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Delightful Weekend with Good Friends

We love having our Cape Town friends to visit us in Struisbaai from time to time and last weekend Tony and Sharon came up to spend Saturday and Sunday night with us.  The weather couldn’t have been nicer.

During our many years of friendship, Sharon and I have waked many miles together so it was great to have her company on my daily strolls.   Of course we did the mall, the harbour and the beach but on Sunday we headed toward Cape Agulhas where we planned to meet the guys for coffee at Potpourri.

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It’s compulsory to visit the harbour

We didn’t make it to Potpourri as we bumped into our mutual friend Sheryl who was working in the garden in front of her B&B.  She was delighted to see Sharon and invited us in for coffee. So we rang the guys to join us and spent a few hours with Sheryl and Alan instead

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Sheryl showed us round her beautiful B&B, Agulhas Ocean House

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Each room has stunning sea views

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The en suites are so luxurious

On Monday we drove to Arniston and looked for birds and wildlife on the way.

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We saw a few birds including blue crane, bokmakierie, pied starlings, sparrows and canaries but I’m always delighted to find the Denham’s Bustard

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Also a little bokkie resting in the veld.

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This rock kestrel at the car park overlooking Otter Beach

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View of Otter Beach

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Tony and Sharon enjoying the view

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It was an amazing day

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View from the deck of The Arniston Hotel

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The cake and coffee was to die for

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Not the Banting Diet!

Sadly our friends had to leave when we got back to Struisbaai but it was so good to spend those two days with them.

 

 

 

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Sunday visit to Arniston

Cara and Shaun cooked us a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning and we discussed what everyone would like to do on their last day.   Swimming and/or body surfing was on the list so we suggested packing cossies and heading off to Arniston where we could also include a visit to The Waenhuiskrans Cave.  The Earl and I secretly hoped to stop to see a bird or two but time was of the essence so we didn’t stop for too many.

 

You can only get into the cave at low tide which Earl said would be at 14h00.   We were a bit earlier than that so we explored the area a bit and then went for a swim.

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Shaun and Cara with Casper

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Be careful Cansu

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Lolz and Cansu watching the surfers at Otter Beach

 

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Casper also wanted to swim

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Cold – but lovely once you’re in

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Fun jumping the waves

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Recovering from a dump!

The boys did some body surfing and the girls some tanning and then we dried off and set off to see if the cave was doable.

The last time I did it with friends it was spring low tide and looked like this.

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Easy to make your way along these dry rocks

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Not so easy when you have to wade through the tide that is not quite out yet

I decided not to risk slipping on the route to the cave just in case I fell and had to deal with weeks of recovery – not a good idea at my ripe old age.  But the young ones being more sure-footed bravely went ahead.

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Shaun the gallant gentleman giving Cansu a hand

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The Earl watched from the top of the cliff and yelled out directions

To get to the cave you have to go through a smaller one and then crawl through a tunnel.  The kids missed the way at first but Earl was watching from the cliff and gesticulated frantically until they caught on that they’d gone to far. Cara found the tunnel and in they went. As I wasn’t there I couldn’t take photos but these are some from a past trip.

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Inside the cave

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The opening to the sea

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The crawl through tunnel

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Was this Hayley?  I called her name but she could not hear me above the crashing waves

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She was a braver woman than I  – It was indeed Hayley and we had a lovely catch- up when she returned.

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Our adventurers returning

The young ones needed to get back to Cape Town so we decided not to have lunch at the motel which was busy and we would have had a long wait to be served.

On the return I had to yell for The Earl to stop as I spotted a Denham’s bustard – a bird I have to see when doing this drive!

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We saw very little else in the way of birds but it was still and most enjoyable excursion.

 

 

 

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Birding in the Overberg – Day 1

Overberg is an area of the Western Cape, east of Cape Town and beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountain range.  The name, Overberg is derived from Over ‘t Berg, which means over the mountain  and is a reference to the region’s location relative to Cape Town. 

It stretches along coasts where  beautiful beaches can be enjoyed, and over mountain ranges with interesting geological formations, abundant birdlife and fynbos. The landscapes are stunning explosions of different greens, browns and golds and now that we live in this beautiful area we are enjoying exploring and discovering all its hidden corners.

