Overberg Nature Reserves

The entire Overberg is an exquisite nature reserve and floral kingdom with richer fynbos than any other area in the Cape. I arrived in July – the heart of winter – but the weather was dry and warm. During August, we’re still waiting for winter and have only had a few significant storms. The reservoirs aren’t as dry as Cape Town’s, so Overberg’s drought isn’t as severe. I’m adjusting to fynbos pollen, sea air, and the all-encompassing rogue wind which rattles all and rises and falls as it pleases!

Most buildings in Hermanus don’t have heating systems like we use in the US – they don’t need them except during a few winter months. Interior heat comes from fireplaces and portable room heaters. Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees, and last night I didn’t need to build a fire!

Sculpting Old Harbour

Cape Overberg Nature Reserves – Atlantic and Indian Oceans

Nature Reserves on my exploration list include nearby locations spread out along the coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The biggest decision is which direction to go – east toward Betty’s Bay or west to Gansbaai. East or West, both directions delight the eye:

If you enjoy nature, the communities in these areas have much to offer and are ideal for a peaceful, active retirement. I’ve considered relocating on a permanent basis but am not ready to commit fully. My renewable visa expires in 2020, and I have no idea if there will be more restrictions. Obtaining the first long-term visa was arduous.

Other than Hermanus, these are some areas of consideration. They offer interesting people, outstanding inexpensive restaurants, diverse outdoor activities, volunteer opportunities, hiking trails, and white-sand beaches:

Hermanus Cliff Trail, Beaches, and Whale Watching

This hiking blog – Walking the Cape – written by locals describes easy and challenging hikes. It would take months to complete them all! Yesterday I spent time hiking the Hermanus Cliff Path that begins at New Harbor and hugs the Atlantic coast to Grotto Beach and Klein River Estuary. If you hike the whole trail, it’s about 8 miles. The path isn’t difficult and the coastal scenery is gorgeous – photos attached.

Now I have several new “favorite” beaches for warmer weather, including Kwaaiwater, Voëlklip and Kammabaai. There are many small private coves and beaches along the Cliff Trail but getting down to them is dicey. I stopped for a few minutes to ponder the sea and saw surfers climbing up from the beach – boards in hand – on an almost invisible path hidden by fynbos.

Watched a group of 7+ whales for over an hour near Dutchies Restaurant at Grotto Beach. The whales were having fun – no breaching but lots of spouting, pec slapping, and tail fluking. With binoculars, it was amazing watching them!!! Locals say whales can sense a crowd of spectators and sometimes show off for their audience. Like humans, you see more whales on clear sunny days during mid- morning or afternoon.

A woman from Hermanus told me about an experience she had at a small sheltered beach when suddenly a mother whale and her calf appeared near the shoreline. She said the calf looked about the size of an elephant and seemed to be getting a lesson from its mother on how close to get (or not get) to the beach. It was listening to its mother, and after a few practice runs could come close to the shore and then gracefully steer itself back out to sea.

Map of Cape Nature Reserves

James Grace Guitarist

I spent the weekend in Cape Town enjoying Table Mountain and other favorite places like the Alexander Theatre. Guitarist and South African Music Awards nominee James Grace was performing at the Alexander. Although I’d never heard his music, a little research made me curious, so I booked the performance – glad I did!

Only after committing and making reservations in Cape Town did I realize August 11 – 12 was Hermanus Wine and Food Festival weekend – sorry to have missed it!

Alexander Bar and Theatre

Creative laid-back Alexander is a favorite small venue in Cape Town, but this was the first non-theatre performance I’ve attended there. My last visit was in October 2016 for a performance of The Emissary, a gripping two-actor play written and directed by South African playwright Louis Viljoen.

James Grace has appeared at the Alexander many times, including performing his Guitar Hero shows. His current performance celebrates the September launch of his 6th album, Chilled, and 10 years of his record label, Stringwise Records.

