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Wine, Whales and Music at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Our friends Perci and Ray invited us to help celebrate their five years of wedded bliss at  De Hoop Nature Reserve.  There was a Wine, Whale and Music special on so we accepted with alacrity.

The weather was beautiful for this time of the year and it was great to get away for this special weekend.

On Saturday morning we arrived just in time to join a cruise on the vlei.

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The Happy Couple

Our guide was excellent. What a great surprise to see hundreds of black-crowned night herons roosting on the bank with other herons and egrets.   We would never have seen them from the shore.  It was a fabulous start to our cruise.

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Black-crowned night heron

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Sacred Ibis and Little Egrets

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Hundreds of flying ibis, herons and egrets

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Adult and juvenile black-crowned night herons

The rest of the cruise did not disappoint.  We kept seeing more and more species but the moving boat made photography difficult.  Highlights were greater crested grebes,  lesser and greater flamingos, Caspian Terns, yellow-billed ducks, Cape Teal and black-winged stilts.

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A tree full of African Darters

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African Darter

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Greater Flamingos

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Rock Dassie (hyrax)

It was really a most enjoyable trip and it ended with another super surprise – spoonbills waiting to greet us at the jetty.

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Beautiful spoonbills with a little egret

From there  we went to the restaurant and  did some wine tasting, bought some specialty cheeses and then enjoyed a mussel chowder for lunch.

As we were leaving the restaurant somebody came and threw her arms around me.  It was my ex-colleague Taryn who was there with her hubby, Craig and daughter Ella.   What an amazing surprise.  We keep up on Facebook but I haven’t seen Taryn for many years!

After checking into our chalet, Earl had a nap, I read my book and Perci and Ray took a walk to the restaurant to enjoy the high tea.   Later in the afternoon we went for a short game drive.

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Bontebok

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Blacksmith Lapwing taking a bath

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Rhebok

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Male Ostrich

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Scrub Hare

The evening dinner was fantastic.  A quintet of a flutist, three violinists and a cellist entertained us with their beautiful music.  For dinner we had courgette soup for starters then Pork belly with mash and veggies for mains and a tiramisu for dessert.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

This morning we were up early and at breakfast by 8.   There was a lovely selection of continental goodies and then scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon.

Our morning activity involved a drive to Koppie Alleen where we would meet Lauren de Vos for a whale-watching and rock pool activities

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Black-winged stilt seen on our drive

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Grass bird at Koppie Alleen

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Southern Right Whales in the bay – on the left is an albino calf.

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Life in the rock pools

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Star fish

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Cape Robin

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Whale Tail

What a great weekend.   We are so impressed with everything that De Hoop has to offer.   The accommodation is well maintained, the restaurant serves excellent food, the guides are exceptional and there is a lot to see and do in the park.

Check out their website

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Women’s Day Weekend in Struisbaai – Part One

After a rainy and cold week we find ourselves here in Struisbaai once again.   A text from our rental agent warned us that there might be road closures due to the recent heavy rains and flooding.  Really?  We didn’t give it too much thought and set off with Tony and Sharon at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon.  “I’d better just phone and check,” I said.   “It would be a pity to get to Bredasdorp only to find that road closed.”   Sure enough, we were warned that only twin cabs and 4X4s were able to make it through.  “Huh?”   No problem for us as fortunately as we drive a Fortuner!  I still didn’t believe that it could be that bad but it was!   There was a virtual river running across the road halfway between Bredasdorp and Struisbaai.

Will the big truck get through  - Yes indeed so we should too.

Will the big truck get through – Yes indeed so we should too.

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Fellow travellers forging the river

It was dark and cold when we reached our house and we put on the gas heater the minute we’d unpacked!    Then after a glass of wine and chat we set off to Agulhas to seek a place to have dinner.  To our horror Seagulls was closed – apparently taking advantage of the quiet season to get away for their annual holiday.  So we settled for Zuidste Kaap Restaurant (Most Southern Cape Restaurant) which had a fire in a huge hearth and very good food.  (The fire did very little to warm the place though)  Earl had Eisbein and Sharon and I had Vegetarian Pasta and Tony Rainbow Pasta.   All excellent.

We slept snugly and rose this morning to a unique “Early” breakfast. Nobody else can possibly compete with whatever it is he does to make this the most delicious breakfast in the world.  (Thanks my darling)

We then packed up and took ourselves off to De Hoop Nature Reserve – a very special place about an hour or so away.   The results of the recent rains were evident everywhere and had attracted a variety of waterbirds not usually seen in the area.

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A tranquil scene on a temporary lake

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Indulging in a morning preen

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Aren’t we beautiful

From Bredasdorp we take the Swellendam Road and then 6km out of Bredasdorp we take the dirt road to Malgas travelling about 40 km before turning right to De Hoop.  En route, we stop of course, to observe birds and take scenic photographs.

Now we know why it is so cold - Snow on the Caledon Mountains!

Now we know why it is so cold – Snow on the Caledon Mountains!

