Trip Report - Late Winter in western South Africa - Part 3 (Long)

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Subject: Trip Report - Late Winter in western South Africa - Part 3 (Long)
From: "John McAllister" <>
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2003 10:13:03 +0200
Hi again

Here's part 3 of my epic trip report.  Hope you enjoy it.


John McAllister
Beautiful Just Birding
South Africa




Accommodation: 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, no electricity, but paraffin
lamps and gas stove provided.  Guests are accommodated on a self-catering to
fully catered basis.

e-mail: None
website: None
snail mail:
tel: +27 (0)533832 ask for 1321 OR (0533832) 1321 (preferable for calls from
within South Africa, but I'm not sure whether or not it will work for
international calls)

Birder friendliness:  Neither Berdine or Kobus are birders, but are very
friendly and are happy to arrange access to nearby farms for birders and

Rare or difficult birds (Upper case seen, others reputed to be in the area):
Double-banded Courser, Cape Eagle Owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Freckled
Nightjar, Red Lark (both forms), Sclater’s Lark, Stark’s Lark,  Black-eared
Sparrow-Lark, BLACK-HEADED CANARY, and the newly split Damara Canary.

Comments: Guests are accommodated in a beautifully restored farmhouse.
Berdine brings food over from the main house and cooks it on the gas stove
in the kitchen   This, together with the lack of electricity and the
knowledge that you are on a working farm in a remote area greatly adds to
the ambience of the house.  The fact that the house is within site of the
“main” road from Carnarvon to Vanwyksvlei (we saw two, maybe three vehicles
during our two-night stay) does not detract from the “wild west” atmosphere
of Smouskolk.  The name, Smouskolk, literally means the meeting place of
tinkers or pedlars and you can picture the tinker’s wagons or even the Stage
Coach pulling up to the house at any minute.  Add to all of this the birding
potential of the area, the friendliness of the hosts and the presence of the
petroglyphs nearby to interest non-birding partners then Smouskolk is a gem
waiting to be discovered by visiting birders.  On a small, sour note - the
beds were not the most comfortable that I have ever slept on.


Accommodation: Six bedrooms sharing three bathrooms, plus a honeymoon suite.
Guests are accommodated on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast Basis..

snail mail: P O Box 175, Pofadder, 8890
tel: +27 (0)27 712-1578
fax: +27 (0)27 712-1578

Hosts: Vernon and Sonia Miller

Accessibility: Not accessible

Birder friendliness: Vernon and Sonia are very happy to give you directions
to the Red Lark site as well as info about any other interesting recent

Rare or difficult birds (Upper case seen, others reputed to be in the area):
RED LARK (dunes form), PINK-BILLED LARK, Sclater’s Lark, Stark’s Lark (seen
on the farm during a previous visit), BLACK-EARED SPARROW-LARK,

Comments:  Elize and I have both stayed at Diepvlei before and had a really
great. experience then.  This time however the stay was marred by several
unfortunate incidents.  Although we had booked well in advance the five of
us (the Johnsons, Elize and I and Elma were allocated three bedrooms which
shared one bathroom.  For the price charged at Diepvlei I feel that this was
not acceptable.  The single room allocated to Elma was also well below the
expected standard and should really be converted into a bathroom for one of
the other bedrooms.  The Millers had just opened another Guest House in
Springbok which was being managed by Sonia and her touch at Diepvlei,
particularly in the kitchen, was sorely missing.  The farm is up for sale
and doubtless the Millers will be moving to Springbok as soon as the sale
goes through.  Presumably the guest house there will once again meet the
high standards set earlier at Diepvlei.



Accommodation: Guests are accommodated either on a Bed and Breakfast or
Self-catering basis in a variety of different types of rooms or flats in the
old hotel building.  Meals are available at two restaurants in the town.

e-mail: None
website: None
snail mail: P O Box 82, Garies, 8220
tel: +27 (0)27 652-1069
fax: +27 (0)27 652-1069

Hosts: Sophia Nieuwhoudt

Accessibility: Not accessible

Birder friendliness: The hosts were friendly enough, but the main business
of the area is catering for wildflower enthusiasts.  The tourism shop/flea
market in the town was extremely expensive and a “rip-off” in my opinion.

Rare or difficult birds: None

Comments: Sophia Guest House is in fact one of the two old hotels in Garies
and is owned by the Nieuwhoudt’s of “Kubus Kwekery” fame (a large pyramid
scheme in the 1980’s in South Africa).  We were there at the same time as a
busload of pensioners from Pretoria who had come to look at the wildflowers
of the area.  Breakfast, which was a sort of self serve affair was not the
greatest and this may have been the reason.  Garies is not in a major
birding area, but could feasibly serve as a overnight stop for birders not
wanting to do the long trip from Cape Town to Springbok or Port Nolloth in
one go.  While Sophia Guest House is nothing to write home about it does
provide economical accommodation for an overnight stop and the wildflowers
in the area are truly spectacular (in a good season).


