DRAKENSBERG TO THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE:
29th November TO 10TH DECEMBER 2006
GREAT SCENERY AND PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES - MAMMALS & BIRDS
Route chosen starts from Durban on the Indian Ocean and follows the highway east to the scenic foothills below the awe inspiring Drakensberg Escarpment. Known as the 'Barrier of Spears' to the Zulus this massive block of dolerite towers above the sandstone slopes and verdant river valleys far below. Our route on unpaved roads wends its way through the foothills and across crystal clear streams as we head southwards for Sani Pass. This famous pass is only negotiable by 4X4 and constitutes the original mountain pony track used by the BaSotho to reach the trading stations of Natal in days gone by. The serpentine drive both up and down the tortuous pass is a breathtaking and scenically impressive experience as ochre and yellow sandstone outcrops and ridgelines give way to the towering dolerite cliffs etched against the western skyline. Time of year is near perfect for thunderstorm activity in the mid- afternoon as clouds build up in response to the steady inflow of moist air from the warm Agulhas current. Few can forget the spectacle of Hodgson's Twin Peaks of Rider Haggard fame set against a backdrop of towering storm clouds and fork lightning flashes as thunder rolls and echoes across the head of the Pass.
Our return to Durban for our southbound flight takes us through the Valley of a Thousand Hills – a patchwork of tilled hillsides and river gorges that constitute the heartland of KwaZulu Natal.
From here our overland journey to Cape Town picks up the rugged coastline west of the city of Port Elizabeth as we head for the forests and jagged passes of the Cape Folded Mountains of the Garden Route. Plant diversity and photographic opportunities along the seaward facing slopes of the evergreen Outeniqua and Langeberg mountains provide regular opportunities to stop and explore the unfolding range of scenic delights and natural beauty on offer within this 'fynbos' biome.
At Storms River we will search for the striking Knysna Turaco and scan the wave lines for Bottlenosed Dolphin as we drive along the Tsitsikamma coast. Walks in the indigenous forests with their giant Yellowwood trees provide opportunities to see some of the more secretive birds of the under story while the surrounding wetlands and estuaries add their own mix of waders and wildfowl delights to the selection of sighting opportunities on offer.
Our chosen route takes us over the mountains to the north and into the succulent Karoo lying deep in the rain shadow of the Outeniqua mountain range. This is Ostrich country and great for birding as well. Scenically the environment is rugged and arid yet surprisingly rich in biodiversity.
From here we loop back over the spectacular Tradouw Pass to the moist sea facing slopes near the historical town of Swellendam and the on to the very tip of the African continent. Our final leg west takes us over the rugged Hottentot Mountains and through the sprawling wheat lands of the Agulhas Plain to the winelands of Stellenbosch and then on to Cape Town and Simon's Town the historical base of the Royal Navy in years gone by.
Here you are free to explore the Boulders African Penguin Reserve and spectacular Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain National Parks, along with a selection of botanical and birding sites of recommended worth at your own pace, before dropping off the hire car and connecting with the evening flight out of Cape Town International.
Leader: Patrick Cardwell – a long standing and highly regarded nature guide with birding as his primary field interest who knows the route well. In the unlikely event of his unavailability an equally qualified replacement will be nominated to lead the trip.
Accommodation: Comfortable en suite facilities in establishments specifically selected for their hospitality and proximity to key sites have been hand picked by ourselves.
Vehicles: A VW Sharan or similar vehicle will be hired for the KwaZulu Natal sector as well as for the Garden Route & self drive leg in the Cape Peninsula. A driver guide and 4X4 (obligatory) will be hired for the day trip up the Sani Pass.
Itinerary in brief based on the latest information available:
- Nov 28 - Fly in to Durban around mid-afternoon. Transfer to a comfortable Four Star Hotel
- Nov 29 - Your guide from Avian Leisure, Patrick Cardwell, will meet you for an early start heading for the Drakensberg. Overnight in a Lodge near Sani Pass.
- Nov 30 - Day spent on Sani Pass and beyond in the Highlands of Lesotho. Overnight in the Sani Valley.
- Dec 1 - Explore the surrounding foothills and local forest patches and grasslands. Overnight in the KZN Midlands.
- Dec 2 - Depart for Durban to connect with a midday flight to Port Elizabeth. Overnight at a Four Star Guest House close to the Tsitsikamma Forest near Storms River mouth.
- Dec 3 - Visit Plettenberg Bay, Garden of Eden and the Lake District around Knysna and Wilderness. Overnight at a delightful Four Star Country House in Wilderness.
- Dec 4 - Explore the surrounding area taking in the Kaaimans River and the magnificent forest walks above George. Overnight in Wilderness.
- Dec 5 - Traverse across the Outeniqua mountains to Oudtshoorn in the succulent Karoo. Overnight on a Guest Farm amidst splendid scenery
- Dec 6 - Journey westwards through the rugged splendor of the Little Karoo. Overnight on a working farm in a beautiful restored farmhouse in the vicinity of Swellendam.
- Dec 7 - Follow a matrix of farm roads through the barren wheat fields of the Agulhas Plain to the Malgas Pont on the Breede River. Journey on to De Hoop and De Mond Nature Reserves. Overnight at a Country Lodge at the tip of Africa!
- Dec 8 - Meander through the dune 'fynbos' and coastal country towns and vineyards to arrive in time for 'sundowners' at Franschoek for the night. Overnight in a hand-picked Guest Houses in the village
- Dec 9 - Follow the old wagon route over Helshoogte into Stellenbosch and then on to the Foreshore area of Cape Town to arrive in Simon's Town via Chapman's Peak Drive. Over night at Avian Leisure Guest House.
- Dec 10 - After enjoying the early morning birds in the garden a short drive takes you to Cape Point itself and back via the Boulders African Penguin colony before transferring to Cape Town International to connect with onward travel arrangements
Contact us If you would like to see the full itinerary and key bird & mammal species seen on this route.