Going on a river adventure

The River Adventure trail on Brackenburn

Walking the River Adventure trail on Brackenburn Private Nature reserve is always a wonderful experience; so much to see and incredible scenery to take in. With this being one of my exclusive trails, you are also guaranteed peace and quiet for the whole route. You can find out more about my exclusive trails by clicking here

This trail, as well as my other exclusive trails on the reserve, are the only trails where I look after the maintenance of them myself. All other trails in the area are government managed and maintained by their own staff. This means I will walk them regularly; especially after any heavy winds or rains in the area. I’m always referring to these trails as “off-the-beaten-track” as I like to keep them as wild as possible. Maintenance consists of a few branch clippings here and there, and the odd removal of a fallen tree, but only if it’s position poses a problem for guests. I still want you to have a wild experience, so I never cut trees down, but I will remove thorns from a branch if there is a good chance you will use it as a hand-hold. Walking the route by myself also gives me the perfect opportunity for some extra exploring as I try to get some good photographs for a blog post; and here it is…

When a guide gets excited

Fresh Bushpig droppings

Now, I realise that talking about a reserve filled with beauty and wonder, and then leading with a photo of dung, probably isn’t such a good idea, but please bear with me and let me explain.

Years ago while conducting a guided safari in the Kruger National Park, we happened across a Honey Badger right on the road. That specific sighting still remains for me today as one of my best wild encounters of a badger. I quickly whipped my camera out and started clicking, simultaneously chatting away to my guests. A comment from one of them was, “you know you have a great sighting when your guide gets excited”. It was true. As much as I enjoy everything I ever encounter, no matter how often I have seen it through the years, there is something about a special sighting that generally only a guide understands. For me, finding fresh droppings from a wild animal is a part of that excitement; knowing that this animal had walked there hours, sometimes minutes before is special, and it reminds you that they move around us all the time, whether we see them or not. Starting out on this route I came across two fresh dung findings that were the first signs I encountered; before I had even entered the forest! Bushpigs and Bushbucks.

Fresh Bushbuck droppings

My morning newspaper

Most people read a newspaper in the morning to find out what happened in the past few days; although nowadays it’s more like checking out social media or going on the web news sites – perhaps I’m giving away my age here!

My local news is a bit different to most. I go out and read the signs. Dung, footprints, smells and other signs don’t just tell you what has been there; you can also find out their sex, age, what they have eaten, which direction they went, perhaps how many there are, and also their health. These signs are encountered way more often than the animals themselves, especially in these thick forests where the animals have adapted to being more elusive, so the signs are not just useful, but often necessary, for you to gain a deeper understanding of the area.

I have to say, the expressions on guests faces when their first ‘encounter’ is dung is priceless. Don’t worry, there is way more than dung to be found on these walks.

A river adventure...

Sitting on the Buffels River

The Buffels River on Brackenburn is always amazing, and can never walk there without encountering a variety of life forms. Now, in summer, is the best time of the year to get the most out of the river life.

Whether you are on the River Pools, River Adventure or Forest to Beach, you are continuously accompanied by the plopping sounds of frogs jumping out the way into the water, as you make your way along the banks. All throughout the forest, and along the river, there are areas that almost never see the sun, and there are spots that enjoy a lot of sunshine. The sunny places are the ones that urge some extra exploring as, with the sun, comes extra life. Sit down for any amount of time and you slowly start to see little things moving around, a spider close by, hover flies buzzing around, damselflies landing on you, a river crab feeding, and the eyes of a dozen or so frogs staring at you. Whirligigs and pond skaters cruising along the water surface in search of food, perhaps a school of minnows moving between the sun patches and submerged logs; it’s all there!

That special one

As I have said before, no matter how often I see the creatures of the forest, it is always a thrill to see them again, but every so often you get ‘that special sighting’. And on this morning out, it was time for that sighting…a Knysna Dwarf Chameleon.

Can you see it? Slightly left and down from centre
How about now? Right in the middle

I am truly not a boastful person, but every so often I nail a sighting that I just can’t help feeling proud about! This is one of those times, and maybe it is best I was alone when I saw it and celebrated the pretty amazing spot I had just made (insert crazy looking smiley face here).

These reptiles are tiny, well camouflaged, and a rather rare sighting at the best of times. Of course, the guide in me wishes I had guests with me at the time.

Knysna Dwarf Chameleon

The Dwarf Chameleon group currently consists of 15 described species in Southern Africa, with their body lengths ranging from 4,5 to 10 centimetres; excluding the tail.This little one was approximately 6 or 7 centimetres in length. As with all chameleons, their camouflage is not for hiding from their prey, but hiding from their predators. It seems in these forest that one of their major natural threats is the Boomslang, a snake well adapted to tree-dwelling. Their prey consists of a wide range of insects and again, like all chameleons, they have a long tongue that shoots out and grabs the unsuspecting insect.

After getting a few photos I did end up moving him to a safer environment, but I don’t suggest you handle them unless you know what you are doing. They are delicate creatures and if you accidentally drop them they can most certainly get injured.

All the rest...

I think my biggest frustration most days is that I can never photograph everything that I see and that, when I do, it is never as good as what I am seeing. I do hope these photos are enough to entice you into considering a guided walk though. Here are a few things I encountered, and actually got photos of…

The river walks on Brackenburn Private Nature Reserve are a magical experience with something for everyone. Interested? Check out my exclusive walk page for details on the other walks available on the reserve. It is summer, and holidays, folks; get out and explore, but take a guide along for an even better experience.

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