Accommodation:  Guests are accommodated in two 4-bedded (2 bedrooms) and one
two-bedded (I bedroom) wooden chalets on a self-catering basis and should
bring their own towels.

website: (under construction in Dec 2002)
snail mail: PO Box 87, Aurora, 7325
tel: +27 (0)22 952-1750
fax: +27 (022) 952-1750
cell phone: +27 (0)82 677-5770

Hosts: Anne and Andrew Stoller

Accessibility: Not accessible

Birder friendliness: Anne and Andrew had just taken over Mountain Mist from
the previous owners (we were in fact their first customers) and while their
first love is the wildflowers of the area they have a genuine interest in
birds and are very happy to help visiting birders.

Rare or difficult birds (Upper case seen, others reputed to be in the area):
SISKIN, while the Berg River Estuary and it’s great estuarine birding is
within feasible striking distance from Mountain Mist.

Comments:  Mountain Mist Chalets are situated in a private nature reserve
high up on the mountains above the small village of Aurora.  There are some
lovely and not too strenuous walks in the reserve and the view of the
Atlantic coast from north of Velddrif to south of Langebaan Lagoon is
something that should not be missed.  The chalets are around an hour and a
half from the bustle of Cape Town and the satellite tracking station on the
mountain summit just above the chalets gives a kind of surreal sci-fi
atmosphere to the place.  On top of this the great birding makes a visit
obligatory for any birder or nature lover.  I wholeheartedly recommend
Mountain Mist as a great place to stay for visiting birders.  I’m sure that
non-birding partners will be just as enamoured of the place as we were.


Accommodation:  Guest are accommodated on a self-catering basis in two
two-bedroomed cottages

website: None
snail mail: P O Box 724, Swellendam, 6740.
tel: +27 (0)28 514-2308
fax: None

Hosts: Nan and Piet Steyn

Accessibility: Not accessible

Birder friendliness: While quite friendly neither Nan or Piet are birders,
although birding is one of the advertised activities.

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area):
AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK and Agulhas Clapper Lark are found in the wheat
fields between here and De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Comments: While Swellendam is not particularly a birding centre Hermitage
Huisie offers comfortable and affordable accommodation close to the
restaurants and other facilities in the town of Swellendam without being in
the town itself.  It makes a very pleasant stop off for birders wanting to
visit the Bontebok National Park or the wheat fields and their endemic larks
without going all the way to De Hoop Nature Reserve.  Grootvadersbosch is
also within striking distance for a day visit.


Accommodation: Guests are accommodated on a self-catering basis in
facilities ranging from camping to the luxurious Lekkerwater Lodge
overlooking the Indian Ocean. Visitors may bring their own bedding and
towels, or pay an additional fee for linen.

snail mail: The Manager, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Private Bag X16,
Bredasdorp, 7280
tel: +27 (0)28 542-1126/7
fax: +27 (0)28 542-1247

Hosts: Cape Nature Conservation

Accessibility: Not accessible and as part of a Government organisation Cape
Nature Conservation may be in breach of the South African Constitution.
Accessibility could very easily be provided in many instances, however.

Birder friendliness: Bird check lists are available at the office and the
staff are very friendly and helpful, although not always that knowledgeable
on the bird life of the reserve. Other features that greatly add to the
enjoyment and convenience to a birding stay at De Hoop are:

birders are allowed to leave their vehicles and walk wherever they wish in
the reserve;
there are no restrictions, other than gate opening and closing times, to
leaving and re-entering the reserve.

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area): Cape
Vulture, DENHAM'S BUSTARD, BLUE CRANE, Hottentot Buttonquail,
Knysna Woodpecker, Agulhas Clapper Lark, AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK, Cape
Rockjumper, Southern Tchagra, Cape Siskin among others.

Comments: We were booked into the basic cottages on the reserve (two
bedrooms with four beds, a fully equipped kitchen and a living area).  On
arrival we were informed that the restored Cloete homestead (the original De
Hoop farmhouse), which is often used as the inspection quarters and
accommodation for visiting staff members, was also available.  We opted for
staying in this wonderful old homestead dating from the early to mid 18th
Century.  The ambience of this beautifully restored house was really
wonderful and added greatly to the enjoyment of our stay on this lovely
reserve.  Added to the great birding and the wonderful whale watching
opportunities at Koppie Alleen, De Hoop Nature Reserve offers a wonderful
very affordable place to stay for visiting birders able and willing to cater
for themselves. Be warned though that there are no shops or other facilities
on the reserve.  Basic food-stuffs and fuel are available at Ouplaas not too
far from the reserve, but otherwise all supplies have to be brought in.


Accommodation: Visitors are accommodated in two fully equipped (bring your
own towels) guest cottages (one 3-bedroomed and one two bedroomed) and
camping facilities are also available.

e-mail:  (bookings by telephone only)
snail mail: The Manager, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, P O Box 109,
Heidelberg, 6665
tel: +27 (0)28 722-2412
fax: +27 (0)28 722-2838

Hosts: Cape Nature Conservation

Accessibility: Not Accessible and as part of a Government organisation Cape
Nature Conservation may be in breach of the South African Constitution.

