Category Archives: Flowers

2023! – A Beacon of Hope…..

It’s strange how things cross your path when least expected – I was out for my last late-afternoon walk of the year, enjoying the fresh, mind-clearing wind and keeping a look out for birds in the conservation area close to our home in Mossel Bay.

I was heading back up the hill along the narrow track that leads through a sea of fynbos, most of which lacks any sort of flowers at this time of year, when a flash of bright red caught my eye – I lifted my binos and saw to my delight that it was a lone flower, poking out above the sea of green like a beacon…. of hope, I decided right there

This comes with my wish to everyone for a blooming good 2023!

Fire Lily

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Tietiesbaai : Bay of Plenty….. Flowers

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.

Flowers in abundance

The full breakfast at Paternoster Dunes is a gourmet affair, presented with flair and with unusual flavours – just what we enjoy as a treat. Adding to the enjoyment is the view from the upper floor dining room with its panoramic windows looking over the wide expanse of beach below and across the waves to the distant headlands.

During brekkie we got chatting to a couple from Vryburg – well Gerda got chatting, I just nodded my head occasionally – and as often happens when you get chatting with strangers, we had a glimpse into each other’s lives, which is always interesting.

The sun was shining, holding the promise for a bountiful day’s flower viewing, so after breakfast we set off to visit Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, which has the well-known ‘alternate’ name of Tietiesbaai (literally ‘Boobs Bay’ for the international readers).

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The reserve gate lies just a few kms from the guesthouse and once we had paid the nominal fee and entered, we travelled very slowly, with plenty of birdlife and beautiful spreads of flowers demanding our attention all the way.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The sea is almost always visible from the sandy road into the reserve and tracks leading off the main route took us closer to the rocky shoreline where we admired the rafts of flowers in shades of yellow, orange and white, with the odd contrasting colour here and there, all against the rugged backdrop of sea and rocks.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

I don’t know of any other spot along the West coast that provides the same spectacular combination of scenery, flowers and birdlife – we were spoilt for choice!

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Even without the flowers, Tietiesbaai is worth a visit, but in flower season the carpets of stunning flowers add another dimension to the reserve, making it a must-visit spot, in our opinion.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Strangely, not that many people have cottoned onto this as, during our visits in September last year and again this year, we have found that we have the reserve mostly to ourselves, allowing us to stop at random along the narrow tracks without the worry of blocking the road for others.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The birds we came across were many and varied, with a couple of special encounters which had us excited and fascinated – I will be featuring the birds in a follow-up post as they, and indeed the flowers, are both deserving of a separate post.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Once we reached the campsite, right on the edge of the sea, we made use of the neat ablutions and turned back towards Paternoster, taking the ‘upper’ road past the lighthouse.

To end off let me share some of the images of individual flowers that particularly caught our eye

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

And to absolutely end off, even the fungi look like attractive flowers (well, I think it’s fungi …..)

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Oh, and please do enjoy the Christmas weekend wherever you may find yourself!

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Clanwilliam to Paternoster

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.

Travelling to Paternoster

Today’s trip was less about flower viewing and more about getting from one place to another with the minimum of fuss, so we were not planning any specific stops – more of a ‘play it by ear’ approach was to be the order of the day. As it turned out, the day was interesting but probably doesn’t warrant a separate post, however I wanted to treat this series of posts as a daily report of the trip, so this one is just for completeness. (hey, I’m a QS – we are obsessive types)

After another full breakfast at Yellow Aloe Guest House, which took longer than usual as everyone came to breakfast at more or less the same time, we left Clanwilliam with many fond memories of our short stay.

Rather than heading down the N7 National Road, we took the coastal route, which would take us along quieter regional roads past a number of small towns – including Lamberts Bay, Leipoldtville, Elands Bay and Velddrif.

