South Africa Road Trip 4400 Km in 12 days Between mid-November to mid-December, 2009 I visited all but two
of the provinces in South Africa. The second and third weeks were spent on an epic road trip. Three
to five hours per day were spent driving. This was in addition to the many adventures and experiences
chronicled below. Needless to say, with this hectic pace, I averaged only about 5 hours sleep per night for the entire month.
A few of the places I stopped.
Dust Storm moving the plowed top soil.
I traveled to the town of Kimberley to meet with Beryl Wilson, head
biologist for the Northwest Province and project manager
for the Black-Footed Cat Working Group. The purpose of the visit was
to deliver needed research equipment and to determine
what additional role the Rare Species Fund could play in assisting
the essential research concerning the smallest and most
rare of the African felines, the black-footed cat.
Beryl and I discussing the live traps used for black-footed cats as
well as other predators.
Old Land Rovers never die, they just become research vehicles.
The camera traps brought from the U.S. are one of the few ways to get
a glimpse into the secret world
of the elusive and nocturnal black-footed cat.
Sunset over the low grassveldt.
In the evening we traveled out into the wilds to track several of the
radio-collared black-footed cats
and record their movements, gaining a deeper insight into their natural
ranges. We were
accompanied by a local television crew.
Another odd nocturnal animal the Aardwolf.
The research area is located on the massive property owned by DeBeers
diamonds. Obviously being a fairly
secure area, many species of wildlife seem to thrive here. We spotted
several black-footed cats, but they did not stay
still long enough to get a good photo. At a maximum weight of about
4lbs., this elusive cat was able to easily disappear
into grass that was less than knee high.
The people from DeBeers offered to produce, free of charge, another
40 live-traps to help assist Beryl in her research.
The problem she ran into is not having enough room in her pick-up (bakkie
in Afrikans) to transport the additional traps.
On behalf of the Rare Species Fund, I traveled with Beryl to a trailer
manufacturing company to order a custom built
trailer which would help assist in the project.
Aside from being involved in research and being a department head for
the McGregor Museum, Beryl also has
a degree in forensic psychology and is an active agent for the Green
Scorpions, an environmental enforcement agency
in South Africa. Beryl often has critters, like this baboon spider
sitting in her office or on her dining room table.
Beryl's dog, half German Short-haired Pointer, half Weimaraner, will
sit an keep guard over a spider in a jar for literally hours.
The Great Karoo
I traveled many a long mile (or kilometer) through both the Great and
the Little Karoo. The Great Karoo is a vast inland basin
of more than 400,000 square km and has been around at least 250 million
years. It is also a very arid, almost semi-desert grassland.
Mirage on the Karoo.
Ostrich family across the railroad tracks.
Communal weaver nest.
One of the many construction waiting points. Much road work was being
done in preparation for the 2010 soccer
World Cup being held throughout the country.
This type of housing was quite common.
Square water tower.
Taken on behalf of Pat Callahan, head of cats at Cincinnati Zoo and
frequenter of these parts.
One of the many steppe buzzards hunting alongside the road.
Deserted building on Rolfontein Nature Reserve.
Moon over the Great Karoo.
Bontebok, the rarest antelope species in the world (right alongside
Baboons on the highway.
Another rare Bontebok.
Mountain Zebra National Park
The very rare mountain zebra.
A whole lot of cacti.
Cat Conservation Trust
I traveled to the Cat Conservation Trust breeding facility to meet
with Marion and Richard Holmes. On behalf of the
Feline Conservation Federation and the Rare Species Fund, I brought
some equipment to help them with their outreach education
program. The hope is that by teaching the local people the fragility
and importance of the black-footed cat, as well as other feline
species. Conservation is a very difficult subject to promote in South
Africa. With an unemployment rate of 40% and much
of the population living in permanent "squatter camps, preserving wildlife
is often viewed as a luxury. Even so, some very dedicated
people like Marion and Richard explain the long-range importance of
biodiversity to the rural school groups, trying to impact the attitudes
and practices of the next generation.
