One of the most underrated entry points into the Karoo takes one via SEWEWEEKSPOORT (S33º 23’36.23” E21º 24’06.55”) to LAINGSBURG (S33º 10’55.79” E20º 42’18.40”). The turnoff is just outside Zoar on the R62 between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. The scenery through Seweweekspoort must be experienced and birders are in with a very real chance of finding specials such as Booted and Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Rock-Thrush, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird and Ground Woodpecker. Allow at least two hours to travel through this gorge to experience one of nature’s true marvels. Once the intersection is reached, there are two options - one can travel east to Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve and the western shores of Gamkapoort Dam, or one can travel west towards Laingsburg. Travelling by 4x4 is advised when going east from here. Huge numbers of Cape Siskins can seasonally be found along the first five km along this road.
The gravel road towards Laingsburg is usually in very good condition, but caution is advised. Ensure that the many dams along this road are checked as African Darter, African Black Duck, SA Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal and many more waterfowl are common. Both the Vleiland and Rouxpos detours are also of interest. The scenery along this road is often described as a geologist’s wonderland - a supreme area for landscape photography. The turnoff to Anysberg Nature Reserve (S33º 30’58.27” E20º 28’26.11”) is just before Laingsburg. The Flood Museum in Laingsburg is certainly worth a visit. There is a variety of self-catering establishments available along this road.
We selected WAGENDRIFT LODGE (S33º 22’45.34” E20º 56’33.50”) and were very impressed - an ideal destination for birders and bird clubs. There are several accommodation options available and it includes camping and a 4X4 trail. This is big sky country in incredible blues. The silence is magical, the night sky glitters with millions of stars. Wagendrift Lodge is a magnificent example of the peace and tranquility of so many farm-based destinations in the Great Karoo. We found no less than 60 species in 6 hours of birding on the farm, including Acacia Pied Barbet, Familiar and Karoo Chat, African Fish-Eagle, Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and Karoo Scrub-Robin. BirdLife Overberg has scheduled a mid-week outing to Wagendrift Lodge for March 2013.
The ANYSBERG NATURE RESERVE (S33º25’52.2” E20º48’0.5”) is also in close proximity and is registered as an Important Bird Area (IBA SA108). Featuring transitional vegetation ranging from mountain fynbos to typical Klein Karoo habitats, it hosts 164 bird species. The lower altitude Karoo plains are particularly good for Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Chat, Blue Crane, Karoo Eremomela, Karoo Korhaan and Rufous-eared Warbler, while Martial Eagle and Black Harrier are often present. Namaqua Warbler frequent the acacia thickets, and Grey Tit and Layard’s Tit-Babbler are found in the shrubs along slopes. Most of the fynbos associated species are present and many waterfowl may be found in wetter cycles. There are numerous archaeological sites and the reserve offers a variety of recreational activities and accommodation choices.
We have spent two periods of fourteen days each on the road investigating top birding destinations in the Central Karoo and Eden District municipal regions. There are so many brilliant places that is would be impossible to describe these within a trip reports. We have discussed this and decided that there is no doubt that the biggest surprise and our top area that we had visited is the area to the east of Laingsburg and to the west of Ladismith. The area basically straddles the Little Swartberg mountain range with the impressive massive of Towerkop towering above it. In the Karoo trip report we described Both Wagendrift Lodge and Koedoeskloof Guest Lodge in the Ladismith district offer great habitat and species diversity, spectacular landscapes and an abundance of water at this time of year. They can either be used as base for casual birding on foot, or to serve as venues to explore a variety of brilliant loop roads in the area.
Dr. Anton Odendal
All Photos intelectual property of Dr. Anton Odendal