Category Archives: Nature and Animal Attractions

A Year of Beach Walks in Gordon’s Bay (2017-12-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 JAN 2020

Another entry in the “slowly clear all the unposted images out of my very large Unposted Photos folder” series. I enjoy living in a small harbour town and very much doubt that I will ever willingly choose to live far from the sea again – primarily because it makes for such great (picturesque) walking routes.

Gordon’s Bay is home to two harbours and two beaches (main and bikini), with a mountain overlooking it all – so in other words scenically perfect. With me working from home, this translates into plenty of opportunity to head out for a stroll – which I invariably do.

So here is a bunch photos from 2017 documenting some of these walks along my home town beaches.

Antelope Spotting at Bontebok National Park in Swellendam (2019-09-27) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 29 DEC 2019

Bontebok National Park is an unusual SANParks site in that it is a species-specific national park, originally established in 1931 to try and ensure the survival of the relatively rare Bontebok antelope. In this they succeeded and today the park is home to around 200 Bontebok, the maximum amount of antelope a park of this size can support.

Situated 6 km south of Swellendam in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains and bordered to the south by the mighty Breede River, the Bontebok National Park is the smallest of South Africa’s 19 national parks, covering an area of about 27 km².

In addition to Bontebok, the park is also home to Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebok, Cape Grysbok, Duiker, Red Hartebeest and the African clawless otter. Bird species thrive, with over 200 different types recorded, including Stanley’s bustard, Secretary birds and Blue Cranes (South Africa’s national bird).

The park also serves as a protected area for the conservation of coastal renosterveld and other endangered fynbos veld types, with a total of nearly 500 grasses and other plant species on the books. Home to some of the largest remaining ‘renosterveld islands’, the park also contains several plant species that are found nowhere else in the world.

With no large predators prowling the grounds, this park is open for self-guided drives, hiking, picnics, fishing and all manner of other outdoor recreational activities, and with both camping and accommodation options available (at the Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp), the park welcomes both day and overnight visitors.

September saw Jessica and Emily join me for a little long weekend up in Mossel Bay, and on the way up I decided to take the opportunity to swing left and first head off for a spot of Bontebok spotting – marking the first time that I had actually ever visited this particular park.

(We were successful in our antelope spying mission and in the end, despite the heat, enjoyed a lovely drive and stroll around the area.)

Much like the West Coast National Park, the Bontebok National Park is certainly not the most thrilling of national parks to visit (unless of course you are REALLY into birding), but if you are looking for veld, wide open space to enjoy, and the tranquility that comes with all of that, then this site certainly ticks all the right boxes!

A Year of Beach Walks in Strand (2017-12-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 27 DEC 2019

Catching up with another trove of files from the “Unposted Photos” folder on my laptop, this is a whole lot of images of Strand beach taken during walks/visits in 2017.

5 km of white sandy beach overlooking False Bay, one of the safest swimming beaches in Cape Town, surfing, kiteboarding, water slides and a tidal pool, and some pretty impressive buildings dotted along a renewed promenade.

Hard not to love as a beach destination.

Pigeons and Parrots at Birds of Eden in Plettenberg Bay (2019-01-05) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 DEC 2019

Wolves, snakes, elephants, monkeys, lions and tigers, the achingly scenic Crags area near Plettenberg Bay is home to a smorgasbord of wildlife sanctuaries, with one of our absolute favourites being the incredible Birds of Eden free flight sanctuary, home to 3,000+ birds comprising of more than 220 species. In other words there is a lot to see!

Birds of Eden has been around for quite a few years now and this large free flight sanctuary is a sight worth seeing. A small forest enclosed in a giant mesh tent, this wide open space allows all manner of rescued birds to thrive and survive, and in the process create an incredibly family friendly viewing experience.

A wooden walkway snakes through the enclosure allowing you plenty of close up opportunities to watch the birds feed, fly and play, and with so many of these animals coming from a life as caged pets or hand-reared/imprinted companions, most are quite content to hang around humans and have their picture taken. (No touching though!)

It is lush, it is humid, there is a great little cafe on the water to watch the water fowl from, and the incredibly burst of colours and constant bird calls that surround you all come together to make for a remarkable experience – one that Chantelle and I enjoy sharing with the girls as often as what we can.

Lions and Leopards at Jukani in Plettenberg Bay (2019-01-05) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 DEC 2019

If you have kids then animal attractions always make for a big entertainment hit, and if you find yourself wandering about the Plettenberg Bay area, a glance at Google Maps will quickly confirm that you’re certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to animal sanctuaries!

Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary is all about big cats, so if you are keen to see a tawny lion, a white lion, a jaguar, a cheetah, a Siberian tiger, a Bengal tiger, a white tiger, a puma, a caracal, a leopard, and a serval cat all in one place, then Jukani has your back.

(For good measure, they also have a couple of zebra, springbok, a honey badger, and a tree full of American raccoons. Also a zorilla, otherwise known African polecat aka African skunk!)

After an initial stint in Mossel Bay, followed by a move to The Crags about 10 km out of Plettenberg Bay, Jukani has morphed into a proper wildlife sanctuary, providing a home and good care for these mostly rescued big cats that aren’t able to be released back into the wild ever again.

