Category Archives: Flowers

Tietiesbaai ! (Cape Columbine Nature Reserve) – Flowers, birds, beaches and a lighthouse

It was our last day in Paternoster and we were in two minds as to where to spend it – there are a number of wild flower spots within comfortable driving distance from the town, but in the end we decided to limit our driving and explore Tietiesbaai (Cape Columbine Nature Reserve), right on the doorstep of Paternoster.

What a good choice it turned out to be!

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Firstly, if you mention to another South African you have been to Tietiesbaai, it is bound to raise a smile, even a snigger. Why? Well translated directly Tietiesbaai would be the equivalent of “Boobs Bay” in English.

Depending on which source you prefer, the name Tietiesbaai derives from either a prominent fisherman of years past called Jacob Titus who drowned there or from the smooth round boulders that are a feature of the bay. Whichever you prefer, it is a worthwhile place to visit, especially in spring flower season.

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

In complete contrast to our visit to the West Coast National Park the previous day, we had the whole nature reserve almost to ourselves, apart from a handful of other intrepid visitors. This gave us the chance to stop on a whim and climb out to have a closer look at some of the attractive flowers, explore the isolated and mostly deserted beaches and coves and generally just do as we felt like.

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Just as an introduction to Tietiesbaai / Cape Columbine, some facts –

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve lies on the west coast near the village of Paternoster

It is the furthest westerly destination in the Western Cape Province and covers an area of 263 hectares along the rocky stretch of coastline

It was declared a nature reserve in 1973 and boasts the last manually controlled lighthouse to be built in South Africa.

The lighthouse was built in 1936 on Castle Rock and is usually the first lighthouse to be seen by ships coming from Europe, being visible from up to 50 kms away

It was just after 11 am when we set off through Paternoster and were soon on the neatly scraped gravel road to Tietiesbaai, the sea almost always in view and the road increasingly lined with a multitude of colourful wild flowers.

The road between Paternoster and Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Numbers of birds were enjoying the bounty of Spring and I soon added Rock Kestrel, Large-billed Lark and Grey-backed Cisticola to my list.

Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Large-billed Lark with small insect in beak Galerida magnirostris Dikbeklewerik, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

After entering the gate where we had to fill in a form and pay the nominal entrance fee, we headed into the reserve proper and found ourselves at a turn-off, signposted “Sea Shack” which seemed worth exploring – the track was just wide enough for one vehicle, so we hoped we wouldn’t encounter any returning vehicles.

We needn’t have worried as we were literally the only car on the track which wound its way down to the rocky shoreline, where we found a small cove with a line of simple ‘shacks’ – the Sea Shack on the signpost. There was just one gent in residence and he drove off soon after we arrived, so we had the cove to ourselves.

Sea Shack, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

There were birds on the rocks a short way out, but just too far to see clearly with the binos, so I clambered over the seaweed and small rocks close to the shoreline to get a better view.

Cormorants and Terns, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cormorants and Terns, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Cape Cormorants were well represented as were Swift Terns and a lone smaller bird turned out to be a Ruddy Turnstone – always a special sighting.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Steenloper, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

As I watched the Turnstone, a Pied Kingfisher came into view, diving for a small fish right in front of me and flying off with its catch – I tried to get a photo in flight but could only capture a fleeting glimpse of it disappearing with the fish held in its beak.

Pied Kingfisher with fish catch Ceryle rudis Bontvisvanger, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Nearby, we found the perfect spot to enjoy our tea and snacks, parked at the end of an even bumpier track that ended amongst the rocks at the sea edge.

Teatime spot, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Patches of colourful wild flowers had established themselves everywhere, looking as if they had been planted by a landscape gardener

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

We were so engrossed in enjoying the flowers, the time passed without us realising it

We continued along the track, stopping frequently at Gerda’s behest to view and photograph flowers we had not yet encountered, until we found ourselves at a junction with the ‘main’ road where we turned back, somewhat reluctantly, towards Paternoster.

A Cape Bunting on a small rock had me stopping yet again for a quick photo

Cape Bunting Emberiza capensis Rooivlerkstreepkoppie, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Even the unusual lichen on a dry bush was colourful enough to warrant closer inspection

Lichen, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

The road back passed by the lighthouse, which sits on one of the higher points in the reserve, then took us back to the entrance gate.