Our friends, Jim and Maureen from Jeffrey’s Bay visited us this week.  They too, are keen on wildlife and birds and so we spent a couple of fabulous days doing what we love best – enjoying nature and finding birds –  and the Overberg is just the place to do it.

On Tuesday evening J&M insisted on taking us to dinner so we introduced them to the  wonderful cuisine offered by Seagulls restaurant in Cape Agulhas. On cold winters evening there is a roaring fire in the grate but today it was warm so no need for that. Jim, Earl and Maureen ordered Spare Ribs which they said were good, while I settled for their delicious beef stroganoff – the Banting version comes with a Greek salad instead of pasta.

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Jim and Earl enjoying beer together

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Maureen and I prefer wine

Friends together again

Friends together again

The next morning we were all up bright and early and Maureen and I decided to walk to Cape Agulhas – about an hour on foot from Struisbaai.  And what a wonderful route it is along the rugged coastline.

The lighthouse at Agulhas

The lighthouse at Agulhas

Sharon and I did this last week and M being a race walker was keen to do it too.  The men went off to explore the harbour and the beach and met us at Potpourri the best place in the area for breakfasts, light lunches and delicious cakes.

We then did the compulsory standing at the Southern Tip of Africa thing and got the photo.

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On our way back we found this puffy disappearing into the grass on a vacant plot. Stay there, Puffy, or a vigilant gardener might decide to decapitate you with the edge of his spade.

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We went home to freshen up and then went off on a bird watching drive to Arniston.  Now Arniston is an easy 40 minute from Struisbaai if you go straight there.  But if you are tuned into nature it takes a lot longer than that. No prizes for guessing why.   We took the gravel road through the farmlands and of course stopped for every bird and creature of interest. The beautiful flora growing in the veld also had us oohing and aahing.

Struisbaai to Arniston and Back

Struisbaai to Arniston and Back

The weather had turned chilly so Maureen and I were very pleased that we’d done the walking thing early.  The game was on to find more than 60 species and in spite of the weather we did quite well.

Always special to see spoonbills

Always special to see spoonbills

Red-capped larks were everywhere

Red-capped larks were everywhere

Agulhas Lark sang beautifully

Agulhas Lark sang beautifully

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Common Ringed plover

Black-winged stilt

Black-winged stilt

Pretty flora too

Pretty flora too

When we got to Arniston we realised we did not have enough fuel to get home and there is no petrol station in Arniston!  But the kind staff of the hotel helped us out with a can so the day was saved.

As Maureen and I made our way to the hotel restaurant we found Phil and Richard about to depart in a most amazing chariot.   We chatted to them and they told us they’d shipped the vehicle from the UK to Durban and were travelling around South Africa in it.  There next stop would be Hermanus and then Stellenbosch.  Wow – totally open top – in all weather!

We meet interesting people on our excursions

We meet interesting people on our excursions

We enjoyed coffee and cheesecake before exploring Arniston

We enjoyed coffee and cheesecake before exploring Arniston

We decided not to do the cave as the tide was wrong, it was cold and we did not feel like slipping on the rocks.  We’ve all been in the cave before so didn’t really miss the experience but it is well worth it on a good day.

We found some more birds for our list on the dunes and around the village.

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Cape Sugarbird

A Cape Francolin showed us her chicks

A Cape Francolin showed us her chicks

A Cape Bunting

A Cape Bunting

Karoo Robin posed obligingly

Karoo Robin posed obligingly

We then set off for Struisbaai taking a good long time to get home too!  All in all the round trip took us 7 hours.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Rock Kestrel

Rock Kestrel

Bokmakierie

Bokmakierie

The guys cooked steak and sweet potato on the braai, gem squash in the micro and we served it all with a Greek salad.    More to follow tomorrow.

Male bonding at the fire

Male bonding at the fire

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Struisbaai and Arniston – Birding with friends

We are having a very special weekend with friends from Cape Town.  Tommy and Earl have been fishing friends since the 1990s and we have shared some great times together.  What a pleasure to meet his new partner, Megan, for only the second time and so great to see how happy they are together.   It’s never too late to find love and happiness.

Tommy and Megan arrived late Friday afternoon armed with supplies and insisting that they were going to provide supper!   Megan immediately made herself at home in my inadequate kitchen and whipped up a delicious sweet potato and vegetable roast, salad and baked apples for dessert.   The apples were cored and drizzled with honey and cinnamon and stuffed with slices of Bar One.  The guys made a fire and Earl braaied the meat to perfection.

