Tag Archives: nature reserve

The Cape Recife Lighthouse and Nature Reserve in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 FEB 2018

Built way back in 1851, the Cape Recife Lighthouse was originally established to warn passing ships of the dangerous Thunderbolt Reef (named for the HMS Thunderbolt, a British Royal Nave Sail and Paddle Frigate that wrecked at Cape Recife in 1847), a job the venerable (albeit upgraded) lighthouse still admirably performs to this very day.

In 1973, a surrounding 366 hectare large area was proclaimed as the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, thereby transforming Cape Recife into a protected sanctuary for the Summerstrand region’s coastal and marine ecosystems to thrive within.

These days, in addition to the walking routes, countless unspoiled beaches, picnic areas, and accessible to the public lighthouse, the Cape Recife Nature Reserve is also home to the Port Elizabeth branch of SANCCOB (otherwise known as SAMREC), which provides rehabilitation and care facilities for many of the regions coastal bird species.

Seeing how I rather enjoy visiting lighthouses and was after all now in the area (as part of our June 2017 Holiday Adventure), I dragged everyone over to the nature reserve (most who were visiting it for the very first time), where after securing our entry permits, we enjoyed a rather tranquil stroll around the area.

Well not the kids mind you. They were far too busy chasing up and down the sand dunes like energetic little bunnies of course!

Extra: On exiting the nature reserve our initial route to the Grass Roof Farm Stall for a spot of lunch and play was blocked by a rather angry veld fire. Apparently, thanks to the dry seasons Port Elizabeth is also experiencing, wild fires like this is now pretty much a daily occurrence now…

Related Link: Cape Recife Lighthouse | Cape Recife Nature Reserve | Port Elizabeth

Ambling about the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve in Lakeside, Cape Town (2017-08-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 03 JAN 2018

The Zandvlei Estuary is the largest of the eight estuaries on the False Bay coastline, and more importantly, is the only remaining functional estuary/wetland on the False Bay Coast.

Bordered by the Cape Town suburbs of Lakeside, Marina da Gama, Muizenberg and Steenberg, the estuary is fed by the rivers coming down the slopes of the southern extension of the Table Mountain chain.

Given the fact that the estuary occurs amidst an area dense in residential suburbs, the Zandvlei estuary has historically suffered from pollution, encroaching urbanisation and poaching, with the area left neglected for long periods of time.

Although a 22ha area in the north was proclaimed as the Zandvlei Bird Sanctuary back in 1978, it was really only in 2006 when a 204ha area was formally proclaimed as the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve that the conservation efforts really kicked in. Headed up by the Zandvlei Trust, this got a further boost in 2015 when an additional bit of land was added and the 200ha Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve was proclaimed in terms of the Protected Areas Act.

The reserve functions as a fish hatchery, with it being one of the most important estuaries for recruitment of fish such as garrick, steenbras and two species of stumpnose. The surrounding wetland is an important habitat for birds (with around 166 species on its official list). It is also a vital habitat for amphibians and about 20 species of reptile such as the angulate tortoise, marsh terrapin, mole snake and brown water snake.

Interestingly enough Porcupines, grysbok, otters and mongoose can also occasionally be spotted in the reserve.

There is an environmental education center up in the northern section of the reserve, as well as a 1.5 km circular walk, complete with bird hides and picnic tables. Past the wetland area are large grass lawns along the banks of the estuary, open to the public (free of charge) and as such, creates a much needed green belt/recreational space for the local residents.

Given that I work in the area (yes, yes, I know that I’m technically only in office there one day a week), I often get the urge to stretch my legs and get some fresh air come lunch time – meaning more often than not I grab something to eat from the shop, pop down to Zandvlei via Boyes Drive, and tuck in while hopefully watching some sailboats on the water courtesy of the nearby Imperial Yacht Club.

Failing that, the birds are pretty entertaining too.

