Monday, April 13, 2015

Drive carefully at Seal Point Nature Reserve

The Seal Point Nature Reserve in Cape St Francis is home to the SANCCOB penguin sanctuary which is situated right next to the historic Seal Point Lighthouse.  From St Francis Way there is a short road that takes visitors to the lighthouse and SANCCOB centre and it is at this intersection that SANCCOB has erected this very interesting warning sign.  Can you name the animals you have to watch out for as you drive into and walk around the reserve?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Coastal hiking at St Francis Bay

The St Francis Bay / Cape St Francis area has a number of hiking options and with such a stunning coastline how can it not?  Most of the walks are shorter hikes and include coastal walks like the Blowhole Walk, Bay to Bay Walk, Shark Point Walk, Wild Side Meander and the Two Harbours Walk.  There are also walks through the Irma Booysen Flower Reserve and up into the dune fields at the Sand River.  If you really want to experience the best hikes the area has to offer then the four day slack packing Chokka Trail is just for you.  We unfortunately only had one full day during our St Francis breakaway weekend so decided on two of the shorter walks.
The weather on the Saturday morning was cool which meant perfect conditions for a walk.  Our first walk was along the Blowhole Trail which was a nice and easy 5km return trip.  As we were about the set off from the parking lot at Cape St Francis' Wild Side, another car pulled up and hooted at us.  Turned out to be a couple of Geocachers from Port Elizabeth spending the day doing caches in the area and also on their way to the blowhole to do the cache over there.  Suddenly our little part of four became a party of seven with two Jack Russells.

The trail is a nice and easy one with beautiful views of the rugged coastline and surrounding Fynbos.  On the way we passed the wreck of "The Osprey".  Not that there is much left of this wreck dating back to 1867.  Most of the ship was built of wood which means that it has all but disappeared.  All that remains are a couple of small twisted pieces of metal.  It seemed that the ship just steamed straight into the land with no attempt to stop.  One sailor died in the wreck.  The Captain, Navigation Officer and another Lieutenant were all court-marshalled.

A short distance later we got to ground zero and the geocache (called Blowhole) was quickly found and the log signed by everybody.  But where is the actual blowhole and why couldn't we see it?  We fanned out over the rocks and it wasn't long before one of our party spotted it.  A hole in the rocks connected to an cave underneath.  Problem was out timing sucked and it was low tide. Darn!  At high tide the water washes into the cave and gets forced up through the hole with a bang.  Apparently quite impressive if the sea is quite high... which it obviously wasn't today.  Oh well, we'll have to come back at some other stage to come and experience it.

For our second walk we decided on the one to Shark Point.  The deciding factor?  Another Geocache of cause.  We decided not to make a too long a walk and approached it from a parking spot at the end of St Francis Drive as you come from the St Francis Bay side.  Other spots to start from is Port St Francis or the Cape St Francis side.  We went for the shortest walk we could find which meant about 2 km return.  This time our view was into St Francis Bay itself with the village of St Francis Bay, Paradise Beach and, further away, Jeffreys Bay visible.  The coastline was also slightly different from the rugged coast on the other side with more boulders than actual rocks. 

Shark Point is the second point you find as you come into St Francis Bay from the west.  The main point where you will find the lighthouse is Seal Point and it was this second point that led to the demise of the Genesis, a racing yacht that ran aground here in 1994.  The shattered mid section of the hull can still be seen at the point.  At our turning point we found what we were looking for.  The oldest active Geocache in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth - St Francis, placed in 2001.

St Francis Bay is the perfect destination for somebody who loves the ocean, loves exploring the coastline and loves walking and going on short hikes. Do make a plan to visit and #ExperienceEastCape.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

50 Shades of Grey... and Orange

Our weekend in St Francis Bay gave me the perfect material for a Random.... post.  This time random shades of grey and orange.
Orange, grey and white flowing together on the rocks along Cape St Francis' Wild Side on the walk to the blow hole. 

This rock I found on the walk to Shark Point had me dotty...

Check out the different colours of clay used by this swallow in building its nest on the porch at Dune Ridge Country House.  Now this is the real 50 shades of grey.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Krom River wind turbine sunset

I snapped this pic during a canal cruise at St Francis Bay a week or two ago.  During the trip we cruised out onto the Krom River as the sun was setting in the west behind the Kouga Wind Farm.  Have I mentioned how much I love my new camera? 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Birds and boat (and a new camera)

A fishing boat sailing along Port Elizabeth's Wildside with a flock of terns on the rocks in the foreground.  This is the last picture I have to post taken with my Fiji bridge camera.  The camera was in the boot of my car that was stolen about two months ago.  The good news is that, after what felt like forever, the insurance finally paid out.  I started shopping for a new camera (not that there is much available in that price range) and the Damselfly told me to think of myself for a change, pay in a bit and get a DSLR.  It means I have a new toy.  A brand new Nikon D3100.  I know it's an entry level DSLR but it does mean that I can now finally take my photography up a step.  Watch this space.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Canals, Coastline and Candelabra flowers - Exploring St Francis Bay