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Megan at work on the Baked Apples

The men relaxing

The men relaxing

The Braai Masters

The Braai Masters

After a delicious meal we chatted till late and then decided that bed would be good as the guys wanted to fish the next day.

I woke to the sound of voices in the lounge and went to investigate.  Everyone was sitting in pyjamas.  “What happened to the fishing?” I asked – Too windy came the reply.   What?  It looked like a perfect day to me but the signs of inclement weather, they assured me, were there.

So after an “Early” breakfast we set of on a birding excursion.  A few weeks ago Tommy and Megan had done a birding day with some local farmers and they chalked up a list of 60 species.   “We need to beat that by at least one,”  Tommy insisted.

So starting with a few species in our garden we set off, girls at the back and boys in front.  But why we did this I do not know because whenever we stopped Tommy hopped out to give his girlfriend a kiss! I offered to swap places but he declined.

The birding was fast and fun.  We ticked off specie after specie and enjoyed every one we spotted.   We put out positive vibes into the ether and saw almost everything on our wishlist.   Earl was determined to find a kingfisher and as we were chatting about the malachite, pied and giant which were possibles, Tommy reminisced about the first time he’d seen a giant and Megan said she’d never seen one.   Seconds later what should we see but a beautiful Giant Kingfisher.   It flew and we thought we’d missed the photo but Tommy found him and with a bit of maneuvering of the car I managed to get a decent shot.

Giant Kingfisher - Lifer for Megan

Giant Kingfisher – Lifer for Megan

Our destination was Arniston and we birded happily all the way until we decided to get a move so as not to miss the low tide, the cave being a must see.

Here are some of the birds we saw.

Our National Bird

Our National Bird

Blue Crane on nest

Blue Crane on nest

Two Ibis species - Sacred and Glossh

Two Ibis species – Sacred and Glossy

A third Ibis species - Spoonbill

A third Ibis species – Spoonbill

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Avocet upon her nest

Avocet upon her nest

Stilts

Stilts

Grey Heron with coot in background

Grey Heron with coot in background

Spur-winged geese

Spur-winged geese

Yellow-billed kite

Yellow-billed kite

Cape Long-claw

Cape Longclaw

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Finally we arrived at Arniston and headed straight to the cave.  It’s a slippery walk over the rocks but not at all arduous if the tide is low.   We had to be a tad careful as we were doing it on the incoming tide.

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The route to the cave

Inside looking out to sea

Inside looking out to sea

Tommy

Tommy

Megan

Megan

Both of them

Both of them

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It’s dark inside so photgraphy is difficult

Exiting via the tunnel

Exiting via the tunnel

That was fun

That was fun

We had to take this pic of the lovers at a heart shaped rock formation

We had to take this pic of the lovers at a heart shaped rock formation

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Then we went to the harbour to see what had been caught – nothing worth buying I’m afraid but it was an interesting visit.

Fishermen

Fishermen

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After this little visit we went to have a drink at the hotel

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The traditional fishing village is also worth a visit.

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We birded some more on our return trip and chalked up 72 species in all.  How proud we were of this!   Back in Struisbaai we went to the fish shop to buy fish much to my disgust as I never eat bought fish – I will settle for nothing less than fresh caught by my husband.  But Tommy insisted as he loves Earl’s “Gebakte Vis”

Well it turned out to be not so bad and we had a wonderful meal of beer battered fried red fish and vegetables followed by fruit and ice cream.

Tomorrow – we might just go fishing!

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Kokstad visits Struisbaai

I have often blogged about our Kokstad Clan as we frequently venture to KZN to visit them and to indulge in some of our favourite activities.  There are  one or two good game parks there, the fly fishing is excellent and there is some wonderful birdlife – not to mention the very warm and friendly people to whom we are related!

Barbara and Andrew have been part of my life ever since I met Earl when they gathered me into the bosom of the family without hesitation.   There are many happy memories of holidays spent on their farm Brooklyn where they still live. Their first three children fitted in with the ages of our first two and their younger two with our youngest and all eight got on very well together.

