Sunday, June 29, 2014

Knysna – 08 and 10 May 2014 – Ostrich Farm, Buffels Drift and Cango Wildlife Ranch 08 May 2014

After spending some time with Erik and Yipe planning the day’s activities, we headed straight to Oudtshoorn, a town in the Western Cape Province. The town is home to the world's largest Ostrich population, with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms. The drive itself is mesmerizing as one passes through Sedgefield, Wilderness and George. Crossing the Oteniqua Mountains you enter the Klein Karoo with a dramatic change to a rugged country-side. From the moment you enter this lovely region, you will be struck by the vastness of the country.

Fascinating landscape
As you drive along the plains, you suddenly see the entire landscape full of Ostriches. For a first time visitor like us, the sighting is truly thrilling and one stops the car to take a closer look.

Welcoming Party

Very thrilled
In the early 18th century, Ostrich feathers become extremely popular as fashion accessories in Europe; they were especially popular for use on hats. This resulted in a large number of farmers taking to Ostrich farming over other agricultural products. Over a period of time it has gained popularity for its lean and healthy meat.

Feathers adorn the hat of royalty
Self and Kats had Ostrich steak. It is closer to beef in its texture and taste.
We spent some time on the farm with the guide telling us very interesting tidbits about Ostriches. In the earlier days people used to build an ‘Ostrich Palace’ made of feathers. Every year they send around 5 tons of feathers to Rio for the carnival! Ostrich eggs are the biggest eggs of any animal at an average of 3 pounds. Scrambled egg made out of one egg can feed up to 17 people. Ostriches have no teeth and they swallow stones to digest their food. They are known to eat a variety of items found on the ground including long spoons, horns, spanners, water bottles, a variety of nuts and bolts etc. 

Amazing diet
The ostrich usually weighs between 200 and 300 pounds and can grow up to 9 feet tall. The males have black feathers with some white on the underside and tail. The females are usually grey in color. An ostrich's eyes can be nearly 2 inches in diameter giving them the largest eyes of any land animal. They are extremely protective of their eyes. The guides always carry a thorny bush stick to scare the ostrich if they become aggressive. Ostriches live off of whatever they can find to eat. This includes plants, insects, and small animals like lizards. They often live in herds with other ostriches.

Female Incubating

Male Ostrich
We were advised to protect our cameras as they are known to make a go at them.

The Safari Ostrich Show Farm is spread over 1800 hectares and has 1200 birds. The birds live up to 60 human years. If one is bald like me – be wary of the ostrich. In all probability it will confuse your bald head to be one of its newly laid eggs and sit on it for 42 days incubating it (in vain, I might add) with a very puzzled ostrich patiently waiting for the outcome. J

All of us got a chance to sit on an ostrich, stand on its egg (that’s how lightweight we are or how strong the egg is; take your pick) and see an ostrich race with the jockeys clinging on for dear life! We spent a very interesting morning.

Ride of a lifetime

Some heavy weight
Ostrich racing by the staff

In the late afternoon, we visited ‘Buffelsdrift’ restaurant, located on ‘5 ha dam’ waterfront. The restaurant is on stilts. To add to the grand picture, the waters below support a herd of Hippopotamuses (or hippopotami whatever suits you).

View of the shacks

Nile Hippos at the far end 800 to 1000 Kg
Another view

As we finished lunch, heavy and blinding rain started lashing at us. We had to cancel our visit to ‘Cango Caves, and return home. The Cango Caves are a series of dripstone caverns that open into vast halls of towering stalagmite formations.

Final view of Knysna from our terrace
09 May 2014 – Cango Wildlife Ranch

We drove down to Cango Wildlife Ranch situated 3 km north of the town of Oudtshoorn. A very well maintained zoo, set up with the aim of protecting endangered species. It is home to Trumpeters, Flying Foxes, Red River Hogs, Designer Pigs, African Bush Pigs, Cape Vulture, Ring Tailed Lemurs, Greater Flamingo, Nile Crocodiles, Pigmy Hippos, Spotted Necked Otters, Marabou Stork, Corvettes, Cheetahs, Leopard, Tortoise, White Tigers and many more.
Our visit to the zoo was a very satisfying experience.

Red River Hog

Pygmy Hippos - 280 Kg

Marabou Stork

Nile Crocodiles

Most elusive cat - Cheetah

White Bengal Tiger

White Lioness Resting

The king and his consort

Albino out on a stroll

Blue Duiker

Cape Vulture

Spot the cat
 Later that day, we made one more attempt to visit the Cango Caves; unfortunately the cave was closed due to an accident.

