Blue Hill Escape

Accommodation and mountain fynbos reserve

Western Cape, South Africa



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Previous moments from Blue Hill Escape

This page is a photo diary which offers a tast of our lives in the Kouga mountains.

Ed's wood at Feathers gallery, Knysna
A Symphony of Stars

1 March 2011. With the nearest city 2 hours drive away, light pollution in our night skies is close to zero. That is why astronomers want to build one of the biggest telescope arrays in the world in the Karoo. On a moonless night by starlight alone one can see the silhouettes of the surrounding trees and mountains! In late summer Orion struts his stuff over the Klein Karoo, as we are watched by the beady eye of Sirius. Taurus and the Seven Sisters (Pleides) rest towards the horizon, while the Southern Cross awakes in the southern skies.

Ed's wood at Feathers gallery, Knysna
Prince Alfred's Pass by sunset

3 April 2011. One of South Africa's most spectacular historical passes, the Prince Alfred's Pass was built over four year by Thomas Baines, using convicts, to connect the Langkloof Valley to Knysna. It was named after Prince Alfred Pass in honour of Queen Victoria's favourite son, who came elephant hunting in 1867. This pass is all the more spectacular at sunset.

Ed's wood at Feathers gallery, Knysna
Parade of Porcupines

28 September 2010. Its not usual to have 280 wildlife photos in a week, but thats what happened during these two weeks in September at a camera situated on our south road, not far from where we all stay. 260 were of baboons - from every angle (a few selected photos can be viewed on our blog - Standing out from the baboons was this photo of a pair of porcupine, heading of course for our lucerne fields. Probably the same pair I have chased after with by bicycle previously. I did that really hoping I wouldn't cycle over one - the puncture repairs would have been endless!

Gemsbok Dawn
Gemsbok Dawn

28 July 2010. One of the most exciting times of the day is after we've been out into the field to collect the memory cards from the remote cameras scattered across the reserve. Amongst the baboon and duiker photos (our most abundant mammals) one occasionally gets a rare animal, or even better, a rare animal with a great background - like the dawn on the Kouga mountains behind this gemsbok. Gemsbok are associated with dry areas, like the Karoo and Kalahari and we are at the very southern limit of their range. In fact, this may be the only gemsbok on the reserve - we suspect it escaped from a local gamefarm where they are hunted.

Ed's wood at Feathers gallery, Knysna
Ed's Wood

14 July 2010. We had the pleasure this week of visiting the Feathers gallery in Knysna, which displays beautifully detailed hand-crafted birds. Featured in this photo are a collection of unique bowls and crafts created from driftwood by Edward Walker, who's work is on display at the gallery under the watchfull eye of his friendly cat Leo. Blue Hill Escape is about 80km from Knysna via the Prince Alfred's Pass.

Cape Mountain Zebra
Cape Mountain Zebra

10 July 2010. We were barreling along the northern side of the Baviaansberge, on the Baviaans T2 route, when we startled a small herd of Cape Mountain Zebra. After coming to a halt, they relaxed and started posing among the Aloes. Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) is the smallest of the zebras and a South African endemic. They are classified as vulnerable and only about 400 individuals remain. They were the highlight of our 6 hour drive from Patensie, which included the breath-taking Grootrivier, Elandsberge and Grasnek passes in the shadow of the Cockscomb peak.

giant Aloe ferox
Giant Aloe

19 June 2010. Some places like to make themselves famous by creating the biggest pineapple, spider, or wombat. In the Klein Karoo we grow giant Aloes. This Aloe ferox is related to that famous Aloe vera - a popular ingredient in skin cream. Trying to harvest this Aloe's leaves would be a bit problematic though.

Fire in the fynbos

28 June 2010. Last week snow, this week fire. The conservancy with which we are associated have a contract with the Department of Water's 'Working for Water' program. Part of this involves clearing wattle infestations. Black and Silver wattle introduced from Australia overgrow the streams, shading out and out-competing indigenous vegetation. The wattle is cut, and later burnt. This has to take place several times as the seeds are very persistent.

Malachite sunbird on Aloe ferox in the snow
Malachite sunbird on Aloe ferox -but in the snow

15 June 2010. As the Aloes come into bloom across the hillsides of the Renosterbos, lighting the hills with beacons of red, a fairly common sight is to see an emerald green Malachite sunbird amongst the flowers, seeking out a nectar energy boost. That must have been especially needed on this day when the Karoo experienced the heaviest snows in 10 years.

Orange-breasted sunbird
Orange-breasted sunbird fun

While on a winter walk, I came across a family of Orange-breasted sunbirds - at least three youngsters with their nervous parents. The youngsters would approach quite curiously to observe me. After a while they relaxed and started to play king-of-the-castle, the castle in this case a Suikerbossie (Protea repens)

13 June 2010