Near Elands Bay

Along the way there were small patches of flowers here and there and I slowed down as we passed, but did not stop as we had seen many glorious flowers the previous day in the Biedouw Valley

On the way to Elands Bay we noticed patches of red in the gravelly margin bordering the tar road and stopped to have a closer look as it did not look like anything we knew. Closer inspection didn’t enlighten us, but I took a few photos of this rather strange ‘growth’ in an environment which hardly looked as if it could support anything but weeds.

Near Elands Bay

We took a quick detour to Elands Bay just to see what it looks like – the town centre left us less than impressed but the beach provided a sweeping view of the wide sands, wind-whipped sea and distant headland which demanded a photo. Easier said than done, as the wind was so strong, I had to brace myself, legs spread wide and shielding my eyes from the sand, in order to get a couple of moody shots with my iphone.

Elands Bay

Feeling peckish we popped into Rooidak padstal just outside town and got a pie for lunch – which I couldn’t finish as it was rather stodgy, then carried on along mostly straight, very flat roads to Velddrif.

Just after we turned off towards Paternoster, the road passed some of the salt pans that Velddrif is known for and I slowed, then stopped at the roadside to do a quick scan – several interesting birds were making the most of this very specific habitat and I spent about twenty minutes getting a few shots from a distance.

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Bontelsie, Velddrif
Kittlitz’s Plover and Little Stint, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor Kleinflamink, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingo and Pied Avocet, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingoes taking off, watched by Caspian Terns, Velddrif

Paternoster

The last stretch to Paternoster was in light rain and we reached our booked accommodation – Paternoster Dunes Guest House – around 3 pm where we were welcomed and soon settled in. They serve coffee/tea and cake every afternoon at 4 pm so we climbed the single flight of stairs up to the dining area and lounge which has magnificent views across the beach and beyond.

During our previous stay we had not managed to fit the afternoon tea session into our busy days so it was a particular pleasure to do so this time around, while the rain came pelting down and the strong wind tested the beach-facing windows to the extreme.

Paternoster
Paternoster

Neither of us felt like going out for dinner so we cancelled the booking that we had and ‘ate in’ on what could best be described as ‘dehydrated steak and chips’ – actually beef biltong and crisps with provita and cheese on the side – surprisingly satisfying when washed down with a glass of decent wine.

The rain subsided a bit later, so I took a walk along the beach with a light drizzle in the air and the wind still gusting quite strongly – that helped to blow all the day’s driving-induced cobwebs clear away.

Paternoster

The combination of a low sun, cloudy skies and wheeling gulls made the scene especially photogenic, and I snapped happily away with my iphone before heading back to our cosy room to relax and plan the next day’s activities. Tietiesbaai, here we come, ready or not!

Paternoster
Paternoster
Paternoster
Paternoster
Mussel shell in the sand

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Biedouw Valley

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.

Biedouw Valley

After another substantial breakfast served on the stoep of the Yellow Aloe Guest House (fruit and yoghurt, full English breakfast), we set off to ‘find’ the Biedouw Valley which we had often read about since becoming interested in the annual Spring Flowers of Namaqualand and the West Coast. It seemed to be one of THE places to see the spring flowers in the area and we wanted to see for ourselves if that was indeed the case. (Spoiler alert – it was!)

The weather report was encouraging – 20 degrees C and sunny – almost perfect conditions for the flowers to be open during the core flower-viewing hours of 11 am to about 4 pm (just the opposite of ideal birding hours).

Heading out of Clanwilliam on the northern side, we crossed the Jan Dissels River and joined the R364 regional road which took us into the mountains. A signboard indicated “Pakhuiskloof Pass for next 21 kms”, heralding the start of a drive through fascinating mountain scenery unlike any we have seen before – so this is the Cedarberg that people rave about!

Pakhuiskloof Pass
Pakhuiskloof Pass

The mountains have the look of being ‘built’ rather than formed, with rows of gigantic, squarish blocks topped by rocks weathered into a myriad of shapes, many of them strange, some vaguely reminiscent of known forms – Gerda pointed one out that looked a bit like an old man sitting in a chair.

