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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve: April 2021

Our Search for California Redwoods & The Strawberry Rain Frog  – Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Dramatic views of the Duiwenhoks River valley and the breathtaking Langeberg mountains)


With so many articles written about Grootvadersbosch, it is not difficult to understand the allure. With the vast amount of bird species, endless mountain trails for mountain biking enthusiasts to explore, and the majestic Afromontane forest, this is one of the places one has to visit at least once in your lifetime. This article will tell you more about our search for Giant Sequoia and our visit to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, here the forest melts away into the Fynbos)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Champion Californian Redwood Trees, this must be the largest grove of these trees in South Africa)

Do you want to visit these trees? 
Below is the PINNED LOCATION for your convenience.







Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Grootvadersbosch main gate and Office Complex)




MISSION NUMBER TWO:  THE ELUSIVE LITTLE STRAWBERRY RAIN FROG


The Strawberry rain frog is a unique little frog species, not like many others.  These cute little critters burrow backward into the sand and live a life hidden from the world above the ground for most of their lives.  They only make their appearance when it rains.  


The Features to Look Out For:
They have short legs, which are used to walk and not jump as we would expect most frogs to do.  They have a very human-like face, but rather sad-looking.  A fat little torso, with little bumps, similar to that of a strawberry.


The females are much larger than the males, and mating can only occur due to the excretion of a sticky-like glue substance from her body, which helps the male frogs to stick to her and perform their very important act of nature.  Once mating is over, they part ways and she will reverse back into the underground world to lay and hatch her eggs.


Image Credit: Nicolau Ecology



There is very little information documented about the Strawberry Rain Frog and we tried our best to find one.   They only make their appearance once it starts to rain.   The clouds promised rain but not nearly enough during our visit for us to find one to photograph.  We will not stop here in our aim to one day find and experience the cuteness that is a Strawberry Rain Frog.




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Dramatic views of the Duiwenhoks River valley and the breathtaking Langeberg mountains)




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Driving through the dense forest towards the Self-Catering Cabins)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest, 66m high and impressive)


Afromontane Forest


Found in the Langeberg and near Swellendam in the Western Cape, the Afromontane Forest is a massive 250ha area. This indigenous forest is a valuable and significant landmark of the Langeberg region and was designated a World Heritage Site in 2015. This area now forms part of the extension of the Cape Floral Kingdom Protected Area World Heritage Site.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Duiwenhoks River Rock Pools, Brown tannin-stained water breaking a sea of green)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest, 66m high and impressive)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(This way to the Californian Redwood Trees)


Lords of the forest: Our Search for Giant Sequoia (Californian Redwood)



The forest boasts various tree species, including ancient yellowwood, ironwood, and Stinkhout trees. However, what caught our attention is the grove of Champion Californian Redwood trees. These giants are dated at more than 2000 years old and can grow to over 380 feet. They have not yet reached these heights in South Africa, but the prospect of encountering these remarkable trees was cause for much excitement.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Camping Decks with sweeping views over the valley)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Luxury self-Catering Cabins, Sunset over the valley)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Another Spectacular Sunset, Camping in style, Thanks Cape Nature )


Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve


Accommodation in the Reserve is nestled in the Afromontane forest and features eight camping decks with eleven self-catering cabins. Cape Nature manages this Reserve and is immensely popular; booking accommodation proved to be problematic. When we visited the Reserve in April 2021, construction on the six brand new self-catering Glamping units was almost complete.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(The new luxury Tented style Glamping units with endless views and all the amenities)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(The new luxury Tented style Glamping units with endless views and all the amenities)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(The new luxury Tented style Glamping units with endless views and all the amenities)


New Facilities at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve


One can truly become one with nature from the new luxury tented style chalets with built-in kitchens and shower areas. You can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Langeberg mountain and Duivenhoks River Valley from your private balcony. Each unit has its outside braai area, built-in fireplace and inside the kitchen. There is plenty to do in the Reserve, from mountain biking to hiking trails and birdwatching or you can spend some quiet time at the pool and gym facility.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Pool Deck and a Gym, kiddies play section, wow!, all we need was a little sunshine)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Champion Californian Redwood Trees, this must be the largest grove of these trees in South Africa)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Cycling Trails in the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, breathtaking scenery) 


Our Experiences


We eventually managed to secure a booking over the Easter long weekend in 2021. We were finally going to get the opportunity to visit and experience this National treasure ourselves. Our booking involved camping for two nights, after which we would spend two more days enjoying the self-catering cabins.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Swellendam in the distance, you can also see the Self-Catering Cabins location top center)



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(An elevated view of the Camping Deks, image taken from the other side of the valley)

Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(The Boys enjoying the Great Outdoors)


Initially, the idea of having to split our accommodation was annoying. However, it became an enjoyable and fulfilling experience since it allowed us to experience both aspects of what the Reserve has to offer. The two locations provided us with an entirely different perspective, and we got to appreciate two distinct areas within the Reserve and what each one has on offer.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(A splash of orange breaks the monotony of the forest greenery)



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Duiwenhoks River Pools, great location to cool off on a hot summers day)


Arriving at Our Destination


We arrived late when it was already dark, and the first task at hand was to set up camp. After setting up, we could finally sit back and enjoy a glass of wine while listening to the calls of the Fiery necked nightjars.