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“Breaking with tradition from his previous five solo albums consisting largely of music for classical guitar, Chilled features Grace’s own unique arrangements of songs by artists including The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jesse Harris, Carol King, and Billy Joel.”

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The very handsome Grace has a shy but endearing stage presence. Between brilliantly performed songs, he interacted with the audience providing insight into his successful music career, life, and artists he admires, including John Denver and James Taylor.

It’s easy to see why he’s one of South Africa’s leading concert artists. He has an impressive background and clearly “knows his stuff”. Some of his many awards include:

Grace is a regular performer at arts festivals and concerts throughout South Africa, Europe, and the U.A.E. He was born in England and began playing the guitar at seven. His family moved to South Africa when he was ten where he studied with the late Dietrich Wagner, Professor of Music at Stellenbosch University, and at the Royal College of Music in London.

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“Chilled introduces a South American element with a medley of original compositions and arrangements by Brazilian guitar maestro Marco Pereira.”

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“After spending two years in Doha, in the Arabian State of Qatar where he taught guitar at an International Music Centre, James returned to South Africa to become Head of Classical Guitar Studies at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music.

James works with other talented artists on a variety of projects. His performance was an evening well spent!

Kleinmond Western Cape South Africa

Coastal weather in the Western Cape has been wild the past few days. Yesterday it was 90-degree beach weather, but today it’s back to a normal winter temperature in the 60s with dramatic skies and intense wind. A storm is brewing!

Western Cape Biosphere

There are many nature reserves and coastal areas to explore, and today I visited Kleinmond, a small town in the Overberg Region. It’s situated inside the UNESCO Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve 50 miles east of Cape Town, between Betty’s Bay and Hermanus Bay.

The name Kleinmond – “small mouth” in Afrikaans – refers to the town’s location at the mouth of the Botrivier lagoon. The Palmiet River and Mountain Range hug Kleinmond on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

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“Wild horses roam free in the estuary flats and marshlands at the Botrivier lagoon….”

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Botrivier Lagoon

Forests, Wild Horses, Frogs, Baboons, Otters, Whales, and the Rare Leopard

“The Western Cape Biosphere has three areas of Platbos indigenous forest like the celebrated Knysna forests – pronounced naizna from a Khoikhoi word meaning ferns. It provides nature lovers with many hikes offering solitude and remarkably unspoiled stretches of wilderness with rugged kloofs, valleys, and mountain peaks.”

Canola Field Overberg

You might see various species of Cape frogs, even the rare Strawberry Rain Frog. The biosphere boasts proteas, clawless Cape otters, exotic birds, and even leopards.” Cape Baboons frequent the area, and I saw a nervous grey spotted mongoose scurrying through the fynbos.

Harold Porter Botanical Garden

From June to November, whales are visible from Kleinmond’s coastline as they come to mate and calf. Several locals I chatted with have seen whales during the past week. So far, they’ve eluded me, but chances should get better during August and September.

March Rose Protea

Strawberry Rain Frog

“Wild horses roam free in the estuary flats and marshlands at Botrivier Lagoon, near Rooisands Nature Reserve. Abandoned by a British garrison after World War II, they are South Africa’s only herd of wild horses in a wetland habitat.”

Cape Otters

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“You might catch sight of the rare Strawberry Rain Frog, march rose protea, otters, birds, or if you’re lucky maybe even a leopard.”

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Wild Horses Botrivier Lagoon

Harold Porter Botanical Garden – another major point of interest – is a secluded 25-acre garden down the coast in Betty’s Bay. The flourishing garden represents the area’s indigenous wetlands, fynbos, forests, and coastal vegetation.

Cape Baboon

Grey Spotted Mongoose

Kleinmond Blue Flag Beach

Kleinmond’s beach is an internationally accredited, environmentally conscious Blue Flag Beach. I’ll be returning!

