Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa

Through the eyes of volunteer coordinator and crazy cat lady, Sharon

Oh I so want to go camping! September 30, 2014

Family Camping Checklist (and a few great tips!)

There’s no doubt about it, camping is hard work. Organizing gear, getting a reservation, preparing food for several days ahead, packing the car, and making sure there is enough to do to entertain the whole family—it can overwhelm. But it’s worth it! You’re guaranteed to make lasting family memories, enjoy lots of laughs with the family, and get plenty of outdoor time for the kids.

To help you get out under the stars, we’ve put together some tips for camping with the family and a checklist of what to take.

First, get a camping date on your calendar. Campgrounds can fill up quickly so plan ahead to get a spot. And try to leave early in the day on Friday (or head out during the work week) to avoid commuter traffic and have a better chance of setting up camp before it gets dark.

Invite friends. Camping with kids alone is great. But camping with another family or bringing your kids’ friends along helps keep everyone happy and occupied.

Prepare the gear. Use the camping checklist below to make sure you take what you need, but not much more. Check the tent, stove, matches/lighters, and lanterns beforehand for damage and working condition.

Prepare the food. The checklist doesn’t include food—you’ll have to create that yourself. Here’s a tip: Write down what you plan to eat for each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Then prepare what you can at home—marinate the meats, cut the vegetables, wrap the potatoes in foil. You’ll be thankful once you get to camp.

When you pack the cooler, set out the foods meal by meal, thinking about how you’ll serve each meal so you don’t forget condiments and necessary utensils, can opener, etc.

Get five more tips for camping with kids. And visit REI for an even more extensive checklist for camping.

Family Camping Checklist

  • Tent, poles, stakes
  • Tent footprint (ground cover for under your tent)
  • Extra tarp or canopy
  • Sleeping bag for each camper
  • Sleeping pad for each camper
  • Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
  • Pillows
  • Extra blankets
  • Chairs
  • Headlamps or flashlights (extra batteries)
  • Lantern
  • Lantern fuel or batteries
  • Stove
  • Fuel for stove
  • Matches or lighter
  • Firewood
  • Frying pan
  • Pot
  • French press or portable coffee maker
  • Corkscrew
  • Tablecloth
  • Roasting sticks for marshmallows, hot dogs
  • Food-storage containers, bags
  • Trash bags
  • Cooler
  • Ice
  • Water bottles
  • Plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives
  • Cups, mugs
  • Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Foil
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Sponge, dishcloth, dishtowel
  • Paper towels
  • Extra bin for washing dishes
  • Clothes for daytime
  • Sleepwear
  • Swimsuits
  • Rainwear
  • Shoes: hiking/walking shoes, easy-on shoes, water shoes
  • Extra layers for warmth
  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Toothbrush, toiletries
  • Soap
  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation confirmation, phone number
  • Maps, area information
  • Bikes, toys
  • Pet supplies and food


“History of Noetzie” reblogged from the Noetzie Conservancy website September 26, 2014

History of Noetzie

Noetzie beach view 1930s

In the 1800s, & even before then, the local people came to camp at Noetzie. The earliest maps call the area Noetziekamma (Khoi-san word for dark water, possibly referring to the tannins leaching into the river from indigenous forested banks).

Noetzie beach and lagoon has been an annual holiday site for the locals ever since we can remember. There was a rough old track down which the ox wagons would creak to the beach. The oxen would be let loose and would graze the dune vegetation while people caught fish abundantly, swam in the clean dark waters of the Noetzie lagoon and enjoyed the wilderness experience. Difficult steep access and the south facing aspect of Noetzie meant that Noetzie was left alone during the colder months.

Iron and timber Cottages were brought down by ox wagon in early 1900s. It is assumed that some of them came from Millwood mining village.  “Helenside”  was owned by the North family from Oudtshoorn, and the Knysna family Metelerkamp‘s cottage- is still called “Wegkruip” today.Lagoona, “Torpie’s Laughter” are the charming names of the other original cottages.  “Yellow cottage” was originally on the site of Noetzie castle, but was later moved to a different position on the beach  when the first big castle was built.  7th generations of the same Knysna and Oudshoorn families still holiday at Noetzie today.

