Kleinbaai to South Africa’s southernmost point, Cape Agulhas: birdwatching and whales!

LIMG_0909

Heading east along the coast.

I had always believed that Cape of Good Hope was Africa’s southernmost point. But on this trip I learned that Cape Agulhas, a tiny bit to the south but much farther east, actually holds that claim to fame.

I’m glad that Dave and I didn’t plan to go any further east than Cape Agulhas. Planning our trip from home, everything looks so close together on the map. But once you get here, there are so many places you want to stop at.

We’d arrived at our B&B in Kleinbaai at nightfall the previous night, just in time to have dinner at the quirky pub just outside this tiny seaside village : the one and only place we experienced our whole time in Africa where the cheap wine really IS just cheap wine. (Everywhere else, it is cheap yet world-class). This was plonk! Terrible! (The food was good, though).

We started reasonably early the next morning, with our first stop at Pearly Beach, 10 km east of Kleinbaai. You don’t need to take a boat trip to enjoy the whale-watching here! We could have stayed here all day, watching the southern right whales feeding just off the kelp beds and just behind the beach break, some of them with calves.

LDSC_0004

Breaching southern right whale at Pearly Beach

LDSC_0016

Another southern right whale just off the kelp beds.

Our trip soon became a birdwatching expedition – first here at Pearly Beach, with sandpipers, whimbrels, and endangered African oystercatchers along the rocky shoreline.

LDSC_0020

Still working on ID-ing this guy, some sort of plover at Pearly Beach.

LDSC_0035

African black oystercatchers – endangered – nesting here.

LDSC_0030

A whimbrel watching the crashing surf. This is an amazing species – we have them here on Vancouver Island. Our birds go down to Central and South America for winter. This guy, here in South Africa, was most likely raised in northern Scotland! And will head back there to nest.

We finally forced ourselves back into the car to continue eastward, towards the cape -when I spied a tree alongside the road full of weaver nests. I forced Dave to pull over and back up, and we watched the birds, lovely yellow cape weavers chattering and hanging upside down from their suspended nests. Little did we know how many trees like that we would see in the coming miles!

LDSC_0047

A tree full of weaver nests!

LDSC_0053

Bickering weavers.

LDSC_0076

They are very pretty birds, though – these cape weavers.

We still had not had a chance to buy a bird book, so we had no idea of the names of the species we were observing. We ended up making up names for most of them – our own private birding language. When our route eventually veered on to gravel roads, a sparrow-sized bird with a tail about four times the length of its body flew alongside for us and finally landed. We called it the tailbird.

LIMG_0911

Now onto the dirt tracks – and some amazing birding.

LDSC_0061

Tailbird!! (Later ID’d as a pin-tailed whydah)

But the birding became much more spectacular than that… as we came across flocks of ostriches!  We passed a lot of wetlands, with all sorts of wading birds and ducks and geese. I named one of the ducks we saw the white-faced whistling duck (because that’s what it looked like and that’s what it did)… and later learned that I had got it pretty much right!

LDSC_0089

Very pretty birds, these blacksmith lapwings.

LDSC_0065

And yes – ostriches!

A distant flock of spoonbills was one of the highlights of our day, along with a range of small birds in brilliant shades of yelllow, red and green (later identified as weavers, bishops, and a malachite sunbird), and several blue cranes: gorgeous graceful cranes with long wing feathers than blow in the wind, South Africa’s national bird.

LDSC_0110

Blue cranes are rare and endangered – but they were common down here.

With all of the birdwatching, it took ages for us to make it to the cape. We were starved by the time we stopped for lunch, at a little hole-in-the-wall fish and chips stand around Struisbaai.

LIMG_0913

Struisbaai – where lots of kids were playing in the warm ocean water.

LIMG_0912

A limited lunch menu – but good security!

The cape itself was beautiful too, with some short walking trails around – a chance to stretch our legs after all the driving. The lighthouse here was constructed in 1848 – but by now it was already 5pm, and they were locking up so we couldn’t go in.

LIMG_0915

Walkway to Cape Agulhas.

LIMG_0916

And here we are at Cape Agulhas – southernmost point on the African continent. Not as spectacular as the Cape of Good Hope.

LDSC_0104

Nice birds at the cape, too – this is a Kittlitz’s plover (I think)

LIMG_0917

Cape Agulhas lighthouse…

LIMG_0918

…built in 1848.

LIMG_0924

Later learned this is an oryx, or gemsbok – native further north.

The drive back was fun too… a few fenced-in areas that we figured out were private game farm. The animals must have been sleeping when we drove through the first time, but now they were moving around.

Dave screeched to a halt a few times: “Wow – what is that?” It’s fun being in Africa – like being a child again, with all of the new animal names and bird names still to learn.

 

LDSC_0131

And these guys? Later learned – the bigger, darker ones are bontebok, these ones on a fenced-in reserve, but they were actually originally native to only a very small area right around here. I think the little guys are springboks – native to northeastern South Africa and Namibia, but not to this exact area.

 

We finished our night with a drink and dinner at the Great White Restaurant – named for the sharks that frequent this area. (No… we didn’t go swimming here).

LIMG_0925

Cocktails at the Great White – with a southern right whale skeleton suspended overhead.

Advertisements
  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: