De Hoop's Vultures: Another one for your Overberg bucket list

2017-08-02 11:30
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Cape Town - Travellers and enthusiasts who also love wildlife getaways, here's another activity to add to your bucket list, thanks to De Hoop Nature Reserve.

This "something truly special" introduced to the collection experience, according to the Reserve, is an activity to enjoy while staying at De Hoop.

One that will "take your breath away", from viewing endangered Cape Vultures to up-close-and-personal - flying by, just below or just overhead swooping, diving and circling in the sky.

ALSO SEE: Celebrate Endangered Species Day: What we can #SaveTogether

Added to this, some of the activities include a visit to 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). 

READ: Peace and Calm at De Hoop

Images by Peter Chadwick 

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,  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. 

ALSO: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Karoo's Samara Reserve sees Cape Vulture revival

According to reserve, 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 the destruction of their natural habitat, an increase in farming, as well as poisoning. 

WATCH: Local filmmakers capture the beauty of De Hoop Nature Reserve

Images by Peter Chadwick

“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," says conservationist photographer, Peter Chadwick.

"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.

'Vulture restaurants'

"Some have created 'vulture restaurants' where the carcasses of livestock are taken to a safe location and the birds can feed without being disturbed."

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. 

De Hoop says this ‘joining hands’ with the farmers and community has 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.

NOTE: Bookings for the “Vulture Experience” can be made at the Opstal Reception; a nature guide accompanies guests to see the vultures at 09:00; R550 per person (a picnic backpack is included in the rate); maximum 10 guests (minimum 2); guests must be age 12 and older. Prior arrangement and bookings are essential, in order to avoid disappointment.