within a 45-minute radius of your base at Rhenosterkop, beg to be hiked. By Peter Chadwick
LIFE’S A BEACH Playing around on the soft sand at Brandfontein as the setting sun turns the surroundings gold. 2017 XXshades WILD of SPRING
A sunset beach walk is a fantastic way for a family to end an exciting day exploring Agulhas National Park.
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Rhenosterkop Now falling within the boundaries of Agulhas National Park, Rhenosterkop was one of the oldest farms in the region, used for grazing as early as the 1740s. The old homestead has been tastefully refurbished, with three separated, comfortable cottages for self-catering that use solar and gas for their energy requirements. Surrounding the cottages, the stands of milkwood trees, where olive pigeons feed, lie scattered between strandveld vegetation and small wetlands from where clicking stream-frogs constantly call. The name originates from the skull of a black rhino found in this area many years ago.
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gap between the ancient and gnarled milkwood trees indicated the turnoff to the Rhenosterkop Cottages and the start to three days of exploration while also enjoying the peace and tranquillity away from all of the complexities of life. As we drove down the short sandy track, an inquisitive grey duiker with huge brown eyes watched us for a few moments before scampering away into the undergrowth. Birds were seemingly everywhere, with bokmakieries, southern boubous, Cape bulbuls, speckled mousebirds, metallic green malachite sunbirds and Cape spurfowls providing a kaleidoscope of colour and activity. Alighting from our vehicle at the main four-bed cottage, we breathed deep the fresh air recently washed clean by a light rain. A slight breeze carried the mesmerising sound of waves crashing against a nearby coastline. This was indeed bliss. After unpacking and with the shadows
of afternoon lengthening, it was time for us to put in a quick exploration of our surroundings. A short five-kilometre drive took us down to the Brandfontein beach where ocean rollers smashed against a long stretch of wonderfully isolated sandy beach interspersed with rugged rocky outcrops. Suné and Xanté, my two daughters, are ever keen to keep fit for hockey and were soon striding out along the beachfront. Sonja, my wife, and I took the easier option of watching the African black oystercatcher pairs, white-fronted plovers and the kelp and Hartlaub’s gulls as they all fed among the stranded piles of kelp that lay on the beach. We were additionally spoilt with a sighting of a pod of bottlenose dolphins out to sea as they rode the waves and even further out a southern right whale showed itself briefly with a tail slap before disappearing back into the ocean depths. We returned to Rhenosterkop as the last rays of the day cast across the sky and made a quick stop at a nearby salt
pan. Greater flamingos, pied avocets and black-winged stilts waded through the shallows, silhouetted against a sky splashed in palettes of colour. During the night, a thick coastal fog rolled in, blanketing out the stars and accentuating the echoes of honking greater flamingos, hooting spotted eagle-owls and fierynecked nightjars.
#1 Rasperspunt Hiking Trail
The following morning, wakened by an orchestral dawn chorus of birdsong, we enjoyed steaming cups of coffee with rusks out on the misty lawns as the sun threw its golden rays over the horizon. This was in preparation for an adventurous day of exploring Africa’s southernmost coastline along the Rasperspunt Hiking Trail. After a 31-kilometre drive, we parked our vehicle at the base of the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, South Africa’s secondoldest working lighthouse, built in 1849. Admiring the beauty of the coastline, www.wildcard.co.za
we set out along the boardwalk towards the continent’s southernmost tip where throngs of holidaymakers were having their obligatory picture taken. Steeped in history, this extremely rough coastline has claimed many a ship during wild ravaging winter storms. The earliest dates back to 1682 while the most recent, the Meisho Maru, ran aground in 1982 and is still visible along the trail route. It is also along this coast that the warm Indian Ocean meets with the cold currents of the Atlantic Ocean, creating an incredible diversity of life in the oceans and among the intertidal pools. With magnifying glasses in hand, we eagerly explored rock pools filled with their multicoloured urchins, cushion stars, starfish, periwinkles and the occasional klipfish. Among the beach detritus of stranded sponges, shark and ray egg casings, and seaweeds, were a wonderful variety of shell types. A really exciting find was an exquisite but highly delicate nautilus shell. These bizarre creatures wash ashore
Opposite: Watching the sunrise at Rhenosterkop. Above: Striking proteas on the route from Rietfontein to the coast.
Agulhas is a twoand-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town. SPRING 2017 WILD 25
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Magnifying glass in hand, we explored the diversity of life in the intertidal pools. An aerial view of the historical fish traps at Rasperspunt.