So, as you might have noted by now, this then is exactly what I did on this particular day back in August last year. A tough life, I know… ;)

Related Link: Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature ReserveZandvlei Trust

Stony Point Penguins in Betty’s Bay (2017-05-06) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 14 DEC 2017

There are only a few land-based African Penguin colonies in the world, with South Africa lucky enough to be home to two of these – the first being the famous (and tourist popular) Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and the second, the slightly lesser known Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay.

I’m particularly fond of the much quieter but equally as good Stony Point penguin colony, with its beautiful raised boardwalk that snakes through the penguin’s homes and breeding ground.

The compact reserve is home to a colony of African Penguins (who by now are quite acclimatized to the humans peering down at them from above), three species of cormorant (the Crowned cormorant, the Cape cormorant, and the Bank cormorant) that breed on the outer rocks, Harlaub’s Gulls and Kelp Gulls that forage in the colony, as well as a big troop of Rock Hyrax or as we locals like to call them, dassies.

The boardwalk gives you an excellent vantage point from which to watch the penguins go about their daily lives, and come breeding season it is particularly cute to watch the furry youngsters try and strut their stuff!

The colony lies on the site of the old Waaygat Whaling Station which was used to harvest and process whale meat in the early to mid 1900s. Although nearly no remnant of this industry remains in sight, there are plenty of signage boards dotted around in order to give you an idea as to the scale of the whale trade that used to happen here.

Cape Nature manages the nature reserve and there is a lot of very interesting bits and pieces of penguin-related information posted everywhere, making a visit quite educational if you want it to be. (As a bonus, the entrance fee is relatively nominal – making it a much cheaper visit than say a trip through to the comparable Boulder’s Beach.)

Also, there is now a small restaurant built alongside the parking area, useful if you have complaining kids which aren’t all that enamored with the super cute seabird action along with you. Pleasingly, this isn’t us.

We tend to visit this penguin colony at least once a year (more or less), and this year was no different, with Jessica and Emily joining me for a visit to the penguins back in May (all part of our larger day out and about in Rooi Els, Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay).

Pleasingly, for a change the wind stayed away, leaving only perfect weather for us to have to contend with…

The surrounding landscape is quite pretty and there are plenty of opportunities for some great photos to be taken, making a visit to this well managed and relatively quiet nature reserve definitely worth the while!

Related Link: Stony Point Nature Reserve

Sand and Waves at Oyster Bay Reserve Beach in Mossel Bay (2017-03-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 AUG 2017

On the outskirts of Mossel Bay, tucked between the residential townships of Dana Bay, Kwa Nonquaba, Pinnacle Point and Heiderand, is the Oyster Bay Reserve, a 330 hectare botanical nature reserve.

Established with the intention to conserve, preserve and educate through a variety of community projects, the Oyster Bay Reserve is also home to a number of hiking trails, the most famous of those running through it being of course the St Blaize Hiking Trail, the 13.5  kilometer long trail that stretches from the St Blaize Lighthouse (Mossel Bay) all the way through to Dana Bay.

The Pinnacle Point Estate (my dad has a fractional ownership in one of the gorgeous houses there) has direct access to the tiny, tucked away Oyster Bay Beach (complete with a 24 hour guard station), a sliver of friendly sand in between the otherwise rugged (and often misty) coastline.

Accessible via golf cart (as is pretty much everything else in Pinnacle Point), this quiet, unspoiled little bit of sand is the perfect escape if you have little kids, and want to avoid the often more busy beaches that come along with a drive through to Mossel Bay.

Jessica and I joined my mom and dad for a long weekend away at their place in Pinnacle Point back in March this year, and of course, play time in the sand with Grandpa and Daddy was very much in demand from my little girl.

(And yes, as always, Jessica remains terrified of the actual sea – meaning that when it came to building a moat around our sandcastle, fetching buckets of water was very much left in dad’s and my domain!)

