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31st January 2019 – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

We couldn’t imagine coming to Cape Town without visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden near Newlands Cricket Ground (where we spent yesterday at an international one day cricket match between South Africa and Pakistan).

Kirstenbosch is an important botanical garden nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town. The garden is one of ten National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (best seen in spring!), a braille trail, and a cycad amphitheatre. There is also the Botanical Society Conservatory, which houses plants from the continent’s more arid regions. In more recent years we have been able to enjoy a walk along the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway – affectionately known as the Boomslang. This 130-metre steel-and-timber bridge snakes its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum, providing stunning views of the Garden and the Cape Flats.

dsc07136Tree Canopy Walkway

Here we have previously seen some really good bird life including sun birds, sugar birds and even a Spotted Eagle Owl. We wern’t so lucky this year but there were  a few species of birds and butterflies and the flora was magnificent.

After our visit we went to the nearby vineyard of Groot Constantia and studied the vines (and enjoyed some of the results of the winemakers efforts).

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dsc06917Views of the gardens toward Table Mountain

Birds and butterflies

dsc06927Sombre Greenbul?

dsc06938African Dusky Flycatcher?

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dsc06980Cape Batis

dsc07048Cape Spurfowl

dsc07133Hadeda Ibis

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dsc07224Egyptian Goose

dsc07230Normal view of Egyptian Goose

dsc07263Cape Bulbul

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Selection of flora

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Groot Constantia

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A few photos of the route back to our accommodation in Camps Bay

dsc07306The Twelve Apostles (at the back of Table Mountain)

dsc07307Camps Bay in the distance

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Click below for a gallery of photos from today:

 

 

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Tuesday 29th January 2019 – False Bay Nature Reserve

Another amazing day on this amazing continent. Our hosts Merryl and Steve really indulged us today and and took us to, what I consider to be, the best place I have ever been for bird watching – False Bay Nature Reserve.

The highlights in the main centre at Rondevlei were pelicans, African sacred ibis, glossy ibis, spoonbills, various plovers, black-winged stilts, little egrets, Cape wagtails, Cape teal, red-billed teal, Egyptian geese, Blacksmith lapwings and loads that I haven’t identified yet. It was quite windy and there didn’t seem to be many little birds darting around the beautiful vegetation but there was no reason to complain.

When we moved on to the lakes near the sewerage works (Strandfontein birding area) it was just as exciting as our visit last year, with all of the above plus flamingos, Hadeda ibis, little grebes, barn swallows, pied avocets, and a raptor which I think may have been a black-shouldered kite.

You visit this section by car and you get to see the birds really close up. The birds are not bothered by the cars which aren’t numerous anyway – we didn’t see another car at all today and only two last year.

There was certainly so much else to see but I didn’t want to push my luck too much; our hosts had been so accommodating and the thought of a lunch by the beach at Muizenburg was even more enticing than an overdose of birds.

Thanks Merryl and Steve for a very special day.

dscf5492Beautiful vegetation

img_4321An amazing setting

img_4324Very accommodating hosts

dscf5952Glossy ibis

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dscf5752Flamingos

dscf5993Black-shouldered kite ?

dscf5859Egyptian goose

dscf5809Pied avocet

dscf5830Sacred ibis

dscf5676Pelican

dscf5749Red-billed teal

dscf5703Cape teal

dscf5638Cape wagtail

dscf5588Spoonbills and pelicans 

dscf5577Terns

dscf5536Black-winged stilt

dscf5551Kittlitz plover

dscf5556Three-banded plover

dscf5922Flamingo

dscf6034Hadeda ibis

dscf6035Spur-winged goose

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dscf6070White-necked raven

Click below for a gallery of some of today’s photos:

 

 

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Monday 28th January 2019 – Hout Bay

Whilst I was looking out at the beautiful view from the balcony of our excellent accommodation in Camps Bay (51, Camps Bay) I saw some Cape White-eye feeding off the nectar of the tree right in from of me.

dsc06527A room with a view

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dsc06505Cape White-eye

A little worryingly behind us I could see a fire rampaging on the hillside of the Lion’s Head. However, the fire brigade seemed to be coping well with their helicopters.

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We then drove to Hout Bay and had a walk along the beach. Even quite early in the morning the temperature was around 30 degrees, but with the gentlest of breezes coming off the sea it was bearable. As we walked we saw a few cormorants (Cape and Bank Cormorants), some distant Kelp Gulls and a Swift Tern.