Their visits to Cape Town are rare so when they announced they were coming down to visit Barbara’s brother and do the Flowers, we were thrilled.  They spent a few days with us here in Struisbaai and we had a wonderful time.

It was a lovely day on Thursday so after an “Earlie” breakfast we took a drive to Brandvlei.  The birding en route was productive and we marvelled at all the water that was lying around after the recent rains.

Three banded plover

Three banded plover

There were hundreds of spur-wing geese

There were hundreds of spur-wing geese

Flying over the temporary water

Flying over the temporary water

 My favourite photogenic duck - Yellow-billed duck

My favourite photogenic duck – Yellow-billed duck

Black-winged stilt looking his best

Black-winged stilt looking his best

Such long legs

Such long legs

Red-billed teal joined in the fun

Red-billed teal joined in the fun

Red-knobbed coots

Red-knobbed coots

We liked this picturesque cottage

We liked this picturesque cottage

With farm geese in front

With farm geese in front

Barbara's more into flowers than birds

Barbara’s more into flowers than birds

The wind was quite chilly at Brandvlei but we took a walk down the beautiful beach

White-fronted flowers were racing up and down the shoreline

White-fronted plovers were racing up and down the shoreline

The gulls always pose beautifully

The gulls always pose beautifully

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Barbara and Andrew

Barbara and Andrew

Something on the rocks got Earl's attention

Something on the rocks got Earl’s attention

It was good to let the wind blow through our hair

It was good to let the wind blow through our hair

We then made our way back the same way before heading to Arniston.

Earl was intrigued to see a pond boiling with carp – where had they come from?

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Some locals took the opportunity to catch them with their hands!

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Nice one!

Bokmakierie captured our attention

Bokmakierie captured our attention

This heron probably got lucky

This heron probably got lucky

Not often seen - White-faced ducks

Special to see white-faced ducks

Fishermen in the rough sea at Arniston

Fishermen in the rough sea at Arniston

Beautiful beach - but tide too high to explore the cave

Beautiful beach – but tide too high to explore the cave

We had lunch at the hotel and then made our way home.

This Denham's bustard was one of the highlights

This Denham’s bustard was one of the highlights

On Friday I showed Barbara our village and all it’s special little shops.  We were having a really good time but the men missed us and at lunch time rang for us to return.   We then took a drive to Agulhas and had coffee and cheesecake at Potpourri!

It was delicious

It was delicious

It was a short but very pleasant trip and we will be seeing them again in the Christmas holidays!   That would make it the third time this year!

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Kokstad Kids in Cape Town – New Year’s Eve

The day started with everyone going in different directions.   Lauren and Allan had friends to catch up with, Jay went to Mixed Martial Arts, I went to gym and Lolz had a lunch date.  When everyone returned it was fun in the pool again.  Even Lisa, feeling hot after tanning, bravely took to the waters.  Shannon alerted us all to this momentous event.

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It’s freezing

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Lovely once you’re in

Simon dives in

Simon dives in

On Jay's shoulders

On Jay’s shoulders

An excellent diving board

An excellent diving board

In the evening Jay and Josh went to Quintin’s New Year’s Eve party and slept over.  Lolz went to a party too and the rest of us went to Carol and Vere at Castle Rock.

On the way we had to take a picture of Simon near his town!

On the way we had to take a picture of Simon near his town!

The house is  set in fynbos  near Miller's Point

The house is set in fynbos near Miller’s Point

It is called Shah's Folly after the builder who made a bit of mess up which the family had to rectify many years ago.

It is called Shah’s Folly after the builder who made a bit of mess up which the family had to rectify many years ago.

View toward Castle Rock

View toward Castle Rock

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View toward Cape Boat and Skiboat Club

View toward the Hottentot Holland Mountains

View toward the Hottentot Holland Mountains

Carol and Vere, because they have a beautiful fynbos garden, get many birds visiting.  They also put out feeders and many of the sugarbirds and sunbirds have become quite trusting of them.

