Visiting the Kids in Kokstad – Stopover at Mountain Zebra National Park

Our next stopover was Mountain Zebra National Park.  We spent two nights there.   Our accommodation was a family cottage and it was amazing.   The beds had down duvets – very necessary as it was freezing!   The cottage was spotless and well equipped, the towels snowy white and everything worked!   We had a beautiful view and the monkeys were our most frequent visitors.  We had one breakfast and one dinner at the restaurant and we were hugely impressed.  The service was friendly and efficient and the food excellent.

The lovley thing about Mountain Zebra National Park which is situated near Cradock in the Eastern Cape is that it is totally unspoilt.   It is a small park set in the mountains, with plenty of mountain zebra and other mammals including 2 male lions (we did not see them) some cheetah (didn’t see them either) black rhino (dipped of these too) buffalo, red harteest, gemsbok and variety of other buck species.  The birdlife is also varied and we were well entertained on our drives. The scenery too is magnificent.   We checked out the campsite and were impressed.  We will come here with the caravan on future visits.  The only reason we did not bring the caravan this time was because we were to be staying with Lauren and going to a few places where we could not camp.

Tuesday 14 april 2015 Mountain Zebra National Park

The drive to Mountain Zebra National Park near Craddock is a pleasant 5 hours.  We stop for breakfast at Uniondale.  We find a restaurant but are told that it is no longer functioning and she directs us to the hotel.  It looks very bleak and uninviting but we are welcomed and shown into a large dining room with beautiful paintings of Italy on the walls. The coffee is excellent and we order omelettes which are lovely.   The melon and ginger jam with toast is quite delightful.  We are the only patrons but as we are leaving I see a woman of about my age and her mother approaching the restaurant.  They look a little unsure.  I ask if they’re going for breakfast and the younger woman says – We just want coffee – is it any good.  Ï assure that it is and tell her that if she doesn’t want breakfast she could just order the toast and melon and ginger jam. She looks relieved and ushers her ancient mom, walking with a stick, into the restaurant.

It is overcast and cold at first and freezing in Uniondale but the weather gradually warms up.  It is 24 C when we get to the reserve.   We drive around for a while and see Mountain Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Kudu, monkeys and a variety of birds including scaly-feathered finch, common fiscal, white-browed sparrow-weaver, Cape sparrow, white-backed mousebirds, Rufous-cheeked warbler, blacksmith lapwing, spoonbill, Egyptian Geese and yellow-billed ducks.

This is why it is called Mountain Zebra National Park

This is why it is called Mountain Zebra National Park

Scaly Feathered finch

A rather special find – Rufous-eared warbler

We then check in and have a short rest in our cottage – number 6.

At 4:30 we drive out again and it is very cold.  We see a variety of animals and birds and then return and have a braai for supper.
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WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL 2015 MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK
We wake up without the alarm at 6:30. Gate opening is 7:00. We are out by 7:10 and take the mountain pass route. There is lots of game about – buffalo, black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok and eland. Birdlife is good too. A little pond produces spoonbills, yellow-billed ducks and red billed teal – rare in the park. The monkeys in the park are very naughty as moneys tend to be – we were amused to see them try to chase a pair of blue crane. By the end of the drive we had our bird list up to 35 – not as many as I thought but we seem to see the same species over and over again.

Back at camp we have breakfast at the restaurant – we are the only guests but the eggs and bacon for Earl and omelette for me are excellent.

Earl takes a nap and I go for a walk. I find a woodpecker, chestnut vented tit-babbler, mouse-birds, cliff swallows, a double-collared sunbird and lots of Cape Buntings. The walk is lovely and I want to do the longer, Black Eagle one but decide that it’s not idea to do it on my own.

Double-collared sunbird

Double-collared sunbird

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Rufous-vented titbabbler

Rufous-vented titbabbler

Earl wakes up from his snooze at 2:30 and we go out for another drive. We take the 4X2 Loop which is very scenic but does not produce much game or birds. Towards the end we do see lots of baboons, black wildebeest, blesbok, zebra and springbok.
The birding toward the camp is good and once inside camp we find a few golden breasted bunting. Our list is now up to 42 species.

IMG_1010 IMG_1024 IMG_1047 We return and it is getting really cold. Earl can’t seem to warm up and his gout is bothering him. I take a hot shower and put on a long sleeved dress and leggings. We go to the restaurant for supper. Earl has lamb shank and I order two starters – springbok carpaccio and chilli chicken livers. The meal is amazing. I am hugely impressed with the standard of the restaurant. Much better than the Bug ‘n Mean in Kruger National Park.
When we return to the chalet Earl has a hot shower and hops into bed. I put an extra blanket on to ensure that he doesn’t freeze to death. Later in the evening I have to get up and it is absolutely freezing! The temperatures really drop here at night – not that they are that high during the day!

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