Category Archives: Nature and Animal Attractions

Walking the Girls at Radloff Park in Somerset West (2019-07-21) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 31 MAR 2020

Somerset West is scenically a beautiful space. Lying in the Helderberg Basin, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, and squeezed in between the Cape Winelands and False Bay, Somerset West is somewhat our local answer to Cape Town’s leafy suburb of Constantia. A good way to experience a bit of this suburban green space is with a walk out in Radloff Park.

The park, with its wide open space, grass fields, tree-shaded paths, and refreshing river water (it lies on the banks of the Lourens River), is an especially big hit with dog lovers – so much so that locally the site is pretty much known as the Radloff Dog Park. In other words, expect a LOT of dogs on your visit!

A number of sporting codes also call this greenbelt home, including the local cricket, croquet, squash, and baseball clubs, with even a small skateboarding park (for those less interested in playing with balls) tacked on as well.

Dogs and sporting code fields aside though, the area is green, tranquil, full of trees, teeming with bird life, and comes with amazing views and a lazy river walk to boot. The perfect spot for a family picnic outing then, or in my case, something to do with the girls!

A Year of Beach Walks in Gordon’s Bay (2018-12-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 28 MAR 2020

So here I am, slowly but surely whittling down my very large Unposted Photos folder with another ‘A Year of’ picture dump. I rather enjoy living in a small harbour town and very much doubt that I will ever willingly elect to live far from the sea again – primarily because it makes for such picturesque living space!

Although reasonably diminutive, Gordon’s Bay is surprisingly home to two harbours and two beaches (Main and Bikini), and with a mountain overlooking it all, there is no excuse to not wander about and enjoy the scenery. Of course, working remotely like I do, there really isn’t any excuse at all!

So here are a bunch photos that I snapped while ambling about the beaches of Gordon’s Bay in 2018:

Nature Walk along the Kleinmond Coastal Walkway (2019-04-07) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2020

Kleinmond is another one of those easy to love little coastal towns in the Overberg district, family friendly and perfect for tourist beach getaways. It also happens to be home to a very gentle, short but very scenic coastal walkway, which takes you all the way from the small Kleinmond harbour to the main Kleinmond beach.

The sandy route is about 2.5 km in length, and winds through the granite and fynbos that are emblematic for much of the Overberg’s gorgeous coastline scene, offering up spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding peninsulas while you are at it.

For this particular stroll I somehow managed to convince Jessica to join me and so the two of us donned our hats, hopped into the car and enjoyed the scenic Clarence Drive trip, before finding a spot at the bustling Kleinmond harbour area and heading off up the rocky stairs that signal the start of the walkway.

The path is simple to follow and didn’t given us much difficulty, other than Jessica stepping into a bit of mud and then being utterly distraught over her now dirty school shoes. (They wear white takkies – i.e. trainers – at Gordon’s Bay Primary School).

Having successfully reached the beach (at the mouth of the Kleinmond lagoon), we decided to first grab a cooldrink from the popular Sandown Blues restaurant, before finally opting to head back via the streets (which takes you past the one time beach house of historic Afrikaans scholar and novelist DF Malherbe) – primarily because Jessica didn’t want to risk any more mud on her now not so white takkies!

Oh, and as if that wasn’t quite enough, she then wanted soft serve ice cream as a reward when we got back to the harbour. (Hmm, I am beginning to suspect that maybe she’s not joining my walks for the actual walking!)

In any event, a great little morning distraction that let us stretch our legs, take in some fresh sea air, and bathe in glorious warm sunlight. Not bad, not bad.

Ducks and Noodles at Sonstraal Dam in Durbanville (2019-07-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 10 MAR 2020

We obviously have a few of our own nice places to head out for a walk here in Gordon’s Bay (aka we live by the sea), but I have to say that I do miss having easy access to the very scenic Sonstraal Dam in Durbanville.

There’s actually two dams tucked away in the leafy desirable Sonstraal/Vygeboom/Eversdal residential area of Durbanville, the smaller Vygeboom Dam at the top and then the much larger Sonstraal dam at the bottom.

Although neglected for a number of years, the ban on fishing and subsequent clean up operations have resulted in a wonderful green space with a footpath that lazes around the body of water, offering a tranquil and scenic family friendly nature experience right in the heart of the suburbs.