Click here for the History of Noetzie

In the early Thirties, the first castle, at the western end of the main beach, was built as a holiday house by Herbert Stephen Henderson, who lived in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He built it in1932 out of the natural stone found at Noetzie.

The story goes that he had no intention of building a “castle”, but had simply used the local stone for practical reasons, when Rex Metelerkamp, who was watching the building process, jokingly said to him: “All you need to do is to add a few turrets and you’ll have a castle”. And he did. That set the trend. (Sadly, this castle has since been demolished and replaced with a modern version by the new owners.)  The Hendersons built Pezula on the hill in the late 1930s which was used in the 40s as a convalescent home for the RAF and later sold to Garfield Todd, Prime Minister of Rhodesia…and bought back in the 60s after his banishment from SA. In 1942, Herbert Henderson built what has become known simply as “The Castle”. His son built Montrose in the 1970s and the Lindsays built Perekuil in the 1960s.

During the apartheid era, Noetzie, unlike other public places, remained non-racial and was always enjoyed by all.

Aware of Noetzie’s natural riches, residents applied to the authorities to have it declared a conservancy in order to protect and preserve it’s natural bounty. In 1999, symbolically celebrated as the last year of the millennium, Noetzie officially became a conservancy.

In 2000, Keith Stewart’s ‘Fastpulse 72′ bought the 640 ha ‘remainder of Noetzie farm’ and began the process towards establishment and  development of the Pezula Private Estate.

Rex and Katherine Metelerkamp  and horse Ninon on the Headland at Knoetzie.

River cottages


From the website “Noetzie Castles” on the natural history of Noetzie, just outside of Knysna, South Africa

The natural history of Noetzie


What makes Noetzie so special is not just the castles, but its very special natural beauty, much of which is still pristine – an increasing rarity in the brash hotel-and-hamburger-stand culture that has ruined so much of South Africa’s once splendid coastline. The golden beach surrounded by forested hills, the dark waters of the lagoon, the rugged ochre rocks and the thundering breakers that roll in row after row from the far southern oceans.

The bay has even been the site of a shipwreck, the 3 masted French schooner the “Phoenix”, in 1881, that appeared to have been abandoned, for no known reason, far out to sea before finding itself laid up on Noetzie beach. Something that caused great local excitement, and much mystification, at the time!


The Sinclair Reserve, on the other side of Noetzie beach is an extensive indigenous forest, with all the unique coastal trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Cape Beech and Ironwood to name but a few. There are trails in the forest for the intrepid hiker, which do require a permit.

Being a reserve, not only is it and it’s coastline beautiful to view, but it “frames” Noetzie on its eastern side and has to date protected that part of the coast and it’s hinterland from thoughtless development.


Noetzie and its surroundings is home to many creatures that once inhabited much of our shoreline, but which have disappeared in many places as human pressure on the coast increases. Fish eagles and ospreys, can be seen from time to time flying up and over the winding river, otters which scamper across the beach after sunset, or who can be seen searching for crabs in the lagoon (always a sign of a clean environment).

leopard-printEven secretive Cape Leopards – a smaller race from those found in the bushveld further north – have made their appearance on camera traps placed by Noetzie residents, and sometimes their distinctive tracks can be seen on the beach. The forest and fynbos provide shelter to bushbuck, Cape Grysbok, bushpigs, honey badgers, baboons, and vervet monkeys to only mention a few.

In the early 20th century, elephants were sometimes seen near Noetzie, but this unique Knysna population has now shrunk to a few rarely seen individuals that survive in the forest some distance inland.


