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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Kruger Holiday 2018 1 of 3 - Phalaborwa to Punda Maria

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature
Alex Enjoying the view after a 4km trek to the mouth of the Lanner Gorge in Kruger National Park

Going on holiday to the Kruger National Park without a camera is a sin. But then this holiday we all decided to take the bare minimum and focus our holiday more about the venues, the walks, and the small stuff. The small stuff that make up the big stuff - we found pleasure in everything but the animals. We of course LOVED seeing the animals, but they were not our main focus. We saw the big 5 and more, and it was truly an amazing experience for the whole family.




Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild,
Driving around in Hans Merensky Club, Phalaborwa

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate
Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa Gate

What made it even more fun was the Volkswagen bus that we rented. The space, automatic gearbox, tinted windows (a must for Africa!) and a decent air-con was shear driving pleasure and fun for the whole family.

First we stopped over in Phalaborwa to visit some friends and old familiar places, then 2 days later the big drive up to Punda Maria Rest Camp, Limpopo, South Africa. En route we stopped at Shingwedzi camp - Kruger National Park for a break and a snack.

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Baobab Tree
One of the many magnificent and icon African Trees, the majestic Baobab

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Scops Owl, Tsendze Rustic Camp
A scops owl resting in a tree at Tsendze Rustic Camp near Mooiplaas Picnic site.  Thank you Rodgerth for showing us your amazing owls.

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Shingwedzi Camp Gate
Shingwedzi Camp Gate

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Maroela Tree, Mahoni Loop
A Beautiful maroela tree on the Mahone Loop around Punda Maria

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Buffalo,
Buffalo cooling off in the Levuvhu River

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Mopani Camp Gate,
Mopani Camp Gate

Pioneer Dam, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate
Consider Stopping over at Mopani Camp for a view of their beautiful Pioneer dam and iconic resident baobab 

Finally upon our arrival at Punda Maria Rest Camp, Kruger National Park, the swimming pool could not be found soon enough. The oldest rest camp in Kruger national park, and still true to form, in style as it was originally built, yet inside our bungalow it was modern and spacious. We drove to Pafuri to visit the legendary Crook's Corner and enjoyed a special bush walk in the Lanner Gorge and the Levuvhu River.

Punda Maria Camp, Punda Maria Bungalow, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate
Punda Maria Camp Bungalow

Klopperfontein Dam, African Elephants swimming, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate
Elephants loving the water at Klopperfontein Dam in Kruger

Punda Maria Camp Swimming Pool, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate
Punda Maria Camp Swimming Pool

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge
Driving to the start of our bush walk in the Lanner Gorge

Lanner Gorge Mouth, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge
A well deserved rest stop after a 4km trek to the Lanner Gorge Mouth

Baobab biggest, Lanner Gorge Walk, Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge
Biggest Baobab on the walk to the Lanner Gorge

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge
Another beauty

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner, Border of South Africa
Crooks Corner : bordering South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner, Border of South Africa
Beautiful Cloud formations over the Kruger bush veld

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner, Border of South Africa
Impala grazing on the bushveld of Limpopo

Alex Aitkenhead, Levuvhu River, Lanner Gorge Mouth, Kruger National Park, Bush Walk, Hiking in Africa, Punda Maria, Parufi, Limpop, South Africa, Nature, Beautiful Nature, Phalaborwa, Hans Merensky Golf Club, Golfing in the Wild, Phalaborwa Gate, Game Drive, Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner, Border of South Africa
Looking down the Limpopo river from Crooks Corner

Stay tuned to view more footage of the rest of our trip down south ...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

March Owl Hunting near Cape Town

Marsh Owl | Vleiuil | Asio capensis

Frieda and Jan Prinsloo were on walkabout when they noticed a Rock Kestrel diving into the reeds.  It was clearly disturbed by something.   We first read about this sighting of a resident Marsh owl at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. 


When they approached they managed to get a few photos of a marsh owl.  This was soon circulated on social media and had the local birders scrambling to get this one ticket off.



We have seen almost all the local owl species and we were very excited after learning about this new find close to home.  Adding this one to our list became high on our agenda as this would be another lifer for us.




We were no different and after a quick check on the weather and obtaining a pinpoint on where to view this uncommon owl species here in Cape Town, we loaded our camera gear and hoped for the best.




As luck would have it, the weather turned out to be perfect with bright sunlight and a light wind blowing, we spotted owl.




The Marsh Owl has been recorded on a regular basis from about 16h30, when it starts to hunt and we were all ready waiting for the action to unfold.



Thanks to Trevor Hardaker who knew the lay of the land and got us into the best possible position to obtain these images.  It was not easy, rushing around in the scrub with our gear, but we were very fortunate and grateful for a wonderful one hour display of this magnificent owl hunting.



35–38 cm; 230–370 g
A plain brown, medium-sized owl with a buff-coloured or greyish face, small ‘ear' tufts and dark brown eyes. In flight, wings broader than African Grass Owl, with much larger buff ‘windows' in primaries, less contrast between coverts and flight feathers, and pale trailing edge to secondaries and outer primaries. Underwing has dark carpal marks; tail barred. Voice: Harsh, rasping ‘krikkkkrikkk', likened to sound of material being torn. Status and biology: Common resident and nomad in marshes and damp grassland; avoids dense reed beds. Often circles overhead after flushing. Less nocturnal than most other owls; sometimes roosts in flocks.  - Source: Sasol eBirds

Friday, May 3, 2019

Marloth Nature Reserve Swellendam

Our family decided to venture in the opposite direction this year to explore the Easter Galaxy.  This time we decided to head East from Cape Town in the direction of the Overberg. 





Marloth has two cottages to chose from, the one is the Bushbuck cottage and the other is Suikerbekkie.  



It was indeed a refreshing change from the Cederberg, albeit we always miss those very special rocks and sand. This time we had another beauty the Swellendam mountains and lots of luscious green forests...  We had no idea how lovely it is this side of the world.  Well we kind of knew, but exploring the hikes and reserves is a first.


Mountain biking is not very high on the agenda for the reserve, per their brochure, but the mountain biking here is unbelievable good, from easy rides to more advanced.  


You are also able to book a horse ride at a local operator, or you may bring your own horse to enjoy the many routes amongst the plantations and on the mountain.



The vegetation in the reserve is mainly mountain fynbos with patches of Afromontane forest.  Many of the species of proteas found here do not occur any where else in the world.





There are many animal species around, but not easy to be seen.  A great venue for the birders, which is rich in birdlife, with a listing of 114 birds recorded.


Multi-day over night trails are highly rated and worth considering.  The Glenstroom Trail Hut can be seen (the green roof) in the image below.


After a 3 hour drive out of Cape Town, add an extra 30 min for the Easter-mad-rush-escape-traffic, we finally arrived at Marloth Nature Reserve.






It was very special to see the Spotted Eagle Owl and the Fiery Necked Night-Jar amongst the more regular seen birds such as this beautiful male Cape Sugar Bird in the image below.





This reserve is no further than 1 km from Swellendam town, and a hidden little gem.  The reserve has two self catering family chalets, fully equipped with electricity, fire place, and 2 bedrooms.

HIKING

We tried out two easy walks, which head up towards a waterfall.  They venture up the mountain next to the most beautiful stream, and under the forest brush, making it a perfect route to try on a hot summers day too.  Juanita does not enjoy hiking in the heat of summer, but this one seems to be a good choice all year around then.

The teens and the toddler loved the hikes and surrounding.  We explored the area looking for all the creepy crawlies and tried very hard to find a Strawberry Rain Frog, but with no luck.  This specific species will definitely be on the list to find for when we return again some time soon.

  

Bring your mountain bike, your SUP, binoculars, camera and your walking shoes, because this venue has enough for the whole family to explore and have fun.



As Marloth is 1 km outside Swellendam on the mountain side, so is Bontebok National Park also 1 km outside Swellendam on the ocean side of the N2 highway.

We were pleasantly surprised at the popularity of the venue and could see why.  This tranquil reserve also offers hiking and mountain biking for the whole family.   


Visitors can enjoy rowing and swimming in the Breederiver, which borders the main camp and many self catering chalets.  We hope to visit this venue one day too for a longer stay. 



Cape Grass Bird


These erica and protea species occur nowhere else in the world.  The display was at its most beautiful we have ever seen.


MAP OF MARLOTH NATURE RESERVE AND BONTEBOK NATIONAL PARK