Malachite Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

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Cape Sugarbirds at the feeder

Vere is holding this feeder as the orange-breasted sunbird takes a drink

The orange-breasted sunbird takes a drink

Other visitors come each evening too. I waited on the stoep to get greet this little slender Mongoose whom Carol names “Kattie”

Up he comes

Nervously looking around

Getting braver

Getting braver

Then hides behind a bush and peeps at me

Then hides behind a bush and peeps at me

Later when it got dark a genet made an appearance.  Lisa alerted me to it but it was so quick I just got a glimpse.  It returned several times and I finally managed a few good photographs.  It was the final highlight of my 2014 🙂

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Carol served a delicious roast lamb done in a black pot over the fire. Simon fell asleep in front of TV.  The rest of us sat on the stoep admiring the view and seeing the New Year in!  At midnight we could see fireworks across the bay – from Muizenberg to Pringle Bay!   It was an amazing evening.  Thanks for hosting us all, Carol and Vere!

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Struisbaai with three Generations – Exploring the Agulhas Coast Rock Pools

Earl was up at an indecent hour and went off to fish on Abrie’s boat.  Lauren, Shannon, the boys and I were out of the house by 7:30 as we were to meet Professor Gavin Marneveldt for a rock pool excursion.  His talk yesterday had peaked our interest and we were looking forward to exploring the rock pools with more informed eyes. It was overcast and cool and there was a splash of rain as we drove to Stinkbaai, just next to the Agulahs Camp Site.    It was a good day to have something different to do.  While we waited we explored on our own, watched the competitors in the Cape Agulhas Classic ride past and observed a family of francolin.

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The Cape Agulhas Classic riders were also up bright and early

Crabs having a feast on a fish head in one of the rock pools

Crabs having a feast on a fish head in one of the rock pools

Southern Most Fracolin on an early morning walk

Southern Most Cape Francolin on an early morning walk

There was an excellent turn-out to the rockpool excursion – just a pity more didn’t pitch up to Professor Marneveldt’s lecture yesterday – reason being, I think, because there were quite a few  young children.   This morning they all had an amazing time.

We started at the Littorina zone on the upper shore. This region is named after the small snails that inhabit this zone. Littorina spp. has the ability to survive the severe conditions of heat stress and water loss of the upper shore.

Because of the overcast conditions the periwinkles were out in their hundreds instead of hiding beneath the rocks

Because of the overcast conditions the periwinkles were out in their hundreds instead of hiding beneath the rocks

We worked our way to the other zones, upper balanoid, lower balanoid and cochlear and found all kinds of interesting creatures and plants in the pools. Ninety nine percent of life on earth is in the sea.

Brain seaweed

Brain seaweed

This limpet has a huge appetite and lives on micro organisms and algaes that live on the rocks

This limpet has a huge appetite and lives on micro organisms and algaes that live on the rocks

sea sponge in cochlea zone

sea sponge in cochlear zone

The kids were thrilled to find an octopus

The kids were thrilled to find an octopus

Marine Explorers

Marine Explorers of Stinkbaai

View toward Agulhas lighthouse

View toward Agulhas lighthouse

Chiton -

Chiton found in high tide zone

sea urchin found in cochlea zone

sea urchin found in cochlear zone

Brittlestar on Shannon's hand

Brittlestar on Shannon’s hand

sea cucumber

sea cucumber

After spending a few hours enjoying the rock pools we decided to pop  into Potpourri for breakfast.   Grandpa’s fishing excursion ended early without much fish being caught.

Checking the menu at Potpourri

Checking the menu at Potpourri

Rock pooling is hungry work so a healthy breakfast went down well

Rock pooling is hungry work so a healthy breakfast went down well

When we got home the three boys went to the beach, Lauren, Lisa and I got stuck into cleaning house while Allan trimmed the tree – what a transformation!

After the chores we were all ready for the beach.  The wind had blown away the clouds and the waves were superb for boogy board and body surfing.

The tourists have arrived and the beach is more crowded than a week ago!

The tourists have arrived and the beach is more crowded than a week ago!

Warming up for a swim

Warming up for a swim

Bat and Ball with Simon and Jay

Bat and Ball with Simon and Jay

Si has a good eye for the ball

Si has a good eye for the ball

Catching a wave

Catching a wave

Go Josh!

Go Josh!

What a stunning day it turned out to be.  Tomorrow is our last day and we are all feeling a little low – “why are we letting the house out?” is the lament from the young ones.

Well kids, Cape Town is cool too you know.  And now that Granny and Grandpa are pensioners every cent counts.  We have had a brilliant 10 days and there is always next year!

Watch this space for further reports on our family holiday!  The new title will be “Kokstad Kids in Cape Town”