Tag Archives: Eastern Shores

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (final instalment)

22 January 2021

It’s our last full day in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and it’s one of those beautiful mornings that you can only experience out in wild Africa. Clear skies, golden light, inspiring scenery and beautiful creatures along the Grassland Loop all conspired to make us want the moment to last forever.

Heading back to camp after our breakfast at the lookout point near Mission Rocks, from where we could see both the Indian Ocean to the east and Lake St. Lucia to the west while drinking our morning coffee, we couldn’t help but reflect on why this is one of our favourite corners of South Africa.

Seeing as it may be some time before we see the sea again we opted to spend our final afternoon in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the beach at Cape Vidal.

Cape Vidal beach at low tide

23 January 2021

Sadly our time at Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and with it our Summertide Ramble through the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal, has come to an end. The 30km to the Bhangazi Gate goes by far too quickly for our liking, despite some good sightings along the way, and with heavy hearts we tackle the road back to Pretoria…

A huge thanks to each and every one of you that joined us for our daily recollections of this most memorable trip!

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

Summertide Diary: iSimangaliso Rhinos

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is home to healthy populations of both White and Black Rhinoceros, jealously guarded by the reserve’s rangers and routinely dehorned to deter poachers. Rhino populations all over our country are under severe threat and seeing these animals in the wild, even without their trademark horns, is an experience we’re very grateful for.

Being diurnal in habit and much less skittish, the White Rhino is the easier of the two African species to find while driving around iSimangaliso.

Black Rhinos are solitary, shy, more nocturnal and consequently seen less often than White Rhinos.

This muddy signpost in the park was used by a muddy rhino as a rubbing post. Rolling in mud, leaving it to dry and then rubbing the caked mud off against a sturdy rock, tree or …signpost, is a way for the rhino to rid itself of external parasites like ticks.

Signpost re-modelled by a muddy rhinoceros

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part five)

21 January 2021

After a night of heavy rainfall our first encounter of the morning was with an amphibian, probably no surprize there. It was however the first time we saw the tiny Bush Squeaker frog – this one, no bigger than a thumbnail, was sitting next to our vehicle as we wanted to climb aboard for our morning excursion.

Bush Squeaker

Everything was crisp and clean along the Grassland Loop after the rainstorm the previous night.

Climbing to the top of the Kwasheleni Tower and taking in the beautiful views in the morning light with the smell of a wet forest all around was magical.

There was lots to see along the remainder of the road back to camp

With low tide arriving around 15:00 this afternoon we used the opportunity to go down to Mission Rocks and explore the wonders of the rocky shoreline there. This gallery is just a little teaser of what we have in store for you tomorrow.

After a wonderful time around the rock pools at Mission Rocks the road back to Cape Vidal was buzzing with lots to see.

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part four)

20 January 2021

Morning broke at Cape Vidal with a thick blanket of fog covering the coast, and knowing that visibility along the Grassland Loop would be limited as a result we stuck to the main road out of camp, heading south as far as Amazibu Pan.

As per usual Amazibu Pan was abuzz with a variety of mammalian and avian wildlife when we arrived.

Next on our itinerary for the morning was a jaunt along the Vlei Loop, though in these early hours not much game were around the waterholes as yet.

Then followed a short detour along the Forest Loop…

…and the Dune Loop…

… before arriving back at our cabin in Cape Vidal where some interesting visitors were already in attendance.

Having had to skip the Grassland Loop in the morning, that is where our attention was focused for our afternoon drive.

In the evening while having dinner on the deck of our cabin the Tropical House Gecko kept us thoroughly entertained by catching moths attracted to the outside light.

Tropical House Gecko

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

 

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part three)

19 January 2021

The Grassland Loop is the first turnoff from the main tarred road you reach after leaving Cape Vidal. And because we just love taking the backroads while exploring South Africa’s wild places that is invariably the route we opt for – it criss-crosses a variety of habitats (from forest to grassland to swamp) and skirts the shores of Lake Bhangazi, which always has something interesting to see.

This morning we were particularly lucky with what we found on the Grassland Loop – a pack of four Spotted Hyenas who showed just a mild interest in a few Plains Zebras and Blue Wildebeest grazing nearby.

The Grassland Loop completed and now heading to our breakfast spot, an extended family of Crested Guineafowl crossed our path – not something we get to see often and very excited at the pictures we got of them.

Passing through a forested patch we were entertained by a troop of Vervet Monkeys and, while watching them, a few other denizens of the forest also came into view.

We needed to stock up on our fresh food and drinking water supply today, so headed south to Bhangazi Gate and the holiday town of Saint Lucia.

Right at the Bhangazi Gate the Crocodile Centre is always a worthwhile place to stop and learn more about the Nile Crocodile – a key component of the ecosystem of Lake St. Lucia. The centre houses some really impressive specimens, many of them rescued from poachers’ traps or after becoming problematic in nearby communities, and their progeny are then released back into the wild. Furthermore there are two other species of crocodiles from equatorial Africa and American alligators on show, and a myriad of other animals and birds have also made themselves at home at the centre.

After a relaxed hour or so at the Crocodile Centre we tackled the 4km round trip hike from the parking area at Sugarloaf to the mouth of Lake St. Lucia. While the distance isn’t daunting at all the heat and humidity and trudging through the hot, deep sand proved more of a challenge than we anticipated, and the sight of a huge Nile Crocodile basking on a sandbank was all the convincing we needed not to dare cool our feet in the water. In the end the beautiful scenes we enjoyed more than made up for the heat-stroke risk though.