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Cycling Trails in the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, breathtaking scenery) 



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Another spectacular Sunset, Swellendam in the distance)



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Early morning dramatic start to the day, this was our Cabin for the weekend)



Day 1 – Our Search for Giant Sequoia


We got up early to capture the magnificent sunrise images, but unfortunately, the mist and clouds rolled in from the North, and the sun disappeared for the remainder of the weekend. Undeterred, we headed into the dense forest, beginning our search for the Champion Californian Redwood trees and some adventure.




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Stunning views across the Duiwenhoks River Valley and the dramatic Langeberg mountains)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(The Second Bird Hide, deep in the forest, a birders paradise)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Best Seat in the House, from this bird hide you can enjoy it all and soak up the tranquillity) 


The Bushbuck trail leads you past one of the raised bird hides with a splendid view of the valley and majestic mountains. With over 200 birds recorded in the Reserve, it is no wonder they had to build two hides. We progressed at a leisurely pace while savouring our surroundings with indigenous yellowwoods, stinkwoods, red alder trees, and ironwoods. The Redwood grove has grown to immense proportions, breaking the forest thickets and towering like massive pillars 100 feet high. An unforgettable sight with their soft and furry red bark, the grove of Redwood, ruling the forest.




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Champion Californian Redwood Trees, this must be the largest grove of these trees in South Africa)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest, 66m high and impressive)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Walking amongst Giants, Bushbuck trail passing the Redwood Trees)


Interesting Facts About the Californian Redwood

 

·      Latin name for the Californian Redwood: Cupressaceae: Sequoia semprevirens

·      Afrikaans name: Kaliforniese rooihout

·      Dating back to prehistoric times – The earliest Redwoods were viewed on Earth shortly after dinosaurs and before birds, humans, spiders, and flowers. These ancient trees have been around for 240 million years.

·      Wild creatures like coho salmon, mountain lions, and marbled murrelets are dependent on the redwood forests for survival, primarily due to climate changes when they have to adapt quickly. The endangered sea bird, marbled murrelet, only nests in Douglas fir trees and the tallest redwoods.




Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Waking Trails in every direction, we listened to the Forest Birdsong and enjoyed the Great Outdoors)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest, 66m high and impressive)


Measuring around 66m in height and more than one hundred years old, these trees were impressive and worthy of their status. Time seemed irrelevant as we surveyed the champions and recorded the scene while moving through the forest. While being mesmerised by the sheer scale of these ancient trees, the eery, dark, moody lyrics of The Cure (A Forest) played in my mind:


 "Come closer and see, see into the trees.

Find the girl, while you can

Come closer and see, see into the dark

Just follow your eyes, I hear her voice calling my name

The sound is deep. I hear her voice and start to run

into the trees, suddenly I stop, but I know it's too late

I'm lost in a forest, all alone, the girl was never there

It's always the same. I'm running towards nothing

Again and again" -  Robert Smith



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Superslow shutter speed to capture the flowing water)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Duiwenhoks river crossing, dark dense forest)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(you can Smell the Damp undergrowth, listen to the river flowing, our happy place)


Day 2 - Our Search for more forest adventure

 

The following day, we decided to follow a different route along Duiwenhoks River, where we visited the waterfall and rock pools. Hiking through the forest canopy gave us plenty of time to look for and listen to the array of forest bird species.


The weather was on our side, and we decided to brave the April' chill' in the high mountain air and sleep under the stars.  That night, we could hear all the forest sounds; it was again music to my ears. 



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Our Luxury Self Catering Cabin number 11, we even had a garage)



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Cycling Trails in the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, breathtaking scenery) 

 

Day 3 and 4 – At the self-catering Chalets

 

Moving to the self-catering cabins felt like entering a completely different world with fresh surroundings and the opportunity to enjoy the fynbos landscape of the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area.

 

The mountain bike routes that zigzag through the mountainous terrain are superlative. We were most impressed by the panoramic views, abundant and colourful fynbos fauna and flora, and the prolific birdlife.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Victorin's Warbler, a new lifer for me and a great bird to get on film)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Cape Batis, always special, seen with the Blue Mantled Crested Flycatcher)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Forest Canary, he posed so well for this image)

 
We managed to identify a few new bird species, the highlight being Victorin's Warbler. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any nightjars or owls, but we did hear their calls at night.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Boosmansbos section, the Fynbos flowers were blooming )



The Takeaway

 

As with Marloth Nature Reserve just above Swellendam, our overall experience of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve exceeded our expectations, and our search for the Champion Redwood trees proved to be a huge success. All the activities were impressive and well worth the wait.


Click on THIS LINK to read more 
about our visit to Marloth Nature Reserve.



Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(Towering Giants, majestic trees that dominate the forest, 66m high and impressive)


Grootvadersbosch, Cape Nature, Swellendam, Californian Redwood trees, Champion Trees, Hiking, Birding, Forest Birds, Forests, Mountains, Mountain Biking
(One of two hides, Built High enough to clear the forest canopy)


This experience has left an unforgettable footprint in our minds. We did not manage to do all the hiking routes during our visit, nor did we cover some of the great cycle routes. There are many more bird species to be listed, but we will unquestionably plan a return visit. Hopefully, next time, we will enjoy warmer weather and sunny blue skies, unlike this trip.



Thanks to Cape Nature for your conservation efforts in protecting this remarkable landscape.

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Why are we doing a Fundraiser for Marion Island?

Marion Island Fundraiser Project

Why should you contribute to the Mouse-Free Marion Island Fundraiser Project?  That is a valid question, and we will be telling you all about it.


A bit of background

When my husband first approached me about embarking on a pelagic tour, my initial thought was: “No thank you. I don’t do ships and oceans together.” I know some of you might wonder exactly what a pelagic tour is. The best way for me to describe it is, envision yourself going on a safari, except you will be traveling on the ocean instead of land. A pelagic tour is a unique experience because it allows you to experience the beauty of the ocean wildlife first hand.


ENTER THE LUCKY DRAW NOW

FOR ONLY R200 - CLICK HERE


More Information About Mouse-Free Marion Fundraiser Project

Once my husband told me where we will be going and the reason behind it, I became more excited about the project. People who know me well, are cognizant that I am eternally on board when it comes to serving those in trouble, especially any projects linking to animals and nature. If you read more about the predicament of the birds on Marion Island, you would understand why I immediately decided to get involved and see how I can offer my help.


My first step was to join the Facebook group for the “Birders going on the Flock to Marion.” Next, I posted a question to help me understand which part of the cost (if any) as a pelagic voyager will be contributed towards helping these birds that suffer a gruesome, cruel, and slow death.



Understandably, Birdlife South Africa/Birdlife Africa needs funds to sustain a business model and the conservation of birdlife as a whole.  


As it turns out, none of the funds will be going directly to the “Mouse-Free Marion” campaign.



The Mouse-Free Marion Project

After doing some research, I found a website that is dedicated to donating funds towards the Mouse-Free Marion Project which is an initiative of Birdlife South Africa. They have recently appointed a Project Manager, Mr. Anton Wolfaardt and we have contacted him to let him know that we are planning a fundraiser for this project.



The Sponsors & Patrons

For us to raise as much funding as possible, we got in contact with several sponsors who we knew would be willing to support this cause wholeheartedly. We quickly managed to collect over R70000.00 worth of sponsored prizes which will be handed to the winners once we meet them on the ship.

 


ENTER THE LUCKY DRAW NOW

FOR ONLY R200 - CLICK HERE


Needless to say, the patrons were incredibly excited to hear about our plans and gave us the go-ahead of their committed support for this project without hesitation.

 

A Special thanks to the Sponsors and Patrons for Helping us Make This Worthy Project a Reality:

 

LEICA, SEABIRDS, BUSHNELL, PELICAN, LITTLE CARTHAGE RIVER LODGE, FAANSIE PEACOCK, ORMS PHOTOBOOKS, CAPE UNION MART, TUDORTECH, LYNX, TREVOR HARDAKER WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER, PETER HARRISON, DR. SAUMYA TIWARI GAUTAM (Mrs. India-South Africa)


How Can You Contribute Towards the Marion Island Fundraiser Project?

 

We created a special fund for the people (voyagers) who will be joining us on the Flock to Marion Island pelagic tour in 2022.

 

The reason why we started this Fundraiser, is so that we can create a fund that we will hand over to Mr. Anton Wolfaardt, from all the people who have committed and invested to go on the Flock to Marion cruise.


Watch how it was done

Follow this eradication team as they embark on a world-leading conservation effort.








What Will the Fund Be Called?

 

The fund will be called The Mouse-Free Marion 2022 Honorary Voyager Fund.

 

Where Will the Funds be Distributed?

 

The Ticket Sales will go directly into an account that we opened especially for this project. We contacted Birdlife South Africa, but they were unable to give us access to their account.

 

Once the Lucky Draw has ended, we will hand the funds over to Mr. Anton Wolfaardt and his Project Team as a combined donation and allocated towards covering funding needed for the Thirty Thousand hectares.


 

We Need Your R200 Help to Make this Work


ENTER THE LUCKY DRAW NOW

FOR ONLY R200 - CLICK HERE

 

We would like to invite everyone, even if you are not going on the 'Flock to Marion', to please consider contributing and helping towards this desperate situation. The sooner we can get the funding secured, the sooner the fundraising project can be concluded.

 

Thank you to all those who are already supporting us with this Marion Island Fundraiser project, and we look forward to meeting you all on the Flock to Marion in 2022.



If you have any questions or would like to help and get involved, you are welcome to contact Juanita on +27824649146. 


Image Credits:  Thomas Peschak, Mrs Wolfaardt.


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