On the beach Black oystercatchers – South Africa’s rarest coastal bird – can be found with their red beaks and haunting cry. In the forest, if you are lucky you can see Knysna Loeries with their distinctive flash of crimson on their wings as they glide from branch to branch in the deep forest. The shy and rarely seen Trogon, another bird of the deep forest, Paradise Flycatchers, the jewel-like Sunbirds of the fynbos and many others offer a special experience to the bird enthusiast.

In winter, the waters around Noetzie are regularly visited by the magnificent Southern Right Whale, as well as, but less frequently, the Humpback, and Brydes Whale.

There are very regular visits by pods of dolphin passing by or surfing and general disporting themselves in the Noetzie waves

For those in interested in palaeoanthropology, Noetzie was also home to people who have long since disappeared, the small bands of Khoisan hunter gatherers that wandered along the coast for many thousands of years.

Their middens, – layers of discarded shells and bone from many meals over the millennia,- are scattered along the coastal paths and are buried under some of the houses.


Visitor’s Guide to Knysna

Visitor’s Guide to Knysna – The Garden Route

view of heads

Everyone coos over the Garden Route – with good reason too. If you’re visiting, here’s my visitor’s guide to Knysna. Even repeat visitors may find something new to enjoy here.

Having its origins in the Khoi language, Knysna is said to mean “fern” or “place of wood”. The meaning hasn’t quite been pinned down, but the town is certainly resplendent in both.

In author Dalene Matthee’s Circles in the Forest, an iconic work that has become representative of the town and its rich forest and indigenous fern heritage, one comes to understand the possible link to the Khoi word.

Knysna (pronounced Nize-nah), is situated within 157 000 hectares of the Garden Route National Park and is flanked by the estuary of the Knysna River and the Indian Ocean. A coastline and dense forest provide vast and varied flora, fauna and marine life abundance.

This article was written for AFK Travel

A small town, with a population just under 52 000, it is famous for the variety of outdoor activities including hiking, diving, fishing, canoeing, whale watching, mountain biking, as well as its wild and cultivated oysters. The popularity of the latter culminates in an annual oyster festival run over weeks, with the highlight being a “best dressed” oyster competition for local restaurants as well as a contest to eat the most in a minute – I’m too afraid to consider the number of juicy molluscs that have met their fateful end this way though.

This is a list of some of the best activities in Knysna:

 1.    Board a Ferry, Cruiser or Catamaran

Take a leisurely trip on a ferry across the lagoon to the heads, sandstone cliffs that separate the lagoon from the ocean. Or rev it up with a catamaran ride that sails out into the ocean. The heads are known to have thwarted many a rambunctious sailor – as a result Knysna is known as one of the most dangerous ports in the world. However, a slow-paced cruise on the lagoon, enjoying snacks and views on a summer day is one of the loveliest introductions to the town. You can opt for an oyster experience or a sunset cruise with bubbly too.

2.    The Featherbed Nature Reserve

Only accessible by ferry, this private nature reserve on the western head displays wonderful views and offers insight into local history. Guides take guests on a 1.3-mile walk and eco experience down the coastal forest to ancient sea caves. The terrain is surrounded by Cape fynbos and lunch can be enjoyed at the popular Cruise Cafe – it’s well known for its seafood and wine list.

3.    Forest Walk – following in steps of Circles in the Forest

Tracing the steps of the words and characters in Dalene Matthee’s novel that highlights the plight of the forest elephants and the exploited woodcutters, as well as the forest itself, the dense rainforest provides an enchanting playground. You can follow the clearly marked signs yourself, or take a guided tour with a handful of approved guides. You will encounter old mining tunnels, woodcutter pits and may spot buck, bush pigs and the glorious green Knysna loerie bird. There are pleasant waterfalsl and a rock pool as well. Meagan Vermaas is a highly recommended guide and one of the few approved by the Mathees. She also offers unique healing forest massages.