With the now abundant bird life that call this dam home there is forever a goose to feed, a water fowl to cheer on, or a duckling to swoon over. It is fresh air, a chance to stretch the legs, and it is short, so the girls can’t really justify moaning at me if they didn’t really want to do it in the first place.

And then usually, like we did on this late mid week afternoon outing, we ended off our wanderings in Durbanville with Chinese takeout food at the Kenridge institution that is Ho-Ho Take-Aways. (Chantelle has been ordering from then since she was in school!)

It was, quite frankly, delicious.

Eagles and Owls at Eagle Encounters in Stellenbosch (2019-05-18) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 FEB 2020

Home to eagles, owls, vultures and just about every other raptor that you can think of, Eagle Encounters is a long running wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre based at the historic Spier wine farm in Stellenbosch. Easily one of Jessica’s favourite animal attractions to visit, Eagle Encounters is the place to go if you want to have a closer look at some remarkable South African birds of prey.

Founded as a non-profit organization by Hank and Tracy Chalmers back in 2001, the self-funded Eagle Encounters is home to a large contingent of raptors, most of which are either injured or were hand-raised, thus making it impossible to be safely returned to the wild.

Visiting their site is something I always return with slightly mixed feelings about, primarily because I am not a particularly huge fan of aviaries (unless they are massive free flight operations of course), but it should be noted that the excellent team continuously evaluate and update their facilities to keep in step with the latest global conservation practices, meaning that just about every time I visit they’re doing something in a slightly new (better) way.

While there is an impressively large collection of birds of prey to make your way through, it is always the interactive attractions which the girls love most, like getting up close to the diminutive Scops owls, touching and talking to the pretty Barn and Wood owls, and holding up the big Spotted Eagle owls.

The touching and handling of various snakes, lizards and dragons is always a hit, the woolly sheep and his grumpy goat partner that guard the small kids play area always entertain, and the snake striking hunt of the secretary bird always catches the eye.

Then there are the playful cape foxes to observe, buzzards, falcons, hawks, vultures and eagles to admire from up close, and of course the brilliantly entertaining (and educational) flying displays to marvel at.

With three flight displays throughout the day, the enthusiastic team of bird handlers show off their charges’ flying, hunting and other behavioural quirks, all while doing their bit in educating visitors all about these majestic birds of prey.

It’s a brilliantly educational visit for both young and old alike, and one always comes back having learned more than just a thing or two about these remarkable birds that we share our open spaces with.

And as an added bonus (just in case all of the above wasn’t enough), your are of course on the beautiful, tourist friendly, art filled, historic beauty that is Spier wine estate. So no real reason not to visit then, is there?

Penguins and a Beach in Betty’s Bay (2019-03-16) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 FEB 2020

Who doesn’t love watching pengweenis waddle around, cool off with a dip in the sea, and occasionally bray like donkeys? In terms of African penguin colonies in the world, there aren’t exactly many of them, but as luck would have it, the Western Cape is home to two, the first being the world famous Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and the second, equally as enjoyable site, being Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.

The girls and I tend to visit the penguins at Stony Point at least once a year, primarily because I really do love the exquisitely scenic drive along Clarence Drive to get there. On this particular visit we first paid a visit to the white sands of the Betty’s Bay main beach, before wandering over to the penguin rich boardwalk of Stony Point, and then finally off for a leisurely trundle along the nearby coastal pathway.

Stony Point has a great set up of this well maintained wooden boardwalk that allows you to walk right through the penguin colony (by this point the penguins are quite used to the hordes of silly humans who keep stopping to take photos of them and the dassies), and come breeding season you can actually look right into the nests, see the eggs, and watch the young ones slowly make their appearance.

When you do eventually get bored of the frolicking dassies, blue lizards, cormorant colony, and sea-diving penguins of the little nature reserve itself, then there is the small restaurant (On the Edge) and edu-centre near the reserve entrance, and of course the spectacular Kogelberg views that comes bundled with a visit to Betty’s Bay.

So definitely yet another scenic feather in the Western Cape’s cap.

A Year of Beach Walks in Strand (2018-12-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 JAN 2020

Presented here as a form of personal archival (and to get my “Unposted Photos” folder looking a little better), is a collection of random photos taken at Strand Beach (where I do the majority of my evening walks).

I have said it before, but 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 – what’s not to love?

There’s a river estuary, a protected marine area, good fishing, a lifesaving club, gorgeous sunsets, and soft serve ice cream. Lots of soft serve ice cream.

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!