It’s a blustery Sunday morning in Port Elizabeth as I set off in the ALAN TOURS Toyota landcruiser with my three clients for the day, Lauren and Heather from the US and Mandy from Germany.
Along Marine drive enroute to our first stop of the morning, SANCCOB Penguin rehab facility in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve! After a brief intro by one of the volunteer staff at the facilities natural history museum, we head over to the outdoor area and are fortunate enough to witness a staff member feeding an underweight penguin chick a liquid vitamin smoothie followed by undersized sardines, this is due to a shortage of their prey/food, sardines in Algoa Bay.
Judging by the gusto with which they gulped the sardines down they’ll be fattened up and released by National Parks rangers on St Croix Island in no time!
After an entertaining few minutes photographing one of the adult penguins diving and showing off his/her aquatic skills we set off through the nature reserve to the the Cape Recife lighthouse.
It’s a surreal landscape that greets the eye from the parking area with access only possible by foot as the road has been cut off by transverse dunes which have marched overland by the prevailing westerly winds, typical of many lighthouses, the Cape Recife lighthouse is no exception as it has stood resolute and defiant, against the inclement forces of nature for well over a century!
Once inside the silence is almost unnerving, testament to the density of the rock and the skilled stonemasons who built this beacon of warning to maritime traveller’s over the centuries. After covering the periodical intricacies of the mechanics and history, we head up the spiral wooden stairway, worn smooth by the feet of former custodians of the ‘light’! Warm as toast in the lens room we marvel at skilled engeneering feats of yore!
Then through the hatch onto the parapet, hold on tight in the strong easterly winds, enjoy the view over the ocean, unfortunately no whales today, rounding off with one of the macabre lighthouse tales before ducking back down the twisty stairwell and out into the courtyard below for a few more pics before heading off to our final leg of the day into the Grysbok reserve on the wildside of Nelson Mandela Bay.
It’s quiet at first, but soon we are rewarded with a glimpse of a Pale Chanting Goshawk, then the tell tale spoor of a African wildcat, followed by Zebra track and finally a fleeting flash of rusty brown, a Grysbok!
15 mins later and a lone Springbok ram and not far behind a small herd of Burchells plains zebra graciously posing for a group photo!
Out of the reserve and a final leg stretch and photo with our dramatic unspoilt coastline in the background before being dropped off for lunch at one of the local tapas restaurants on the beach front! All of that in +/- three and a half hours! Happy clients = happy life!
Words and photographs by Andrew Holmboe