Weltevrede Eco-Toerisme Ontwikkeling

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22 – 28 JANUARY 2010




I drove to Brooklyn Mall where I met June Holmes and we collected our documentation for our

cruise in March – unfortunately the tickets were not available yet.

We had coffee and a light lunch together, then I did some shopping before driving on to Centurian where I spent the night at Pete’s Retreat. Both Pete and his wife Hester were very friendly. I had a very comfortable and quiet room and a good sleep.

I woke at 05h45, had a shower and dressed then had breakfast at 06h45. Maans rang me at 07h45 to say he was on his way and would be there in 5 minutes. I waited in the front until 08h10 before Maans arrived, he said he had been delayed in the traffic and further delayed when picking up Philip Fry at the Bosvelder. We drove to Irene Farms where Maans showed me my first lifer for the trip – Roseringed Parakeets. We then drove along a back road to Springs – what a shock when we drove down the main street (3rd street) nothing was how I remembered it – all the shops were either Indian or Black and very dirty!!! At the Vogels turn-off we turned to travel to Marievale where we did some bird watching at different hides. It was very wet and few waders. When we left Marievale we drove along more back roads, following Philip’s GPS and eventually came out at Balfour, then Standerton and on to Volksrust where we turned to Wakkerstroom. Along the road we were following a large truck which lost its tyre, the tyre rolled into the grass and then across the road in front of us, thankfully it missed Maans’ vehicle. Maans drove along another very rough gravel road which he knew and we saw many birds including the Bald Ibis and Blue Crane. When we arrived at Wakkerstroom at 17h00 we took a drive up to a nearby hill where we walked in the field to look for birds – I could see the rain approaching but Maans was sure it would not rain. Well the rain came and we all got soaked as we made a dash back to the vehicle. We then went to Mucky Duck in Wakkerstroom. The Bird Club were having their AGM but they agreed to serve us supper in the pub. We had a delicious meal – Fried Hake and Chips with Salad – it was well prepared, well served and really delicious. We met John and Elize McAllister when the meeting came out. Just before it got dark we went to the Bird Life camp where we had the choice of staying in the dormitory or suites by the office. Phillip and I took the two suites and Maans went to the dormitory. Alongside my room was a kitchen where we made coffee. The mosquitoes were a problem, thankfully I had taken my Doom mats. I showered and went to bed. I had worried that stopping to wee along the route might have been a problem but it was not – when we needed to stop the two men went to the front of the car to “check the breaks” while I went to the back to “check the spare wheel” or visa versa !!


Maans woke me around 05h30. We had coffee and rusks then took a drive along the Clouds End road to look for the Yellowbreasted Pipit. One of the advantages of going with Maans is that he has visited these places before and knows exactly where to find the different birds. We found the Pipits and many other birds. We continued along the Clouds End road for a distance. Gordon sent me an SMS about Martie Goddard’s Dream Being Shattered. I rang her on her cell to find out what was the problem – she asked me not to spread the word and said that she was sorting her caravan out and returning to Doha that night. I was so sorry this happened. Throughout the day we drove all around Wakkerstroom, on farm roads which were very rough and in places muddy. The birding was very good – besides Grey Crowned Cranes, literally hundreds of Amur Falcons, Bald Ibis my lifers were – Bush Blackcap and Pale Crowned Cisticola. For lunch Maans bought us each a packet of Slap Chips – the men made sandwiches with the fresh bread he bought, I battled to just eat the chips! We parked across from the Old Road Bridge and took the boardwalk to the Iain Drummond Hide which is very large but far from the water. We then walked to the WOW hide – the last few metres we had to wade through ankle deep water to reach the hide. It had a good view across part of the water. From there we returned to Bird Life in the rain. Maans and Philip took a walk down to the Flufftail hide where they saw an African Rail – I was sorry that I stayed behind. I asked Andre and Kristi, of Bird Life, if they could help me with my iPAQ but alas they could not. When Maans and Philip returned we drove into town and had supper at the Hotel – I had Pork Schnitzel with cheese sauce, creamed spinach and chips. It was SO-SO! Maans had rump steak with an egg and chips and Philip had spare ribs with chips – we all agreed the meal was alright but nothing to write home about. We returned to Bird Life where I charged all our batteries before showering and going to bed.


