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3rd Oct 2010 Cape Town to Gansbaai Trip Participants: Jo Dale and Helen Dale Today didn't quite go according to plan. We arrived into Cape Town in glorious sunshine, just about on time despite an hour's delay leaving London Heathrow. Whilst admiring the view of Table Mountain without its "table cloth" we picked up our hire car, an Opal Corsa and quickly realised that any plans to stop off en route to Gansbaai would be hindered by the fact that a lot of our luggage was on display. Consequently we put plans to stop at Rooi Els (to look for rockjumpers) on hold. We stopped briefly at a quaint little art cafe in Betty's Bay for a coffee on our drive along the scenic coastal route of the R44 and R43. We arrived and checked into our comfortable self catering accommodation at Gansbaai, which Helen had arranged over the internet. An interesting observation, coming from the UK, is that we were a bit stumped by the lack of facilities. We stayed at Air del Mar, in a twin bed self catering studio room on the ground floor with a sea view. The rate quoted on the website was R490 per unit. The studio was equipped with a fridge/freezer, microwave oven and utensils sufficient to prepare a light meal. I think we wrongly assumed that self catering here would be the same as in the UK, where we'd expect to get a hob and an oven, but to be fair we probably just didn't pay enough attention to what the facilities would be like. The owner was very friendly and even supplied us with some fresh milk for tea. There's supposedly a communal braai but we did not make use of this owing to the weather. We had hoped to arrive in time to arrange a whale-watching excursion, but this plan was scuppered by a rather inclement storm front that quickly closed in, whipping up the sea in the process. This, coupled with the scenery, made us wonder if we'd got on the wrong plane and found ourselves in Scotland! Cape Agulhas Not wishing to waste the day, we quickly decided that the best course of action would be to head down to Cape Agulhas, since that excursion wasn't weather-dependent. This was not ideal as we'd done the coast road down to Gansbaai and so it was a long drive for Helen on the first day. The most direct route turned out to be along a series of easily navigable gravel roads. This actually seemed to be a nice area to do some birding, but given it was now late in the day and we had a lot of ground to cover, we didn't stop very often. We did, however, make time to watch a slender mongoose attack a rather dead and smelly Puff Adder, dropping his prize as he crossed the road in front of us. We also observed a Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and Cape Long-claw. Several raptors were also seen, including Yellow-billed Kite, Steppe Buzzard, African Marsh Harrier as well as Ostrich. We arrived at Cape Agulhas and walked to the southern-most tip of Africa, admiring the view out onto a fairly rough sea. It was quite chilly with the wind and drizzle so we didn't linger long. We took a different route back along the tar road, which was much longer, but also quicker. We stopped off in Sandford for a delicious meal of BBQ ribs and chips before heading back to Gansbaai. It was with a sense of foreboding that we retired to bed. Looking at the weather we didn't expect that our dive with the sharks would be going ahead, despite assurances from Marine Dynamics that they were expecting us bright and early the next morning. Bird list: Cape Wagtail White-necked Raven Pied Crow Cape Crow African Pied Starling Blue Crane Denham's Bustard Ostrich Helmented Guineafowl White-breasted Cormorant Brimstone Canary African Marsh Harrier Egyptian Goose Steppe Buzzard Cape Long-claw Mammals: Chacma Baboon Slender mongoose S AFRICA JO 005 dev Blue Crane by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 015 Brimsone (Bully) Canary by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 021 African Pied Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 024 Cape Wagtail by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 028 To the Southernmost tip of Africa by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 012 Cape Aghulus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr
With both of us retired ( well, semi- retired for my wife), we decided to escape the Dutch winter and spend some 8 weeks travelling parts of South Africa we had not visited before. On our previous 3 visits we had always flown to Johannesburg and from there explored Wakkerstroom, St Lucia, Kruger, Mapungubwe, to name a few and even ventured into Southern Botswana. This time we would fly to Cape Town to see the southern areas. We booked our tickets with British Airways some nine months before, giving us a good rate: €600 euros pp for a return ticket, with a stopover and change at Gatwick. After this we started putting together an itinerary for our stay. Apart from seeing the Cape Town area and south coast we decided to spend the last three weeks travelling north to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, something we had been thinking about for a number of years. We'd throw in a few days in Fish River Canyon for the scenery and to get a taste of Namibia. In fact we had also looked at the possibility to combine the Kgalagadi part with a much longer Namibia trip, but the cost and the long distances had made us decide to leave that to a later date. At first a tough decision as it meant abandoning many great birding areas, but it was definitely the right one. We got many great tips from ST members, by reading trip reports and @@xelas added a lot of information in our email exchanges. We approached a Dutch/South African travel agency to arrange these 3 weeks for us: accommodation and the rental of a 4x4. For the first 5 weeks they booked us a sedan and the first three nights in Hermanus. We were going to book all other accommodation ourselves when we we in SA. This would give us more freedom to extend our stay at places we really liked and leave whenever we felt like it. We had googled a lot of possible places to stay in the various regions we were gong to visit, looking at reviews and rates. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? Only it turned out quite a few places were fully booked even later in January and in the end we did not get to see a few places that had been high on our list. Well, to be honest we also did not get to see all the areas we wanted anyway as our trip did not last the planned 8 weeks. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll fill you in about that later. So in a nutshell, this was the plan: From 8th January till 12th February ( roughly 5 weeks): Start with a few days in Hermanus, then follow the Garden Route eastwards. Furthest point east would be Addo Elephant park. From there ease back west and then take the R62. Probably a detour north to visit the Karoo NP and then back to Cape town to spend a week exploring the area. From 12th February till 3rd March With a 4x4 travel north in 3 days to Fish River Canyon and spend 3 nights there. Then via Keetmanshoop (1 night) to the Mata Mata gate of the Kgalagadi TP. There we would be for 9 nights: 2 in Kalahari Tented Camp, 2 in Mata Mata, 2 in Nossob, 1 in Kieliekrankie and finally 2 in Twee Rivieren. On our way back to Cape Town we would spend two nights near the Augrabies Falls NP. Then to CT and back home. Birding opportunities and sites had been a major consideration in the planning. One of the highlights, I hoped, would be a pelagic trip from Simon's Town, which I had booked with Cape Town Pelagics. Was I really going to see an albatross? My photographic equipment: Canon 7DII with the 100-400II. I did take a lightweight tripod with me, but 99% of the shots were handheld. I also had a spare body, my 'old' 7D. Looking at myself struggling out of bed in the morning I could use another spare body, but unfortunately the Peter MarkII is not yet on the market. My wife, Jeannette, brought her trusted Sony A77, mainly for scenery shots. Although not as dedicated a birder as I try to be, she shares my passion for birds, animals and nature in general. Would this trip, longer than any we had ever done before, bring us what we hoped for? Would our marriage hold when we had exhausted our conversation topics ( this proved to be a theoretical question, we did not run out of topics )? Well, let's wait and see...
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