17th Nov 2023
January 2024 sees us returning to the stunning scenery and the wealth of flora and fauna that the Drakensberg has to offer, in a great diversity of parks and protected areas, having most places we visit to ourselves.
We saw some forty species of orchid, including species of Disa, Disperis, Schizochilus, Satyrium, and Eulophia. Many other floral highlights included cliffs of Galtonia regalis, grassy slopes full of Eucomis, and afine selection of Gladiolus including Gladiolus flanaganii. Stunning Hesperantha coccinea flowered red at streamsides, Sandersonia aurantiaca flowered on cliffs, Tulbaghia acutiloba was a great find,and beautiful Dierama, Moraea, Watsonia, Brunsvigia, Nerine, Kniphofia, Protea, and selection of asclepiads, were just some of the floral highlights. New finds on this years tour (January 2023) included Romulea macowanii, lovely Wurmbea elatior, yellow Cyrtanthus flanaganii, and for me the highlight was the difficult to find night flowering Zaluzianskya rubrostellata, with beautiful yellow and red flowers
There’s excellent birding too, with local endemics Southern Bald Ibis, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Barratt’s Warbler, Bush Blackcap, Gurney’s Sugarbird, and Drakensberg Siskin all seen well. Among the more widespread highlights were Blue Crane, Grey-crowned Crane, Red-throated Wryneck, Ground Woodpecker, and fine displaying Long-tailed Widowbirds. Some great butterflies included the impressive Mountain Pride, Ketsi Blue, and Harlequin Skipper.
After several years we have an extensive and growing plant list, including some forty species of Helichrysum,for example, for those who appreciatite the subtle variety of this speciose genus! Impressive parasitic plants included Harveya, Sopubia cana, Sopubia simplex, and Cycnium racemosum. We saw four of the six species of the endemic genus Glumicalyx, Glumicalyx lesuticus new, another great find in Lesotho. Then there were Streptocarpus, Phygelius, Nemesia, and Jamesbrittenia. The variety continued and every site produced additions to the list.
Afromontane forest around the fine rooms at Giant Castle included the Pompom Tree Dais cotonifolia, Tree Fuchsia Halleria lucida, and Greyia sutherlandia, representing an endemic family. The open grasslands of Golden Gate had grazing Blesbok, Burchell’s Zebra, and Black Wildebeest, and a further wealth of plants, in the Free State. Witsieshoek supported fine floral displays, the Sentinel above us. The superb Sani Pass took us to the high altitude grasslands of Lesotho, where a night at Africa’s highest inn allows appreciation of this fine habitat. Contrasting with this is the Pondoland coast where we saw many endemics, beautiful Knysna Turacos in the guest house garden.
All this with fine comfortable accommodation, and typically excellent South African cuisine and wine, makes a superb tour.