We are very fortunate here in Port Elizabeth that we have a number of excellent destinations surrounding us.  This does mean that it isn't always that easy to decide where to go for that much needed weekend break with your loved ones.  Seeing that we can't get away over Easter this year, we decided to have a family weekend away a week or so earlier.  After much deliberation along with outside encouragement and a couple of invitations to visit, we decided to spend the weekend in St Francis Bay, throwing anchor at Dune Ridge Country House.  Dune Ridge an award winning four star Country House nestled between thick coastal fynbos and located just outside St Francis Bay.  It is actually perfectly located to give that "away from everything" feel while still being close enough to easily explore the nearby St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis. 
After a warm welcome by Sarah Swanepoel and her team, we settled in and explored the property a bit before a drive into St Francis to grab dinner.  Dune Ridge is a mixture of colonial nostalgia and modern sophistication.  When one thinks St Francis you think canals and coastline.  Dune Ridge isn't quite that.  Its location rather lends to a bush and beach feel than just a coastal holiday  With six double rooms and a family unit it's also not big and crowded like a hotel and gives you more than enough privacy to relax in. 

Saturday morning was a nice cool one so we decided to start the day off in Cape St Francis after breakfast and go for a walk.  A quick bit of research showed two possibilities, both with Geocaches for us to find.  You know me, a possible Geocache find is always a game breaker.  We decided to do both.  Heck, we're here so why not?  The first walk was along the rugged coastline going westward from the village towards the blowhole.  The 2,5 km walk took us past the wreck of "The Osprey".  Not that there is much left of it.  The ship, which wrecked here in 1867, was built of wood and all that remains are small twisted hunks of metal.  The blowhole itself is apparently impressive at high tide when the water rushes in through the cave and blows up through the hole in the rocks.  We unfortunately didn't check the tides and ended up there at low tide. Bah humbug.  Will have to return some other time to see it perform for us.  The walk was still more than worth it with stunning coastal beautiful fynbos and lots of little flowers, especially the bright pink Candelabra flowers blooming at the moment.

Before the next walk we swung past the historic Seal Point Lighthouse and adjacent penguin sanctuary for a quick look around.  Renovations to the lighthouse is coming along very nicely and it will hopefully be open to the public again some time soon.  The SANCCOB penguin sanctuary offers tours around the facility to show visitors the awesome job they are doing in the African Penguin's battle for continued survival.  
Our second walk was from the Port St Francis side to Shark Point, the easterly of the two points in the area, the other being Seal Point where the lighthouse is situated.  The cache we found near the point turned out to be the oldest active Geocache in the Eastern Cape.  Nice to get that ticked off my list.  The views on this side of the coastline is slightly different from the first walk as you look into St Francis Bay itself with mountains on the horizon across the bay and the houses along the coast in the distance.
Late afternoon we headed to Brisan on the Canals in St Francis Bay for a cruise on the canals.  The canals with their black and white houses are stunning and if feels like you are in a different world yet it's right here in the Eastern Cape.  (And here I can't help but to use my #experienceeastcape hashtag)  Other than just showing us the appeal of the area, owner and skipper Brian Cunningham was telling us about the huge fire that destroyed over 70 houses in 2012 and pointed out how many of them have been replaced, built bigger and better than before.  During the one hour tour we made our way out onto the Krom River and as we cruised along with a glass of wine in hand (cold drinks in the case of the KidZ) the sun set in the west behind us.  The perfect end to a choc and bloc day of exploring.

Sunday morning after breakfast we decided not to go out and spent some time next to Dune Ridge's welcoming swimming pool.  After checking out we opted for a bit of a detour via Jeffreys Bay rather than heading straight back to PE and ended up on the beach at Aston Bay close to Marina Martinique. Oi, if only we had more time but this part of the Kouga will have to wait for another visit.
Disclosure: We enjoyed the visit as guests of  Dune Ridge Country House, Brisan on the Canals and Kouga Baviaans Surf and Safari CountryI received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kinkelbos roadworks sunset

Driving back from East London to Port Elizabeth last week I got stuck at the road works between Kinkelbos and Colchester.  I don't allow road works to faze me anymore and always get out, lean against the car and enjoy whatever scenery there is.  This time around the sun was setting in the west with some spectacular clouds and I grabbed my camera for a quick stop-go roadside photo shoot.  You should have seen the sky 10 minutes later as I came down the hill into Colchester with the Sundays River in the foreground.  Unfortunately by then the camera was packed away and there was nowhere to pull over with it only being one lane. Next time.