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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cape Town Birding along the West Coast

A quick visit to the local dam near Dolphin Beach Hotel proved very entertaining.  I was actually in search of the White Backed Ducks, but these little gems kept me busy for a few hours.

Runners on the beach near Table View


Malachite King Fisher

Anyone? Please Identify ... :)

Big Bay always offers spectacular sunsets

Grey Heron

Anyone? Pls Identify ... :)

African Snipe


Common Ringed Plover

Purple Swamp Hen

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park and the Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation was declared a national monument of geological and scenic significance and is the premier tourist attraction with the Camdeboo National Park.


After checking in to our tented camp and exploring our surroundings, we heard from one of the fellow campers that the valley of Desolation was a must-do spot to visit.  We were very excited and decided to head for this lovely place the following day.
Armed with baby carrier, some serious training and a good attitude we headed for the top of this hill.  And even though our distination was specatular, the 300m walk to the edge, and see these magnificent rock formations, was a little bit of a let down to have been able to get there so easy.  We were expecting a walk of at least 30 min and a build-up of a shiny brow.  After reaching the top, there was a path guided by arrows to follow the more 'difficult' route back done, which took us about 45 minutes to complete and get back to our car.
Thats it, done and dusted.  A quick squiz at the Valley of Desolation and then head back to the car - all in under 1 hour?  The next time we visit we would like to know how to get to the bottom of these rocks and explore them and their magnitude from below.
The Valley of Desolation is sometimes referred to as the 'Cathedral of the Mountains'.  It provides visitors with an experience ranging from spiritual contact to one of profound awareness of the surrounding magestic beauty.


Black winged Stilts

Juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk

Mountain Zeebra at the Nqweba Dam
Birding enthusiasts can delight in spotting at least 225 bird species in the park.

Typical Karoo Landscape

The work Karoo is a Khoi-khoi word that means 'great thirst land'.

What is the Karoo without a Windmill ?

Graaff-Reinet in the back ground.










From the Toposcope one can enjoy the unique view of the historic town of Graaff-Reinet, set like a jewel within the horseshoe bend of the Sundays River.
Alex and our son posing ontop of the Toposcope with the Camdeboo National Park in the back ground.

Experience the viewpoints at the Valley which provide a breathtaking view of piled dolerite columns against the backdrop of the Great Karoo plains and a timeless sense of wonder at a landscape said to be the product of the erosive and volcanic forces of nature over a period of over 200 million years.
"Magnificent dolerite pillars rise up to highs of 90-120m providing visitors with awesome panoramic views and an unforgetable experience."  by SANPARKS.


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Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park

We drove for 5 hours from Oudtshoorn to get to Camdeboo.  This included a semi pit-stop for baby to stretch his legs and have a few snacks.

Upon arriving at the airconditioned offices at the Camdeboo reception , we had a friendly welcome and checked in to our fancy tented camp which was our home for the next 4 nights.


 Camdeboo National Park: Also known as the "Gem in the crown of the Great Karoo".
Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park
The first night was exceptionally windy and rather cold, and this did not do any justice to our baby's bad cough.   When the sun came out the next morning, we were welcomed by the famous Karoo heat.  We set up the baby pool and filled it with water to add to the entertainment for our son.  It turned out that the monkeys also liked the pool.
The kitchen facilities were top class and we ended up spending most of our time here.  The Karoo heat pushed us out of our tented camp under the comforting shade of the thatched communal kitchen.   We also enjoyed the company of the various people visiting at the other 4 tented camps.

The downside to this was the monkeys and the combination of the responsibility of the baby.  We could not move from one to the other without having to lock everything away first.  This proved to be a challenge when you forgot something in the tent or the kitchen.
Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park


Lesser Striped Swallow
Camdeboo National Park was proclaimed after the Karoo Nature Reserve, which was under the control of the Provincial Government since 1979, was transferred to South African National Parks (SANPARKS) in October 2005.  The park is currently 19405 hectares in extent and surrounds the historical town of Graaff-Reinet.
Eland

Alex went for a long walk every morning before sunrise to see if he could spot any birds.  The birdlife is not so good around the camp area, but near the dam there are many birds to see.

Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park
Khwalimanzi Hide: The is a beauful birdhide but it was just too far away from the waters edge, so you could not get the real experience.


Greater Flamingos

Lesser Striped Swallows



 The Lakeview Tented Camp and the Nqweba Campsite offer rustic overnight experiences on the floodplains of the Nqweba Dam.  This dam is also the watersource for the local town of Graaff-Reinet.

African Dater comorant


Juvanile : Pale Chanting Goshawk

Picnic Area

Black Wildebeest

Mountain Zeebra


Pale chanting goshawk.  This mom caught a snack for her 2 fledgelings. We enjoyed watching the vocalising between mom and babies.


Graaff-Reinet is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is the fourth oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Swellendam
Karoo Route : Camdeboo National Park Graaff-Reinet
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The town lies 750 metres (2,460 ft) above the sea and is built on the banks of the Sunday's River, which rises a little farther north on the southern slopes of the Sneeuberge, and splits into several channels here. The Dutch Reformed church in the town is a prominent stone building in the high street with seating accommodation for 1500 people. The building is influenced by the architecture of Salisbury Cathedral in England

The Name:
Camdeboo, Xamdeboo is a Khoi-khoi word that we think means green valley.  This is more than likely related to the spekboom (Portulacaria afra) on the slopes of the mountains in the region, which remain verdant green in winter when all else has lost its leaves and turned brown.
Sundays River

Eland Nursery

Springbok

Things to do in Camdeboo and surrounds:
  • Valley of Dessolation & Toposcope
  • 4x4 Trails
  • Picnics in the park
  • Gameviewing and Birding
  • Hiking and walking trails
  • Watersports






Tourist Attractions:
  • The Valley of Desolation, a geological wonder of weathered dolerite pillars which is a declared national monument with magnificent views over the Karoo plains.
  • The Camdeboo National Park of 200 km2, on the outskirts of the town with its interesting flora and fauna.
  • Stretch's Court, a picturesque restored street of Karoo cottages with brightly painted shutters and doors.
  • Reinet House Museum - a Cape Dutch building, formerly the Dutch Reformed Church parsonage
  • The Agave Distillery - a distillery producing tequila from the agave plant.
  • The Karoo architecture.
  • The Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of the town is a National Monument. This Dutch Reformed Church is the only known church in South Africa and possibly in the world to have a kitchen and a chimney.
  • The Drostdy Hotel - A Cape Dutch building erected in 1806 as the local seat of government by the VOC. Currently a hotel.
  • Graaff-Reinet is home to more national monuments than any other town or city in South Africa.

Reinet House - the oldest house in the town.
Overall Impression of the Park:

  • It was a challenge to visit this park with a 1 year old baby, that happens to have fallen ill during our 4-day stay.
  • Visiting this park in the peak of summer is not that much fun in a tented camp.
  • The monkeys were a challenge, but they are in every park.
  • Game driving was lovely and we enjoyed getting around and experiencing the quiet open spaces.
  • The 4x4 and 4x2 routes were not explored.
  • Hiking was not possible for us at this time.
  • Facilities were excellent, including our tent, the ablutions and the communal kitchen.
  • Alex enjoyed the birding.
  • This is a lovely park to stop-over.
  • The Polka Restaurant in Graaff-Reinet comes highly recommended.
  • The Graaff-Reinet town has the most national monuments in South Africa.
Other accommodation available is the Nqweba Campsite.
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