(This report first appeared in KITE 111, Winter 2016, the official newsletter of the Tygerberg Bird Club. - Ed.)
Some two years ago I made my rst venture into the Tankwa Karoo after reading about this remarkable birding hotspot relatively close to Cape Town. My only knowledge of this part of
our country was some two years earlier, seeing it spread out endlessly after hiking to the top of Tafelberg with an elevation of 1969 meters, the second highest peak in the Cederberg.
The bird list was impressive, but there were warnings about the roads, no help if you got into trouble, and very little accommodation. I was very new to birding and I wanted to get some pictures of some of these very grand sounding birds that were just waiting for me to take pictures of them. After some careful roadmap study I decided to make my rst venture into the Tankwa Karoo. I took a few days leave, packed my VW Polo and headed for Citrusdal. I was going to nd a place to stay at Op die Berg and do a day loop from there to Ceres, into the Tankwa through Karoopoort and back to Op Die Berg via Skitterykloof and Katbakkies pass. I had picked the worst time possible. It rained nonstop, and then it began to snow. It was freezing cold. This was after all October, one of the best months to bird here. Needless to say I found very few birds, but what I saw was beautiful. The Polo could handle the roads if you drove carefully, but if you wanted to take bird pictures you needed lens power, and for that you seriously needed to raid your piggy bank. I knew I would be back.
So when I recently read an article about Die Mond, an oasis in the Tankwa, some 130km from Ceres off the R355, it sounded like a perfect place to stay and then explore from there. I discussed it with Angela and she was keen to go. I made sure she knew that there was no electricity and no cellphone coverage. For a week we would be off the grid. We booked the week before Easter and packed our camping gear and the two man kayak and set off for Die Mond.
This place was everything that I had read. Situated on the Leeu River that gets fed from winter rain in the Cederberg. Even in this drought the river had plenty of water. Lots of green grass and plenty of shade in the camping area. This is a true oasis in the desert. The showers are heated from a wood burning donkey. The ablutions were very clean with plenty of hot water. Our drinks were always cold as there was plenty of ice for sale.
The landscape is stunning. The diversity of birds we found was remarkable for a place in the desert. The habitat had gravel plains, desert shrub, rock canyon, Karoo thorn bush, riverine bush and marsh vegetation. The river is navigatable up the canyon for about two kilometers. We saw many San paintings, reminding us of a time when this place had elephant, ostrich and many antelope. We asked the owners about walking in the veld and maybe trespassing. She just laughed and said we could walk for 25 kilometers in any direction without trespassing.
We eventually chalked up an impressive list of birds and I took some good pictures of the following birds. Lark-like Bunting, Karoo Chat, Karoo Korhaan, Spotted Flycatcher, Karoo and Yellow-Bellied Eremomela, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Pririt Batis, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Large-billed Lark, African Rail and Freckled Nightjar.