I am preparing to resume my blogs from Kruger but I note that this post about the Cape was never posted. If you are interested you can find out what we have been doing down there this past year.
At the beginning of 2018 we left my childhood home at Mposa near Richards Bay in Zululand and moved to the Simbithi Eco Estate in Ballito, 40km’s north of Durban. It did not take us long to realise that we had made a big mistake and at the end of 2019 we sold our home and left – whereto we knew not where. We retreated to Kruger Park to lick our wounds and then got caught up in the March 2020 Covid panic. We had been introduced to the Cape through John, our eldest son, who lives in Somerset West, 40km’s from Cape Town itself. Our thoughts of where to live began gravitating here and in March of 2021, we travelled down and stayed in our caravan in Stellenbosch whilst we sussed out the land. With our minds made up we made plans to move our belongings to our new home in the Schonenberg housing Estate in Somerset West.
If ever we needed confirmation of our decision it came in July when we were up in KZN organising the transfer of our belongings. The riots erupted, mayhem ensued and we were lucky that our storerooms were not pillaged. Order and functionality of municipalities is very important to us and Somerset West provides this – in a big way.
After a long planned family visit to Kruger in August, we finally moved permanently into our new home in September and four months later, I am now absolutely ecstatic about our decision. Yes, we are far from Kruger and yes there is a tough winter but the positives far outweigh these two negatives. I am easily prone to boredom but there is so much to do and so many beautiful destinations to visit that I have never once felt restless.
To quickly learn the ropes, I commissioned the services of a professional bird guide to show me the various spots to visit for my bird photography.
Close to where we live and along the magnificent Clarence Drive, is the village of Rooiels nestled below overhanging mountains and False Bay. It also has a lovely walk through the fynbos which is home to some really special birds.
Around the corner is Pringle Bay, so quaint, clean and orderly. We once considered settling here but the distance from John and family and “civilization” ruled it out. Now we use the restaurant there for a brunch after our early morning excursions.
The beautiful Harold Porter Botanic Gardens lie just beyond Betty’s Bay and this too is a lovely birding spot.
Pelagic Bird Boat Trip
On Saturday, 13th November 2021, I joined a Pelagic (sea) Bird boat trip leaving Simonstown at 7am and travelling 50kms due south from Cape Point. 8 Tourists boarded the boat, Australians, Germans, Americans and me as the only Saffer.
What a beautiful start. Once out in the open sea, I am aware of the enormous Cape swells that push up from Antartica. The boat trip is rough and I hang grimly on as the boat bounces and crashes its way south.
We are heading for the edge of the continental shelf along where upwellings of rich nutrients attract the fish – and the birds.
We arrive after 50kms with the land long disappeared. A large tuna boat’s occupants are busy fighting a Yellowfin as we arrive and they finally boat an enormous fish. Unfortunately, I am on the wrong side of the boat and can’t photograph it.
The object is to try and find a trawler or longline fishing boat which attracts the birds. Eventually we find a longline boat and sure enough, it is surrounded by birds.
This is all new to me and I soon find that our boat is filled by real bird experts – and I know very little about sea birds. But a very fascinating time watching these amazing Albatrosses and other birds performing.
We are in the shipping lane here and the odd tanker and cargo boat passes.
After a couple of hours birding we begin the 50km trek back to base which we reach at 3pm. I really think that I would like to repeat the trip sometime – perhaps with another lens and with a better knowledge of the birds.
It is only later when I reach home that I realise what the four hours of hanging on for dear life, whilst the boat crashed its way over the choppy sea, has done to my aching body. But a wonderfully interesting day.
Other Birding Spots
The Strandfontein Birding hotspot is not at its best because of the good rains. All the mudbanks on which so many birds feed are covered with water. But I will bide my time.