Lighthouse, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

All in all a spectacular day among wild flowers and rugged coastal scenery.

West Coast National Park – a Feast of Spring Flowers

Top of our list of things to do during our visit to Paternoster in September this year was the trip to West Coast National Park and specifically the Postberg section which is only open during August and September each year and which has a reputation for producing spectacular displays of wild flowers at Spring time.

West Coast National Park

It was our first full day in Paternoster, having arrived the previous afternoon and we had already tasted some of the culinary delights that this small town has to offer – a beautifully prepared Kabeljou with rice and veg at De See Kat restaurant.

West Coast National Park (WCNP) is around 120 kms from Cape Town – the map shows its position relative to Cape Town and Paternoster –

After a superb breakfast at our Paternoster guesthouse, we set off for the West Coast National Park via Vredenburg and the R27, a distance of just over 60 kms to the gate. As we approached the turnoff to the gate, we were amazed to find a queue – two abreast – of cars waiting to enter the Park and joined the back of it. I was very glad we had chosen a weekday for our visit as, judging from the popularity of this park during the wild flower season, the weekend was bound to be a lot more crowded.

West Coast National Park

Fortunately the queue moved along nicely and a half hour later we were into the park and heading in the direction of the Postberg section, along with a string of cars all heading the same way.

We made a couple of stops along the way to Postberg section, which lies in the northernmost part of the park, mainly to break out of the stream of cars, but also to have a closer look at some of the roadside flowers. One of these stops was at a parking spot overlooking the lagoon.

West Coast National Park

All along the road were patches of flowers which just begged closer inspection and of course a few images

A turn-off from the main road through the park took us towards the sea, the road bordered by masses of flowers

West Coast National Park

At Tsaarbank picnic spot we lunched on – wait for it – Provita with cheese spread and the tea we’d brought along (talk about fine dining!) and watched wild waves crashing into the rocky shoreline.

Tsaarbank, West Coast National Park
Tsaarbank, West Coast National Park

Then we entered Postberg proper and found ourselves surrounded at times by multi-coloured flowers spreading across fields and hills – what a display!

West Coast National Park

Fortunately the many cars had by now dispersed in different directions, giving us and others the freedom to stop and admire the many varieties of flowers and just take it all in.

The road took us on a circular route, eventually joining the exit road, which took us past more magnificent displays of flowers, until we found ourselves back at the entrance to Postberg.

All that remained was to make our way slowly back to the main entrance gate where we had entered earlier and head back to Paternoster along the R27 road, reflecting on a truly memorable day.

Paternoster – Spring Flowers, Birds and Beaches

Continuing the story of our ‘Wild Flower Season’ trip to the West Coast town of Paternoster…..

Getting there

After breakfast we left Klein Welmoed Farm near Stellenbosch, dropped granddaughter Megan off at her university hostel, then headed to Paternoster via Wellington, Malmesbury and Vredenburg.

The road runs through the wheat belt of South Africa – almost endless fields of dark green wheat with smaller fields of canary yellow canola providing a dramatic contrast.

Occasional patches of ‘natural’ veld held colourful sprinklings of wild flowers to break the monotony of the cultivated fields and had me braking and reversing to get some photos.

Then we were in Paternoster and soon found Paternoster Dunes Guesthouse which, as the name suggests, lies on the land side of the dunes overlooking a wide expanse of unspoilt beach

The view of the beach
The Guest House

Just to get us further into flower appreciation mood, the patch in front of our room, the middle one in the image above, held some bright orange flowers

After a rest (we are pensioners after all) I took a walk along the beach to the end of the bay and looked up at the dunes which were covered in growth with a mass of yellow flowers

I climbed to the top of the dune and walked to where the houses stopped, finding a view into the distance with more yellow flowers in abundance

Caterpillar of unknown species, specific to the plant on which I found it by the looks of it as they were only in one small area

During our visit I discovered that there were a few bird species which found the patch in front of our room to their liking, including the Yellow Canaries and Karoo Scrub-Robin pictured below as well as Cape Bunting, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and many Common (European) Starlings


Yellow Canary (Geelkanarie) Crithagra flaviventris in full song
Karoo Scrub-Robin (Slangverklikker) Erythropygia leucophrys scanning the surroundings from its favourite perch on a low bush