A Patchwork of colour with farmhouse in background

A Patchwork of colour with farmhouse in background

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A Grey Heron with an identity crisis – He is impersonating a swan

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Capped Wheatear posing obligingly

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Flood water creating a lovely scene

Mommy sheep with twins

Mommy sheep with twins

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Spurwinged Goose, Two Cape Shovellers and A Yellow-billed Duck

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The proteas in the park were in full bloom

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Although it was still chilly we the sun was shiny and there was good light and after the rain everything looked bright and clear.  The birds and animals in the park clearly thought today was the day to make an appearance and we found them everywhere. All were enjoying the sunshine and the abundance of water.

De Hoop Nature Reserve is 34 000 ha in size and the largest natural area managed by Cape Nature.  It is a good place to go if you enjoy hiking, cycling, bird watching and of course whale watching.

It forms part of the world’s smallest and most threatened plant Kingdom – the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation group. The Bredasdorp / Agulhas and Infanta area has an estimated 1500 plant species of the approximately 9 000 species found in the Cape Floristic Region.  We live in a beautiful part of the world and have such interesting flora and fauna.  What a privilege to have such easy access to it.  Not only can we see the rare bontebok and other mammal species here but it is adjacent to the De Hoop Marine Reserve too and at Koppie Alleen there is an opportunity to see whales and other marine life too.

Cape Bulbul catching some rays

Cape Bulbul catching some rays

Common Fiscal

Common Fiscal

Smart Ostrich

Ostriches out and about

Zebra/Kwagga

Cape Mountain Zebra

Large Eland Male

Male and Female Eland

Bontebok

Bontebok

Our close cousins

Our close cousins

Bokmakierie

Bokmakierie

We have often dined at the restaurant in the park and can highly recommend it.  Sharon and I had traditional South African fare in the form of Bobotie and Tony and Earl indulged in Mussel Chowder.

The Four of us Indulging in good South African food

The Four of Us Indulging in Good South African Food

This cheeky chap demanded crumbs but we declined to indulge him.

Cape Francolin

Cape Francolin

The trees were full of noisy birds eating berries

Cape Bulbul

Cape Bulbul

Mousebird

Mousebird

After lunch we drove to Koppie Alleen to see if we could spot a whale or two.  We were not disappointed.  There were dozens of Southern Right Whales in the bay which were seen clearly with the aid of our binoculars.    It was bitterly cold on the dunes so we didn’t spend too much time before we were driven back to the warmth of our vehicle.

Koppie Alleen

Koppie Alleen

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

The Bay was full of them

The Bay was full of Southern Right Whales

On our way out the baboons once again amused us.

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Daddy Baboon

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Mommy and Baby

After a great day out we returned to our cosy cottage and Chef Earl produced a wonderful braai – chicken wings on sticks, skilpaaidjies (not real tortoises honestly – just liver wrapped in sheep fat) lamb chops, vegetables in foil and  Sharon’s Coleslaw.   To finish a stunning lemon meringue from Checkers’ Bakery.

The Indoor Braai

The Indoor Braai

Yum!

Yum!

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Struisbaai Holiday Day 12 – De Hoop Delight and Disaster

The wind was up this morning and so we decided a day trip to somewhere else was called for.   A bit of bird and game watching might be a good experience for our grandchildren and would ensure that they didn’t get too much sun.  So the early morning run was shelved and we had an ‘Early’ breakfast then Lauren, Earl the kids and I set off at about 8.  Alan, Lisa and Laurie decided to give the nature thing a miss.

Jay was the most enthusiastic of all the kids and on route keenly spotted the birds of prey.  Plenty of yellow-billed kites were hawking and steppe and jackal buzzards were atop of telephone poles.  We also saw flocks of our national bird – the blue crane.

Flock of Blue Crane

Flock of Blue Crane

We also spotted a special bird that we don’t often see in The Western Cape

Namaqua Dove - Male

Namaqua Dove – Male

Just before entering the reserve we saw baboons.  Now we are used the cheeky Cape Point clan who have no fear of humans.  They are pretty precocious in Kruger too.  But these would not hang around for a chat at all.  We managed to get some bum shots.

Bye bye baboons

Bye bye baboons

We have all four children on our Wild Card so only had to fork out a R40 Conservation fee for Lauren.  The Wild Card is well worth having.  We have one for all clusters and we can get into any South African National Park free.  The cost of the card is R745 per year for a couple and up to five children.  (For more information on The Wild Card – http://www.wildcard.co.za/faq.htm?action=view-list&catid=512 )

Once in the park the kids were thrilled to see zebra, ostrich and bontebok.

Bontebok and Baby

Bontebok and Baby

Zebra Family

Zebra Family

We stopped at the restaurant to go to the loo and then set off to Koppie Alleen where we planned to swim and play on the dunes.  But on the way a mini disaster struck.  The battery light came on and a message on the dashboard informed us that we should get the car to a workshop for alternator repairs.  Earl and the boys got up to look under the bonnet – but couldn’t find where the alternator was hidden – Modern Cars!

Where's the alternator, Grandpa?

Where’s the alternator, Grandpa?

Earl thought discretion was the better part of valour. We turned around and went back to Struisbaai – rather be stranded closer to home than in the middle of a nature reserve.  So unfortunately we did not see Koppie Alleen today but if any reader would like to see what we did on a previous trip go to https://puppy1952.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/fishing-adventure-at-the-southern-tip-of-africa-day-3

We snacked on left over Christamas dinner, the kids amused themselves and the adults read, did crosswords, blogged and napped.  Then we all went for a walk before supper.

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