4.    Spectacular Viewing Point

From Coney

Drive up to the Coney Glen viewing point on the eastern heads for a sweeping view over the lagoon, Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains

Coney Glen Road, Knysna 6570, South Afric

5.    Whale Watching

Hop on a small boat that ventures out to sea to spot whales during the July – December season. The local Bryde’s whale is a local resident and during season southern right and humpback whales can also be seen up close. The boats are allowed to approach within 50 meters of the whales and the whales often get even closer – be prepared to get wet and get those waterproof cameras and go-pros out. If you suffer from seasickness though – be warned, it gets rough. Only one supplier has been granted a permit to conduct this activity in Knysna.

6.    Visit Local Rastafarian Community

You’ll be warmly welcomed by the Judah Square Rastafarian community in Khayeletu South township. The largest community of Rastafarians in South Africa, this enterprising community has risen in stature from an informal settlement in 1993 into a formal one with a emphasis on making the community sustainable. A tour with the warm and eccentric Brother Zebulon, who recites heartfelt poetry as he sets to educate you about the community and way of life is a fascinating experience. You can stay over at Sista Keri’s B&B – backpacker bunk-style accommodation as well.

Book directly:

7.    Noetzie Beach

A secluded cove not far from Knysna, Noetzie offers quiet beaches, an estuary and opportunities for bird and fauna gazing. Holiday homes built in the fashion of castles add to the intrigue. While the waters of the Noetzie River are dark and still, the waves crashing over the rocks are wild and lively. Fishing opportunities present here.

8.    Golf

Championship rate golf courses welcome both the competitive and recreational golfer, set on breath-taking grounds. Knysna really does offer some of the best in the country.

Simola – a Jack Nicklaus designed course:

Pezula –

9.    Eat Oysters

wild oysters

Known for its cultivated and wild oysters, you can’t leave the town without trying a few plates. The local restaurants spend a year perfecting their recipes for the perfect dressings that will enhance the succulent, briny little bivalves. They compete head-to-head at the annual Knysna Oyster festival for the best-dressed oyster. Naturally, plain is also utterly sublime. Personally I prefer a squeeze of fresh lemon or just a drop of Tabasco with mine, but expect to find some wacky creations like molecular gastronomy lemon bubbles and hay-smoked oysters. Even deep-fried oyster doughnuts. Expect to find oysters far cheaper here than in the big cities.

wild oysters at 34 South

Try: Tapas & Oysters:

34 South:

The Orchid Room at Simola:

10. Thesen Island

at Thesen Island

Named after Arnd Leonard Thesen, a prominent timber merchant from Norway who arrived in the town with his family in the late 1800’s and decided to stay. Once a timber processing plant started by his son, the island is now a residential marina built taking the sensitive ecology into account. Some of the most popular restaurants and shops can be found here. Don’t leave the town without visiting the humble but extremely popular bakery-restaurant Ile de Pain:

11. Township Tour

Connect with Penny and Ella who will take you into their world and homes on a very personal tour. They contribute to upliftment in the community as well – from the welfare of the local dogs to fostering children. You really shouldn’t leave town without experiencing this tour.

Tel: +2744 382 1087 | +27 (0)82 338 62 89 | +27(0)78 631 0673

Venture Farther Afield

Just outside Knysna are a host of activities that are easy to drive to.

  • Highest Bridge Bungee in World

If adrenaline rushes are your thing – this one’s for you. I can’t comment personally, having an acute fear of heights, but friends who have done this, have raved about the experience.

  • Phantom Pass

Phantom Pass rewards you with mountain passes, forest, farmland and rich history. A scenic drive that offers impressive views down across the Knysna River valley, it leads to the Rheenendal Ramble

  • Sedgefield – Wild Oats Community Farmer’s    Market

  • Wild Oats market

There are several charms to this certified “slow town” from hikes to dune walks and views from Gerricke’s Point where paragliders take off. The Wild Oats farmer’s market on a Saturday draws in crowds from all around, for good reason – the produce is excellent.

  • Rheenendal Ramble

This delightful winding forest drive will lead you to artists, quaint accommodation spots and artisans galore.