On a morning walk along the beach in front of the guesthouse, camera in hand, with the wind blowing the sea into a frothy jumble and overcast skies, several Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls wading in the shallows caught my eye and with some gentle persuasion lifted into the air, providing some nice photo opportunities in the soft, even light

As I walked along the sand I spotted movement on the dry sand ahead and approached cautiously, knowing that the subject matter would race off if I got too near. Sure enough, three tiny White-fronted Plovers watched me carefully as I got closer, initially moving away in slow short bursts, then speeding off like top 100m sprinters, barely touching the sand between strides

And a few more photos of Bek Bay at different times of the day

I came across this interesting beetle scavenging among the rocks

The last afternoon produced the most spectacular sunset of all as the cloud-filtered sun cast its rays on the choppy sea. Many Terns were plunging into the sea offshore – too far to differentiate between species until a Common Tern seemingly chased a much larger Caspian Tern so that they passed close to where I was watching from the beach

Paternoster turned out to be an excellent choice as our base for the short stay, being within an hour’s drive from West Coast National Park and literally next door to Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, both of which we visited – more about that in upcoming posts

Flowers on a Roof

A couple of my recent posts have had a Flower theme – here’s another of a slightly different bent…

An old municipal building along one of the main arterial roads in Mossel Bay, a substation probably, has the distinction of being the only building I have come across which is adorned with lilac flowers at this time of year, changing it from an invisible utilitarian structure into one that drew my attention as I drove past and brought an immediate smile to my face

I hope it does the same for you ….

Spring Flowers – and Some Birding : Klein Welmoed, Stellenbosch

We don’t like to let an opportunity pass us by and, with the severe travel limitations that the Covid pandemic has brought upon all of us over the past year or so, it was an easy decision to extend our recent essential trip from Mossel Bay to the Western Cape, to include a visit to the West Coast during the ‘flower season’

Our plan was to spend four nights in the Stellenbosch area, conclude the ‘business’ part of the trip, see some of the family and spend some time with our eldest granddaughter Megan who is at University there, then continue to the West Coast town of Paternoster for some flower season touring.

After looking at various options we chose to stay at Klein Welmoed Guest House which is located on a working farm that lies off the main road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. This turned out to be a good choice as we had a large cottage which comfortably accommodated ourselves and granddaughter Megan (she was only too happy to ‘escape’ from the university hostel for a few days) and the surrounding farm area proved to be ideal for exploratory walks when the opportunity arose.

Getting there

We had to check in by 2.30 pm so we left Mossel Bay earlier than usual and arrived at Klein Welmoed on time, after a drive that was made comfortable and relaxed by the light traffic and good weather, which allowed us to enjoy the picturesque route lined with farmlands and with a constant backdrop of mountains.

As soon as we were parked at the cottage and before unloading the luggage, I could not resist capturing some images of the beautiful view and the fields filled with arum lilies and other flowers.

The view from Klein Welmoed
Pastures filled with flowers

The Walks – Flowers, Birds …. and a few sheep

A late afternoon walk took me to the large dam along a pathway that was sodden in places – Cape Canaries were calling non-stop and Red and Yellow Bishops worked their way through the reeds, while on the dam Coots, Little Grebes and Cape Shovelers were busy making the most of the last light.

As I scanned the reeds on the other side a Purple Heron momentarily popped up and Little Rush Warbler called, ending the day on a high birding note

The dam at Klein Welmoed
Southern Red Bishop  Euplectes orix  Rooivink
Yellow Bishop  Euplectes capensis  Kaapse flap

After a filling breakfast, I set off for a lengthy walk with no set plan, just following paths that I came across. This initially took me past marshy areas with reeds, then skirted the orchards and vineyards that make up most of the farm.

View of Klein Welmoed from the pastures

There was plenty of birdlife in the reeds including a Karoo Prinia flitting in and out of the reeds, pausing to look at me for an instant, and Levaillant’s Cisticola calling and popping out briefly, but not long enough to snatch a photo – these birds require a quick draw!

Karoo Prinia  Prinia maculosa  Karoolangstertjie

A Pied Crow in flight caught my eye and as it was not too high I attempted an in flight shot which turned out OK

Pied Crow  Corvus albus  Witborskraai

I was pleasantly surprised to find rafts of white and yellow flowers next to the pathways and between the lines of trees in the orchards – this augured well for the ‘real’ flower spots we would be visiting later in the week.

