29 December 2018

If you walk along Beach Road in Sea Point, the ocean-side suburb adjacent to Green Point, you might notice a row of six posts alongside the promenade.  If you are curious, you might cross the drought-stricken park to have a closer look.


And from closer, they appear to be strange ironwork sculptures.


But there is nothing to indicate their purpose.


And then you might notice, a little further away, a small platform with dates and numbers.


And from the platform, all is revealed:  seen from the right observation point, the various metal sculptures merge to form a huge rhino.


And what do the numbers leading up to the observation platform represent?

They reflect the number of rhinos slaughtered each year by poachers to obtain their horns.

And why their horns?

Because there is a demand from south-east Asia for a powdered form of the horn, in the naive belief that it will cure cancer, improve their sexual performance, or a host of other dubious claims,  despite scientific evidence that there are no such benefits.

How stupid can people be?

The sculpture at Sea Point was created by André Carl Van de Merle, sponsored by the City of Cape Town, Art54 and Woolworths.

And for what it is worth, I can say, without any reservation, that Woolworths is the best little supermarket that I have ever come across, anywhere in the world.

So if Woolworths is involved in exposing rhino poaching, there is hope…




18-19 November 2018

The Aguila Private Game Reserve lies some 200 km and a little over two hours drive to the north-west of Cape Town.  It is a 10,000 hectare reserve near the town of Touws River, and originally held various antelope species.  In 1999, it was purchased by Searl Derman, with his goal of re-introducing ‘Big Five’ animals to the Western Cape and allowing them to roam freely.

The term ‘Big Five’ originates with big game hunters and referred to the five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt: elephants, lions, buffalo, rhinos and leopards.  At Aguila there is no hunting, and the term ‘Big Five’ is solely used in marketing materials.

The reserve was named after the Black Eagle (Aguila), an endangered species, that is often spotted by game wardens and occasionally by a guest. They have occasionally been photographed feasting on the remains of a leopard kill.

So it was that we set out early on a Sunday morning, once again in Faried Fakier’s minibus (see Randy’s Tours), to drive to Aguila.  The scenic route from Cape Town passes through the wine lands of Paarl and the rugged mountains of Hawequas and Matroosberg.  Once past the wine farms, the land was parched and obviously greatly suffering from the four-year drought.  Once checked into our rooms for the night, and replete with lunch, we set off on a very bumpy tour of the reserve, with a knowledgeable guide, searching for animal sightings.

The photos that follow were taken by one of our group, except where noted.

Two male elephants

In 2011 some poachers invaded the reserve, killed two rhinos and injured a third, before escaping with the horns.  Since then security on the reserve has been escalated.  Rhinos are particularly vulnerable to poachers, as the habits of rhinos are predictable:  they defecate at the same place most days.   Unfortunately, rich and privileged (idiot) Asians continue to believe that rhino horn powder acts as a powerful aphrodisiac, despite it having been proven to be totally useless. What sad bastards they must be.

A typical rhino manure heap

The lions are ‘rescued lions’ from a ‘lion farm’.  They had been reared in cages of ten meters square, fed on a diet of steroids to give them bulk, and would have been eventually shot by ‘brave’ rich tourists.  No doubt photos and taxidermy would be included in the package.  For more information, the Spanish ex-King could help, although it was an elephant and not a lion that he shot (see Spanish kill).

But these were lucky lions – two male and five female.  They have a separate reserve, with their own mountain and valley to wander over, and fed once a week.  They could not be released into the wild, as they would not be able to support themselves.  Once they were doomed, but now they can live out their natural lives.


A Southern Giraffe, smaller than its northern cousins


An Eland antelope


Gnu, also known as a blue wildebeest


A springbok

Trying to look sexy, a zebra stallion
The reputably most dangerous of the ‘Big Five’, a buffalo

We did not have any sightings of the hippos, apart from their noses and some snorting of water.  Apparently they spend about sixteen hours a day under the water and the young can feed from their mother without surfacing.

Baby Hippo - March 2018 - 1
Aguila hippos, from their photo collection

There are four mountain leopards in the park, but they are nocturnal and rarely seen.  Only the evidence of their kill and their footprints reveal their presence.

A Mountain Leopard (photo from internet)

As an integral part of its mission, Aguila has an Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation  Centre.  This is a sanctuary for animals that can never be released into the wild again.  It is also a temporary home for animals who need treatment and then released back into the wild.  This area is out-of-bounds for visitors.  Any contact with these animals is kept to the absolute minimum.

Aguila has had some success with this initiative, having released back into the wild three mountain leopards, numerous lynx, porcupines, owls and other species.

Much of the unique information about Aguila, I have noted from our guide or extracted from the Aguila web site.  For more detail, see Aguila.

We stayed on the reserve overnight, in very comfortable accommodation.  After dinner, we found that a bonfire had been lit, and a knowledgeable local guy gave a fascinating lecture on the night sky, using a laser pointer and a astronomical telescope.

And just before we left the reserve we had the good fortune to come across a rare sighting of a Freckled Blackwood, complete with offspring.


Witnessing wild life can often be a matter of luck… 🙂

Cape of Good Hope

Thursday, 15 November 2018

For the first time in several years, I managed to organize a two-week reunion, here in Cape Town, with my four sons and one of their girlfriends.  They coordinated their flights from Frankfurt and Barcelona so that they all travelled out on the same flight from London.  John and Hazel stayed with us in our apartment and Andrew, Bob and Philip stayed in a nearby hostel (see http://www.bigbackpackers.com).

Before they arrived, I sent them my own idea of a list of ‘Things you could do if you only have two weeks in Cape Town‘.  They managed to do just about everything, except ‘ Shark Cage Diving‘, and visiting Robben Island, the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela was held for so many years.  They booked tickets for the island, but unfortunately, when they turned up at the dock, the tickets were reserved for the preceding day.  Whoops!

Travelling around the Cape of Good Hope was a unanimous choice.  When I heard that we were considering renting a minibus, I was not in favour, and instead I insisted that we contract  Faried Fakier to show us around the peninsula.  Apart from regularly transporting us and our friends to and from the airport, Faried is a qualified tour guide.  He and his wife, Rosina, have their own company, Randy’s Tours.  I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone visiting Cape Town and surroundings.

So at 09:00 sharp, we set off from our Green Point apartment, heading east around Signal Hill and Table Mountain, then south through Constancia to Muizenberg.

Cape of Good Hope map

From Muizenberg we followed the False Bay coast, passing the colorful bathing huts of Saint James Beach.

Beach huts

We continued through the trendy fishing villages of Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek and stopped after Simon’s Town, at Boulders Beach.  It is here that one can view the evidence of the positive conservation efforts of recent years.  African Penguins can only be found in South Africa and Namibia and have been considered as a species on the verge of extinction.  In 1982, two breeding pairs settled on Boulders Beach, and today there are in excess of 3000 birds on the beach.

Penguin stairs
This guy was far from the beach, sitting under the first step of the board walk, looking out for suspicious characters

In their tuxedos, waiting for the concert

Penguin lovers
‘Have you I ever told you that you’re a hunk?’

From Boulders Beach we drove to the Cape National Park.  It was there that we came across a troop of baboons.  This guy was the obvious leader.  He just sat with a stick up his bum, ignoring us.


The actual Cape of Good Hope is the sort of place I would normally never go near.  Too many tourists and few, if any, locals. But at least I can say I have done it…  🙂



On the way out of the park, we came across this flock of wild ostriches.


And on the way back to Cape Town, we stopped at Chapman’s Peak with this fabulous view.

Chapman's Peak

It was indeed a memorable day…