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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Patches of colourful wild flowers had established themselves everywhere, looking as if they had been planted by a landscape gardener
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
Even the unusual lichen on a dry bush was colourful enough to warrant closer inspection
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.
All in all a spectacular day among wild flowers and rugged coastal scenery.