  • Brenton-on-Sea

A blue-flag beach on the western side of the lagoon that offers opportunities to spot dolphin, whales and enjoy long walks, as well as guided sand boarding on the dunes.


Knysna Hollows

kynsna hollow hotel

Conrad Pezula

conrad pezula hotel

Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa

Reader recommendation from Johan Nel: Belvidere Manor

Belvidere Manor. Sweet stay for me & my schnookums 20 years ago on honeymoon; still awesome”

little boats, Knysna

– See more at:


Is South Africa the best place to road trip? September 22, 2014

Is South Africa the best place to road trip?


The Big Tree and walks in Wilderness on the Garden Route in South Africa

The Big Tree & Forest Walk in Wilderness

by Desiree Haakonsen on 31 July, 2014 · 0 comments

Post image for The Big Tree & Forest Walk in WildernessMy kids and I are often off on mystical adventures with fairies, dragon birds, and giant grasshopper people. Fairy tales, nature, and creative play are a big part of our life, so we couldn’t pass up an outing to the Big Tree during our holiday in Wilderness.

The Woodville Big Tree is a giant old Outeniqua Yellowwood that has become an icon and popular attraction in the indigenous forests of Wilderness. Although it seems to have shrunk in the 20 years since I last visited it (oh the physics of age), its large crown is still a favourite nesting spot and its fruit is enjoyed by bats, bush pigs, and birds like the Knysna Turaco and Cape Parrot. Although Yellowwood is still used for furniture and construction, it is a protected tree under the National Forest Act.


Big Tree stats

Age: Over 800 years old

Height: 33m

Crown width: 34m

Circumference of stem: 12m

Stem length: 15m


Wandelpad Forest Walk

We expected a bit of a hike through the forest to see the Big Tree, but it’s only 80m from the parking area. Luckily, just past the Big Tree, you’ll find the very easy Wandelpad Forest Walk. This beautiful circular trail is only 2km long and follows a well-marked path through the forest, crossing the occasional moss-framed bridge and trickling stream. You’ll spot gnarled old trees, curtains of ferns, wild mushrooms growing on tree trunks, and pretty flowers showering in thin rays of sunlight. Many of the trees along the path are labelled so that you can identify them.

Distance: 2km

Difficulty: Easy

Permits: A free self-issue permit is available in the parking area, at the entrance to the forest. Permits are to be presented to officials upon request.

Fees: None



There is a designated picnic area at the parking lot and in the forest. There are ablutions and wheelchair-friendly walkways through the forest.


Getting there

Take the Hoekwil Road from the N2 in Wilderness. Hoekwil Road becomes the old Knysna-George Road and is well-marked with signs to the Woodville Big Tree. The Big Tree is approximately 16km from Wilderness and you’ll be spoiled with the most gorgeous panoramic views over the valley. GPS coordinates: S33 56.058 E22 38.698


Here are some photos from the forest:










The Woodville Big Tree and Wandelpad Forest Walk is a wonderful way to spend an unhurried day in the leafy Wilderness forest. Have you visited the Big Tree?


KAROO DIARY: Show Time in Prince Albert! September 19, 2014

Filed under: Explore,Karoo,Movie,Out & about,PrinceAlbert — shadreyer @ 8:01 am
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Love this blog on Prince Albert’s theatre

Karoo towns are never the first choice for those seeking the bright lights.

Prince Albert, though, is an exception. It’s worth waiting until dark to drive down the main road and wait until the magic moment just after dusk, when the neon outside the Showroom Theatre flickers to life, highlighting its distinctive Art Deco lines.

Prince Albert's brand-new Showroom Theatre - Art Deco in the Karoo.

In fact, this entire theatre is something of an anomaly. What is something this sophisticated, this classy, this cutting edge, doing in a Karoo town? More to the point, why is a 140-seater theatre thriving in a small dorp when professional theatres in big cities are struggling?

The Showroom is the dreamchild of Johnny Breedt, a movie designer whose work you may have seen in Hotel Rwanda, Paljas, Catch a Fire, the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency and most recently, the award-winning Long Walk to Freedom.