Birder friendliness: A bird check list for the reserve is available at the
office and the staff were friendly and helpful and were interested in and
knowledgeable about the birds of the area.  There are two bird hides in the

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area):
Trogon, Knysna Woodpecker, GREY CUCKOO-SHRIKE, Knysna Warbler, Victorin’s
Warbler, Cape Siskin.

Comments:  The accommodation was comfortable and pleasant and there are some
lovely walks (some a bit strenuous).  A stay in the reserve is highly
recommended for birders willing and able to cater for themselves.  Be warned
though that there are no shops or other facilities on the reserve or nearby
so all supplies have to be brought in.


Granny’s House, Prince Albert

Accommodation:  Guest are accommodated on a self-catering basis in a fully
equipped two-bedroomed restored “karoo style” cottage.

e-mail: None
website: None
snail mail:
tel: +27 (0)23 541-1016
fax: +27 (0)23 541-1786

Hosts: Merle Cleaver manages the place on behalf of an absentee landlady.

Accessibility:  Not accessible, but could be made so with relative ease.

Birder friendliness: Merle was not or professed not to be particularly
knowledgeable, but referred us to a local butcher who was.

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area): Cape
Rockjumper, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Victorin’s Warbler, Namaqua Warbler,
Southern Tchagra, Cape Siskin and PROTEA CANARY.

Comments: Granny’s Cottage is a delightful restored “karoo style” cottage,
but, unfortunately, is beginning to get a bit run down.  Some maintenance
would make it a very desirable self-catering place, but one gets the
distinct impression that the owner is waiting to sell the place and in the
mean time is trying to make a little something on the side out of visiting
tourists.  The furniture all looks like it is being stored by a pawn-broker
waiting for its rightful owners to come and claim it.  With a bit of tender
loving care the cottage would make a lovely place to stay over, but I’m
afraid that I cannot recommend it to birders in its present state.


Accommodation: Guests are accommodated in 12 or more very comfortable
bedrooms on a self-catering to fully catered basis.

snail mail:
tel: +27 (0)53 621-0801
fax: +27 (0)53 621-0801

Hosts: Johan Hamman and family

Accessibility: Some rooms are accessible.

Birder friendliness: The Hammans are friendly enough, but are not birders.

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area):
Ludwig’s Bustard, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, NAMAQUA
WARBLER, African Rock Pipit and Black-headed Canary all occur in the area.

Comments: Three Sisters Guest Farm is not a birding destination in itself,
but it is infinitely preferable to the tourist trap of Beaufort West and far
more affordable than the South African National Parks accommodation at the
Karoo National Park which is well within striking distance for a day visit.
The rooms are comfortable with all the mod cons and it provides a good stop
over on the long road between Johannesburg and Cape Town with some good
birding within easy range to boot.  There were a couple of sour note
however.  The soap in the bathroom had been used by other guests, the
bathroom curtains were in need of a wash and Johan Hamman could not refrain
from putting forward his rather right-wing views on the "new" South Africa.
On balance we will probably look for somewhere else to stay in this area in
future.  Ko-Ka Tsara Bush Camp on the Beaufort West-Loxton road has great
promise and is in a very birdy area.



Accommodation:  The main house has four huge bedrooms, 2 en suite and two
that share a bathroom.  In addition the lounge, dining room and kitchen are
massive rooms for just lounging around in and relaxing.

website: None
snail mail: P O Box 27, Jagersfontein, 9974, South Africa.
tel: (051732) 1412
fax: None

Hosts: Hannie and Christiaan de Wit

Accessibility: With the minimum of effort this Guest House could be made
accessible to disabled birders although it is not completely so at present.

Birder friendliness:  Both Hannie and Christiaan are good birders and have a
lot of experience in taking birders and other tourists on extended tours.
They will also take birders on guided tours of the area.  It would be hard
to think how they could be more birder friendly.

Rare or difficult birds (bold seen, others reputed to be in the area):  BLUE
KORHAAN. ORANGE RIVER FRANCOLIN, Kimberley Pipit, Melodious Lark and
possibly Long-tailed Pipit in winter.  Painted Snipe breeds in the area from
time to time.

Comments: The Guest House is in a lovely 19th Century Boer mansion
(unfortunately there have been some quite ugly additions to the house)
steeped in South African history and was once owned by the van der Post
family (Laurens van der Post was a prominent South African author).  A large
sideboard in the dining room has a marble top that was apparently broken by
invading British forces.  The history of the house alone makes Vendutiekop
worth visiting.  When this is combined with enthusiastic birders for hosts
and the chance of seeing two of Africa’s most recently described birds -
Kimberley and Long-tailed Pipit how can I do anything else but say that a
visit to Vendutiekop Guest Farm is a MUST, whether you are a keen birder or

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