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during the early winter storms of the year, but are usually smashed to pieces against the rocks. On a sandy stretch of beach we sat mesmerised as ploughshare snails emerged from under the sand to drag themselves towards a stranded and rather large pinkcoloured jellyfish upon which they then gorged. At Rasperspunt itself, at low tide, a network of old stone-built fish traps may be seen. These low walls of packed stones trapped shoals of fish on the outgoing tide. The catch was then easily gathered for the rich protein it provided. In the nearby dune vegetation, heaps of shell middens date to the same period. With our intense exploration of all that the Rasperspunt Trail had to offer, it was
past lunchtime by the time we had walked the 10-kilometre route.
#2 Rietfontein Fynbos Hike
For something completely different, we drove to the western side of Agulhas National Park during the afternoon and parked our vehicle at Rietfontein Cottages to explore the magnificent lowland fynbos, rich in colour and diversity. Vast fields of near-threatened and pink-flowered Protea compacta and the contrasting dark red flowering Protea obtusifolia grew among ericas, leucadendrons, leucospermums, restios and countless other fynbos species. Male Cape sugarbirds and orange-breasted sunbirds fluttered, displayed and called from the tops of the
Top: A rare find of a nautilus within its perfect shell. Above: Taking a wellearned break on the picturesque coastline of Agulhas National Park after hiking between Rietfontein and the coast.
proteas, while Cape grassbirds gave their wonderfully liquid calls from within the surrounding shrubbery. Following the rough four-kilometre track that leads from Rietfontein, we ended up at a wild, rocky beach where we took a short snack break while watching a small island outcrop where white-breasted, crowned and Cape cormorants sunned themselves with wide open wings. Flocks of swift terns hunted over the bay and occasionally swooped into the sea to emerge with small fish that were quickly swallowed. On the hike back, a Cape grysbok dashed across the roadway and we watched as an afternoon sea fog slowly rolled in, trapping itself against the low mountain ridge. www.wildcard.co.za
TRIP PLANNER GETTING THERE Rhenosterkop lies 31â&#x20AC;&#x2030;km from the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse off the Struisbaai/Elim road. ACCOMMODATION Cottage sleeping two R780 a night. Family cottage R1â&#x20AC;&#x2030;265 a night for one to four people. CONTACT SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org SPRING 2017 WILD 27
Cape grassbirds gave their wonderfully liquid calls.
Careening through the forest, we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take our eyes off the twisting trail. For all we know, we whooshed past the Knysna elephants. 5
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
At the estuary mouth, hundreds of waterbirds probed deep into the mud for invertebrates.
The tranquil Heuningnes Estuary seen from the lookout platform at the start of the Sterna Trail.
#3 Sterna Trail, De Mond Nature Reserve De Mond Nature Reserve, managed by CapeNature, lies within a 45-minute drive from Rhenosterkop. With the option of hiking the seven-kilometre trail through coastal duneveld, pristine beachfront and along an estuary, we were up early again the following morning and set off to be at De Mond in time for the sunrise. After crossing the bridge over the Heuningnes River, we made the short climb up to a lookout that provides the most magnificent views over the mirrorlike estuary and out to sea. To the east, the far distant Langeberg, behind Swellendam, glowed as the sun cast its first rays against their ridge tops. Leaving the lookout, we wandered through duneveld where spiderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s webs glittered with silvery dewdrops and countless heaps of soil showed where Cape dune mole rats were building underground tunnels. The isolation of the pristine white beach made us feel that
we were the only people on the planet, as the waves lapped gently ashore. At the estuary mouth, exposed mudflats harboured hundreds of waterbirds, probing deep into the mud for invertebrates. Endangered Damara terns, for which the reserve is famous, hunted over the narrow channels of deeper water. Bizarre-looking shaggy sea-hares, plentiful among the aquatic vegetation, had us spellbound as it took a while to figure out what they really were. To protect the fragile but healthy salt marshes, CapeNature has built a wooden boardwalk on the final stretch of the trail that leads away from the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge and back to the reserve entrance. Having packed such a variety of exploration into such a short time frame, my family and I decided that a relaxing skottel braai under the magnificent milkwood trees at the reserve entrance would give us the opportunity to plan further explorations of Africaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s southernmost diversity. /
1 A migratory ringed plover on the Heuningnes Estuary in De Mond. 2 An African spoonbill hunts in the shallows. 3 A Cape grassbird perches on top of a fynbos shrub. 4 A bokmakierie spotted near the cottage at Rhenosterkop. 5 A little stint pauses from feeding on the nutrient rich mud-flats of the Heuningnes. 6 An African swamphen was a lucky find at one of the pans close to Rhenosterkop.
