As Elena and Anja head off to Germany for a long while, we decided to take a short family holiday on the way to point of departure – Cape Town. Anja wanted to see Cape Agulhas and apart from us being busy pre-departure, we didn’t have internet again to do any research for accommodation and activities. As such we picked up our Slingsby Map of the Overberg and decided Swellendam would be a good base – as we knew it, had stayed at Kadis Cottage before, and knew what we were in for. It would be an acceptable base for exploring the Overberg.
Our first excursion was to Bontebok National Park – which has the unique distinction of being South Africa’s smallest national park, protecting one of the largest intact remnants of the endangered ‘Renosterveld’ fynbos habitats– with several endemic plants, and of course, the odd looking Bontebok. The fire that swept the Langeberge also burnt the fynbos near the entrance area between gate and reception, so spotting Bontebok was very easy as they were all attracted to the fresh flush of grass.
The Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus) is an antelope endemic to the Fynbos and considered a sub-species of the more widespread Blesbok (which can be seen in many parks, reserves and most game reserves across South Africa – they do not need big game fences to keep them from wandering). The Bontebok is darker than the Blesbok, with a large white rear-end and continuous white blaze down the face. Although classified as Endangered, with a population of c3000, Bontebok are easily seen at both Bontebok National Park and De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Bontebok National Park has a nice day-visitor area near the Breede River, and although there is a demarcated swimming area, I would not recommend it as both Elena and I were in need of a good supply of toilet paper the next day after dipping our feet in the water. However, with Swellendam and large agricultural areas upriver, that was not too surprising. Due to the small size of the park, all the roads can be driven and trails walked in a matter of hours, so really a day visit suffices to get the full scope of the park. There is of course camping and accommodation that can be booked via the sanparks website.
|Bontebok family - youngster on the right is a bit lighter|
|Classic horn - form the emblem of the original CapeNature logo|
|Bontebok doing the doggy thing|
|A Blesbok - for comparison - noncontinuous blaze and less white on the rump|
|Hartebeest - from Bontebok National Park - the only other similar looking antelope|
|Fields of Ericas in the Renosterveld in the shadow of Eenuurkop of the Langeberge|
Our next stop was the De Hoop Nature Reserve – which at over 30 000ha is about ten times larger than Bontebok National Park. Although you might be asking why one is a National Park and the other a Nature Reserve – I don’t know the answer as to why some protected areas fall under the supervision of one organisation and others designated under management from provincial bodies.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is very popular for a number of reasons. Not only are there plentiful Bontebok and other antelope that graze right up to and around the Cape Dutch style guest accommodation and restaurant, but there are also whales to be seen from June to October – Southern Right Whales calve just off the coast – and the nature reserve protects the best example of Limestone Fynbos – so it has several plant species (round 30) which are found only in the Nature Reserve. This reserve is very popular with overseas tourists, but during our visit we saw only two other visiting groups and felt as though we had the rolling Fynbos hills and sand-dunes to ourselves. We were a bit too early for whales, but the weather was superb considering we are knocking on winter’s door right now.
Generally, I’d recommend both in a tour of the Overberg – they are a reminder of what the rolling hills under agriculture once used to look like, and protect a very special area of the Cape Floristic Region.
|Black Oystercatcher - restricted to southern African coasts|
|Cape Crow - or Black Crow - is also restricted to southern Africa, and suffers a contracting range, possibly due to loosing out to Pied Crow - which is expanding its range across the country|
|Cape Longclaw - formerly Orange-throated Longclaw - a name that makes more since since that throat is not Cape colored.|
|The Cape Dutch-style accommodation adds to the appeal of De Hoop Nature Reserve|
|Young Ostriches are not always known for their good manners in public.|
|Protea obtusifolia - Limestone Protea - a special from De Hoop|
|A sunbathing Striped Fieldmouse kept an eye on us as we enjoyed our lunch|
|Big Ears - young baboons are very cute|
|Baboon troops of the Western Cape are not shy - when you see them coming make sure your windows are shut!|