Adventure out to the cliffs of Potberg Mountain to view endangered Cape Vultures – the Western Cape’s last surviving colony of these amazing birds. Depart from the Opstal Area in the morning (times vary according to seasons) with your guide for a scenic drive through endangered fynbos. Once at Potberg, guests will hike (+-1 hour) up to the Vulture Deck to watch the vultures swoop and soar above. Rate includes your packed picnic presented in a backpack for you to carry. Suited to Guests aged 12 and over. Minimum of 2 guests, maximum of 10. Prior arrangement & booking essential. Day visitors welcome. (Approx. 3 hours)
Vulture Experience Press Release: De Hoop’s Vultures: Another one for your bucket list!
Something truly special has been introduced to the De Hoop Collection experience – an activity to enjoy while staying at De Hoop – one that will take your breath away – viewing endangered Cape Vultures up-close-and-personal – flying by, just below or just overhead… swooping, diving and circling in the sky.
De Hoop Nature Reserve – one of the Western Cape’s most beautiful and largest nature sanctuaries – is set within a World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Bredasdorp. Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as the De Hoop Nature Reserve does! From the ocean (the playground of the Southern Right Whales during whale season) to the sand dunes, the vlei (a Ramsar site), the diverse flora and fauna, the mountain trails, the more than 260 species of birds and over and above all that, the Cape Vultures (the only surviving colony in the Western Cape is situated on the Potberg Mountain in the Reserve) De Hoop is, without a shadow of a doubt, the ultimate location to visit.
And one of the best activities to experience while staying at De Hoop is to visit Potberg and hike up the Trail, (approximately 1 hour) to view the Cape Vultures near their breeding colony. On reaching a well planned vantage point – the vulture deck – you will see the vultures circling in the sky above the rocky gorge where they nest (for conservation reasons Cape Nature does not allow public access to where the birds roost).
Only at Potberg can you get this rare opportunity to see the Cape Vultures – huge, impressive birds with a wingspan of about two and a half metres, as they cruise by… sometimes so close you can hear the wind rushing under their wings.
“A trip to Potberg and viewing the Vultures is an absolute must, says Dalfrenzo Laing, a De Hoop Collection’s head guide, “to get to the trail, set amongst rare fynbos species and with unparalleled views over the ocean and dune fields of De Hoop, only takes an hour’s drive from the De Hoop Opstal reception and you’ll be accompanied by a Field guide who will explain more about the plant life and the vultures.”
The steep cliffs on Potberg Mountain provide the perfect habitat for the Cape Vultures; the colony roosts and nests in a deep gorge. The cliffs and gorges are shared with Peregrine Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel, and close by the Black Harrier nest on the fynbos flats and Martial Eagles make occasional over-flights.
This colony of about 200 vultures has grown in the last decade from about 100 birds; many experts believed they wouldn’t survive – and it’s true they were almost wiped out because of destruction of their natural habitat, an increase in farming, as well as poisoning.
“It is because Cape Nature embarked on raising awareness and educating local communities that the vultures are now seen as a real asset in the area. Interestingly the birds no longer scavenge on natural prey, such as the Eland and Bontebok which occur in good numbers in the nature reserve – they instead feed on livestock carcasses – with the Overberg being a sheep and dairy farming area and where the farmers are now very positive and proud of “their” vultures, some have created “vulture restaurants” where the carcasses of livestock are taken to a safe location and the birds can feed without being disturbed”, Peter Chadwick, well respected conservationist photographer, explains.
The farmers also keep a watchful eye out for any sick vultures; when one is found it is taken through to the Bredasdorp vet clinic and treated at no cost. As soon as the vultures are well enough they are returned to the colony and released. This ‘joining hands’ with the farmers and community played a positive role in the protection and conservation of the Vultures for, without the help of the farmers and the community, the vultures would probably have died out some time ago.
Bookings for the “Vulture Experience” can be made at the Opstal Reception; a nature guide accompanies guests to see the vultures at 9am; R550 per person (a picnic backpack is included in the rate); maximum 10 guests (minimum 2); guests must be age 12 and older. On arrival at Potberg guests are served tea, coffee and rusks, then they walk up the Potberg trail to the viewing deck and of course there are other Bird species to be seen along the way for those guests who are keen birders. Day visitors are welcome. Prior arrangement and bookings are essential, in order to avoid disappointment.
With all this on offer, together with scrumptious food, caring attentive staff and the 10 year Birthday celebration of De Hoop Collection’s hospitality, you are guaranteed a wonderful experience. De Hoop Nature Reserve is a winner all the way.
Images: Copyright PeterChadwick – www.peterchadwick.co.za