Co-owner Johnny Breedt in his country theatre dream-come-true.

He has just finished on the first film he has directed, Die Ontwaking, starring Gys de Villiers.

But Johnny’s first love was the stage. He started in theatre long before he got into movies, and he’s always dreamed of having his own.

Johnny bought a house in Prince Albert 17 years ago. He had been shooting Paljas in Oudtshoorn and drove over the Swartberg Pass on a day off. He fell in love with the little town, and returned to the Karoo house often for holidays. Six years ago he moved there full time.

Three years ago, the obsession re-awoke in him to build a theatre, the perfect theatre. One that artists and audiences would love.

He and his business partner Charon Landman, previously from the construction industry and the woman behind the success of the Swartberg Hotel, started looking for land.

Initially they looked for property in the industrial area, but for a number of reasons, the right location never presented itself. But then an old building on Prince Albert’s main road came onto the market.

The foyer of the Showroom Theatre - elegant to the max.

It wasn’t anything you’d look at twice. Originally built in Victorian style nearly a century ago, the building had been changed with each new owner over the decades and its various incarnations as a tractor repair shop, filling station, general dealer, restaurant, home and Toyota dealership. By the time it came onto the market, its Victorian lines had pretty much vanished. There was a faint hint of 1940s elegance though.

Johnny and Charon picked up on the crude remnants of the Art Deco look.

“To me theatre and Art Deco are synonymous,” said Johnny. The name is a nod to its previous function as a car showroom.

The theatre is a visual wonder, thanks to Charon and Johnny intense personal attention. They hunted for the right furnishings, including the chandeliers and gorgeous mirrors. It is built for legendary status.

Johnny made sure the acoustics, sound and lighting are state of the art. With his experience of greasepaint and backstage, he made the loveliest ‘green rooms’ for performers, with well-lit mirrors, cupboards, toilets, a fridge.

“The performers arrive early because it’s such a great place to prepare for a show. You should see what artists have to cope with normally. A little curtain covering a spot in the corner of a room or sometimes even worse.”

At first they were approaching singers and performers. Nianell was their first, when they launched the theatre in November 2013 to a capacity crowd. Now performers are approaching them.

“We take 30% of the door and the refreshments. The performers take 70% and can sell CDs. It works pretty well.”

The show is not over until the luscious lady dances...

The Showroom opened in November 2013 and has eclipsed all expectations, attracting a steady stream of musicians, comedians and performances, from Valiant Swart, Matthys Roets, Chris Chameleon and Heinz Winckler to Daniele Pascal, Barry Hilton, acclaimed plays, classical pianists and violinists.

Once or twice a week, the Showroom Movie Club screens classic and art movies for R30 a ticket, which includes a drink.

The secret to the Showroom’s success is not only the audiences it draws in this town, or its unexpected glamour in a Karoo street, but also the fact that Prince Albert is an easy drive for a weekend away from Cape Town and George.

City people come and combine a show at the theatre with fine dining, visits to olive farms and local vineyards, and stargazing.

But Johnny doesn’t only want the larnies to benefit. Recently he brought in a group called the Jaloers Bokkies and gave away some complimentary tickets to policemen, hospital and prisons staff too.

And there are lots of plans. The Showroom people are plotting a Great Karoo Film Festival. And workshops on experimental theatre and film. The theatre is perfect for fashion shows and launches. Watch this elegant space….

Prince Albert village - always full of surprises.

About Julienne du Toit
Julienne du Toit and her husband Chris Marais run, the definitive website on the Karoo region of South Africa. They are also the authors of Karoo Keepsakes I and II (print) and have just launched their e-Bookstore on Karoo Space. They live and work in Cradock, in the Eastern Karoo.