The road was exceptionally quiet, so we stopped regularly to take in the views and photograph some of the interesting roadside flowers.

Pakhuiskloof Pass

Soon we reached a turn-off signposted “Biedouw Valley / Wupperthal” which immediately became a gravel road that twisted through hills, then started its descent into the valley which we caught glimpses of far below.

Biedouw Valley

Halfway down we came across several vehicles that had stopped and we did likewise, joining the knots of fellow flower-spotters who were meandering about, admiring the multi-coloured rafts of flowers, pointing and photographing at every turn.

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley

Further down, a track branched off to the left and took us past even more extensive patches of flowers in full bloom, stretching into the distance.

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley

We were pleased that we could recognise some of the flowers, the names of which we had learnt over the last couple of days. Highly satisfied, we continued into the valley proper and found ourselves at a small Padstal (Roadside shop) which we discovered had opened that day!

Biedouw Valley

The owner Joubert even came to greet us excitedly at the car as we parked outside the converted garage – both he and his wife worked in Clanwilliam and were trying their luck with this venture on the side – real ‘salt of the earth’ people who deserve to succeed, although the flower season is for a very limited time. Naturally, we left with a few packets of home-made goodies after greeting our new-found ‘friends’

Biedouw Valley

That was also our turnaround point and, on the way back, while still enjoying the abundant flowers, we looked out for birds and other interesting creatures, a few of which posed nicely for me.

Grasshopper doing its best to look like the surrounding soil – and succeeding!
Biedouw Valley
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta Hamerkop, Biedouw Valley
Boland Brown butterfly, Melampias huebneri, Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris Gewone spekvreter (race familiaris), Biedouw Valley

Heading back through the pass I stopped a few times to listen and look out for the Cape Rockjumper which favours this habitat, but without success.

The grave of C Louis Leipoldt – considered to be one of the great Afrikaner poets and writers – lies not far from the road through the Pakhuis Pass and we stopped to pay our respects briefly, then continued to Clanwilliam where we enjoyed a late lunch / early supper at Bella Louise restaurant to round off a perfect day of exploring.

Pakhuiskloof Pass

And to end with ….. this flower looks almost as good from the back as it does from the front

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.

Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show

After a solid breakfast served on the stoep of the Yellow Aloe Guest House with a view over the lush garden, we set off to find the “Blommekerk / Flower Church” where the annual Wildflower show is held and which the reports suggested was well worth a visit.

Well, we didn’t have far to go as we found it was right across the road from our guest house!

Clanwilliam

The displays of living flowers take up the whole internal area of the small, historic church and are wonderfully done and arranged so that they represent different regions

Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

A side room of ‘special’ flowers was really interesting with every imaginable, and some unimaginable, shapes colours and sizes represented. A plaque nearby had the words of the well-known Afrikaans poet DJ Opperman inscribed on it – his description of the wonder of the Namaqualand flowers is stirring (if you understand Afrikaans)

Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

Equally fascinating was a display of unusual succulents with the cutest names that had us smiling, even chuckling, along with others around us

The common name for this one in Afrikaans translates as “baby’s bum”

Argyroderma testiculare – Bababoudjies – Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

And this one is – you guessed it – Thumb and finger!

Dactyloptis doigitata – Duim-en-Vinger – Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

Ramskop Wild Flower Reserve

After a short spell of shopping for some necessities we headed to the Ramskop Wild Flower Reserve just outside town, overlooking the Clanwilliam Dam.

Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

The gardens were superb and we spent a good hour or two wandering along the pathways, seeing new species at every turn and taking lots of photos

I haven’t tried to describe the flowers – in this case the photos do the talking. Oh, and I haven’t named all of the flowers as I am no expert in botanical matters and in any case I don’t have all my reference books with me in Mossel Bay (a hazard of living in two places)

Quiver Trees – Kokerbooms – atop a rise in the flower bedecked Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Cape Robin-Chat, Clanwilliam
Erica (Heath family), Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Wachendorfia multiflora – Common Butterfly Lily – Kleinrooikanol – Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Lampranthus – Vygie, Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

While I was photographing the vygies a butterfly flew past literally under my nose and momentarily fed on the flowers – I took a few images of which one came out showing a nice side view of the butterfly as it landed on the flower – what a stroke of luck!

