For the Bird­ers

And fish­er­men tool Packup your hats, rods and binocs and make a great es­cape

South African Country Life - - Cycling -

1 Namibia Kaza Sa­fari Lodge Zambezi re­gion

I was never a great birder. But a visit to Kaza Sa­fari Lodge on the Zambezi River changed all that. On our short boat trans­fer from the Namib­ian bor­der post we spot­ted six African Fish Ea­gles, one swoop­ing down to catch a fish, along with three African Skim­mers nest­ing on a sand­bank. With their long red beaks and el­e­gant slow flight they were eye-catch­ingly grace­ful. Squadrons of Squacco Herons from the nearby breed­ing colony cruised past and we ticked off another nine heron species on the sun­set cruise, along with nu­mer­ous egrets, lap­wings and African Ja­canas. Per­haps most en­thralling were the Mala­chite King­fish­ers, the lit­tle jew­els of the river, and there were Pied- and Giant King­fish­ers in abun­dance. If you’re look­ing for an easy birding (or fish­ing) es­cape, Kaza Sa­fari Lodge is hard to beat. The wood and thatch chalets are sim­ply dec­o­rated, with raised decks over­look­ing the rapids, chan­nels and reeds, where you can sit with your bi­nos. Twice daily birding and fish­ing cruises are in­cluded in the price, as are guided birding walks and var­i­ous other ac­tiv­i­ties. – Fiona McIntosh 031 762 2424 con­tact@flame­o­fafrica.com www.flame­o­fafrica.com

2 Mpumalanga Linger Longer Dull­stroom

Noth­ing could pre­pare us for Linger Longer, only 12 kilo­me­tres north of Dull­stroom. The last six kilo­me­tres of a we-force-you-to-start­slow­ing-down-right-here gravel road took us to the heart of this fly­fish­ing area in Mpumalanga. The four-star, self-cater­ing units have fire­places and fully equipped kitchens, and each sleeps two to six peo­ple. Tow­els are pro­vided and so are braai fa­cil­i­ties but bring your own char­coal and wood. We stayed in Linger To, one of the three units with a moon­lit shower. With no mist around, you are treated to spec­tac­u­lar views over dams and sur­round­ing hills. Ad­ja­cent to Linger Longer is Ver­loren Valei Na­ture Re­serve, breed­ing ground of the Blue Crane, Crowned Crane and Wat­tled Crane. The Crit­i­cally En­dan­gered White-winged Fluff­tail has been spot­ted in these wet­lands so you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of a rarely sighted bird. Rain and mist rolled in shortly af­ter our ar­rival and re­mained with us for the week­end. It pre­vented us from wet­ting a line in the three dams stocked with catch-and-re­lease trout for the ex­pe­ri­enced an­gler, or catch-and-buy for the in­ex­pe­ri­enced. There was bird chat­ter ev­ery time the rain lifted and the call of jackal at night com­pleted the scenes. We wish we could’ve lin­gered longer. – Ri­aan Hat­tingh 083 891 7360, info@linger­longer.co.za, www.linger­longer.co.za

3 North­ern Cape Dron­field Na­ture Re­serve Kim­ber­ley

A mini Serengeti, this serene game re­serve in the semi-arid thorn­veld of the North­ern Cape has much to of­fer bird­ers. Dron­field is easy to ac­cess off the N12, just six kilo­me­tres north of Kim­ber­ley, ad­ja­cent to Kam­fers Dam that is fa­mous for its flamingo breed­ing. The six com­fort­able, fully-equipped, self-cater­ing chalets sit in the shade of large camel thorn trees. Dron­field is home to one of the largest breed­ing colonies of the Crit­i­cally En­dan­gered White­backed Vul­ture. I found the vul­ture restau­rant with a small view­ing hide a great spot for pho­tograph­ing White-backed, Cape and Lap­pet-faced Vul­tures. Other beau­ti­ful birds in this im­por­tant bio­di­ver­sity area are the Kala­hari Scrub-Robin, Crim­son-breasted Shrike, Scaly-feath­ered Finch, Vi­o­let-eared Wax­bill, Sec­re­tary­bird, Kori Bus­tard, Mar­tial Ea­gle, Tawny Ea­gle, Stark’s Lark and other lark species. For the non-birder fam­ily mem­bers or friends, there is a va­ri­ety of game. Beau­ti­ful roan and sable an­te­lope also roam the re­serve, and gi­raffe are in their el­e­ment feed­ing on the nu­tri­tious camel thorn trees. – Ta­nia An­der­son 053 839 4455 www.kim­ber­ley.co.za/city/dron­field-na­ture-re­serve

