The decision to visit three of South Africa’s arid parks in Spring was a good one. We started the journey by driving up to Nieuwoudtville where we visited one of our favourite spots, Papkuilsfontein. As usual, the bulbs there were magnificent, and the hospitality offered by Alri and Marietta equally so.
The next day saw us driving up the N7 to the Richtersveld, but we were only a short way out of Vanrhynsdorp when a rear tyre blew and we were forced to stop for repairs. Luckily we managed to get the only replacement available in Springbok, before we continued our journey to Sendelingsdrif, on the border between SA and Namibia. A night was spent there in the comfortable rest camp, before we set out for the riverside camp of Tatasberg.
We stayed at Tatasberg for two nights and then proceeded into the middle of the park to another remote camp called Gannakouriep. These are truly remote camps and the accommodation offered was very much in tune with the arid, mountain desert surrounds.
After three nights in this wonderful area, which unfortunately was quite cold, we headed back over the Helskloof pass to Sendelingsdrif for our last night in the Park.
Our next destination was the Skilpad camp in the Namaqualand park. Here we shared four delightful cottages with friends and we were all able to marvel at the spectacular show of Namaqualand spring flowers. We visited the Soebatsfontein and Leliefontein areas, sadly without much work for the inhabitants, who eke out a tough existence and live on Government grants.
From Skilpad we drove south to the Tankwa Karoo National Park and once again shared four wonderful cottages at Elandsberg. The Tankwa was so dry compared with our previous visit and we could not believe the difference, with not a flower in sight where last year there were only fields of yellow and mauve. A drive up the impressive Ganagga Pass, however, rewarded us with wonderful new species and lots of water. The Lodge at the top of the pass would be a fine stopping place for visitors to this area.
We returned home having had two wonderful weeks. Catering was of a high standard and each meal prepared by our companions attested to their gourmet skills.
Needless to say we actually spent most of our time birding and were very excited to add two lifers to our list. We saw a total of 122 species, including many larks and a rare Fairy Flycatcher. Perhaps the best sighting, however, was a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles in a bare gum tree near Skilpad.