South africa itinerary 2014 wildlife holiday botanical bulb tour western cape

South Africa

A Greentours Itinerary
Days 1 & 2
To Cape Town and Cape Peninsula

After an overnight flight from London we’ll arrive in Cape Town early in the
morning where we’ll begin our exploration of the flora on the 70 kilometre-long
mountainous spine of the Cape Peninsula. Here the Table Mountain National Park
protects the unique ‘fynbos’ vegetation and patches of rare Afromontane forest.
The Cape Peninsula itself holds more plant species than the entire British Isles, and
as an introduction we’l explore the Cape Point area, where in addition to plant
species such as Protea, Ericas, Mimetes, Restios and Satyriums, we’ll look for the
endemic mammals Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra. Pink Satyrium carneum
orchids grow along the roadsides, and the delicate Moraea tripetala is common in
many forms. The nutrient-rich Benguela current surges along the coast from
Antarctica and we’ll have a chance to see many of the endemic seabirds,
including a visit to an African Penguin colony. Southern Right Whales will be
calving immediately offshore. Ancient Milkwood Trees and the fragrant Camphor
Bush inhabit the coastal thicket.
Day 3
Table Mountain & Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Nestling below the towering cliffs of Table Mountain is the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where we will have time to explore the magnificent col ection of plants from across the country. The horticultural displays merges with natural vegetation which extends up the mountain and includes a population of South Africa’s largest protea, Leucadendron argenteum (the Silver Tree). Here we’l also see Protea nitida and the ancient Cunonia capensis which survives naturally in streambeds – it’s closest relatives being in New Caledonia! Cape Sugarbirds and Orange-breasted Sunbirds, both endemics, adorn the many species of flowering Proteas and Ericas. We’ll spend much of our time slowly exploring the vegetation outdoors, but also won’t ignore the conservatory where a diverse display of miniature succulent plants, such as Lithops, Conophytums and Haworthias, are displayed in a simulated desert environment.
If luck is on our side with the flower timing, we might be fortunate to visit the last
remaining population of Moraea aristata, a “peacock moraea” and one of the
rarest plants in the world. Less than 50 plants survive on a tiny patch of vegetation
in the city suburbs on a private site and they only flower for 2 weeks.
Days 4 & 5
West Coast National Park, Darling area & Tiene Verveld Wildflower Reserve

The sandy shores of the West Coast, just north of Cape Town, hold a completely different flora, and we’l explore both the flashy Asteraceae displays of the coastal sands and the endemic-rich granites of the West Coast National Park. This park is Greentours Natural History Holidays ● 01298 83563 ● [email protected] ● centred round the 16km long Langebaan lagoon, a global y important site for shorebirds. Patches of daisies, such as Gazania krebsiana and Dimorphotheca pluvialis occur among areas of bulbs such as Lachenalia rubida. Ferraria crispa and Pelargonium fulgidum occur on the granite hil s. We’ll look out for Microloma saggitatum, the only plant in the world known to be pol inated by the tongue of a bird. One of the world’s rarest raptors, the striking Black Harrier, might wel quarter overhead and Southern Black Bustards draw attention with their raucous displays. Babiana ringens, with its red blooms and special rat’s tail-like ‘bird perch’, is perfectly adapted to pol ination by Malachite Sunbirds.
The nearby shales in the Darling area have a profusion of bulbs, such as Romuleas,
Babianas and the stunning Geissorhizas, a number of which are endemic.
Geissorhiza radians and the similar Babiana rubrocyanea are particularly striking
with their red and deep purple flowers. Large specimens of Drosera cistiflora flower
in the seeps, and whole fields are filled with Moraea miniata and Heliophilas. Star-
shaped Spiloxenes abound in the damp patches. Some species, such as Spiloxene
, have dark marks in the centre of the flower that are thought to act as
mating stimuli for monkeybeetles, the plants’ clumsy pol inator. We’ll also see the
unrelated Gorteria diffusa whose flowers act as courting stations for a fly.
Days 6 - 8
Nieuwoudtville - bulb capital of the world

Moving further north, the Nieuwoudtville area has been cal ed the “Bulb capital of the world”, with over 300 species around the smal town. We’ll spend three nights on a farm here, visiting nearby reserves, the newly formed Hantam National Botanical Garden, and private lands. As we potter from place to place, the diversity at our feet is bewildering. Fields are dominated by the tal yellow Bulbinella nutans and there is a profusion of Ornithogalums, Lachenalias, Moraeas, Romuleas, Ixias and Geissorhizas. Delicate Hesperanthas, such as the endemic Hesperantha vaginata, only open late in the day in preparation for nocturnal pol inators. Three species of Sparaxis are endemic and there are numerous Babianas and Gladiolus. One of the remarkable aspects of the flora is how unrelated species mimic one another to compete for pol inators, and we’l see how this has occurred with a species of Lapeirousia and a Pelargonium which both attract a specialised long-tongued fly. We might be lucky enough to see the huge fly, which has such a long proboscis that it must point it backwards when it flies, and the end still sticks out beyond the back of the fly! Curious ground-hugging Androcymbium pulchrum have recently been found to be pol inated by rodents! A special place that we’l visit nearby is the Knersvlakte, a large low-lying quartz plain that forms part of the Succulent Karoo flora and hosts a diversity of stone plants. These “babies bottoms” as they are known local y (Argyroderma) represent a fascinating adaptation by miniaturisation in this hard climate. Greentours Natural History Holidays ● 01298 83563 ● [email protected] ● Day 9
Tanqua Karoo

