Tag Archives: nature reserve

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 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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Birding on Intaka Island in Century City, Cape Town (2018-11-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 JUL 2019

You will discover Intaka Island about 7 km out from the Cape Town CBD, tucked away behind the tall buildings of Century City and its Canal Walk shopping mall. Built by Century City developer Rabie following an initial project environmental impact assessment, Intaka Island is a 16 hectare large wetland conservation area.

As such, it serves as a crucial bird sanctuary for the area and the nature reserve itself is setup around this idea, filled with a well maintained walkway that features plenty of hides and viewing platforms that are perfect for local birders. It’s a great way to step into a little nature without having to go out on a full blown hike!

This particular visit saw me leave Chantelle and the girls behind and instead ring up my brother to join me for a stroll among the reeds. Pleasingly, he agreed – and didn’t even moan at all the pictures I kept stopping to take! ;)

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Hiking up the Hill at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Bellville (2018-04-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 APR 2019

Bellville’s 300 hectare large nature reserve in the form of Tygerberg Nature Reserve offers a great opportunity for locals to stretch their legs in nature without really having to go anywhere. And while it may not be a mountain, Tygerberg Hill still rises high enough to give you a great view of Cape Town, the mountain and its suburbs.

Home to around 500 different plant species, a large number of birds and a couple of small animals to be spotted, Tygerberg Hill also serves as a popular environmental education hub for local school excursions.

There are quite a couple of short trails that criss-cross all over the reserve, meaning that in theory you can put together just about any walk to suit your needs. The hill also has a trail accessible by wheelchairs, as well as a couple of simple picnic spots dotted around.

Last year Ryan, Chantelle and I went for a nice and sweaty stroll around the hill, and these are the pictures that I ended up with. (Always a good excuse for micro stopping when the going gets tough!)

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Hiking and Picnics at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West (2017-10-21) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 MAR 2019

At the top of Somerset West, situated on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland Mountains, and overlooking False Bay, you’ll find the Helderberg Nature Reserve, a City of Cape Town owned and managed nature reserve.

Pushed by the Rotary Club of Somerset West, the Helderberg Nature Reserve was proclaimed as a wildflower garden (and to protect water resources in Somerset West) in 1960, but over time morphed into a proper nature reserve with the now 402-hectare reserve protecting a swathe of Swartland shale renosterveld, Kogelberg sandstone fynbos, Cape Winelands shale fynbos and Southern afro-temperate forest pockets.

The lower reaches of the park is home to large lawns, popular with families for the hosting of picnics, birthday parties and the occasional music concert, as well a small coffee shop and the Maskew Miller Educational/Visitors Centre.

Then there are of course all the walking and hiking paths scattered around the reserve, catering to nature lovers of all fitness levels. So as you would expect, there are plenty of beautiful examples of fynbos flowers to admire and even more superb views to take in – unless of course your children have pinned you down to the lawns and you’ve been forced to nap in the shade of one of the many massive trees overlooking the picnic space.

A terrible proposition, I know… ;)

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Making Our Way up Tygerberg Hill in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, Bellville (2018-05-06) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 07 FEB 2019

If you feel like a good walk but don’t necessarily feel like tackling a proper mountain, you could always opt for the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, i.e. head out for a walk up Tygerberg Hills.

The nature reserve itself is 300 hectare in size and is situated in Bellville, i.e. the northern suburbs of Cape Town. The reserve is home to the highly threatened Swartland Shale Renosterveld vegetation type, which in turn houses nearly five hundred different plant species. There are also a large number of bird species and small animals to seen, as well as the Kristo Pienaar Environmental Education Centre with its library and resource centre. (The nature reserve is popular venue for school excursions and education programmes).

And then of course there is the additional perk of having an excellent view no matter which direction you look!

As for Chantelle, Ryan and myself though? We were just there for the long, sweaty hot walk.

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Bonus Fact: Swartland Shale Renosterveld is usually punctuated with a lot of large termite mounds, which all work together to create light ‘spots’ in the vegetation when looked at from afar. These ‘spots’ are in fact behind the name of Tygerberg – tiger mountain – because at that point in time, people in the Cape assumed tigers had spots.

Related Link: Tygerberg Nature Reserve | Tygerberg Hills | Bellville

Art and Veld in the Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2018-03-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 JAN 2019

I always love paying a visit to the awesome, beautifully compact, Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (about which I have written before). It is literally the perfect spot to stretch your legs and take in some fresh air without actually having to leave the bustle of the town behind.

Easy, wide paths to stroll around on, loads of interesting fynbos to take in, a scattering of art installations to admire or invoke conversation about, a small kids play area, an outdoor gym area, and the occasional tortoise or two.

Seriously, what is there not to love about this spot that finds itself smack bang in the middle of Stellenbosch itself?

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(Bonus: The slide at the end was a bit of an epic fail. Emily raced over to it, climbed to the top and then slid down, only to emerge crying her head off. Turns out the slide was home to a huge puddle of water at the bottom – which she had only noticed once she hit it. Absolutely soaked. All I can say is it was super lucky that Chantelle was with us for a change – mommy’s love was DESPERATELY needed! :D)

Related Link: Jan Marais Nature Reserve | Stellenbosch

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 Navy 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!

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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 | #JuneHolidays2017

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.

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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