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
How much action can one adventurer fit into a weekend in the Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park? Wild joins the ride as Letshego Zulu zips and zooms through fynbos and forest to follow her passion. By Morgan Trimble
A SURF &
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TURF ADVENTURE “People think you need experience or expensive equipment, but most of the time you can rent what you need and get a lesson.”
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
uinea fowl ring a persistent alarm and I crawl out of bed for a peek at sunrise. White blobs scroll across a pink sky over the Touw River. After some eye rubbing, the blobs become egrets in a regal procession hundreds of birds strong. But there’s no time to linger over the parade. Adventurer Letshego Zulu is here to demonstrate just how much action can fit into one weekend in the Garden Route National Park. We’re due for our first activity, a paddle upriver. Reading Letshego’s adventure CV is an endurance exercise in itself. It’s bursting with multi-day bike races and ultra-mara thons such as the Cape Epic, Joberg2C, Comrades and Two Oceans. You name it, she’s raced it. A veteran of Survivor Maldives and Fear Factor, Letshego’s current reality is whipping Joburgers into shape with her business, Pop Up Gym, when she’s not adventuring. But canoeing isn’t part of her usual regime. Letshego’s friend and fellow fitness fanatic Karabo Mashele,
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who joins us for the weekend, confesses she hasn’t canoed since school. After a lesson in not capsizing, SANParks canoe-expert Manfred Beukes gently shoves us into the Touw River, Letshego and Karabo sharing a canoe and me on a kayak. We navigate upriver, past our cabins in Ebb and Flow Rest Camp, so named because the river rises and falls with the tides. We paddle against a brisk headwind then, as we round a bend, the river smooths into shimmering glass winding between towering forested hills. Between exclamations of how beautiful the day is, how peaceful the river, and who in the canoe is not doing their share of paddling, Letshego and Karabo strategise about a new project, an online channel called Let’s Adventure intended to introduce South Africans to the world of activities in their own country. “So many people put limitations on themselves. They think ‘outdoor adventure is not for me’. They don’t know they can do it!” explains Letshego. “There’s
Above: SANParks’ Manfred Beukes pushes the canoe into the water. Below: Paddling on glassy water past wild forest.
Letshego Zulu (right) and Karabo Mashele explore by canoe.
more to life than watching television and so much fun to be had outdoors. People think you need experience or expensive equipment, but most of the time, like with these canoes, you can rent what you need and get a lesson.” We wave to happy campers sipping coffee on the riverbank as Letshego explains that for many South Africans, it’s traditional to go home and visit family for holidays. One Easter, when Letshego was off from varsity, she and her mother were heading to Mafikeng to her grandmother. “As we left Joburg, I saw a car with luggage piled on the roof and bikes hanging from the back. I saw cars pulling caravans and adventure trailers. These people were going www.wildcard.co.za
on holiday. We were just going home. I wanted to go on holiday, too. Now I’m the one with the bike rack.” We round another river bend straight into gusting wind. Conveniently, it’s time to turn back for our next adventure, a Segway tour through the fynbos. Guide Athi Botoman recognises Letshe go immediately as he follows her online, and offers condolences for the loss of her husband, race car driver Gugu Zulu. Tragically, Gugu died of altitude sickness last year when he and Letshego were climbing Kilimanjaro with Trek4Mandela. Gugu was 38. Athi shows us how to use our all-terrain Segways, set to ‘tortoise mode’. We giggle SPRING 2017 WILD 33
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Careening through the forest, we can’t take our eyes off the twisting trail. For all we know, we whooshed past the Knysna elephants.
LET’S ROLL! Guide Thando Siwa and Le tshego show their skill on heavyduty scooters.
Letshego holds the scooter so her daughter, Lelethu, can get a feel for the adventure. Both of them are clearly in their element.