The Karoo is a semi-desert that stretches across a vast area of the country. The
landscape is empty, save a few scattered farmhouses. Huge open plains are
juxtaposed with desert mountain cliffs. The landscape is dominated by smal
succulent bushes, prone to bursting into pink flower at this time of year. The
profusion of succulents of the family Mesembryanthemaceae, wel over 1000
species, is official y the most explosive radiation of any plant family in the world.
We’ll see many species, most of which will defy identification unless we can dissect
their seed capsules! We might even see the narrowly endemic Eurystigma
. Most famous of the plants are the now rare Hoodia, col ected for use as
an appetite suppressant, and Bushman’s Candles (Sarcocaulon crassicaule).
Many of the endemic birds are found here, including Karoo and Ludwig’s Bustards,
and we might expect to see as many as four species of eagle here too.
Days 10 & 11
Floral diversity and orchid hunting around Ceres

Ceres boasts a remarkable diversity of ‘tulps’. One of the most beautiful of these, Moraea villosa, is really quite common and we’ll also come across numerous Moraea gawleri in its yel ow form, Moraea galaxia, and the uncommon Moraea macronyx. Parrot-beaked Tortoise and the impressively large and surprisingly speedy Leopard Tortoise wander amongst a mouth-wateringly colourful and diverse flora. We’ll find impressive Drosera cistiflora, lovely Spiloxene capensis, Lachenalia juncifolia, Babiana sambucina, Ixia capillaris, Oxalis lanata rosea, Gladiolus venustus and Gladiolus alatus. Other highlights are gorgeous Wurmbea variabilis and the local speciality Gladiolus quadrangularis. Many of these beauties bloom on old burn sites, a constant feature in this area, and in particular orchids love this habitat. Disperis villosa, Pterygodium catholicum, Schizodium cornutum, and Holothrix villosa are amongst the most common. Holothrix aspera, Disperis bolusiana, and Pterygodium pentherianum are yet more fine orchids but the superb finely divided flowers of the Spider Orchid, Bartholina burmanniana, will probably draw the most admiration.
Another burn site near Worcester hosts fine Watsonia meriana, tal plants with
striking red flowers. In this area we can also see Aristea africana, Sebaea
, and Microloma tenuifolium, and beautiful red flowered Drosanthemum
which colours the roadsides in the area.
Days 12 & 13
De Hoop and Hermanus limestone fynbos

The plains of the Overberg, which stretch from the mountains to the southernmost tip of the African continent at Agulhas, have mainly been converted to wheat. Blue-flowered Moraea polyanthos often produces a fine show on the Agulhas Plains. We’ll see Karoo Korhaan and the localised Agulhas Long-billed Lark here. Small patches of “renosterveld” vegetation survive along the roads and support a Greentours Natural History Holidays ● 01298 83563 ● [email protected] ● variety of Hermannias and Salvias among the Elytropappus rinocerotis, the dominant grey bush. The regal Blue Cranes are common in open lands, and we should see Denham’s Bustards, the males performing an elaborate display at this time of year. Cape Vultures breed on the Potberg Mountain. Closer to the coast, De Hoop Nature Reserve protects large swatches of coastal habitat and the unique limestone ‘fynbos’ here has showy species such as Protea obtusifolia and Leucospermum pattersoni. Looking at one’s feet, the smal scented Agamthosmas, or “buchus” as they are known locally, have been used medicinal y for centuries. Bontebok and Cape Mluntains Zebra Graze on the flats and Fiery-necked Nightjars hawk insects close to the chalets.
Southern Right Whales winter off the coast in good numbers, and a large wetland
in the reserve is excel ent for waterbirds.
Days 14 & 15
To Cape Town and return to UK

We complete the loop towards Cape Town, on the way exploring more fynbos-covered slopes which hold a profusion of Aspalathus, Erica, Leucadendron, and Serruria species – and we should encounter family groups of striking Cape Rockjumpers hopping among the pathside boulders. The pink flowered trailing Protea compacta is a common roadside plant whilst marshy areas host Prince-of-Wales Heath Erica perspicua and the lovely yel ow Erica patersoniae, as well as Osmitopsis asteriscoides and Serruria adscendens. It is an indication of the incredible floral richness of the Cape that even on the last day of the tour, almost anywhere we stop wil continue to yield new species. African Fish Eagles fly overhead whilst butterflies such as the Common Dotted Border and the Fynbos Blue flutter over lovely pink Geissorhiza schinzii and simply stunning Phaenocoma prolifera. Swee and Common Waxbills potter about the gardens around our chalets
We’ll visit the Harold Porter Botanical Garden, where ‘fynbos’ vegetation
intermingles with afromontane forest and lovely Psorlea pinnata grows along the
streams. The botanical garden also has an excellent bookshop. We’ll arrive in
Cape Town in the afternoon and will go to Cal an’s home for a wash and brush-up
and perhaps a quick search for the Cape Dwarf Chameleons that live in Callan’s
garden before heading to the airport and our evening departure for to London.
Day 16
Arrive UK/Europe

Cal 01298 83563 or visitfor the latest trip report from our
tours to South Africa. If you would like to ask about any other aspect of this holiday,
please call 01298 83563 or email us at
Greentours Natural History Holidays ● 01298 83563 ● [email protected] ● To Book a on this Holiday please fil in the booking form which you can download from(also found in the Greentours brochure) and post/fax to Greentours, Leigh Cottage, Gauledge Lane, Longnor, Buxton SK17 0PA, UK. Tel/Fax +44 (0)1298 83563. After booking your place you’l receive a confirmation letter and a detailed information pack wil be dispatched twelve weeks prior to departure. Flower, bird and mammal checklists are available. Greentours Natural History Holidays ● 01298 83563 ● [email protected] ●



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