Our journey from Sanbonani took us down to Clarens in the eastern Free State, but not before we had had to cope with early morning rush hour traffic in Mbombela! The trip was uneventful and, with around 600 kilometres to cover, left little time for birding along the way.
We did, however, visit the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, where we experienced the beauty of the area in the setting sun. At the vulture restaurant we did not see any vultures. and had to be content with a pair of Cape Longclaws pecking at the carcasses.
Our accommodation at Mill Pond Cottage was excellent and we awoke to a temperature of -3 degrees! The birdbath in the garden had 15 cm of ice in it! Holding a frozen steering wheel was not too pleasant as we departed for Graaf-Reinet, but things soon warmed up and we had a pleasant drive down the Lesotho border.
On arrival we immediately set out for the Valley of Desolation, hoping to see some good birds, but there were none. The best birds were in The Drostdy Hotel, which is presently home to the fabulous collection of original bird paintings that were commissioned for the first Roberts Guide. There are about 50 plates on show and they are well worth a visit.
Besides the bird paintings the hotel is full of wonderful botanical art as well as many artefacts from the early days of Graaf-Reinet. The wine list in the restaurant was also something to behold!
From Graaf-Reinet, we had a good run home to Hermanus. We had been away for 5 weeks and it would take some getting used to not birding all day! Our trip list numbered 393 birds – not bad for winter. We covered 10300 kilometres – an average of 26 km per bird, and I estimate that we spent around 250 hours actually birding! It was a truly memorable experience.
Grahame Snow who runs Reach Africa Birding Safaris was an excellent guide during the Zimbabwe leg of our journey. I can recommend him to anybody interested in birding in the southern African region, where he conducts a wide variety of different excursions.
A young Jackal Buzzard
At Golden Gate
At the Vulture Restaurant
A fire in the Drakensberg
The magnificent Drakensberg
At The Valley of Desolation
Springbok horns at The Drostdy
Botanical art at The Drostdy
Bird art at The Drostdy
In the boardroom The Drostdy
At The Drostdy
At The Drostdy