Monday, October 3, 2011

South Africa Day 4: Kogelberg Nature Reserve & Penguins

Blog Entry #24: South Africa Day 4: Kogelberg Nature Reserve & Penguins

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waves on rocks at Kleinmond; Walker Bay in distance
Beach at Kleinmond
Having traveled across the Hottentot Holland Range on our trip to Hermanus on Saturday, we were looking forward to returning to Capetown via the coastal highway along the edge of the wild Kogelberg Mountains and Nature Reserve.  We started our drive with a stop in Kleinmond for a look back across Walker Bay toward Hermanus, and then proceeded west to Betty’s Bay, home to one of three African penguin nesting sites in South Africa.  The following comes from the African Penguin Reserve at Betty’s Bay.

Folded strata along beach at Kleinmond
Africa has two flightless bird species: the Ostrich, adapted to terrestrial life and the African Penguin, adapted to marine existence. The African Penguin colonizes offshore islands and nests on the mainland only at three places in South Africa. The site at Stony Point, Betty's Bay is one of the only three land-based colonies and for this reason it is treasured.

The African Penguin, Speniscus demersus is the only species of the 18 species worldwide, breeding around African coasts. Penguins occur only in the Southern Hemisphere. Three other species are seen in this region, but are rare vagrants. Today, the total population of African Penguins is estimated to be around 170 000 adults and has suffered a decline of 90 % in the past 60 years. The African Penguin is listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data book

Penguins can reach speeds of up to 20 km per hour and cruise at 4 - 7 km per hour. They will seek prey at depths of 100 m, but normally dive to about 35 m. Adults stand about 65 cm tall and the females weigh about 3 kg, males about 0,5 kg more. They live 20 - 25 years and eat about 540 gram of sardines, pilchards, squid etc. per day.

African Penguin in Nest Cavity
African Penguins reach sexual maturity between 2 and 4 years of age. They usually mate for life. Penguin pairs will return to and defend their nest each year for as long as 15 years. They breed from February to October. The nest, often a deep burrow, takes some two weeks to complete. The nests are line with pads of feathers or plant material. The eggs, rather round in shape and about 7 x 6 cm, are pure white when new laid, but stain heavily as time passes. If the eggs are predated, the female often lays again about six weeks later. Parents alternate on the nest. One incubates while the other forages. The eggs hatch after 38 - 41 days and the nestlings, usually two, are fed regurgitated fish by both birds for about 11 weeks. They consume about 25 kg of fish before they are big enough to leave the nest.

Betty's Bay Penguin Reserve

We were stunned and thrilled to walk the boardwalk through the nesting site, and to see literally hundreds of penguins, some in molting phase, and some sitting on nests.  

Dassie or "Rock Rabbit, relative of the Elephant!
Sharing the site were several dassies or “rock rabbits” – a large woodchuck-looking creature that is actually the closest living relative to the elephant, and like the elephant, has internal tusks.

African Penguins & Surf
Penguin Colony on Folded Strata, Betty's Bay
At the African Penguin Colony, Betty's Bay
African Penguins, Betty's Bay Reserve
Penguins Swimming, Betty's Bay Reserve

Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Further up the highway the road turns inland through the 
Folded Strata, Kogelberg Mountains
Kogelberg Reserve, a rugged terrain of the roots of ancient mountains with twisted and folded sediments from when the original mountains were formed about 240 million years ago.  Today the remnants form shear cliffs that plunge into the sea, and provide dramatic backdrop to the beaches below.

Kogelberg Reserve with Fynbos in bloom
Cape Hangklip, eastern point of False Bay
Cape Point from False Bay, looking south

We rounded False Bay, so named for sailors who mistook Cape Hangklip on its southeastern edge for Cape Point, and found themselves marooned in the bay for several days when the winds died down.  We were on our way to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, past the sprawling Capetown townships of Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, legacy of the apartheid era. 

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