Monday, 29 August 2011

West Coast Magic

I am just back from a short weekend break in the West Coast National Park. I stayed in the Duinepos chalets, a community run project  inside the park, and they were really delightful. There were even heaters and an inside fire pre filled with wood! Have a look at if you are interested in spending a night or two in the park. The chalets are also reasonably priced, in particular if there are 4 of you. The weather was pretty cold most of the weekend, and when we went to the hide early morning before the sun rose, the path felt wet under foot. When we walked back in the light, we could see the reason sparkling before us- there was a good layer of shiny, glittery ice all along the raised platform, with shoe prints clearly showing our earlier path.

One of the main reasons to go to this park at this time of year is that the Postberg Reserve inside the park is open for flower viewing. It only opens for 2 months, and I believe the display this year is pretty good! I know nothing about photographing flowers, or landscapes, so I was really just there to have a look, and to hopefully spot a caracal (I had been told this was my best chance.) The flowers were lovely to see, covering large areas in white, yellow and orange, with herds of Eland ranging from 20- 60 individuals strolling through them. We also saw Wildebeest, Springbok, Blesbok and my first Black Harrier soaring over the dunes. One of the highlights was seeing bat- eared fox listening for insects in the flowers, and I will hopefully pop up there later this week sometime to have another look for them.

My favourite part of the whole weekend was that I got to spend an hour in close proximity to caracal!! This is something that has never happened, except at a wildlife rescue centre where I got to play with 3 kittens which tore my hands to shreds! I was over the moon. The first caracal was very relaxed, and walked along the road, up and down the dunes until some people got out their cars. There are no signs prohibiting this, and common sense is apparently not strong with some (it of course had the effect of scaring the cat away). We waited until they had driven on and then the cat came out again and resumed its stroll. The second time this happened we left. On the way back from the Postberg Reserve, we again saw a very relaxed cat . This cat actually stalked a few birds and came within metres of our car! It was very very exciting to say the least, and is another reason I will be back there soon! The third cat was skittish, and we didn't get to view it well so we decided to leave it in peace.

During the weekend we also saw a snake, and some whales, along with various sea birds and flamingoes. A kestrel near the hide was so relaxed that it allowed me within about half a metre of it before taking to the skies. From the park you can see Table Mountain, so it's not so far from Cape Town as to prohibit a day trip. I look forward to going back, and hopefully seeing some more of those elusive tuft- eared cats.

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