Sky from My Balcony in Onrus

Hermanus Bay Western Cape South Africa

I haven’t posted on my blog since settling earlier this month in Onrusrivier – a few minutes’ drive from better known Hermanus Bay. Onrus is a beautiful seaside town and whale-watching destination overlooking Walker Bay. It’s surrounded by Voëlklip Beach and Grotto Beach.

Grotto Beach

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During peak whale watching season –  August to mid-December – Southern Right Whalesbecome part of the Onrus seascape”!

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“When sitting at a restaurant about to devour a delicious meal, don’t be surprised when everyone drops their cutlery with a yelp of glee and rushes to the edge of the balcony for a closer look at the frolicking whales. They’re a sight not to be missed!”

Right Whales breed in the sheltered bays of the Cape coast, spending up to five months a year there. “They pass their time playing, courting, and nursing their calves, often just metres from the shore, providing spectacular land-based viewing.”

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“Hermanus is about breathing fresh ‘champagne air’, drinking crystal clear mountain water, watching marine life from your restaurant table, visiting the richest Floral Kingdom on earth, and satisfying your palate with exquisite food.”

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There are many hiking opportunities in the area, including Fernkloof and Kogelberg Nature Reserves. Both known for “minimal human interference and exceptional diversity and quality of fynbos”.  Another option, the easy Hermanus Cliff Path, hugs the seafront and passes over cliff tops and beaches. During whale season, you can sit on wooden benches along the path and enjoy a birds-eye view of the exciting whales, coastal Fynbos, and over 200 species of birds.

Kelp forests along the coast nurture abalone and crayfish. Further out to sea, seasonal visits of Southern right whales, Humpback whales, and dolphins make Hermanus, an eco-destination.

Breaching Right Whale

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“You can do anything from mountain climbing to deep-sea diving with an excellent choice of other outdoor activities.”

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Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Outdoor enthusiasts stroll along coastal paths or hike for days through mountain ranges. Water babies can surf, swim, sail, dive, kayak, and watch whales from rocky outcrops or boats. Foodies can dine in style or enjoy wine estate picnics. “No matter your taste for life, Hermanus adventures await your discovery.”

Hermanus War Memorial, Commemorating Fallen Heroes of WW I and WW II

It’s wonderful here, but ironically, I’ve suffered from a flu-like allergic reaction to endemic fynbos and have struggled with congestion, inflammation, sneezing, and coughing. I will need to take antihistamines continuously but after a few weeks the symptoms are improving. Local pharmacists say that fynbos allergies even plague some locals. Many are resigned to taking antihistamines and using nasal spray year-round.

Disa Ferruginea

Onrus Beach South Africa’s Whale Coast

Rooi Els Whale Coast

There’s nothing better than a South African beach – except maybe the surrounding mountains! I spent some time at Onrus Beach yesterday and fell in love with the sky, surf, dogs, shorebirds, surfers, and children playing in the sand – a gorgeous place! This time of year you need a pair of binoculars to help with whale watching.

The area is known as the Cape Whale Coast. It’s pristine white sand beaches and easy-going atmosphere are popular with an eclectic crowd of beach bums, locals, retirees, and tourists from all corners of the earth.

I had lunch at Milkwood Bistro – a cozy neighborhood restaurant on the water. The service was great and food delicious.

“Close to the very tip of Africa, just outside Cape Town, you will find the Cape Whale Coast –  a place that can easily be called ‘Heaven on Earth’. This pristine stretch of the South African coastline surrounded by mesmerizing mountains and the Atlantic Ocean runs from the coastal hamlet of Rooi Els in the west to Quoin Point in the East.

The main towns of the area are Kleinmond, Hermanus, Stanford, and Gansbaai. The Cape Whale Coast is made up of a collection of villages, farms, rivers, bays, coves, and valleys – each filled with its own special magic. Explore the whales, sharks, wine routes, fynbos, birding, golf courses, penguins, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking trails, and adventure activities in a beautiful region of South Africa, the Cape Whale Coast.”