Richard and Marion's property is truly amazing and is one of the few
places in the country where you don't have to
lock your doors. The price of such a luxury is being a bit isolated.
This place is SO far out in the middle of nowhere,
that while driving for 20 minutes down the road to their facility the
GPS just said "driving on road". When asked
what road they lived on, neither one actually new. Needless to say
there is no street sign. This is no great matter,
because the mail is not delivered here. In fact the closest post office,
gas station, or grocery store is 70km away. You
need to make sure your gas tank is filled before you leave town, otherwise,
you might not get back.
To add to the remoteness of their property, this is the river you have
to cross to get there. It may not look like
much now, but when there is a rain, you have to park on the otherside
and hike across an Indiana Jones style
suspension bridge. Until the gravel path was recently cleared (road
is too generous), the foot bridge was the
only way to get back and forth.
Paradise isolated from the rest of the world.
Marion's mother spends much time cultivating the beautiful gardens.
Richard and Marion's son also help decorate.
Now this is a doorknob.
The infamous black-footed cat.
Marion telling me more about her friend.
The black-footed cat is nocturnal. It also is one of the most successful
predators in the world.
While these felines eat primarily rodents and insects, they make, on
average, one kill or predation for every
kilometer that they walk. The record is 35 kills in a single night!
Princess weighs in at a little less than 3lbs.
Princess and her favorite playmate Phoebe the dog.
Taking care of predators means a lot of food prep.
The chickens act as clean up crew. Those are probably not the chickens
you want to eat!
Notice the ostrich eggs. Marion gives those to her cats as both
nutrition and enrichment.
African Wild Cat
(The closest relative to the domestic cat.)
The remnants of a vervet monkey. A local farmer brought a bunch of
dead monkeys for Marion to feed
to her cats. Farmers and ranchers often shoot monkeys and baboons (as
well as all of these cats) as nuisance animals.
Guinea pigs make great entertainment for the cats. They are not actually
in the same cage however.
The Indiana Jones Bridge.
All that is needed is a crocodile or two.
Unpacking the multimedia projector for the outreach project.
I also brought Marion a replica black-footed cat skull for use in education.
Because real black-footed cats are so rare, so too are their skulls.
Some of the old buildings on their property. This used to be the sight
of an early Dutch farm.
Cradock, the nearest town.
On the road to the surfing spot made famous by the
1966 Bruce Brown film "Endless Summer".
Being a typical surf town, everyone keeps their own schedule. Arriving
at 3 P.M. I discovered that the entire
town had shut down because there was a rugby game on TV. This meant
that I couldn't rent a surfboard (arghh).
After heading to a local surfer hangout/bar, I met the owner of a surf
school. When I explained my rather tight travel
schedule, he suggested that I have a beer or two and at half time we
went to his shop and he rented me a
board and wetsuit. This is one of those times when the kindness of
a stranger can really help make a trip.
The scenic drive along the Indian Ocean.
The railroad bridge near Wilderness. This awesome route has the ocean
on one side and a perfect sheltered
lagoon, complete with cliffs, on the other.
Crossing through the mountains between George and Oudtshoorn.
Feels like I'm in Europe somewhere.
Cango Wildlife Park
A really fancy pig.
Vlasic pickle anyone?
Cheetah enjoying a bloodsicle.
Talking about cheetahs with one of the trainers.
A very nice set of observation decks.
Overlooking white lions.
White tigers. Feels like I'm home.
Ringtail lemur and baby.
Cage diving with crocodiles.
This is the reason I came to the place!
To get in the cage and get dunked with the crocs.
Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle.
(This would never happen in th U.S.)
Where the underwater photos were taken from.
The Little Karoo on the way from Oudtshoorn to Capetown.
The Little Karoo is home to some of the largest leopard tortoises in
the world. This one was slowly making
his way across the highway.
One of the many caves along the road. It is difficult to see in this
but that cave is about 3 stories tall.
Old farm house.
The Cape Peninsula
Entering wine country.
Mountains to the right.
Ocean to the left.
When a "south-easter" blows in, it makes the clouds hang on the mountains
like a blanket.