We woke just after 05h00, it was drizzling but by the time we had dressed and had coffee and rusks the rain stopped. At 06h00 we took a walk to the Flufftail Hide and also the Crane Hide. We played the call of the Redchested Flufftail and heard it coming nearer but it never came into sight. At 08h45 we then drove to Clouds End to look for the Yellowbreasted Pipit – it was very windy, however, this time I saw it well. We continued along the road and found 2 sightings of Francolins – one we thought was the Greywinged and the other the Redwinged but after studying the pictures when we returned to camp we found that they were both Greywinged. Maans cancelled the guide for the 13h00 as he felt it was not worth the money as we had seen most of the birds we had set out to see and it was windy with rainclouds building up. At 11h30 we drove along the Amersfoort road looking for Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks but did not find them – We had all seen them on previous visits to Wakkerstroom but it would have been good to find them again. We then returned to camp at 14h30, made sandwiches and coffee and Maans cooked some sweetcorn. We spent some time in the Flufftail hide but saw nothing. However, walking back to the camp we saw Common Quails fly across our path. Maans decided to drive along the Clouds End road - again, this time we travelled a little further and we found both the Greywinged and also one Redwinged Francolin. Another lifer for me was a number of Black Winged Plovers. There were many lovely birds along this route in the late afternoon including 6 Stanley’s Bustards. As the sun was setting we drove to an avenue of trees in search of a Bat Hawk but did not find any. We then went to the Bistro where we had supper. Met a man who used to live near the Wigwam, now living at Hekpoort, and his son who is a pilot for Air Mauritius. Just after we placed our order the power went off but they cooked our meal on gas. I had Three Perfumed Flash Fried Fillet of Beef which was brought to the table with the meat in flames, it was served with steamed veggies – I really enjoyed my meal but I don’t think Philip was impressed – he had the same. Maans had Sesame Crusted Canadian Salmon which he said was a little overcooked but otherwise alright. When we left they gave us candles to take back to our camp – the whole town was pitch dark. Just before reaching camp we found a Spotted Eagle Owl on the sign post. Shortly after settling in with candles and torches the power was restored and I was able to charge all my batteries again, download my pictures and type up my notes


Woke just after 05h00. Had coffee and packed the car and left Bird Life at 05h55 (195490 kms) We travelled on tar road to Volksrust. Passed through Volksrust at 06h55. Rough and muddy gravel road to Memel, at fork to Vrede we took left fork to Memel. Passed several herds of cattle being herded along the road – all in excellent condition. The roads were really dreadful but I was delighted to find a lifer in the Abdim’s Stork. We had also Montagu’s Harrier, Blue Korhaan Bald Ibis and Stanley’s Bustard. When we reached Memel we stopped at the butcher and bought wors and lamb chops for our supper, drinks, charcoal and then took farm roads around Memel area. Back in Memel we filled up with diesel (195628 kms) at 11h50. We then drove along a dreadful road for a distance and turned back as Maans realised it was the wrong road. We returned toward Memel, found the correct road and drove to our accommodation for the night – RONDERUS, just at the turn off to Hope Royal 24kms. The owner had a beautiful home and garden with lots of natural rock from the surrounding mountains. She gave us our keys and directed us to our rondavel up in the mountains – a really wonderful spot, way out in the country. Far from any other farms or roads. We unpacked the car, had coffee then took the Route 2 drive around the area. Can you believe that in my rush to get out again I forgot to take my binoculars! All the roads in the area were gravel and in dreadful condition, I would hate to drive there. This was our animal day as we saw several different types of animals including Surricate Meerkats; Blesbok; Roan Antelope; Black Wildebees (with white tails); Steenbok; Springbok; Red Hartebees; Oribi; White (Albino) Blesbuck; Fallow Deer (spotted); Rheindeer; Mountain Reed Buck; Rabbits, Dassie. We returned to our bungalo after 18h00 and made a braai in the light rain with heavy lightning and thunder around us. It was so good to be in the mountains where it was quiet and still. After supper Maans and Philip tried to sort out what Cuckoos we had seen in the afternoon. I had the room with a double bed and Philip was in the second room with two single beds while Maans slept upstairs. I had my best sleep of the whole trip – no noise, fresh mountain air and a comfortable bed.


After rain during the night we woke to heavy mist on the surrounding mountains. We left Ronderus at 05h45 (195750 kms). We drove 7kms toward Memel to check out on a Cuckoo which Maans felt could be a Madagascar Cuckoo – alas it was not to be found for confirmation! However, once looking at the picture he had taken of the bird when back home, he confirmed it was an African Cuckoo. We did see some Ground Woodpeckers on the mountainside. We then drove to Verkykerskop, Harrismith and on to Witsieshoek. We entered the gate (cost R10 per person) at 09h25. We drove firstly to the car park at the Sentinal – on our way up we found another lifer for me Mountain Pippet .The mist was thick and we could not see very distant, such a pity as I remember from our trip there in 1993 that we had a spectacular view of the Sentinal and surrounding mountains as well as down into the Natal lowlands. Our speedo reading was 195944kms. We walked around searching for the Orangebreasted Rockjumper, I saw lots of pretty veld flowers. We had coffee and then checked again for the Rockjumper – yes, we found it, much to the delight of Maans and Philip as it was a lifer for them. We saw Baboon, Grey Rhebok and Klipspringers. We left at 11h45 and along the way we saw a Lammergeier which circled above us and perched on nearby rocks. We reached the fork in the road at (195951kms) then drove the short distance to the Witsieshoek Resort – as I remembered it, but with new chalets. We could not find any sign of a vulture restaurant there. Drove back and left Witsieshoek gate at 13h40 (195960kms). The rain started falling lightly. We reached the Golden Gate Reserve entrance at 14h10 (195987kms). We saw Zebra, Blesbok, Springbok, Black Wildebees as we drove through. We reached the exit gate at 15h05 (196017kms.) Maans could not find details of the place where we were to stay. He managed to find a cell number and phoned the woman who directed us to “Next To Heaven” – a lovely, fully equipped house in Clarens. We arrived there at 15h40. It was raining and not much point in looking for birds. Philip showed me how to do a spread sheet for the bird lists. We went for supper at “Friends” – there were lots of hippies – arty people and I did not like the smokers, dog and cat (which sat on the tables!) in the restaurant but our meal was enjoyable – we all had the special of T-Bone steak with chips, veggies and salad. Returned home and completed our bird lists. Maans and Philip went through Philip’s ‘birds to be seen’ and I went to bed early. Sent Birthday wishes to Robin for his birthday the following day.