Rafts of flowers in places
Blacksmith Lapwing  Vanellus armatus  Bontkiewiet

The orchards attracted a different set of birds including Cape White-eyes (pictured below), Fiscal Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Drongo

Flowers between the rows of trees in the orchards
Cape White-eye  Zosterops capensis  Kaapse glasogie

And the sheep ….. returning from my first late afternoon walk I noticed that one ewe had given birth to a lamb, which was still showing signs of the birth and I watched for a few minutes as the ewe prompted it to stand up on very wobbly legs. Just a day or so later the tiny lambs were eagerly following mommy

Dorper sheep (a South African breed developed by crossing Dorset Horn and Blackhead Persian sheep)

Spring Flowers on the West Coast

We are just back from a week-long trip to the Western Cape where we spent time in Stellenbosch with our granddaughter who is at university there, as well as three days in Paternoster on the West Coast exploring some of the Spring Wild Flower spots in the area

This is just a foretaste of the memorable time we had admiring the spectacle of millions of wild flowers that erupt at this time of year – those in the know are saying this is one of the best flower seasons in many a year.

We did not expect to find many wild flowers in Stellenbosch but the guest farm we stayed on gave us a taste of what was to come

Klein Welmoed Farm Stellenbosch

Our stay in Paternoster was a delight as we were right on the beach

Bek Bay Paternoster

The Postberg section of the West Coast National Park opens for two months over August and September and we spent an enthralling afternoon exploring it

The next day we drove through the Cape Columbine nature reserve to Tietiesbaai enjoying the rugged scenery softened by a multitude of flowers

There’s more to come on each of the four spots highlighted here…..

Robinson Pass – Eight Bells and Many Flowers

When we spend time in Mossel Bay, such as the during the last two months, we like nothing more than to explore the area around this part of the Southern Cape, driving the main and country roads and taking in the scenery and sights. Nowadays we tend to pack a picnic lunch or tea, which just feels safer, even though we have both had our vaccine shots, but a venue with outside seating and that is not too crowded is always an alternative that we consider.

At this time of year many of the Protea and fynbos species come into flower and from past experience we know that there are many places to view them within an easy driving distance from our home, one being the Robinson Pass on the R328 route that connects Mossel Bay with Oudtshoorn, twisting its way through the Outeniqua Mountains and rising to 860 metres before dropping away again.

Before getting into the pass proper, the road passes Eight Bells Mountain Inn, one of our favourite spots for lunch or tea (or even both) so this was where we headed to get our trip off to a good start, pulling into the small parking area after a 40 minute drive and stopping under the massive tree that was mostly bare but showing signs of the approaching Spring.

Eight Bells Mountain Inn entrance
Trees towering over the rooms

We had left home in light rain, but by the time we got to our lunch stop it had cleared with just enough cloud cover to make the light good for photography. After a tasty lunch (their ostrich burgers are recommended) we ventured further up the pass and were soon into the zone where the Proteas were flowering. Gerda’s photos give an idea of what the roadside looks like at this time of year –

I drove as slowly as possible, keeping an eye on the rear view mirror for approaching vehicles, as the road is narrow with few chances to overtake, pulling off wherever I could safely do so to allow faster vehicles to pass and to give us a chance to have a closer look at the multitude of flowers. That proved to be the right strategy as we noticed some hidden, small flowers among the much bolder Proteas.

Now my botanical knowledge is not on a par with my birding knowledge but I spent a while paging through our books on Proteas and Fynbos and have hopefully identified them correctly…..

Protea neriifolia / Oleander-leaf Protea / Baardsuikerbos
Fairly sure this is a Leucadendron but not sure of species name

Continuing up the pass, we soon reached the top at 860 metres and some way down the other side there was a safe place to pull off and turn around for the return journey. Gerda had spotted a prominent pink Protea on the way down which we soon found – there was enough of a margin to pull off and take a few shots.

Other Proteas caught our eye further on

Protea aurea / Common Shuttlecock sugarbush / Geelsuikerbos

And those that shall remain unnamed (only because I could not find them in the reference books)

The view down the pass and across the valleys and distant mountains was worth a stop on the way back

Just to round off the day we returned to Eight Bells in time for afternoon tea and their superb apple pie with ice cream – I mean, why just do it if you can over-do it!

Sated, in all respects, we returned home