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dsc06551Swift Tern

As it was getting even hotter we decide to take a boat trip to Duiker Island, the Seal Colony, where we could view thousands of wild Cape Fur Seals close up in their beautiful natural habitat. There were also lots of Cape and Bank Cormorants, some Kelp Gulls and even one Penguin.

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dsc06718A Kelp Gull

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dsc06748A solitary penguin (Lost and Found?)

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dsc06908Pet seal?

dsc06830Chapman’s Peak (outside looking in)

Click below for gallery of photos:

 

 

 

 

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Saturday 26th January 2019 (morning) – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Friday 25th January 2019

Windhoek to Victoria Falls

Our flight to Victoria Falls was slightly delayed and so we  had just 20 minutes to drop off our bags before departing for a visit to a local Zimbabwean woman’s home to hear about local customs and to take part in a meal of local products. It was particularly interesting hearing about family attitudes to boys and girls forming relationships and the role of aunties and uncles.

By the time we returned to the hotel there was no opportunity for any wildlife photos.

Saturday 26th January 2019

We had yet another early start as we set off to visit the Victoria Falls. We stopped en  route to visit an ancient Baobab, believed to be between 1000 and 1500 years old.

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At the entrance to the park we had a talk from our local guide about the Falls and, in particular, the story of their discovery by Dr Livingston. It was very interesting but, with the roar of the Falls in the background we were all desperate to move on to get our first sight of them.

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Walking through the park we could see and hear plenty of bird life amongst the very green vegetation which was interspersed with lots of orchids and other plants such as Deadly Nightshade.

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As we had not had even the slightest glimpse of the Falls (except, what even Livingston had considered to be, clouds of smoke) until we were well into the park, it was indeed a magical moment when we did at last get a glimpse of them.

dsc06432Our very first glimpse of the Falls

We had nine major view points along the pathway, many of them quite precariously close to the cliff edge which was extremely slippery from the spray. It was not perfect weather for photographs as the sky was quite hazy and the spray was, at times, very heavy. However, there was no doubt that the Falls were an amazing sight to see.

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In the afternoon w elected to take a short helicopter ride to see the Falls. This was an expensive excursion and the flight only lasted 12-13 minutes. Nonetheless, this was a most amazing experience and enabled us to see (and photograph) the Falls at their best.

Two of the younger members of our “ Namibian Group” took a microlight flight which sounded even more amazing than our flight, lasting longer and even presenting opportunities to see wildlife from the air.

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

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Thursday 24th January 2019 – The Cheetah Conservation Fund

On the way back to Windhoek we stopped at the Cheetah Conservation Fund centre at Otjiwarongo. The CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom, and partner organizations in several other nations.

Our visit started at the very informative museum; we then went out into the field to see some of the “rescue” cheetahs before having lunch at the centre. During lunch we had two talks; one from an intern about the work of the centre and then another from the Founder and Executive Director, the very impressive Dr Laurie Marker, who told us about the world-wide scope of the CCF.

After lunch we went to see some more of the “rescue” cheetahs being fed and told more about the work of the centre from a Canadian intern and from the head of the department, who hailed from just outside our home city of Bristol.

A fascinating visit was made even better by seeing flocks of vultures overhead as the meat was put out for the cheetahs.

The CCF’s website is well worth a look at.

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Click below for gallery of photos:

 

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Thursday 24th January 2019 (morning) – Etosha

We were due to set off early for the trip back to Windhoek but fortunately we had a short period of delay as a flat battery was sorted on the coach (our driver Immanual was trying to keep our drinks cool) and we had a further hour at the waterhole. The highlight was the action of a jackal attempting to steal a baby Springbok. Some photos are not for the squeamish.

(Labelling to follow)

dsc05930African Red-eyed Bulbul

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dsc05968Helmeted Guineafowl (Etosha National Park – January 2019)

dsc05969Cape Turtle Dove (Etosha National Park, Namibia – January 2019)

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dsc05995Helmeted Guineafowl (Etosha National Park – January 2019)

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dsc06029Red-billed Spurfoul

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Click below for gallery of photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday 23rd January 2019 (early evening) – Etosha National Park

A glutton for punishment we had another visit to the waterhole and, again, saw some magnificent birds and mammals.

I’ll name some of these later.

dscf4490Shaft-tailed Whydah

dscf4492Southern red-billed Hornbill

dscf4495Baby Springbok swimming to his mum

dscf4517Three-banded Plover

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dscf4553Blue Wildebeast

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dscf4573Lilac-breasted Roller

dscf4577Lilac-breasted Roller

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Click below for gallery of photos: