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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Wild Side of Cape Point National Park - Part 2 of 2

 We have a lot more exploring to do in and around the Cape Point National Reserve, as well as a few more remarkable hikes to complete and cannot wait to add them to our portfolio of visiting this unique historical destination.
Vasco da Gama cross at Cape Point, South Africa
By the time Vasco da Gama was in his 20s, the king's plans were coming to fruition. In 1487, John II dispatched two spies, Pero da Covilhã and Afonso de Paiva, overland via Egypt to East Africa and India, to scout the details of the spice markets and trade routes. The breakthrough came soon after, when John II's captain Bartolomeu Dias returned from rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, having explored as far as the Fish River (Rio do Infante) in modern-day South Africa and having verified that the unknown coast stretched away to the northeast.

An explorer was needed who could prove the link between the findings of Dias and those of da Covilhã and de Paiva, and connect these separate segments into a potentially lucrative trade route across the Indian Ocean.


Mediterranean Pine Tree, Cape Point National Park
Black Girdled Lizard
Girdled lizards are crevice species, but there are a few exceptions. The black girdled lizard is locally abundant in rocky areas from sea level up to mountain tops, including on Table Mountain. It is an agile lizard that is active during sunny weather and it often gazes in the direction of the sun, which is why they are called sonkykers (sun gazers) in Afrikaans. Another apt Afrikaans name is ouvolk (direct translation: ‘old folk’), which alludes to their ancient, crocodilian appearance. At the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden black girdled lizards are often seen just above the cultivated garden where they take shelter in cut-down Eucalyptus (blue gum) stumps.

Girdled lizards are popular in the pet trade and are also used for traditional medicine. The black girdled lizard is listed as Near-Threatened (NT) in the Red List (Mouton et al. 2014).

Description

The black girdled lizard is a medium-sized lizard (~7 cm long), with a depressed head and smooth head shields. It is distinguished by its pitch or jet black colouration and large-girdled, dorsal, well-armed scales with pierced nostrils in the nasal shields. The upper (dorsal) scales are square and imbricate (like a tile roof) and are arranged in more than 22 regular rows. The lower scales (ventral) are also square and are in regular transverse series. The limbs are moderately long and have saw-edged scales.
Alex daring the sheer cliff face to enjoy the excitement of viewing this rugged coast line from high up above. 
Kelp Gull, Buffels Bay, Cape Point.
The day we stop enjoying the beauty of our natural world, is the day we might as well stop living.




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