Our shopping completed we headed back to Cape Vidal. In the midday heat there wasn’t much to be seen along the way. Only mad dogs and Englishmen… and the de Wets… venture out in the midday sun. An outing to the beach was on the cards for the afternoon. Yellow-billed Kites flying overhead regularly swooped down to catch an unwary crab, but they knew better than to trifle with the bluebottles drifting in the waves.

Walking back to our cabin there was an enormous commotion in the tree-tops owing to screeching Vervet Monkeys and alarm-calling Hadedas. Looking up, we’re just in time to see a Crowned Eagle flying off with a large prize in its talons and an empty hadeda nest… We then noticed another Crowned Eagle surveying the area from high in a Cassuarina-tree and watched it until it flew off in the direction of the cabins. More about them tomorrow…

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part two)

18 January 2021

Our morning drive may just have been a relatively short circuit around the Grassland Loop, passing the shores of Lake Bhangazi, and then back to Cape Vidal, but we saw so much that it actually took quite a few hours to complete.

Cape Vidal really is the most wonderful combination of a beach holiday and a bush safari. I need to be honest here: I get bored on the beach reeeaaally quickly when it is high-tide. Therefore it is marvelous to be able to just walk over the first dune and start looking for forest birds and animals without having to distract Marilize and Joubert from whichever wet or sandy pursuit they’re enjoying at that point in time, and then quickly pop back over the dune every now-and-then to check that the sea hasn’t disappeared yet! 😀

Our very leisurely afternoon outing took us south to Catalina Bay and then slowly back to camp. A strong wind and ever darkening skies accompanied us all the way.

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

 

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part one)

17 January 2021

It’s a cloudy start to the day at Cape Vidal and the route for our morning drive takes us along the Grassland Loop and then to the viewpoint at Catalina Bay on the shores of Lake St. Lucia. Recent rains have swelled the lake to proportions I don’t think we’ve seen on any of our numerous previous visits to the area.

We’re slowly making our way to the picnic site at Mission Rocks for breakfast.

On arrival at Mission Rocks we delay our breakfast of coffee-and-rusks just a little to first walk down to the rocky beach and look out over the ocean. But its windy and drizzly so we don’t stay at the seaside too long before going to hide in the forest, where the picnic tables are also frequented by some colourful birds with the same aching for something to eat that we had.

Driving further south the sun finally puts in appearance and the bush becomes alive as birds and animals come out of hiding.

We turn for camp at Amazibu Pan, where the hippos are kept from their sleep by a raucous assortment of birdlife.

Heading back to Cape Vidal there’s three short loop roads that offer an alternative to the busier tarred main road, and each of them offers a glimpse into a different ecosystem. The first of these is the Vlei Loop that passes several open pans where animals congregate to drink.

The Forest Loop passes the kuMfazana Hide, where we discover a butterfly paradise – more about that tomorrow!

A turnoff from the Dune Loop leads to the Kwasheleni Tower – a new facility opened after our previous visit to iSimangaliso that we were very curious to see – but a sour old buffalo bull tried his best to keep us from reaching it.

Our patience paid off when the buffalo eventually relented and we could reach the viewing tower without further hindrance (unless you see the climbing up the dune and then the tower as an obstacle). The views afforded over Lake St. Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park from up the top of the tower was amazing.

Arriving back at Cape Vidal around the same time the clouds did, we nevertheless didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to explore the rock pools at low tide.

Having lunch on the deck of our log cabin we were visited by a variety of the local wildlife.

We didn’t take a very long afternoon drive, just a two-hour excursion along the Grassland and Dune Loops and back to camp.

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

 

Summertide Diary: Arriving at Cape Vidal

16 January 2021

Thankfully our government didn’t opt to impose even stricter lockdown regulations following the festive season spike in covid-infections and so, after 13 days at home in Pretoria we could recommence our summertide rambles, this time heading to Cape Vidal on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. After 7-and-a-half hours on the road we finally arrived in the holiday town of St Lucia and, after filling up on fuel and stocking up on eats and drinks we couldn’t wait to enter Bhangazi Gate for the 30km drive to Cape Vidal.

The Bhangazi gate into the Eastern Shores of Lake Saint Lucia lies roughly 610km South-East of Pretoria.
(Drawn using Google Maps)

This is one of our favourite destinations and sadly in the midst of South Africa’s first wave of the pandemic a booking we had to come to Cape Vidal in the winter holidays of 2020 had to be postponed. We were so grateful to be back now.

We were allocated log cabin #1 at Cape Vidal – although it’s the first unit as you drive into the accommodation area of the camp it was still very privately situated and surrounded by bush.

After settling into our accommodation there was only one place we wanted to go – the beach – even if by then some heavy cloud cover had started to move in from the Indian Ocean.

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

 

 

iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores – A Photographic Journey (Part 4)

Time to wrap up the photographic trip report of our recent visit to the Eastern Shores of Lakes St. Lucia, with a gallery of some of the larger animals we encountered on land and sea in the place of miracles and wonders – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Follow the links for more of our posts about St. Lucia town, Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.

 

iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores – A Photographic Journey (Part 3)

On the Eastern Shores of Lake St. Lucia, the amazing diversity of life forms comes in all sizes. The star of this collection of photos showcasing some of the smaller creatures that crossed our path on our recent visit must be the tiny frog that somehow got into my mug while we were enjoying coffee and rusks one morning at Mziki viewpoint near Mission Rocks. Exactly when it got into my coffee is unclear – I had put my mug down a few times to take pictures – and I have no idea how much of my coffee I had shared with the little guy. Joubert only noticed it sitting in the cup when I took my last swig as we started packing up to leave. Lucky for it, I drink a lot of milk in my coffee so it wouldn’t have been scalded.

Follow the links for more of our posts about St. Lucia town, Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.