Monday, 3 November 2014

A Trip to South Africa - Part 7 The Garden Route & Wine!

After leaving Amakhala we headed along the Garden Route heading for Knysna where we were going to stop 3 nights and Meet Tina's brother Mike.

The weather for the drive was poor, lots of rain, however we popped down into Jeffrey's Bay and parked by the sea for a coffee break. It was a rewarding stop as this striking chap pooped down in front of the car,
Southern Red Bishop:
along with a youngster:
and this Laughing Dove:
All the while the rain prevented us from really getting out of the car, so we headed on to Knysna. The next morning the weather had improved a bit and we were woken with Egyptian Geese on the roof of our cottage:

Although the weather had improved it was a tad windy as the waves coming in at Storms Mouth testified:
There wasn't to much wildlife on a very dull day, but these Dassies give us a good show:

As did some White-breasted Cormorant:
There were always plenty of Kelp Gull around:
Other birds seen at Storms River were the Cape Wagtail and Sombre Greenbul, so not a great list. After Storms River we headed up to see the Tsitsikamma Big Tree, whilst it was a big tree, it's really the age that's impressive over 1000 years old, however being in the middle of a forest you couldn't get far enough away from it to take a photo that would show its size, you'll just have to go and see it yourself! As we got back to the car we were given a display by a;
Forest Buzzard:
Nothing much else on the wildlife front to report, we then went to Storms River Bridge, that has a walkway over the gorge very impressive, but the heavens opened again so not a great pic:

There were plenty of African Palm Swifts about but in the bad light, I didn't even attempt a photo of something moving that fast and close to us.

Next day the weather was beautiful, lovely and sunny, this gave an opportunity for some snaps from our veranda:
 Fiscal Flycatcher:
 Grey-headed Sparrow:
 Forest Buzzard:
 Southern Double Collared Sunbird (f):
 Red-winged Starling:
 Cape Bulbul:
As well as plenty of Helmeted Guinea Fowl about. Most surprising though was this Hoopoe in the tree opposite the cottage

So with the weather looking great we booked ourselves on a whale watching boat trip. On arrival the skipper warned us that it was rough out there and they had cancelled the previous trip, but that it was a bit better now. We all thought he's over egging it a bit, but we all said we were okay to go. As it happens he was under egging it. OMG! After a lovely five minutes heading out of the harbour we saw through a gap between two cliffs a wall of water! We all took a deep breath as he warned us again and we went for it. The waves were running at 3 metres and he had to zigzag through, we were holding on for dear life! Thankfully I had put my camera's waterproof cover on, it needed it! Photography was almost completely out of the question, you couldn't stand and at least one hand was needed to hold on at all times, so with a 500mm lens attached, no chance! Well I say no chance, I did manage one photo:
Swift Tern:
We did actually see a few birds; the above Swift Tern, Cape Gannet, African Penguin, Subantarctic (Brown) Skua and Great-winged Petrel. No whales though! With the size of the waves they could have been next to the boat and we wouldn't have seen them!
We were very glad to get back, it was an amazing experience, I wouldn't have missed it, but I won't care to repeat it anytime soon!

So time to leave Knysna and head for Franschhoek to do some wine tasting, not before a last surprise though, we were all packed up and driving away from out cottage when two birds whizzed in front of us and landed in a tree by the car, we all piled out as it was a bird we had been longing to see the;
Knysna Turaco:

Brilliant always great to see an endemic and what an amazing sight it was!
En-route we picked up a couple of birds, this Pale-chanting Goshawk posed by the side of the road:
and our first of many Cape Spurfowl:

So now for 2 nights in Franschhoek, the full day being dedicated to visiting 5 vineyards, sampling 16 wines and even Schnapps at the last one, there were birds about of course, we saw Olive Thrush, Jackal Buzzard, Red-winged Starling, Egyptian Geese of course, Hadadas Ibis and this,
Familiar Chat:

After Franschhoek we headed back to Cape Town and Mike's via Stellenbosch and even managed a birdy stop on the way:
Cape Weaver:

 Blacksmith Lapwing:
 Red-knobbed Coot:
 Cape Weaver (f)
 Olive Thrush:

So that's it for part 7, one to go!
We booked a day with a guide to the West Coast National Park, so part 8 will just be that!

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