Sea Birds Quoin Point

 

Table Mountain Hike Devil’s Peak

Cape Town Vista

Yesterday was wonderful hiking Table Mountain for the first time since returning to Cape Town – a euphoric day! I was feeling tired from recent travels, but my friend Jenny encouraged me to join the hiking group – so glad I did!

Jenny and Willemien

Sue and Jenny

It was perfect hiking weather and an easy-going group. We missed substantial rain on Friday and it’s raining lightly today – a welcome phenomenon for everyone!

The hike began at the Devil’s Peak trailhead. We climbed to the contour path enjoying spectacular panoramic views of Cape Town and the coast. The hike wasn’t difficult, but trails on Table Mountain are strewn with boulders and loose rocks.

Next week I head to Hermanus Bay – about a 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town. Hermanus is famous for the migrating whales that visit to have their calves in the safe, peaceful bay. July is a few months early for whale watching season, but the beautiful Bay is always active with dolphins, seals, and other sea life.

Princes’ Islands Istanbul

On my last full day in Istanbul, I decided to revisit the Princes’ Islands – known as Kızıl Adalar in Turkish. The Princes’ are a chain of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara. I first discovered them during a visit in March 2013 when I explored Büyükada Island. This time it was Heybeliada Island.

Festival of Eid-al-Fitr?

Somehow, I got the date of the festival of Eid-al-Fitr confused and incorrectly thought it was Sunday, not Monday. With everyone celebrating, Monday was hectic around Istanbul – especially on the ferries!

A trip to the islands on Eid-al-Fitr was a unique experience, but doubt I would vote for a repeat. The ferries were overcrowded with people crammed in and standing in the aisles, and it took forever to get from Eminönü’ (emmy new new) to the islands.  I saw a sign for 453 life jackets – total. There were three times that many passengers on the ferry, but maybe it was per level! Unbelievably, the ride back was even more crowded. I got stuck on a level with lots of babies. At the end of the day, they were hot, tired, hungry, and cross!

I watched frazzled parents trying to soothe and control their children, fights between siblings, and the rare mellow baby that hung through the whole ferry ride cute, cool and never making a sound. I took quite a few “people” photographs, mostly because everyone was so relaxed and festive they didn’t mind. Got a harsh stare from a Muslim woman – but since I wasn’t photographing her…. On the way back, many passengers succumbed to the heat and rocking, swaying motion of the ferry and fell sound asleep.

When we finally arrived back at Eminönü’, the Muslim family I’d been hanging with on the ferry gave me a hug. In their best English, they said “have a wonderful day” ;o) – it was very sweet. Even the naughtiest little boy I’ve ever observed peeked out from behind his mother’s skirt and waved bye, bye…

About the Princes’ Islands

“The Princes’ Islands evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine era, to a popular destination for tourists and Istanbulites to escape hectic city life for a day.”

Of the nine islands, four are open to the public:

  • Büyükada – biggest and most popular
  • Burgazada
  • Heybeliada
  • Kınalıada

Peace and Quiet on Princes’ Islands

The skyline is dotted with beautiful untouched pine-forests and wooden Victorian cottages. In addition to natural beauty, the main feature is silence! Except for ambulances, “motorized vehicles are banned, making the islands an oasis of peace and quiet. Among the sounds heard are bicycle bells and horse hoofs on the cobblestone pavement. That’s right, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the primary mode of transportation.”

You can travel to the islands via sea buses (fast ferries) or regular ferries. They depart from Eminönü or Kabataş. Depending on the number of stops, the sea bus trip takes about an hour and the regular ferry twice as long. Neither mode of transportation is expensive. The islands are popular summer spots and colorful clumps of beach umbrellas line the coast. On Heybeliada, I noticed an especially diverse population, with many Greeks and Bulgarians.

The summer sun is strong on the islands, so visitors should be prepared! If you come to Istanbul, the Prince’s Islands are a must see. For smaller crowds and a less hectic trip, I recommend visiting earlier in the day during the week.

I’m sad to leave Turkey. Next blog post will be from Cape Town!