– See more at:


The Knysna Elephants

Great blog from the Knysna Woodworkers

The Knysna Elephants

DNA analysis has revealed the existence of five previously unknown, female Knysna elephants in the southern Cape, South Africa. This discovery provides cautious optimism for the world’s most southerly elephant population. Thought by many to be doomed to extinction, with fears in recent years that only one Knysna elephant, an elderly female was still surviving, the findings of a population study conducted using faecal DNA has revealed that the Knysna elephants continue to survive, despite formidable odds. The results ofthe population study, undertaken by conservation geneticist Lori S. Eggert of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Gareth Patterson, Knysna Elephant Project, have just been published in a paper in African Journal of Ecology, OnlineEarly version, 02 June 2007.

The decline of the Knysna elephants occurred over many decades due primarily to ivory hunting. In 1876 several hundred of these elephants were thought to exist, but under heavy pressure of ivory hunters were reduced to 20-30 individuals by 1908. In 1970 the Knysna elephant population was estimated at 11. In 1994 only one Knysna elephant was known to be still surviving, the elderly female.

In 1994, in an experiment to boost numbers three young elephants from the Kruger National Park were introduced into the range of the elderly female. One of the young elephants died of stress related complications soon after release. The remaining two elephants joined up with the elderly female for only short periods before choosing to spend 80% of their time in mountainous fynbos habitat beyond the Knysna forest. In 1999 the two young elephants were recaptured and relocated to the Shamwari private reserve in the Eastern Cape. The Knysna elephants were then declared by some to be almost extinct.

Lori Eggert’s conservation research focuses on using non-invasive techniques to provide information needed for the effective management of declining species, secretive or dangerous animals in particular. During her work in West Africa she developed a genetic censusing method for forest elephants usingDNA extracted from dung samples. Gareth Patterson has undertaken field research into the diet, range and distribution of the Knysna elephants since 2001. Knysna elephants are elusive and extremely difficult to see. To obtain important population data on these endangered animals, Eggert and Patterson teamed up to undertake the non-invasive genetic survey of the Knysna elephants.

Because fibrous vegetation eaten by elephants continuously scrapes cells from the intestine, dung is a good source of DNA. Genotyping of DNA from dung samples can determine numbers of individuals, sexes of individuals, the relatedness between them and the level of genetic diversity present in the population.

‘The Knysna elephant study identified that at least five females exist within the population, and two of the animals identified appear to be first-order relatives and that several others may be half-siblings. The results also suggest that the surviving Knysna elephants are closely related to the elephants of the Addo Elephant National Park’ says Patterson.

‘The genetic diversity of the Knysna elephants is lower than that found in most African savannah populations, and being such a small population this is likely to be a serious problem in the future unless measures to encourage out breeding are undertaken’ cautions Eggert.

Since the completion of the study, there is evidence that a Knysna calf was born. This and other evidence gathered in the field by Gareth Patterson, indicates that at the very least, one breeding Knysna bull is or has recently been present in this population.

The Knysna elephants are the only unfenced elephant population in South Africa. They range on National Park, provincial, commercial and privately owned land. Contrary to popular belief, the Knysna elephants are not confined, or restricted, to the Knysna forest, but also utilise mountain fynbos, successional and plantation areas.

Researched and compiled by Gareth Patterson

Photo Credits: Hylton Herd/Wilfred Oraai, SANParks


Fresh Knysna forest elephant dung, when found, is sold for about R300 a heap to community members who use this to cook a soup which is believed to have miraculous health benefits.

The elephants favour well-defined paths when moving from one area to another.  These paths are usually along ridges and always cross valleys and river beds by the easiest route.  The skill of the elephants has been envaluable to foresters who have frequently followed elephant paths when making tracks and roads.  The road through Bloukrans Pass followed an elephant track.

In 1920 only 20 animals remained.  Major P.J. Pretorius received permission to shoot one Knysna elephant “for scientific research” to determine whether or not these elephants belonged to a separate species.  The hunt went terribly wrong and after the hunt it is said only 15 elephants survived.

