Having moved to Le Cap, Afrique du Sud fairly recently, I’ve not seen much of the Western Cape and of course was delighted when an opportunity presented itself to join a ‘recce’ trip up the West Coast to have a look at a privately-owned game reserve up there. The trip was planned for the 5th of November, and four of us were lucky enough to escape the office; Garth Jenman, Patti Brockmann from the Jenman Safaris Marketing Department, Hilka Voges from Sales and myself from Operations.
The day turned out to be stunning. Bright and sunny, and clear skies – couldn’t have been better – and of course we were all in good spirits as we drove out of Le Cap, Afrique du Sud. We passed through Bloubergstrand which just added to the holiday atmosphere in the car; the beaches are so white there it hurts your eyes, and the ships out in Table Bay looked close enough to touch. The view of Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand just has to be seen to be believed. The Atlantic also was looking particularly inviting – so cool and blue and refreshing it almost made me want to dive in… Almost…
I tried that once and after spending a month or so thawing out, decided that the next time I set foot – or any other body part – in the Atlantic, I’d be wearing a wet suit!! I’m used to the warm waters on the other side of Africa…
Leaving Bloubergstrand behind we turned on to the R27 (West Coast Road) at Melkbosstrand and headed North. Although I was expecting it, it was still surprising to me that there wasn’t a tree in sight! The tallest thing with leaves that I saw wouldn’t have reached my waist! It wasn’t long though before I started appreciating what I was seeing, and relaxed back in my seat and soaked up the sheer vastness of the view – the short fynbos and gently undulating landscape allows for really big skies and really big views.
After an easy hour and a half driving we spotted the signs for our destination; Buffelsfontein private game reserve, and turned in at the gates. I saw giraffe off in the distance as we drove up to the Lodge. The lodge itself was very nice, built around a large water feature, with lush green lawns. The first thing that caught my eye was a lion cub ‘mauling’ various rubber toys out on the lawn. Buffelsfontein have a pair of lion that were raised on the premises and have started breeding. They are currently housed in a pen at the Lodge itself, whilst a new and improved accommodation is being constructed for them. After a tour of the lodge, we were invited out on a tour of the property, and enjoyed a game drive with one of the managers. We saw healthy populations of Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebra, Springbok, Eland, Bontebok, Gemsbok and Ostrich, as well as quite a few bird species. We didn’t see the Buffalo, but considering we were doing the drive close to midday on a hot sunny day, I wasn’t surprised. Any self-respecting Buffalo at that time of day is bound to bedded down in the thick stuff.
After the game drive we headed over to Geelbeck in the West Coast National Park for lunch. Would have been great to spend more time here in the bird hides – the bird life here is phenomenal I believe – but by this time I was hungry enough to bite the bum off a low-flying dove, and I’m sure everybody else was feeling the same way. Lunch was really good. Surprisingly so. Considering it was mid-week and we were so far out of Cape Town, I was expecting a half-deserted restaurant with limited choices, but we found the restaurant to be very busy and with a great menu. Definitely a place I’d recommend.
Doves’ bums being a whole lot safer, we headed up north along the peninsula to Kraalbaai, where we had heard a couple of houseboats are moored. I couldn’t get over the sheer number of Angulated Tortoises we saw on the road. We also saw a few snakes – one was unfortunately a victim of a negligent driver and was unrecognizable. Of the rest, most were too quick for us to even attempt to identify them. We did recognize one as a small Cape Cobra (he spread his hood when Garth pulled up next to him). I knew that there was absolutely no chance, given the scarcity of the animal, and the less-than-ideal time of day that we were in the Park, but I would have loved to see one of the Caracal that occur there. What an awesome animal! I love cats, but this one is a particular favourite of mine. Ten to eighteen kilograms of pure dynamite! Truly beautiful too. They’ve been known to bring down two flying birds in a single leap and they can take down Impala size animals – even Ostrich.
The water I believe is very warm in the lagoon and great for swimming. Unfortunately due to a lack of time as well as swimming trunks, we could only look wishfully at the inviting waters.
We stopped in at Duinepos on our way back. Very nice chalets that are operated by the local community, and the hostess Janine is really professional and gave us a warm welcome. I was surprised to see a Rhino skull in their garden. Wonder where it came from?
We decided to stop in and have a look at ‘!Khwa ttu’, a cultural and training centre for the San Bushmen. This was something I had been looking forward to since we passed the signs on the way out to Buffelsfontein, but it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as far as I was concerned. To be fair though, we arrived late in the afternoon when the staff were winding up for the day. There didn’t seem to be any management staff around but we were shown some of the cottages that they have on the place, and we were also shown through the Photo Gallery, which was very thought provoking and a worthwhile experience. We were also told about the game drives that are offered on the ‘!Khwa ttu’ reserve. This sounds very worthwhile – conducted by a San guide who also offers an introduction to the tones and clicks of the San, as well as an informative visit to a Replica traditional village.
All in all we had a great day, and after whetting my appetite, I definitely intend to spend more time on the West Coast. Thanks very much to Garth, Patti and Hilka – what an awesome day out!