When I lived in the UK, my friends and family would think me odd, well, odder than usual. I worked as a zookeeper and, on my days off, I used to visit not only other zoos, but often my own. For one thing, we always got in for free (all we needed was a letter from our zoo), which is a huge bonus when you find out what the average zookeeper earns. For another, it was a great way to get ideas that you could use with your own animals and their enclosures. Visiting my own zoo meant I could actually get some good, natural, interactive fun with those animals that want it; and sometimes need it. Most keepers, the good ones, visit zoos on their days off.
The reason I tell you this, is because I have done this throughout my wildlife career. I have lived and worked in nature for over 20 years now, and guess where I go whenever I have time to play with? You got it; into nature. I don’t like going to towns or cities. I leave a supply run to town for as long as I can, and then go in early, catching the shops as they open; the quietest time! I’m a bit of a recluse outside of my very social work environment.
And so, waking up the other morning, I knew we were in for at least two days of rain come that afternoon, and I felt this need to get out there. I was planning a forest trip as there is always more of a chance for various creatures to photograph and write about, but it was as gloomy out as the weatherman had predicted, and photography in the forest just wasn’t going to work out. I decided to go and have a wander along part of one of the most beautiful trails in the area; the Salt River loop. This walk as a loop includes a wonderful trek through the coastal forest and fynbos, but I decided to stick to the ‘wild coast’ for the morning.
This walk is in Nature’s Valley, and can be combined with various other trails in the area, varying from about 5 km to 16 km long. Whichever you choose, your senses will go into overload.
There are wonderful rock pools with all kinds of goodies to see. Of course, timing with the tides is important on this one as the walk along the coast can be quite dangerous with high tide.
This route, however, is mostly all about scenery; as the coastline is just spectacular. A fair bit of this coast is walk-able, but please keep one eye on the waves as you walk further out on the rocks, especially if high tide is on its way. This is not the place to take an unplanned plunge into the sea!
By complete coincidence, I managed to snap two near identical photos, 1,5 hours apart, from one of the high points on the coastal trail. It is lovely to see the weather changes.
A short section of the trail runs just inside the coastal forests, but affords little views every so often. It is mostly fishermen that venture down there. The first photo in the gallery below shows a white tube sticking up like a bent chimney. These are special bins for all the fishing waste, such as hooks and sinkers.
Wandering along the Salt River, there is always a chance for the resident African Fish Eagles to show themselves. This one shown is almost certainly the female. I judge this on her size, and eagle females are up to a third bigger than males. These guys are, obviously, often catching fish as food, but will also catch small mammals, medium to large birds, and the odd reptile. As with most predatory animals, they will also scavenge.
Their legs, feet and talons are well designed for catching fish. Their legs and feet are bare of feathers, ensuring they don’t get waterlogged when dipping into the water. Their toes are roughly scaled to help them hold onto the fish; with their talons turning in like a fish hook.