4 EasternCape Pomeroy Lodges Kleinemonde

No need to set the alarm clock for early morn­ing birding at Pomeroy Lodges. A Trum­peter Horn­bill tapped sharply on my win­dow as the sun peeped over the hori­zon, as if to say, ‘Come along, the show is start­ing’. Pomeroy Lodges, on a pri­vate game and na­ture re­serve on the Sun­shine Coast near Port Al­fred, opened its gates to guests re­cently and the va­ri­ety of habi­tats makes it a great place for bird­ers. The horn­bills were loud­est among the avian throng in the large fig trees, drown­ing out the Lesser

Honey Guide. We walked with lo­cal guide Anne Wil­liams, whose pas­sion for birds is in­fec­tious, and she had us scan­ning the for­est for a Brown Scrub Robin, among oth­ers. Along the river, we saw a Par­adise Fly­catcher, Rameron Pi­geons and three dif­fer­ent king­fish­ers. How­ever, our luck ran out and the res­i­dent Black Har­rier es­caped our ea­gle eyes. We ended the out­ing with a skot­tel­braai break­fast un­der a fig tree, ser­e­naded once again by the showoff Trum­peter Horn­bills. Pomeroy’s birding week­ends with Anne Wil­liams are run on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. (See Diary en­try on page 13.) – Mar­ion White­head 087 808 7046, www.pomeroy­lodges.com

5 East­ern Cape Low­est­offe Hogs­back

The lodge is sur­rounded by a picturesque set­ting, with the Elands­berg moun­tains as back­drop. We went out of sea­son and had the choice of two of three lodges, each on a sep­a­rate farm. We opted for Trout Lodge on Loweshoffe, a 5 500ha prop­erty of lush grassy ar­eas, rocky ridges and the me­an­der­ing Klip­plaat River, ideal for the fly­fish­er­man in our party, who boasted two catches in an hour. They could have been trout, bass or yel­low­fish – I didn’t ask be­cause I was fo­cused on spot­ting the Black Ea­gles, Fish Ea­gles, Crested Cranes, or any of the many other species found there. Com­fort­able, wellap­pointed and taste­fully dec­o­rated, the self-cater­ing lodge eas­ily ac­com­mo­dated our party in its four bed­rooms. Well into au­tumn, the log fire en­sured cosy evenings. Pic­nick­ing, horse rid­ing, hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing are pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties on this work­ing farm. Mpofu, Tsol­wana and Dou­ble Drift game re­serves are an hour away. – Olivia Schaf­fer 083 654 5935, www.low­est­of­fe­coun­try­lodge.co.za

6 East­ern Cape Vrederus High­lands

If you re­ally want to get away, I mean re­ally get away, into the si­lence of moun­tains and into the scent of veld, to a place where you can fish from your own front door, or drive to streams alive with rain­bow trout that rise freely to eat dry flies all day, go to Vrederus. Sixty kilo­me­tres in­land of Ma­clear, or on the east­ern side of the Naudé’s Nek Pass, reached via the vil­lage of Rhodes (ei­ther route is spec­tac­u­lar), Vrederus is a re­mote, work­ing farm with a clus­ter of stone cot­tages on the edge of a de­light­ful lake, and is run by Juan-Marie Naudé and her hus­band Donie. Vrederus is a venue for the fam­ily, not just a lovely place to go fish­ing, with hik­ing trails, Bush­man art and vis­tas straight from heaven. You can just sit back and relax un­til your pulse-rate drops to 30-some­thing, or you can fish your­self into a to­tal trout trance. The choice is yours. – Tom Sut­cliffe 045 932 1572, 083 465 6699, juan­vrederus@gmail.com, www.vrederus.co.za

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