Maans woke me at 04h40! We had coffee and rusks then set out in the fine drizzle which became heavier rain. We left Clarens at 05h30 and drove through Golden Gate and along the side roads but birding was not good. We walked in the grounds of the Parks Board Camp – with raincoat and umbrella!! We saw a juvenile Red Chested Cuckoo being fed by a Cape Robin, the poor little Robin had to work so hard because ‘her baby’ was twice her size!! We also found a Drakensberg Siskin – my last lifer for the trip. It was difficult to do birding in the rain so we returned to Clarens at 07h15 and Philip was dropped off to have a sleep while Maans and I went to look for breakfast – the restaurants were all closed until 8.30 so we bought eggs, bacon, tomato and bread at the supermarket and returned home to cook our own breakfast – Maans did a good job for him and I while Philip slept. At 08h45 we left again and drove through Golden Gate reserve. About midday the rain eased off and we walked around the Parks Camp again and climbed the mountain behind the caravan park for a short distance. Did not find anything spectacular there. Later in the afternoon the sun came out and we enjoyed bird watching in the reserve. We saw an Eland, Baboons and a Black-backed Jackal, Bush Blackcap, Cape Rock Thrush, Alpine- and Black Swift. We returned to Clarens after 17h00. I made sandwiches for our lunch the following day and the men discussed their photographs. At 19h00 we went to “Friends” for supper again and this time requested a seat in Non Smoking – the smoke still wafted through across the bar in the middle! I had Peri Peri Chicken (they forgot to put the Peri Peri on! and the chicken was a huge fowl which I could not finish so I took it home and cut it into pieces to have along the road the following day), Maans had T-Bone again and Philip Hake. We returned and I sorted our bird list with the help of Philip and Maans. By the time I had finished packing I only went to bed just before midnight!


I was awake when Maans knocked on my door at 04h50. We quickly packed the car, had coffee and filled the flask for the road. It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky! We left Clarens at 05h40 (196216kms). Just out of Clarens we ran into heavy mist again and drove in the mist all the way to Bethlehem. Beyond Bethlehem the mist lifted and then we could see the flooded lands as we travelled along the Reitz, Villiers road – badly potholed . When we crossed the Wilge River we saw how flooded both the river and the surrounding country was. There were many sightseers looking at the flooded river. Just before we reached Villiers we stopped for coffee and sandwiches at 08h00. After passing through Villiers we crossed a high, single lane bridge over the Vaal River which was also flooded but not as bad as the previous river. The mealie crops had water in the furrows between the plants! We reached the N3 highway at 08h30 (196406kms). We then had a 120kph drive back to Pretoria – no chance of seeing birds. We reached Rietvlei Dam near Irene at 10h00 and spent the rest of the morning driving through the reserve and visiting the different bird hides. Philip was in search of a Greater Reed Warbler which he was delighted to find. Animals that we saw were Blesbok; Zebras; Eland; Rhino; Buffalo; Black Wildebees and Jackals. I was delighted to get a better view of 2 Common Quails as they flew out of the grass. We also saw the air force training with helicopters and jets. We returned to the Bosvelder after 14h30, Philip left to drive to Johannesburg to meet his wife and Maans and I completed our bird list over lunch at the Bosvelder. I had Rump Steak with Wheat and Pumpkin and Maans had Peri Peri Chicken Livers with Pap. At 15h30 Maans took me to Pete’s Retreat where I had left my car and I made a booking to spend the night as I was hot and tired and did not fancy facing the Pretoria traffic to drive back to Rustenburg.

I had a shower, a rest and a good night’s sleep then left Pretoria at 10h00 and arrived back in Rustenburg before midday.

Total birds seen on the trip 206 species – Total Lifers for me 9 species

I heard on the news that the Vaaldam was 110% full – the fullest it has been since 1996 !

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 November 2011 20:07 )  


Maans Booysen photographed a European Blackcap at Bishop Bird Park in Centurion back in 2008. Here’s a portion of his original email from SA Birdnet and one of the photos he took:

On the 27th December 2008 I had seen and photographed a pair of European Blackcaps at Bishop Bird Park in Rooihuiskraal Centurion. I was looking to photograph Common Whitethroat & Garden Warbler, which I managed to do . In this process I managed to take 8 pics. of the European Blackcaps the quality not the best . A week ago I sorted some photographs when I came across them again, and realizing that I was ignorant about what I had seen and photographed and did not pay attention in what I was doing then. These birds where very relaxed and they were in a bird partyfeeding on berries and insects. I did not expect to see them there, and mistaken for Whitethroat or Garden Warbler