Friday, April 8, 2016

Giants Castle update by Jeremy Williamson

Lana and I, with our birding buddy, Gordon out on holiday from Scotland, as well as Dirk Glado from Germany, old friends, had  included Giant’s Castle in our birding itinerary.

En route from Durban and close to Giant's Castle we encountered numerous Amur Falcons (aka Eastern Red-footed Kestrel)

Female Amur Falcon

Male Amur Falcon

Bye !

The road within the Park, dramatically better than the Provincial road in, badly pot-holed, take care !

The variety of species normally encountered in the camp and generally in that montane biome, plus my having secured a booking at the old Vulture Hide, bode to our having some good photographic opportunities whilst visiting Giant’s Castle Game Reserve.

Well it wasn’t to be; The extended drought severely impacted on the bird populations with many entering last years breeding period with inadequate food resources.  The numbers and variety of birds during the entire 6 week birding excursion were definitely far less than expected.   

Early morning arrival at the hide - packed breakfast from the Restaurant in lieu of their full Brekka

Surprisingly we had no vultures land and feed at the old vulture hide where we were expectantly waiting, cameras a ready! 

Gordon and Dirk

Lana becoming the avid birder

This despite my bringing smaller meaty bones especially cut for me from my local butcher, I thought it to be a Vulture treat, alas not, but the Crows and Ravens were most appreciative.

White-necked Raven

White-necked Ravens

We did have a few other birds arrive

Dark-capped Bulbuls

Familiar Chat

Speckled Pigeon

Red-winged Starling

Jackal Buzzard

We had a Cape Grey Mongoose arrive in order top purloin some of the tucker.

Then the guys who would not come and sample our offerings !

Cape Vulture looking at our offerings sideways

Yellow-billed Kite

The light was against us, what with a storm brewing, we decided to leave early afternoon

A short distance from the hide, a flush toilet has been constructed. A welcome addition.

Giant’s Castle Game Reserve’s Camp follows closely behind Thendele Restcamp in the Royal Natal National Park in by opinion as an ultimate Drakensberg vacation destination. The rooms are well appointed and in better repair than any of the other Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s rest-camp's accommodation. The mountain view chalets all have views of the recumbent 'Giant". Here is a reflection of what guests gaze upon when staying at the Giant's Castle Lodge.

The grounds and gardens are well maintained and these are home to a plethora of birds and Dassies too (Rock Hyrax)

Reservations at Giant’s Castle are on a bed and breakfast basis, despite all the units being self-catering. I guess this helps the restaurant substantially to be viable. At breakfast, which was delightful, I had a look at the menu for lunch and dinner, that which was offered seemed to be an excellent variety and well priced too.

With check-in from 14h00 and the last guided experience at the San Rock Art shelter and diorama at 15h00, we hastened to put all our perishables in the fridge, grabbed our binoculars and cameras and off on the relatively easy hike to see this legacy of old.

Loads of Proteaceae on the slopes

En route, Malachite Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker were specials and then in and through the dank canopy forest situated just below “Main Caves”. A community and accredited San Rock Art guide was there to meet us and led us through the enclosure to the site.

The enclosure is to keep vandals out of the precinct, a fair bit of damage to the paintings and graffiti  in various forms is evident.

Viewing structures to better view the art paintings

The diorama set where these folk would have lived, is an excellent idea.

Diorama of a San family

Some of the extensive, but rather faded art work

Shamans, hunters and eland

From the shelter one is able to look down onto the Bushman's river and across to Giant's Castle Camp.

The rolling foot hills of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and the Bushman's River

The Giant's Castle Camp on a level section of the hillside

We chose to follow the river side path back to camp.

The hill housing the "Main Caves" shelter

Some delightful plants on the way.

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