On the 28th April we headed for Balloch Cottages near Barkly East. Here is some of the scenery along the way.
There are only 2 large campsites at Balloch – both are easily the size of four normal campsites. When you book the whole site is for you and your party only.
One campsite is by the river and the other in a cave above. We had hoped to camp in the cave but someone beat us to it. Our campsite was huge and a bit sloped.
The cave campsite – see the photos :
There was power when the river generator was on – usually for a few hours in the evening. And it was cold being so high up with a cold front there and snow looming.
Balloch Cottages is about 6kms from the passing gravel road along a scenic dirt and sometimes challenging road. Let the photos speak for themselves:
Our time spent at Balloch was mainly spent walking – following paths up into the mountainous countryside or else down the road towards the cottages and beyond. Exploring the ponds and rivulets as well as the treed curbsides.
One of the more interesting sightings occurred on one of these walks. We could hear people talking from what seemed miles away. They were at the top of one of the steep slopes. Then as we got closer we realised they were herding sheep down into our valley. However the sheep decided they wanted the quickest way down and that was straight down the steep slope – incredible. Never seen so many sheep altogether almost running down en masse.
On one day we decided to visit Rhodes. It took us a one and a half hours birding along the way.
Again a stunning barren landscape with a few special birds along the way.
Birding was difficult at that time of the year. But we did see several specials : Sentinel Rock-Thrush both male and female; Karoo Prinia, Cape Vulture, Greater Kestrel, Grey Crowned Cranes, Red-eyed Bulbul, Yellow-crowned Bishop and even a Rock Hyrax.
But the most unusual bird we saw was definitely this one.
We left a day early as we were informed that there would be a heavy dump of snow at the end of the week. We overnighted again at Tortini and drove home from there the day before the snow storm was about to hit the Drakensberg.
And so that brings to an end our trip to the Eastern Cape.
This was the start of our homeward journey from Sedgefield.
As you can see from the map, Addo includes seven distinct areas: Darlington, Kabouga, Zuurberg, Nyathi, Addo Main Camp, Colchester and Woody Cape. Each are in fact separate areas. Some of which you have to book accommodation in it in order to visit – Darlington and Nyathi. We visited Kabouga and Zuurberg while staying in Addo Main Camp.
Kabouga is in the high mountains. The road is recommended for 4×4 or high clearance vehicles. The road follows a valley between mountains. There is a wild camp there – you need to take everything including water and a porta potty if you want to stay there. We did not see much game nor birds in Kabouga and would be unlikely to visit it again.
Our one interesting experience was coming round a corner to see a red-headed Bushpig in the middle of the road. It quickly scampered into the bush so no photos. Red-headed as it had obviously just had a bloody meal.
Zuurberg is situated at the top of another closeby mountain. A pretty drive up. However on arrival we discovered there were no tracks to drive but it did have mountain trails. We were not properly equipped to go trekking. It was bitterly cold and windy.
The camp site we had was hedged in so nicely private, level and partly shady.
Early morning the birds would pass through our campsite looking for scraps from the previous evening. They ranged from Laughing Doves, Red-winged Starlings, Francolins, Terrestial Brownbulls, a Southern Tchagra, a pair of Black-headed Orioles and even an inquisitive pair of Brown-hooded Kingfishers.
Addo Main Camp and Colchester may be two separate areas but they are effectively one large area. This is the main game viewing area. The north section of this area has open grassland but the majority of the roads are between thick spekboom scrub making it difficult to see into the bush. The south – Colchester – has views of the sea.
Jack’s Picnic site was an interesting area. So who was Jack?
Some of the action at Jack’s were the visiting birds while we had tea.
The few species of animals that we saw were mainly Elephant and Burchell’s Zebra with an occasional Warthog.
There was a waterhole which we frequented – despite the cold drizzly days – which had a reasonable variety of waterbirds. African Black Duck, a large number of White-breasted Cormorants, South African Shelducks, Blacksmith Lapwings, African Spoonbills and a Grey Heron. There was always activity at this waterhole – especially brought about by a bedraggled juvenile African Fish-Eagle.
And here are some of the other birds photoed during our stay.
We had booked to stay for five nights. In fact, for us, 2 or 3 nights would have been plenty. Although we had several nice bird sightings we are reluctant to return unless it is at a different time of the year.
On one of the days at Addo we heard that the Sooty Gull had appeared at Kabeljous, Jeffreys Bay. We went hoping to be lucky this time. Alas not to be.
Mountain Zebra National Park
21st to 25th April 2021
From Addo we headed north to Mountain Zebra National Park. The campsite was fairly full so we ended placing our Caracal on a gentle slope to give us some privacy from neighbours and a view to enjoy.
Mountain Zebra is one of the National Parks we enjoy the most. It is scenic and has a variety of bird and animal species difficult to find elsewhere – Cape Mountain Zebras, Bat-eared Foxes, Red-winged Francolin, Black Harrier to name a few.
The camp is in a valley below the high mountain grasslands. It has four 4×4 only routes each with their own degree of difficulty. We tried one -Juriesdam 4×4 Trail- and having gone up 100 metres we had no choice but to continue.
Slow going to the top, not a great deal of animals nor birdlife. Having said that we did encounter a Ludwig’s Bustard in the distance.
The scenery at Mountain Zebra is awesome, getting to the top, the high grasslands the dams.
After the first day there we managed to extend our stay by another day- we had originally only been able to book 3 nights.
We had a couple of creepy experiences – spiders and a bark.
Then there was an unbelievably large Gum tree.
We were fortunate to see Bat-eared Foxes on 2 occasions.
We saw Eland and one with several Red-billed Oxpeckers on its back – most unexpected.
The Cape Mountain Zebra were everywhere and the young looking so cute.
Here are some of the other animals photoed.
Then there were the birds.
Our next destination was Balloch Cottages close to Barkly East near the southern Lesotho border. To be reported in Part 3 of this series.