Sources:  The Elephants of Knysna, Nick Carter;  The Knysna Elephants and their Forest Home, Margo Mackay


114 countries South Africans can travel to without a visa September 18, 2014

Filed under: Explore,Out & about,Travel — shadreyer @ 10:53 am
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17 Places where you can find the World in South Africa

Filed under: Explore,Out & about,Travel — shadreyer @ 10:51 am

You’ve heard it before: South Africa is diverse. We didn’t realise quite how true this statement was until we embarked on a snapshot journey to find how many places in South Africa resembled destinations around the world. You’d be surprised!

1. Miami – Durban

The art deco buildings, palm trees, long sunny days, and warm tropical waters of Miami can be found on the Durban city coastline.


2. Piva Canyon – Blyde River Canyon

The famous Piva Canyon in Montenegro National Park could be the European sister of our Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga.

Piva CanyonBlyde River Canyon

3. Sub-Sahara – Karoo

We might not have the vast desert dunes of the Sahara, but the Karoo bears a striking resemblance to the scrubby terrain of the Sub-Sahara.


4. Great Barrier Reef – Sodwana Bay

Why fork out your life savings to scuba in the Great Barrier Reef when Sodwana Bayis one of the top diving destinations in the world?

Great Barrier Reef Sodwana Bay

5. French Winelands – Cape Winelands

We may not be able to call it Champagne, but our Methode Cap Classiques are just as good!

FranceVergelegen estate with winery building

6. Blue Mountains – Mpumalanga

Sometime less is more. Pinnacle Rock in Mpumalanga is just as inspiring as the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains of Australia.

Blue MountainsPinnacle Rock

7. Lama Temple (Beijing) – Nan Hua Temple (Bronkhorstspruit)

If you’re looking for spiritual upliftment, the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple inBronkhorstspruit is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere.


8. Lake Nakuru – Kimberley

Lake Nakuru in Kenya is home to thousands of pink flamingos, but you’ll find a similar spectacle at Kamfers Dam in Kimberley.

Lake NakuruFlamingoes-Kimberley-By-Winston67(Flickr)

9. Assateague Island vs Bot River Lagoon

Assateague Island, off the coast of Maryland, USA, is home to more than 100 wild ponies. You can also find approximately 25 wild horses living freely in the dunes of theBot River Lagoon in the Overberg.


10. Alaska – Drakensberg

The Drakensberg offers plenty of snow days without the extremely long day-time or night-time hours of Alaska.


11. Angel Falls – Tugela Falls

Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979m, while the Tugela Falls in the Drakensberg is the world’s second highest waterfall with a total drop of 948m in 5 free-leaping falls.

Angel Falls?????????????????????????????????????

12. Shanghai – Johannesburg

If big city lights are your thing, you’ll find Johannesburg a fitting substitute for cities like Shanghai.


13. Elan Valley – Haenertsburg

Prefer the quieter country life? The beautiful landscapes of Haenertsburg could easily pass off as the Elan Valley in Wales.

Elan ValleyHaenertsburg-Turaco-Farm-Cottages

14. Monaco – Cape Town

With luxury yachts, apartments worth millions, and boutique stores with hefty price-tags, the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is as fitting a haunt for the rich and famous as the streets of Monaco.

MonacoV&A Waterfront

15. Mykonos – Langebaan

Get a taste of the Greek life in the quaint coastal village of Langebaan, especially atClub Mykonos.

MykononsClub Mykonos Langebaan

16. New Zealand – Wilderness

The forests, mountains, and waterways that make New Zealand such an attractive destination can also be found in the little Garden Route town of Wilderness.

New ZealandWilderness Forest

17. Vietnam – West Coast

If you love the charm of fishing villages, you’ll love the colourful boats lining the beaches of Ly son Island in Vietnam as well as Paternoster on the Cape West Coast.

Ly son Island in VietnamPaternoster

With so many incredible places to see, your next overseas holiday may just divert within the borders of South Africa. Do you have any more suggestions of South African places that resemble destinations around the world?