Citrus Swallowtail butterfly on Lampranthus species – Vygie, Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Protea compacta (?), Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

Lamberts Bay

With much of the afternoon left and feeling like a late afternoon lunch, we drove through town and headed to Lambert’s Bay about 60 kms west of Clanwilliam. Gerda had read about Isabella’s Restaurant at the harbour being the place for fresh fish (makes sense) so we went straight there and enjoyed an excellent meal – I had Kabeljou, Gerda had Yellowtail and we finished it off with a small but decadent waffle.

Lamberts Bay harbour – the turrets on the building in the far background are where the bird hide is

I was keen to see and experience the bird hide on the “island” where Cape Gannets breed and roost – the island is in fact joined to the mainland at the harbour by a walkway. Unfortunately, the walkway was closed for maintenance until December and the last boat trip was already back in the harbour so there was no way to view the Gannet breeding colony except from afar – oh well, maybe another time….

Lamberts Bay

To end the day I went for a walk through the streets of Clanwilliam as dusk fell

Clanwilliam

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Tulbagh to Clanwilliam

The Background (Repeated from the first post)

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, I said to Gerda some time during July – “Let’s go see the flowers again”. She responded positively and the game was on!

First step was to decide on our route and where to base ourselves along the way – the main drivers in those decisions were to avoid travelling too far from our Mossel Bay home and to spend three nights in a couple of strategic places which would allow two full days of exploration in each without feeling rushed in any way. This is how you do it when you reach that age where the second special tax rebate kicks in ….. in fact the trip was our birthday present to ourselves, falling nicely between our two birthdays just 13 days apart.

Day 2

Google Maps suggested the 151 kms from Saronsberg near Tulbagh to Clanwilliam would take 1 hour 42 minutes – we managed to stretch it to almost 6 hours through some serious meandering and plenty of stops!

Map Tulbagh to Clanwilliam

After checking out, we first visited the Saronsberg cellar and came away with half a dozen wines – two for us, the rest presents for family – and a bottle of olive oil

At the gate, on a whim, instead of heading left we turned right and travelled a few kms to Twee Jongegezellen winery where we had a walk around the historic wine farm.

Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh
Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh

It was disappointing to hear that Nicky Krone, a classmate of mine from the 60’s and one of a long line of Krones who ran the farm for generations, no longer owns the farm after losing a costly legal battle with a supplier of bottles some years ago. It seemed to us that the farm had lost its spirit when the Krones departed, retaining only the physical beauty.

Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh
Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh

Haeding back down the road towards Tulbagh, we stopped in the town at MIT (Made in Tulbagh) and bought more local wine after chatting to the owner and a friendly local gent who had popped in and knew the ins and outs of the Tulbagh wine route.

Tulbagh

The owner also advised us against the ‘back road’ route I had in mind to get to Citrusdal, so instead we took the shorter route via Gouda and Porterville along roads we have never travelled before. Prominent along this route were the Canola fields in full bloom and when we passed some fields with a wind farm in the background it was a photo opportunity not to be missed. I stopped and clambered up an embankment to get to the high fence so that I could poke my lens (well, the camera’s actually) through the mesh.

Near Tulbagh

Once we intersected with the N7 National road we headed north and soon found ourselves at the start of the Piekernierskloof Pass where, again on a whim, we pulled off at Kardoesie Padstal where we had a pleasant light lunch and bought some padstal ‘stuff’ – dried figs and peaches, home made cookies.

Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass

While having lunch I googled the name of the pass – Piekernierskloof – and came up with some fascinating information about the pass; the first known route through the mountains was a bridle path in the 1660’s; much later in 1858 Thomas Charles John Bain, the famous builder of many a pass in SA, built the first road, a gravel route named Grey’s Pass after the then Governor of the Cape. In 1957 the current route was completed and renamed the Piekernierskloof Pass.

