CAPE TOWN TO THE RED SANDS OF THE KALAHARI, SOUTH AFRICA
Africa, long described as the 'Dark Continent' by early pioneers, due to its unexplored interior until the late 19th Century, is a jewel box of unsurpassed biodiversity that has captured the imagination of generations of biologists and travelers in search of new experiences. Geologically Africa lay at the heart of Gondwanaland, with a chronological history dating back to the earliest forms of life some 3 200 million years ago. It is an ancient land of vast open spaces, azure skies and incredible vistas over sprawling savannas that collectively impart a sense of endless fascination and timelessness ...
15 days, starting and ending in Cape Town
Spectacular Scenery and Photo Opportunities: MAMMALS, REPTILES & BIRDS
It is also the universally recognized 'Cradle of Mankind', the point of departure in early man's search for new horizons.
Similarly our own journey of discovery will commence at the south western tip of the African continent. Here the towering sand stone cliffs of the Cape Peninsula plummet into the sea at the point of convergence between the warm Agulhas and cold Atlantic Oceans. Known as the Cape of Good Hope or the Cape of Storms, depending on time of year, this tempestuous and harsh environment is home to a Floral Kingdom of over 2500 flowering plants and a unique mix of endemic mammal and bird species.
The archeological record tells us the rugged shoreline was occupied as long ago as 20 000 years by the early ancestors of the KhoiSan – the legendary Bushman of the Kalahari. More recently, around 1488, the first Portuguese caravel under Bartholomew Dias rounded the Cape having sailed almost as far west as South America before tacking back against the prevailing south easterly winds to reach the southern coast of Africa. This momentous event opened the sea route to the 'silk and spice' trade of the Far East and the establishment of Cape Town as the 'Tavern of the Seas' for mariners rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
From the heights of Table Mountain itself we will look down the length of the magnificent Cape Peninsula to Cape Point and westwards to Robben Island where President Nelson Mandela spent 25 years of his life in political isolation. Below the 'city bowl' stretches out to sea following the reclamation of land for the deep water harbor and bustling Victoria & Alfred waterfront of many shops and restaurants.
Our flight the next day takes us north over the vast interior of the Great Karoo – a sprawling landscape of semi-desert and flat topped mountains – known as the 'thirst land' to the KhoiSan people. Here the fossilised remains of countless numbers of dinosaurs and mammal-like reptiles lie deep in the accumulated sediments awaiting further discovery for the scientific record. Soon the mono-tones of beige and brown far below give way to tongues of ochre sand as we lose altitude in our descent into Upington on the fertile banks of the Orange River.
Heading north by road we cross the alluvial gravel plains and salt pans to the rolling red dunes of the Kalahari and dry river courses studded with flat topped acacia trees. All around iridescent bushman grass waves in the wind while 'dust devils' swirl away in the midday heat. Between the dune crests run the 'streets', as the sandy valleys are known, within this continuous stretch of wind blown sand – the largest of its kind in the world.
But its fascination beyond its scenic beauty lies in the diversity of life that is about to unfold as we enter the totally unique Kalahari Trans Frontier Park – home to the magnificent Black-maned Lion, ever so secretive Leopard, agile Cheetah and many other predators of varying shapes and sizes. Antelope are also well represented with Springbuck, Oryx, Eland and Blue Wildebeest comprising the main prey forms available. Add to this Ostrich and the world's heaviest flying bird the Kori Bustard along with a wide selection of raptors, including Secretary Bird and the diminutive Pygmy Falcon and you have a taste of what to expect ...
Our days in the Park will comprise of a medley of cross country routes intended to bring out the very best of what the Kalahari dune system has to offer in the way of reptiles, rodents, mammals, birds and plants of medicinal and botanical interest in a world best known and intimately understood by the last of the San Bushmen hunter gatherers who still inhabit the rolling dunes.
On our return to Upington we fly south to Cape Town before traveling by road to the coastal town of Hermanus overlooking Walker Bay on the Whale Coast. From here our journey takes us to the Southern most tip of the African continent at Cape Agulhas. From this point onwards we enter the Garden Route - an evergreen botanical wonderland along the seaward slopes of the Langeberg Mountains. Deep valleys and tall forests of Yellowwood and Stinkwood trace the rugged coastline to the scenically delightful Tsitsikamma National Park situated at the mouth of the Storm's River. From here we journey over the OuteniquaMountains to the town of Oudtshoorn in the Succulent Karoo - the Ostrich farming capital of the Western Cape, and location of the world famous Cango Caves.
We drive back to Cape Town through the Great Karoo through some of the most impressive mountain scenery South Africa has to offer before settling into our hotel at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in the shadow of Table Mountain for our last night.
All in all a medley of many wonderful experiences and photographic opportunities under expert guidance intended to bring out the very best of scenic and wildlife moments for all to remember and enjoy.
KEY SPECIES LIST
BIRDS: African Penguin, Bank Cormorant, Crowned Cormorant, Hartlaub's Gull, Swift Tern, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Maccoa Duck, Cape Teal, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveller, Cape Francolin, Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Siskin, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Bulbul, Southern Boubou, Grassbird, Cape White-eye, Cape Rockjumper, Victorin's Warbler, Forest Canary, Olive Woodpecker,Black Harrier, Secretarybird, Double-banded Courser, Burchell's Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Grey-backed Finch Lark, Sclater's Lark, Sociable Weaver, Pygmy Falcon, Lanner Falcon, Pearl-spotted Owl, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Northern Black Korhaan, Red-headed Finch, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Common Ostrich, Rufous-eared Warbler, Desert Cisticola, Grey-backed Cisticola, Tambourine Dove, Olive Bush Shrike, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Burchell's Coucal, Red-chested Flufftail, Green Wood Hoopoe, Chorister Robin, Starred Robin, Knysna Warbler, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Olive Pigeon, African Black Duck, Denham's Bustard, Blue Crane, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig's Bustard, Grey-wing Francolin, Bradfield's Swift, Chat Flycatcher, Trac Trac Chat, Karoo Lark, Karoo Chat, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, and Karoo Eremomela.
MAMMALS: Bontebok, Eland, Grey Rhebok, Steenbok, Grey Duiker, Grysbok, Klipspringer, Springbuck, Blesbuck, Bushbuck, Red Hartebeest, White-tailed Gnu, Oryx, Burchell's Zebra, Blue Widebeest, Giraffe, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Meerkat, Yellow Mongoose, Small Gray Mongoose, Scrub Hare,Black-backed Jackal, Spotted Hyaena, Rock Hyrax, Honey Badger, African Wild Cat, Lynx, Leopard, Cheetah and Kalahari Lion.
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