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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Stellenbosch Champion Red Flowering Gum in Ida's Valley

Ida's Valley Giant Red Flowering Gum 

(Myrtaceae: Eucalyptus ficifolia)

Alternate common name

Rooiblombloekom (Afrikaans)


Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(Champion Tree, Red Flowering Gum, the caretaker enjoying a private moment as we surveyed this remarkable tree)



We had the good fortune to visit the Ida's Valley Homestead; the late afternoon sun was low; this created a warm glow as we surveyed this exceptional tree, protected by its Champion Tree status.


The Caretaker was kind enough to entertain our impromptu visit, providing some history of the estate and share this private moment. Estimated to be more than two hundred years old, this Eucalyptus and various Oaks and other exotic trees were planted on the estate. This multi-stemmed trunk is impressive and is adorned with a massive crown that flowers in different phases depending on the season. Starting on the eastern edge in January and ending on the western edge towards autumn.






Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(Ida's Valley Homestead, historic and timeless, Declared a South African Heritage Resource)


Originating from the southwest of Western Australia, an evergreen tree with a rounded crown, Eucalyptus from the Greek, meaning "well Covered", referring to the fused lid over the flower before it opens (ficifolia meaning "with leaves like a fig."


Sellenbosch has a vibrant history, and Simon Van Der Sell initially granted the farm to one of the original French Huguenots, Francois Villion(Viljoen); the area has now been declared a South African Heritage Resource.




Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(Thee Impressive Trunks create the structure for this Giant)



Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(Muscular trunks support this expansive crown)




As the sun finally dipped behind the mountain, we departed; unfortunately, this once-grand estate showed signs of neglect. Nevertheless, you could appreciate the spectacular gardens and lush surrounding, who know one day new owners could transform this estate back to its former glory.




Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(We will return in the spring to witness this Eucalyptus in full flower)




Some information about this tree:


Location Pin:  https://goo.gl/maps/Q8iKz3KK8thYQ1eAA


Index  #169


Hight   22,1m


Crown 25,3


Trunk  2,31m



Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(Champion Tree, Red Flowering Gum, the caretaker enjoying a private moment as we surveyed this remarkable tree)



Idas Valley Red Flowering Gum, Champion Tree, Stellenbosch, Majestic Trees of Southern Africa
(This is a private residence and permission to visit will be required)


Champion Trees in Stellenbosch


Please read about our previous adventures,  our quest to locate all the Champion Trees in Stellenbosch. 



http://www.alexaitkenhead.co.za/2020/04/champion-trees-of-stellenbosch.html

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Knob-Billed Duck's at Rondervlei July 2021

 Knob-Billed Duck's (Sarkidiornis melanotos) Rondervlei July 2021


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


Picture perfect winters day and a successful twitch for the out of range Knob-billed Duck's.  Deciding in the week that a trip to Rondervlei was way overdue, never mind the opportunity to tick Cape Town's latest celebrity ducks.


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary was picture perfect on the day, Winterbottom Hide, Michael Mason enjoying the moment)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


On route, a report came through(c/o Vanessa Stephen) that the Duck's had been located at the Winterbottom hide at Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary. Arriving some twenty minutes later, anxious, as we still had to work our way to the far end of the reserve with tripod and all.



Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary was picture perfect on the day, Winterbottom Hide)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Image c/o Tarboton.co.za, Breeding Kob-Billed Duck, one can appreciate were the name comes from)


Settling down in the hide, we scanned for the birds but nothing, much to my irritation. Resigning ourselves to enjoying the excellent weather conditions,  appreciating the general birds on the mirror blue water. While observing, something flushed all the birds; the coast was clear, all moving off in seconds.



Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary was picture perfect on the day, Scotto Hide)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)



To our amazement and with no apparent rush, the Knob-Billed Duck's appeared. We couldn't believe our good fortune. The setting was sublime, with excellent soft light, warm colours providing the perfect backdrop. 



Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Purple Swamphen, bright and colourful)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary was picture perfect on the day)


We spent a memorable hour entertained by these elegant birds, recorded as rare in the Western Cape. Exploring the remaining hides produces a few unique birds. The warm wind still conditions provided a unique setting, with a soft prefrontal cloud providing the finishing touches to the scene. 



Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Knob-Billed Duck, graced by their appearance at Rondervlei)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Juvenile Southern Fiscal Shrik



In the end, it was a rather entertaining outing, and we will cherish the time spent in such an idyllic setting, not to mention the rare Duck's that graced us with their presence.



Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Marsh Harrier made a brief fly-by)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(Levailant's Cisticola in full voice)


Rondervlei Bird Sanctuary, Knob-Billed Duck, Birds, Picture Perfect, Bird Hides,
(African Reed Warbler)


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

David and Goliath: California Redwood Trees of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

California Redwood (Cupressaceae: Sequoia sempervirens)

Alternative common name : Kaliforniese rooihout (Afrikaans)


We dream for the day to experience a true giant of nature.  Until that day, we will find the giants of our surroundings.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Time well spent amongst the Champion Californian Redwood Trees)


 We imagined ourselves standing at the foot of what is known as the tallest living tree. These colossal giants of North America have reached unimaginable heights. It is no wonder that the tallest of all is named "Stratosphere Giant". Weighing in at a staggering 368,6 feet high, this is a true champion in the Humbold State Park in California. The Big Tree Hunters have recorded more than 26 Redwood trees over 360 feet high. The evergreen Redwood forests are regarded as the most impressive in America, and the Coastal Redwood trees the most magnificent conifers. 



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Largest Living Trees in the world, Redwood Tree (Giant Sequoia)

There is no way that such a large tree can be captured in any one single photograph.  Here you can appreciate just what was needed to be done to make it happen in the video below.


These were extensive forests covering more than 500 miles, but these forests have all vanished due to the high demand for lumber. A paltry 3% of the original forest has been granted protection in state parks and one National Park. 



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(The Champion of Champions and it's official)


Some two hundred miles to the east in the Sierras, one will discover another kind of Redwood(Sequoiadendron giganteum); these trees are not as tall as their Californian cousins. What they lack in height, they make up for it in sheer volume and weight. The two main rivals are the "General Sherman", found in the Sequoia National Park in California. To the north the giant of Kings Canyon National Park, "General Grant".



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(size does matter, 2000 year Californian Redwood trees)


After accurate measurements and careful evaluations, the "General Sherman" tree was declared the undisputed champion. We will cross the Atlantic one day and visit these 2000-year-old beasts and pay our respects. Visiting these Santuaries to admire and reflect on these iconic trees will allow us to decide who are the real Champions.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Breathtaking views of the Langerberg Mountains and the Duiwenhoks River Valley)



For now, we have resigned ourselves to record our South African Campion Redwood Groves. As the demand for quality Lumber in South Africa grew, indigenous trees could not sustain and regrow quick enough; eventually, the forest was all but gone. Experimentation with exotic trees began, eucalyptus, pines and of course, Californian Redwood trees.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(As straight as arrows, they dominated the scene)


These stands we planted on the slopes of Table Mountain, Grootvadersbosch near Swellendam, Hogsback in the Eastern Cape, and Misty Grove, Magoebaskloos in Limpopo. The grove in Grootvadersbosch caught our attention, and soon we would be standing underneath one of these majestic Redwood Trees.




Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Heads in the clouds, almost impossible to get the complete tree in the frame)



Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is situated in the Langeberg Mountains near Swellendam in the Western Cape, comprising 250ha of natural forest. This indigenous forest is significant and most precious in the Langeberg; hence it 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.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Main Entrance to the Grootvaderbosch Nature Reserve)


This sanctuary was created to preserve one of the last remaining indigenous forests in the Western Cape. The Californian Redwood trees share the same protection from the chainsaws, thanks to their Champion Tree Status. 



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Dence indigenous forest, back roads on route to the self-catering cabins)


We visited in April 2021, hoping to capture images that would portray these iconic trees in our Afromontane forest. The grove was situated deep in the woods, and we had a one-hour hike to the point where they were marked on the map. As we made our way through the forest, admiring the lush greenery and streams along the way, nothing could have prepared us for the spectacle that was ahead.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Like Ghosts, they appeared, they took our breath away) 



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





With their heads in the clouds, they exploded out of the forest. It was impossible to capture the complete architecture. More than 100 strong, how they dominated the forest towering more than 66m high(198 feet), straight as arrows, like ballerinas they, were in perfect step.



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Hard at work looking for the right angle)


Time seemed irrelevant as we surveyed the American conifers, recording the scene as we moved through the forest. 



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Bridge over the Duiwenhoks River, lush green forest smells and sounds, our happy place)


While 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 its 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)



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(As we moved through the forest, we listened to the chorus of bird song)


This was an unforgettable experience connecting with these forest legends,  motivated by the prospect of visiting the Goliaths of North America, and fortunately, they will not be going anywhere soon. 

 


Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(Captivated by the sheer beauty, mountains, forests, and the magical sounds of the wilderness)



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(A show of force, towering over the indigenous forest trees)



Champion Tree, Californian Redwood Trees, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Cape Nature, Hiking, Birding, Mountain Biking
(So many walking trails not completed, just as many mountain biking routes too explore)


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.