Piekernierskloof Pass

If, like me, you are wondering about the name, let me put you out of your misery – Piekernier came from the Dutch word for pikemen, who were lancers equipped with pikes (a long thrusting spear used in European warfare) posted to the area in the 1660’s to protect farmers from Khoikhoi raids

Piekernier / Pikeman

While Gerda was exploring the padstal shop, I was exploring the surroundings for birds and spotted a Rock Kestrel perched on a pole – it took off just as I was taking some shots and I was fortunate to catch it nicely in flight with wings spread. We were to come across this species several times over the ensuing days

Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Piekernierskloof Pass
Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Piekernierskloof Pass

Back on the N7 we stopped a couple of times to view and photograph some of the interesting roadside flowers, especially the yellow flowered bushes that we had seen along the road where it cut through the mountains

Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass

At last, we reached Clanwilliam and found our ‘home’ for the next 3 days – Yellow Aloe Guest House just off the main road through the town. Once settled in we enjoyed a rest with the sliding door opened wide to take advantage of the cool fresh air – the weather had turned surprisingly warm and just in time as it was 1 September – “Spring Day” in SA.

Yellow Aloe Guest House, Clanwilliam

The abundant bird life in the garden kept us entertained for the next while, including all 3 species of Mousebird – Speckled, Red-faced and White-backed.

The garden at Yellow Aloe Guest house, Clanwilliam

We were looking forward to exploring the town of Clanwilliam and the surrounding area the next day, in the hope of finding those massed flower displays that the facebook pages were raving about

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Mossel Bay to Tulbagh

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, I said to Gerda some time during July – “Let’s go see the flowers again”. She responded positively and the game was on!

First step was to decide on our route and where to base ourselves along the way – the main drivers in those decisions were to avoid travelling too far from our Mossel Bay home and to spend three nights in a couple of strategic places which would allow two full days of exploration in each without feeling rushed in any way. This is how you do it when you reach that age where the second special tax rebate kicks in ….. in fact the trip was our birthday present to ourselves, falling nicely between our two birthdays just 13 days apart.

Day 1

Day 1 (31st August 2022) was all about getting to Tulbagh from where we would ‘launch’ our flowers trip proper. The drive of around 350 kms from Mossel Bay was comfortable yet busy on roads which seem to get fuller with each passing year. Our route took us past Swellendam, Ashton, Robertson, Worcester and Tulbagh to our overnight stay on Saronsberg Wine Farm where we had booked one of their Vineyard Cottages, which turned out to be comfortable and well fitted out.

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

After arriving at 4 pm and settling in I had a look for birds near the cottage, then set off on an exploratory walk around some of the farm roads.

The first bird that caught my eye was the very common Southern Fiscal – not usually of specific interest but this individual was struggling with some sort of prey so I stepped closer and found it had caught a small snake and was busy trying to “butcher” it by hooking it on to a protruding twig and pulling – presumably to expose its flesh.

Common Fiscal Lanius collaris Fiskaallaksman (race collaris), Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

Birding on the farm while walking produced the usual species for the most part, with a few specials such as Alpine Swifts, a Purple Heron and a Spotted Eagle-Owl in the tall Eucalyptus trees that line a part of one of the farm roads.

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

Dinner was Roosterkoek – traditional grilled bread filled with savoury mince and cheese – bought at a popular roadside restaurant at Buffeljagsrivier near Swellendam – they call them “Sloppy Joes” and are very filling to say the least!

On the way we had seen occasional signs of emerging spring flowers and on Saronsberg the unplanted fields had a sprinkling of yellow flowers, which augered well for the trip to some of the renowned flower hotspots over the days ahead

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

So, a quiet start to our Flowers Trip but lots to look forward to, with our next stop being Clanwilliam the next day

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