With a strict no touching, no breeding, and now no personifying names for the animals, Jukani focuses on conservation education and specifically on the plight of large predators in captivity.

The massive grounds allow for big forested enclosures which constant guided tours then snake through introducing you to each and every one of Jukani’s furry inhabitants. The girls enjoyed the experience (Jessica instantly bonded to our guide), we loved the fresh air and interesting sights, and of course, the thrill of hearing a lion vocalize around feeding time is something that one never really tires of hearing!

A Stroll through Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2019-03-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 OCT 2019

I’m quite fond of the extremely accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch. Situated within the town itself, the park is compact, has well marked out paths, gives gorgeous distant views of the Stellenbosch mountains, and really is a breath of fresh air and tranquility for any nature lovers out there.

This particular trip to Jan Marais saw me riding solo, with Chantelle busy with cakes/and or relaxing on the couch, and neither of my girls wishing to abandon playing with their friends in order to join me for a healthy walk. Not that this bothered me in the slightest though – the perfect opportunity then to take my time, first stopping to do some plane spotting at the Stellenbosch Flying Club, then tracking down the sports club and Danie ‘Doc’ Craven bronze statue that I remembered from my twenties, before finally setting out to explore the little nature reserve at my own gentle pace.

There is public art to behold, renosterveld fynbos to experience, a kids play area (which for a change I didn’t have to stop at), an outdoor gym for the eager beavers, enough space for both cyclists and walkers to enjoy at the same time, and it always makes for a great photo walk.

Perfect really.

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Nature Walk around Paardevlei in Somerset West (2019-04-06) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 17 OCT 2019

All the newly developed houses, apartment blocks and office spaces are now quickly springing up all around Paardevlei, but pleasingly the nature walk that takes you around the vlei is still open to the public – and if you know about it, then you have another great stretch your legs kind of place to add to the local list.

Seeing as this particularly shallow vlei relies almost entirely on rain and ground water for its supply, this year’s decently wet winter means that the vlei is again sparkling blue, and is once more brought back to life by the cacophony of bird life that has returned to its wetland charms.

With neither Chantelle nor the girls keen on joining me for a healthy walk on this particular day, I had the excuse to leisurely walk as far as what I wanted (for those who keep track of things like that, it is more or less 3 km of path if you go right around), to go as slow as what I wanted, and to stop and take as many photos as what I wanted.

Which I then did.

I also strolled about the business area a bit, taking in all the beautiful sculpture work on display. As one does in such pretty surroundings of course!

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Walking alongside Dogs at Radloff Park in Somerset West (2019-05-05) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 OCT 2019

Lying in the Helderberg Basin, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, and squeezed in between the Cape Winelands and False Bay, Somerset West is naturally a beautiful space. A great way to get a taste of its natural splendour is by heading over to the green grass of Radloff Park and indulging in a lazy stroll along the banks of the Lourens River.

A number of sporting codes call this greenbelt home, including the local cricket, croquet, squash, and baseball clubs, and there is even a small skateboarding park for those less interested in playing with balls.

The park with its wide open space, grass fields, tree-shaded paths, and refreshing river water is an especially big hit with dog lovers – so much so that locally the site is pretty much exclusively referred to as the Radloff Dog Park. (Basically, go there expecting to come home with at least one big slobbery wet kiss and a butt sniff under your belt.)

Dogs and sporting code fields aside though, the area is green, tranquil, full of trees, teeming with bird life, and comes with amazing views combined with a lazy river walk to enjoy. In other words, impossible not to recommend!

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Sharks and Skates at The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (2018-11-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 SEP 2019

I was fifteen years old when the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town first opened its doors to the public in November 1995. A world class aquarium showcasing the incredible diversity of marine life found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans through awe-inspiring exhibits and interactive touch-points, with a vision and mission to encourage love and respect for our ocean, and in so doing, train up a generation of young people to understand the need for using marine and other natural resources in a much more sustainable manner.

It also just so happens to be a wonderfully entertaining activity for parents with young kids.

After all, there is quite a lot to see and take in! From the big I&J Ocean Exhibit, the eerily quiet Predator Exhibit, the serene Kelp Forest Exhibit (unfortunately closed for reforestation during this particular visit), the always cute (if a little smelly) Penguin Exhibit, the interesting Touch Pool & Microscope section, the educational Smart Living Challenge Zone (lots of interactive/digital games to play around with!), and the Diversity Gallery, there is more than enough to keep you busy for a decent amount of time!

Then there are the various feeding times (the penguins are always a treat, not to mention the diver entering the big tank with all the sharks and rays), and if you are feeling particularly brave and have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can head over for a diving experience that lets you scuba down into either the Predator, I&J Ocean or Kelp Forest exhibit!

Jellyfish, sharks, rays, crayfish, eels and sea horses, the girls were kept absolutely enthralled with everything they saw – even if they weren’t really all that sure about actually touching anything in the touch pools!

As always, a wonderful educational experience that I’m thrilled to have been able to share with my kids. Makes me wish all that much more that Cape Town still had a proper zoo to enjoy with them as well. Anyway, as expected, a lot of photos were taken on the day:

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