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Cape Town wildlife IX

This is the ninth post in my monthly series on the fascinating nature I encounter here in South Africa.

This post should be subtitled What I Did On My Holidays: over the Christmas holiday, we decided to have a stay-cation and explore the area around Cape Town with a few day trips. There’s really no point in paying to go away when we have beautiful weather and such a variety of wonders yet to experience within an hour or two of home! Here are some edited highlights of the wildlife we saw, with a few scenic shots for context…

First, we paid a visit to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Nestled against the side of Table Mountain, it is vast and spectacular (and impossible to capture in one photo):

Although we saw lizards and a mongoose, they were too fast for my camera. But I did manage to snap this pic of a strange large bee in flight. It looked like a bumblebee, except the colour markings were all wrong – you can see it’s all black with just one wide yellow band:

On Christmas Eve, we went to Rondevlei Nature Reserve. We’ve been here before, but this time we managed to spot some different wildlife, although the hippos still eluded us! These Three-banded Plovers were constantly flying overhead, calling, and diving at us – presumably trying to distract us so we wouldn’t find their nests:

And I saw my first ever wild antelope! Our best attempt at identification is that it’s a Grysbok, but we’re not quite sure – it doesn’t look much like the Grysbok photos on Google. It was cute anyway, and quite small (about the size of a large dog):

After Christmas, we followed the Cape Peninsula all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-westerly tip of Africa. This area is part of the Table Mountain National Park. It was a beautiful day:
cape point

We picnicked by those lichen-covered rocks, under the watchful gaze of lots of sunbathing Black Girdled Lizards, like this one:
cape point

We stopped briefly at a beautiful white-sand beach:
cape point

And we were floored by this sight – wild ostriches!
cape point

There were a whole family of them, casually crossing the road and pecking through the succulents along the sand dunes by the ocean. Don’t miss the baby ostrich in this picture, visible between Daddy’s legs:
cape point

And here’s how unconcerned these completely wild birds were at our presence: this is a juvenile ostrich stopping to drink from a puddle at the edge of the road, barely a metre away from our car (you can see the edge of the car in this photo):
cape point

We didn’t think we’d see anything to rival that and were taking a scenic drive along a completely deserted road in the park before heading home, when I had to brake for this:
cape point

Yes, that’s a tortoise crossing the road, right in front of our car! We stopped the car to take a better look – here’s a close-up (it’s an Angulate Tortoise):
cape point

We stopped for several more tortoises along the same road. This one looks from its shell like a different species, but I haven’t been able to identify it (yet):
cape point

And, as if that wasn’t enough excitement, we squeezed in one more 2011 adventure: cherry picking in the fruit region near Ceres. To get there, we had to cross a vast mountain range. On the way there, we took the 4.4km tunnel under the mountains (a bit scary) and on the way back we took the longer, more scenic route across the mountain pass. The mountains are huge and imposing up close, but don’t look like such a big deal from a long way away:

Cherries galore at Klondyke Cherry Farm! Hundreds of trees, laden with thousands of sweet and juicy cherries, with more varieties than I knew existed. My favourites were the sweet black cherries, but these bright red ones were more photogenic:

So that was our Christmas break – nothing like any Christmas I’ve ever experienced, but I think you’ll agree it was pretty amazing! And the crazy thing is that we’re nowhere near exhausting the local sights we can see with a day trip, let alone if we ventured further afield. We still haven’t even been up Table Mountain yet – you can expect a wildlife report from there some time this year 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s photos! Please leave me a comment if you did.


  1. Anelda said

    I absolutely love your South Africa series! I am from Cape Town myself, but have been living in the States for a while now.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience and pictures. It helps when I get homesick. 🙂

  2. Else T said

    I love reading about your travels and seeing all your wonderful pictures of animals, birds and nature. What a blessing for you! You have a wonderful “backyard.” Thanks for sharing!

  3. Simone said

    Amazing wildlife you encountered.
    Thank you for this report and your awesome pics!

  4. Sam said

    Loved reading about your adventure and really enjoyed the fabulous photographs. Thanks for sharing. What a beautiful world we live in!

  5. Sandy G. said

    June, your photos are spectacular, and your knowledge of and curiousity about the creatures and flora of our planet outstanding and inspiring. I look forward to every installment. By the way, one day would you please let us know how you learned everything you know about crocheting and how you became interested and how you came to do PlanetJune? I would love to know. Best, Sandy

  6. Lindy said

    Great photos and so interesting! Love, Lindy xx

  7. lyn said

    Wow what a Christmas…a bit different to ours. All that wildlife there on your doorstep. Great Photos, thanks for sharing them with us.

  8. Jana said

    Hi June!
    What wonderful pictures! Amazing! I wish I could have a stay cation that amazing! I think the bee in your picture might be a carpenter bee- they are larger and have 6 thick legs that you can only see when they land.

    • June said

      Ooh, I think you’re right, Jana! Now I know what to look for I’d say it’s definitely a female Carpenter Bee – apparently the males are solid yellow. I’ll have to look out for one of those (I’d never have guessed there’d be an all-yellow bee…)

  9. camelama said

    Wonderful! I love your stories and photos. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Arwen said

    Or it’s a grey duiker. LOL I’m having a blast looking at these animals, can you tell?

    • June said

      It is fun to look up all the different species and try to identify everything I see – who knew there were so many slightly different types of antelope?!

  11. Arwen said

    P.S. I think that’s a Raphicerus campestris aka Steinbok/Steenbok/Steinbuck for your antelope.

    • June said

      We wondered about that too, but Steenbok and Grysbok apparently look very similar except that Steenbok have a black crescent-shaped patch between the horns, which I didn’t see on our little guy. So my best guess is still Cape Grysbok (Raphicerus melanotis)…

  12. Arwen said

    Love this. I subscribe by RSS and enjoy both the wildlife and the crochet. I haven’t looked yet but do you have a pattern for a Manta? 😀

    • June said

      Not yet, but it’s on my list! 🙂

  13. Mary said

    Wow you are quite the photographer too!

  14. Kate said

    I love these posts. South Africa is on my “need to get there” list now. Keep the wonderful nature photos coming,

  15. Merry Thornsburg said

    Oh June…what a staycation you had! Please don’t ever stop blogging about your South Africa adventure…oh I would have loved those cherries! Love cherry pie! The landscape is truly beautiful and I love seeing all those critters you run across!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Merry ?

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