Popped up to Bontebok National park for the weekend with my 8 year old daughter for a couple nights camping.
Its been one of things I just havent got around to and I was keen to check it out for summer with the rest of the family.We left Capetown early sat am and after a nasty moment outside Riviersonderend, we thankfully got to reception.Its definitely not a wilderness park though and its smallish perimeter is surrounded by farmland.It took a bit to snap out of Kgalagadi mode but the red hartebees we saw on the drive in made it a bit hard! Also Ostrich and some Bontebok
The campsites are nicely grassed and at least 2/3rds border on the unfenced perimeter.No predators to worry about and winter snakes are usually few and far between. The worst we had to contend with was the odd big long white thorn in barefeet or even through Crocs !
So it was a very very relaxing atmosphere with only the sounds of
loads of really loud chattering Cape Weavers Cape Robins Southern Boubous and Cape Sparrows to get settled into our campsite with.
There was only one caravan far away over on the other side and we took site no 27 without power nearest to the Aloe Hill Trail start point.I only saw about 3 cars max at the chalets.
Saw a nice little Angulate Tortoise just next to us which R was very happy with.Belated brekkie eggs and bacon on skottel
Took a walk down to the river after setup was finished and was quite shocked to see just how high it had flooded.It had dropped back by maybe about 1.5 metres from its peak but was definitely still in flood.
Water was very muddy with loads of debris and reeds packed around the trees and lots of sand and muck on the grassbanks. Current was still very strong too with lots of boil-lines even in the flatter sections.
Took a paddle around in the afternoon having a look for birds but we didnt venture too far.Just too many reeds islands with all the branches and other stuff in the water that the flood had brought down with it. Catchment area for the Breede starts hundreds of kilometres away above Ceres and it also gets fed by so many smaller streams and rivers off the mountains on the way down. Snow melting also means water levels can stay high for quite a while after the bigger fronts have passed.Got one really good rapid in but it was way too much work getting up there in the first place for a re-run.R thought I was a hero anyway even though it was just the one time so that was worth it
Found some very fresh smallish Spotted Otter spoor out on the opposite bank which was great to show R. Theyre usually very shy though and you definitely have to come from downwind to stand a chance and we werent
fortunate enough to spot him if he was still near.
Did a few bits and bobs for early braai and then went for a short walk around .More birds, weavers and bulbuls esp were still making a fantastic racket and also had an Acacia Pied Barbet visit us at campsite and call for a bit. Very distinctive voice.
Talking of distinctive voice we later heard a fiery necked nightjar Thought he might be in the road as they like sitting in the open sometimes but couldnt find him and spotted what I think was a Cape Hare instead. R very happy.Back at camp got our first visit from out resident campsite mouse.
No idea if it was a multi-mammate or not but it was a fat chappy and quite tame.R thought it was great too.Bit of a rubbish nights sleep . Pretty cold but a bit windy and R out like a stone all night
Up bright and early made coffee and traveltoast and went for a drive at first light.
About a kilometre down eastern loop rd we found 8 Zebra. 2 very young ones possibly around a month or so old. We sat with them for about a 45 mins.R was in her element.Some Blue Cranes were also around. Great to see them again and is always a favourite if one is lucky enough to hear them call which this time we werent unfortunately.Just around the corner a group of about 7 or 8 Grey Rheebuck.Very pretty. Also a lone male ostrich,a pair of Grysbok,a Spurwing Goose, a Malachite sunbird,a lone Secretary Bird,some Bontebok and a Bokmakierie .
After a visit to the reception and shop we headed up to the top view point where we had some Bontebok for company.
Took out 2 camp chairs and sat there for about half an hour or so. Very nice valley.Next we took a drive down the old racecourse rd where there were more Bontebok and more Grey Rheebok We were quite happy being out and about so took the right turn down towards the river on the road to Die Stroom.
The road is currently blocked at the top of the mountain as they are working on it and the new restaurant but we went as far as we could.
Official Parks signage....Yellowtail in the Breede???? In their dreams!!LOL
Got to see a Giant Kingfisher at the viewing deck on the river which was great.Its been a long time. Kingfishers are great and the big guy is always a favourite.Very predictable habits usually. Same branch, same tree, same time. We looked the next day but he wasnt there to put a spanner in my theory!
Also had a very big immature Black Shouldered Kite,a Forked Tailed Drongo and a group of Redfaced Mousebirds before heading back for another skottel brunch.
We relaxed at the campsite for a couple of hours. Had words with some deaf geriatric day trippers who decided we all needed to listen to his car radio at a ridiculous volume.
The aloes were unbelievable on the Aloe trail. In fact all round.All in full bloom .
The winter flowers in the whole park were fantastic.
There are some really really old aloes in the park.I decided we should turn around and head next to the river and go do the Acacia trail and loop instead which turned out to be a much more fun walk for R especially as it weaves and winds its way through the riverine bush and overhanging trees and then out into some dense thornveld and back through thickets of aloes.
Saw another tortoise this time a little Padloper.All sorts of signs of porcupine around,what looked like an aardvark burrow,spoor from a civet, bontebok and another older otter spoor about 300m away from the river but next to a marshy reedbed.
Got back to camp an heard a familiar but distant sound. Fish Eagle. But where was it... Carried on doing what I was doing and
about a minute later I heard it again. Almost above us now and circling his way off west.R been spoiled with big raptors at Nossob so not as impressed as she might have been! It was a bit high !
Much warmer night. Woken up at just after 1 am by the sounds of munching and deep breathing and snorting right next to my ear. Woke R hurriedly but the whispering and shuffling in the tent caused them to take flight to about 10 metres away.3 Zebra .2 fullsize and one medium.R went from fast asleep to laughing her head off to fast asleep again in less than 5 minutes. Classic.Unlike her old man who then took another 2 hours to get some more shuteye.
Did camp packup and chickenwalk and got out for another dawn patrol.Found our zebra just off the main rd junction with some bontebok.
Quiet morning otherwise and we headed back home along the Ashton rd to Robertson/Worcester then tunnel and home.Its not that much further but takes a bit longer because of all the towns but that first section close to Swellendam is very picturesque. And anyway, the butchery in Robertson make some wicked chicken bacon wrap and currylamb sosaties...
Fat Mouse the Cape Hare and the Baby Zebras....an 8 yr old girls delight. Those were her highlights Oh yes...and photos of triple Bs ...BonteBokBums... they just kept turning away!!
For me it was the Secretary Bird,the midnight Zebra munch and the Giant Kingfisher but best of all watching my little girl soak it all up-------------