through wobbly mounts and dismounts and figure-of-eights, then graduate to ‘standard mode’ after navigating the ramp out of the training area. Soon, we’re zipping along the Pied Kingfisher Trail, zooming past fynbos flowers and fleeting views of the Serpentine River and bouncing over sandy speed bumps engineered by mole rats. Herons and moorhens skulk among the reeds, perhaps waiting for a repeat performance. Exploring by Segway is surprisingly fun and exciting. The quiet electric motor doesn’t intrude on nature much and you cover ground quickly. Eventually we reach a foot bridge too narrow for Segways. Despite Athi’s jokes that we cross it balanced on one wheel, we turn back. We pick up Letshego’s mother, Gomo lemo, and young daughter, Lelethu, who have been enjoying a slower-paced morning in camp, and head towards Knysna for an appointment with Scootours. Guide Thando Siwa meets us at the entrance to Goudveld Forest, not far from the Dalene Matthee Big Tree, an 800-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood marking the start of the Circles in the Forest Trail. We’re here for adrenalin, not an amble. We pile into the Scootours van, a trailer packed with
scooters in tow, and climb a steep track. Thando hands out helmets and protective gloves as we arrive at the top. Little Lelethu dons a helmet for her ride in the van with granny and watches intently, clearly an adventurer in the making. The heavy-duty scooters are selfpropelled, but it’s all downhill from here. Knobby tyres gnash dirt. Towering trees blur by. Avid mountain-biker Letshego grins widely while Karabo and I clutch desperately at squealing brakes. In what feels like seconds, we’re at the bottom of the two-kilometre run, and the van takes us back up for round two, this time on singletrack. Careening through the forest, we can’t take our eyes off the twisting trail. For all we know, we whooshed past the Knysna elephants. There’s time for one more adventure the next morning, hiking the Half Collared Kingfisher Trail. Knysna turacos flash red amid the forest canopy, and we stop to admire a lone arum lily, Letshego’s favourite. We continue walking beneath an impressive tangle of life. Letshego is breaking in new boots for her return to Kilimanjaro. She hopes to commemorate her husband with a successful climb on the one-year anniversary
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Wilderness has several day walks. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up to you whether you spend half an hour or half a day. 36 WILD SPRING 2017
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT The colourful blooms of an aloe.
Soon weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re zooming past fynbos and fleeting views of the Serpentine River and bouncing over sandy speed bumps engineered by mole rats.
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PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT of his death. Surprised, I ask, “Hasn’t Gugu’s death scared you into slowing down?” “No, when it’s your time, it’s your time. I can’t live in the past. My heart is still beating.” I get the impression that Letshego’s refusal to ease up and tireless efforts to inspire new South African adventurers is exactly what her husband would have wanted. On the way to the airport, we reflect
on a weekend packed with adventure. Le tshego and Karabo rank their favourites: Scootours, Segway, canoeing, then hiking. I laugh as my list is the exact opposite. Lelethu can’t talk yet, but I suspect her highlight was pointing and squealing at birds. Gomolemo enjoyed reading in tranquillity. Whatever your adrenalin tolerance, there’s an adventure for you in the Garden Route National Park. /
Ebb and Flow’s quaint cabins look straight out of a storybook.
GET INTO ACTION GETTING THERE The Wilderness Section of Garden Route National Park is 20 km from George. CONSERVATION FEES R37 an adult, R18 a child, valid Wild Card members free. ACCOMMODATION Ebb and Flow Rest Camp South has campsites with power points, from R255 a night for two people. Forest cabins with communal kitchen are from R725 a night for two, cottages sleeping four and with your own kitchen start at R1 370 a night. The northern section of the rest camp is more rustic, with campsites without power from R190 a night for two people and rondavels from R400 a night for two. BOOKINGS SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org DOWNHILL SCOOTERS A two-hour tour through Goudveld Forest departs from the Scootour base in Knysna. Kids over 10 get their own scooter, younger children can ride along with an adult. Closed shoes required and you must know how to ride a bicycle. R450 a person. www.scootours.co.za 38 WILD SPRING 2017
SEGWAY Take an hour-long guided trip with Segway Tours from the base at the Tarentaal Day Visitor Area, next to the canoe rentals. Children taller than 1,1 m can ride. R200 to R400 a person. www.segwayfun.co.za PADDLING Rent canoes or kayaks at the Tarentaal Day Visitor Area, Ebb and Flow South. Head up the Touw River for 45 min utes, then pull boats ashore and hike on a boardwalk through the forest. Alternatively, explore the Serpentine River and Island Lake. R60 an hour, R150 for three hours or R210 a day. HIKING Walk the Half Collared Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher Trails right from camp (both three to four hours) or drive to the trailhead of the Brown Hooded Kingfisher (4,1 km), Cape Dune Mole Rat (6 km) or Woodville Big Tree (2,1 km) trails. BIRDING The Wilderness Section has three bird hides. Gallinule Hide looks over the Touw River while Malachite and Rondevlei Hides overlook the salt lakes, Langvlei and Rondevlei respectively.
“So many people put limitations on themselves. They think ‘outdoor adventure is not for me’. They don’t know they can do it!”
Above: Crossing the river with a pont on the Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail. Below left: A Knysna turaco. Below right: Holidays are made of moments like these.
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The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It also offers video and live web links, so you can access the relevant park web page straightaway. You can even find directions from your current location through Google maps. The digital format makes it easy to carry your copy of Wild with you at all times.