On the way back we went to do a bit of wine tasting. We had a tasty lunch in a very up market restaurant called ‘Jemima's in Oudtshoorn. The place is really worth seeing as the owner has tried to maintain the feel of a private home while catering to the public.

At the vineyard

Fascinating interiors - Jemima's

Private Room 

Photo op

Very contended

We ended our trip to Knysna on a very satisfying note.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Knysna – 07 May 2014 - Monkey Land and Birds of Eden

Knysna is a small town with a population of 52 thousand people. It is a very popular tourist destination and attracts people all round the year. Knysna is one of the Garden Route's best known travel destinations and was named one of the Top 100 Destinations in the World in Trip Advisor. The city has an excellent waterfront bustling with tourists in the evenings. There are a number of attractions around Knysna.

Typical Highway - Desolate
Lovely Landscape
Another view - on the way to Knysna

After a good night’s sleep we woke up in the morning fully refreshed. After breakfast we sat with the Swedish owners Erik and Yipe to chalk out a programme for the day. Knysna Country House, where we stayed is around 5 Km from the city centre – overlooking a valley. The house is very tastefully decorated and well maintained - A functional home stay. The house provides breakfast, but the kitchen and its facilities are available throughout the day and night – the residents get a key for the room, common area and the main gate. Interestingly, they run a well stocked ‘Honesty Bar’ – drink and log.

View from the terrace of the home stay

Enjoying Breakfast
We decided to visit Plettenberg Bay, yet another beautiful town on the Garden Route, blessed with lovely beaches and abounding in water sports. For the outdoor variety there is trekking in forests and hilly tracks. Whales also visit this bay from Aug to Nov. After soaking in the beauty of the place, we visited ‘Monkey Land’

Photo OP
Beautiful morning at the bay - Meat lovers on Tap

Plattenberg Bay

Bay view from top of a hill 
Monkey land

Monkeyland is the worlds’ first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. The Monkeyland and Birds of Eden forest (which we visited later) is described as an ‘Afro - montane Forest’. Trees in an afro - montane forest can be up to 30 m or 40 m tall and distinct strata of emergent trees, canopy trees and shrub and herb layers are present. The sanctuary is home to 17 varieties of monkeys, tortoise and Lemurs in their natural surroundings, roaming freely. It is really fascinating to able to walk around with the primates in their habitat. The guide told us that monkeys hate water except for ‘Verbet’ and ‘Japanese Snow Bat’ Monkeys’ which love to swim. Monkeys often use the tortoise as taxis in the sanctuary.

Even the monkey knows

Spider Monkey

Bearded Sakis


Squirrel monkey

Capuchin Monkey


Ring tailed Lemur

Spectacled Langur

With our guide

Birds of Eden

The Birds of Eden in Plettenberg Bay is the world’s largest single span aviary, where birds are free to fly. The valley provides an incredible experience for those who visit, and a wonderful way of life to many previously caged birds. The birds live in an enormous two hectare dome spanning a gorge filled with green, indigenous forest. The sanctuary encompasses 2.3 H of partly forested land, covered by a 3.2H mesh and criss-crossed by a 1.2km walkway. Visitors can explore, at their own pace. The sanctuary is home to over 3,500 birds of around 220 species, including touracos, Knysna Loeries, swans, spoonbills, weavers, scarlet ibis, barbets, parrots, parakeets, waterfowl, flamingos, starlings, robins and cranes. The sanctuary terrain includes a deep gorge with a waterfall and the highest point in the aviary is approximately 50m, covering all the treetops and allowing ample flying space for its winged inhabitants. Since most of the birds have spent their entire lives in captivity, this is their first chance to make adequate use of their wings and to experience natural avian behaviour. A visit to this sanctuary provides anyone entering the dome an exhilarating experience. At times the birds stalk and keep following you all the way. Some come and sit on your shoulder or on your outstretched hand.
Both the sanctuaries are staffed with volunteers from various nations who are keen to help preserve wild life.


Tanimbar Cockatoo

Hyacinth Macaw

Thick vegetation

Pheasant golden

Nicobar Pigeon

Knysna Lourie

Galah Rose breasted parrot

Muse Swan

Scarlet Ibis

Crowned Crane

Mandrin Duck
The overall experience is one of sheer joy, having had an opportunity to see wild life in a way we had never seen it before.

After a very satisfying visit, we returned to Knysna, to watch the sunset at the waterfront. We’ve seen many sunset scenes in our lifetime but this one was a masterpiece! The colours of the sky, the yachts at anchor and the sun disappearing so quickly and smoothly in front of our eyes, was mesmerizing. In all these coastal towns ‘Water Fronts’ play an important role in protecting the image of the city. It’s a hub for commercial and leisure associated activities.

Busy waterfront

Truly fascinating sunset

A last look at the waterfront