A tiny, hidden little gem then.

Related Link: Oyster Bay Reserve | Pinnacle Point | Mossel Bay

Exploring the Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2016-09-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 SEP 2016

The impact that the wealthy farmer, politician and later philanthropist, Jan Marais had on Stellenbosch cannot be overstated. Having made his fortune first in the diamond fields at the confluence the Vaal and Orange Rivers, he then turned his hand to farming and moved to Stellenbosch, where he quickly established himself as a leading figure of the town and in fact, became the first representative of Stellenbosch to serve in the House of Assembly when South Africa became a Union in 1910.

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In addition to being instrumental in the founding of Naspers and Die Burger (he provided a lot of the financing), Jan Marais also left a large amount of money in his will towards the establishment of the Stellenbosch University, establishing it out of the existing Victoria College. His testament also provided for the establishment of HJMNF (Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds), which currently awards some R20 million annually to a number of developmental projects in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in support of the Afrikaans language.

Oh, and just because he could, he also donated a massive 23 ha piece of land for use as a nature reserve – and in so doing, the Jan Marais Nature Reserve public park was born.

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This sprawling, municipal run park serves two main purposes, one of which is providing a safe haven for the region’s naturally occurring vegetation, with the park comprising of two primary vegetation types: Swartland Renosterveld to the north and Swartland Alluvium Fynbos towards the southern edge.

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The other purpose is of course is to be a freely available green space for the residents of Stellenbosch to make use of – thus the many picnic lawns and even small playground area to be enjoyed!

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There are a lot of rambling dirt paths to follow through a big variety of various types of vegetation, and with Spring in the air, the fynbos was certainly putting on a show for the girls and myself on our day of exploration!

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Apart from the local inhabitants that include all manner of birds, rabbits and of course tortoises, Jan Marais Nature Reserve is also dotted with public art all over the place – in fact, you can make a whole morning out of just tracking these often quite whimsical (in fairness, that’s being a kind to a lot of the displays) sculpture pieces down!

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There is also a labyrinth on show (as well as an eco-centre and outdoor gym mind you), but apart from the spectacular landscape views afforded from within the park, for me the surprise star of the show was finding renowned sculptor Dylan Lewis’ Elevated Leopard sculpture standing on display.

(It can be spotted in front of the thatch roofed restrooms, which themselves can be found towards the front, central area of the park.)

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As you might imagine, the girls and I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the park, tracking tortoises, flowers, sculptures and termite mounds, but given the size of the park (not to mention the girls’ short legs), there is still plenty of it left to be seen.

So I guess a return trip is inevitable then?

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I went a bit overboard in terms of taking photos on the day, but I have now trimmed the masses – even so, the gallery on today’s post is a bit on the large side.

Sorry, not sorry, about that.

Note: By this stage, the girls were hot, tired and hungry (we had already spent the morning exploring Somerset West’s Vredenhof Organic Estate, as well as pop in to view some planes and flowers at the Stellenbosch Flying Club mind you), and after much pleading and wailing, I relented and took them for some Chicken McNugget Happy Meals at the local Stellenbosch McDonald’s – a place I haven’t frequented in literally years!

This they liked.

(And then it was off to Monty and Cheryl’s place in Bellville, seeing as we had a massive surprise birthday party for Cheryl lined up for the evening.)

Anyway, here is a map if you too want to go and wander about or enjoy a picnic in the very accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve – bonus, entry is free:

Related Link: Jan Marais Nature Reserve | Stellenbosch

Photo Gallery: Honeymoon Road Trip – Featherbed Nature Reserve (Knysna) (2009-11-20) My Life | Photo Gallery 20 NOV 2009

When in Knysna, you simply have to head out to the Featherbed Nature Reserve at the Knysna heads via the awesome little tourist boats. Needless to say, we did this on the Garden Route leg of our honeymoon road trip while staying over at the awesome Candlewood Lodge.

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