Who I went diving with.
The route around Chapman's Peak clings to the cliffs on the western
side of the Cape Peninsula and
overlooks the cold Atlantic waters.
A tunnel that looks like it's straight out of a James Bond movie.
Hout Bay - Dive spot and protected marine sanctuary.
The entry point.
This is COLD water. After swimming through some of the caves and facing
the open ocean, at about
50 ft, the thermometer read 7C (44F).
Some of the kelp reached 45feet in length.
Unfortunately I killed my little camera during this dive, so I don't
have very many photos.
I was able to salvage a little bit of the video.
Home of the African Penguin
Rough seas from the "South-easter".
Plastic barrels are placed to help protect breeding penguin nests.
Baby penguin that hasn't quite finished molting.
In the U.S. we just have Jerry's Kids.
The tram up to the famous Table Mountain.
The view down onto the city.
Capetown Harbor with Table Mountain in the background.
Sunset at Lions Head mountain.
One of the largest settlements of its kind, Khayelitsha goes on as
far as the eye can see. While inhabited greatly by
the different tribes people of South Africa, this "informal township"
also house vast amounts of illegal aliens from
surrounding countries who have come looking for work. This fact, along
with its vast size and undefined boundaries
make it impossible to tell how many people live here, but the estimate
is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5million.
Khayelitsha is partially the result of the Group Areas Act passed in
the 1950s. This segregation law designated
where people could live. One group of ethnic people were relocated
to make room for the more affluent white development.
This action caused one of the greatest uproars during apartheid. This
area was known by the ruling government as
"District 6" and served as a model for Peter Jackson's recent film
"District 9." If you've seen the movie,
you'll notice the similarity with this picture.
The Great White Shark Capital of the world.
One of my greatest inspirations for traveling around the country was
to visit the sleepy little town of Gansbaai. This
shoreline boasts the greatest population of great white sharks (usually
referred to as white sharks) anywhere in the world.
I have just a handful of pictures here. If you would like to see more,
I have a full page about
my cagediving with the sharks posted HERE.
White shark silhouettes are a common sight along these beaches.
Baitfish cleaning up the chum.
This is the full size of the harbor.
Sunset over Gansbaai Harbor.
Photo taken from my backyard.
The South Africa version of a VW.
The southern most point on the African continent.
This is the official dividing point of the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
I'm straddling the continental divide.
The beach rocks look like the surface of some alien planet.
Cape Agulhas lighthouse.
The capital of wine country.
I traveled to Stellenbosch and the Spier wine estate to visit Cheetah
Outreach. This is the facility that our two
cheetahs came from in the spring of 2009.
A BIG strawberry.
Remax is everywhere.
I met with Liesl, one the heads of cheetah outreach.
Notice the king cheetah has lines instead of just spots.
One way that conservationists are trying to help save the cheetah is
by providing farmers
with Anatolian sheepdogs. The dogs keep predators away from the sheep
so farmers don't
feel they have to shoot them.
Also located next to Cheetah Outreach is Eagle Encounters, a raptor
Adult martial eagle.
This is what our birds will look like soon.
Owner of Eagle Encounters, Hank Chalmers.
Hank and I spent several hours discussing falconry and training techniques.
Juvenile goshawk. This little bird acted more like a chicken.
Hank has 20 - 30 young owls dropped of at his door every year. He takes
care of them until
they're old enough to fly and hunt and then releases them. To prevent
imprinting, Hank uses a
surrogate owl (sitting on the perch) to teach the youngsters.
Toolboxes and feathers, a familiar sight to all falconers.
Live show being presented to the public.
If a dog could fly, it would look like this.
The long road from Capetown to Johannesburg.
The Fold Mountains, so named because they were formed when the Earth's
crust literally folded.
Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes.
While traveling back through the southern Karoo, I stayed on several
working sheep ranches.
This ranch was completely off the grid. All electricity came from either
solar panels and wind generators.
Another working farm. I actually slept in the BARN.
Upstairs is being converted into a venue for functions.
Back in Jo'burg, Coca-Cola advertising the upcoming World Cup.