Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thinking Pink

While sharing photos with the kids, some of Hugh's pictures ended up on their computer my hands!  I wanted to share these two flamingo with the world. I also thought it would be fun to share his final birding report:

February 2011:

Zambia - 67 species seen
South Africa - 70 species seen
Total - 133 species
New or Life Birds - 54 species

This is pretty impressive given that they had one morning birding trip in Zambia with a big group from the ornithological society and one dedicated birding morning in South Africa, no guided birding tours and no experts to identify calls or point out unusual species.  Hugh was armed with his binoculars (no scope) his digital camera and a book. We missed the weekend pelagic birding trips (every Saturday) b/c of the train fiasco....I mean the train trip.....and morning cheetah encounter.

His most exciting spotting (from our perspective) was the hornbill that was for some reason in our big tree out front.  We've also got a breeding pair of barn owls who are usually shy and elusive (they fly out of the palm by the pool every night at dusk, one at a time and silently disappear into the night.  Lately though they are screeching and squawking and hanging out in the garden til all hours.  We'll be on the lookout for little owlets soon I think.

We also missed going to "World of Birds" which is a bird sanctuary in Cape Town with about 3,000 birds.  Unfortunately, we likely won't ever get there...the sanctuary is on the verge of closure. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


*no grandparents or grandchildren were injured while filming this footage

Wide Open Spaces

Boulders Beach (Penguin Colony) in Simon's Town, Glencairn in the distance

The crowded beaches at the Kaap dei Goeie Hoop.  Yes, Ostriches.  At the beach.  Who would have guessed.

Crowds, crowds, everywhere, we could hardly see a thing for all the people.  That's Hugh, by the way....if you can see him in the crowd there trying to get a glimpse of the lighthouse (there's one up top and one at 87 meters above sea level, no one could ever see the one up top for all the fog.  And the crowds.

At Oliphants Beach in the Table Mountain National Park at the Kaap dei Goeie Hoop (see? isn't it funnier than just saying the "Cape of Good Hope?"), hiking for miles to try to find some bling-blang privacy and a spot for a quiet picnic, geeze.  Owen in the distance, on his way to a shipwreck and some whale bones).  really, we saw a family of baboons along our hours-long hike and the park rangers who waited for us before closing the gates.

The chilly Atlantic at Nordhoek Beach

Finn, braving the winds along Chapman's Peak Drive overlooking Hout Bay - or is it Camps Bay?  This Drive (capital D) is along the back side of Table Mountain and was our primary route into and out of the city.  It was either this curvy cliff-hugging 30 Rand toll road (about $4) or double-the-time on the N2 (highway) in traffic.  Being both afraid of heights and mildly claustrophobic, and driving a tiny Kia Picanto stick shift while trying to keep up to Todd in his equally tiny rental car...the Chapman's Peak route was a challenge, but a spectacular one.  This is the spot where one year during the Cape Argus Cycle tour (more on that in a bit) a block of thankfully empty honey pots went OVER the edge.  At one point along the route, they ran out of buildable cliff for the road, so they dug into the side but not a tunnel, it's only in the cliff on three sides, open to the sea on the other.  yowsa.  The cyclists this year reached speeds of 80 km/hr on this road.  The speed limit (which I don't think I came close to) is 60.

Overlooking the Cape Town Victoria & Albert Waterfront from the Table Mountain Gondola. Robben Island on the left, in the distance, is famously the site where many now-famous leaders were held as political prisoners (three past SA presidents, including the current president, Jacob Zuma, and former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Nelson Mandela, aka Madiba)

The 'table cloth' of clouds moved in to cover Table Mountain while were up top.  At it's highest point, Table Mountain is 1, 085M above sea level.

From Table Mountain Base can barely see the gondolas in the middle....and you can obviously see the reasons we declined taking in the sights on the hiking trail up to the top!

Scratch Patch

Tucked away off the main drag in Simon's Town on the Cape is....the world famous Scratch Patch.  What, you ask, is the Scratch Patch?  I still am not sure myself, but I know that I spent over 2 hours there with two small boys who must have touched every one of three million polished stones before they picked out their own precious collections of special rocks.  

The gemstone tumbling factory in Simon's Town, SA is the largest of it's sort in the world.  The kids had to themselves the whole Scratch Patch, which is simply a massive open play area whose floor is completely covered (about 10 inches deep) with polished stones from every corner of the world.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two Oceans

No trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium

Now here's something you never see!

The photographer in front of the lens atop Table Mountain.

Wine Country

A visit to wine country was not part of our original plans but there was a 38,000 person cycling race in Cape Town which had all the roads closed the day we needed to get from the beach to the airport. So, poor us we HAD to go to Franschhoek.  We had to stay in a spectacularly beautiful B&B, had to go to an amazing French restaurant and eat oysters, drink wine and choke down the most amazing meal... wow, is life rough here in Africa or what?

Close encounters

On the grounds of the Spier Vineyard is an animal outreach and encounter facility.  They have 'ambassador' animals which are available for encounters.  We were able to keep this side-trip a secret from O, aka Mr. Cheetah.  I think "stunned" is an appropriate description of his reaction (everyone's!) at getting to spend some time with and to pet this snoozy cheetah named Pedro.  The boys also got to do an 'eagle encounter' and got to see all kinds of raptors up close.  They both got to hold these eagle owls (below).  This photo is from the end of their time in the owl flight cage.  The boys had heavy leather gloves on but one talon of this owl was off the edge of the leather and poking FPFJ's arm. All part of the experience.

Jackass Penguins

Not the first to dream of flight

Penguins are of course high on the list of charismatic megafauna.

Despite that they are uber-cute, not all that shy and not all that quick on land, it was really difficult to get an interesting photo! We visited Boulders Beach three times and I must have 300 pictures of penguins....close up, far away, in little rows, in cute little bunches, snuggling together, hopping from rock to rock, waddling up the beach, scrambling down the boulders into the water, trying to sneak into the nearby bistro, parading down the street, etc.  These were the only keepers.  

This colony numbers around 1000 penguins; they are one of 16 penguin species.  This species has colonies at 28 sites, mostly offshore islands.  The Boulders Beach colony is one of only 3 mainland colonies.  The funny thing is that the Penguins themselves decided to settle here in Simon's Town in the 1980s at a public swimming beach in a suburban setting.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Below, a temporary sculpture pavilion I was particularly interested in seeing:

This wall is a 'living wall' created using a metal frame and 2L soda bottles (see detail below).  Gorgeous.

Portraits in Stone and Sand: Cape Town