It must be two decades ago that I first visited ‘New Holme Guest Farm’ to enjoy and photograph the wide diversity of birdlife, together with the unique suite of small nocturnal mammals and rodents found within the eco-divide between Karoo scrubland and Highveld grassland that straddle the perennial Seekoei river as it meanders its way lazily westwards across the conservancy.
Set well off the traffic-laden national highway, the comfortably appointed ecofriendly guesthouse is situated in the heart of the recently proclaimed ‘Karoo Gariep Conservancy’ catchment area, with sweeping horizons and star-studded night skies for added environmental ambience at its very best.
Aside from the botanical aspects associated with the two biospheres, the mix of bird species is impressive from both the abundance and variety on offer within the environmental overlap, each offering a unique suite of wildlife sightings to enjoy within the diverse habitat mix.
Illustrative of the fact is close on 100 species were recorded on our last visit in the space of a few hours in October, a month ahead of the arrival of several migrant species due to arrive on the Gariep conservancy for the summer months.
Credit for the conservation vision, and subsequent development of the biosphere, goes to Piet Cronje ‘PC’ Ferreira who, with his wife Meriska, made it their dream to set up a conservancy in the heart of the Northern Cape’s Karoo, for the preservation of the historical biodiversity associated with this semi-arid region. It is now an environmental delight for nature lovers to enjoy, along with classic Karoo hospitality and country cuisine at its very best…
Aside from the impressive bird list of over 200 species, small mammals of both a diurnal and nocturnal foraging nature, are well represented, with a night drive an absolute ‘must do’ for a chance of seeing aardvark, aardwolf, Cape fox, porcupine, bat-eared fox, black-footed cat, scrub and springhare.
Birding, either by way of a game drive or self-drive option, could add yellow mongoose, ground squirrel and meerkat to the list, as well as a wide variety of bird species, within the mix of diverse habitats on the conservancy, including the dam itself and wetland complex, complete with resident hippo in the river.
So next time you are planning a long-haul trip on the N1 highway take in ‘New Holme Guest Farm’ in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy for an overnight or longer break in the journey for the multiple delights within this unique and wildlife rich biosphere just north of Hanover.
Bird species recorded on the 22 October 2023 in the order seen: Acacia Pied Barbet, Grey-headed Sparrow, Karoo Thrush, Greater-striped Swallow, Common Fiscal, African Hoopoe, Red-billed Quelea, Eastern Clapper Lark, Southern Red Bishop, Grey-backed Finch Lark, Greater Kestrel, Pied Starling, Ludwig’s Bustard, Cape Wagtail, African Pipit, Bokmakierie, House Sparrow, Double-banded Courser, Northern Black Korhaan, Ant-eating Chat, Blue Crane, Grey-backed Cisticola, Blue Korhaan, White-backed Mousebird, Helmeted Guineafowl, Blacksmith Lapwing, Egyptian Goose, Red-capped Lark, Capped Wheatear, Pied Crow, Cape Weaver, Spike-heeled Lark, Barn Swallow, Crowned Lapwing, Grey Heron, Cape Starling, Cape Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Southern Masked Weaver, White-throated Canary, Brown-throated Martin, S.A. Shelduck, Reed Cormorant, Common Sandpiper, African Reed Warbler (Common), White-faced Whistling Duck, Red-billed Teal, African Fish Eagle, Red-knobbed Coot, Kittlitz Plover, Rufous-eared Warbler, Lark-like Bunting, Black Eagle, Mountain Wheatear, Barn Owl, Red-eyed Bulbul, Large-billed Lark, Speckled Pigeon, Spotted Eagle Owl, Spotted Thick-knee, White-rumped Swift, Little Swift, Karoo Korhaan, Three-banded Plover, Ruff, Orange-throated Longclaw, Greenshank, Common Moorhen, African Snipe, Little Bittern, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Malachite Kingfisher, Spurwing Goose, Namaqua Warbler, Wattled Starling, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, African Stonechat, Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret, Black-throated Canary