This year at African Insight (based near Hebron Haven)we decided to support the ‘living local’ initiative which the Conservancy has been promoting throughout the year and save at least 57 kgs of CO2 emmissions by not travelling further afield for our Year End Gathering.
We booked a night at Barend and Helen Booysen’s Crab Apple Self-catering Cottages. The contents of our cooler boxes featured many local products such as Chicken Espadatada’s from Croft Farm, our own (Lane’s End Farm) home grown grass-raised beef, milk, yogurt as well as Wana farm cottage cheese. Of course, a couple of bottles of organic wine were at hand to celebrate a successful year.
As the usual afternoon thunderstorm was threatening, we stayed close to the cottages and explored the farmyard instead. We enjoyed meeting the many horses, Venda chickens, dogs and cats. Then we visited the collection of carriages, explored Crab Apple Farm’s enormous and abundant organic veggie garden (enjoying Cape Gooseberries off the vine) and the Crab Apple Chapel before returning to our cottages. So much of interest, we really had fun being tourists so close to home .
With binoculars to hand, we enjoyed sundowners on the deck of Crowned Eagle Cottage tucked away in the forest with an perfect view of the resident Crowned Eagle nest (at a very respectable distance) and overlooking the Lower Dargle Valley. Unfortunately the residents of Crowned Eagle nest were not in, however they did provide us with an amazing aerial display the following morning. The evening bird song amply made up for the fact that the storm had chased most of the birdlife into the shelter of the forest and out of sight.
Waking the following morning, at around 4 am, to the sound of the forest life stirring was something special. Especially as Susi and I still had 3 hours to ourselves before Kirsty and Emma wandered across from their cottage for a pre-forest walk coffee and snack. Carrying cameras and bino’s we headed off into the forest to explore the well maintained ancient forest trails. They were used by the woodcutters at the turn of the century and Barend has carefully restored and maintains them.
The previous night’s rain provided excellent conditions to identify spoor and show that the forest has a healthy diversity of small wildlife. We identified spoor or droppings of porcupine, bushbuck, duiker, mongoose and possibly otter. The plant and birdlife provided abundant photo opportunities so we did not cover too much distance in the 3 hours we were in the forest, leaving more to explore on another occasion. Specials that we saw were Knysna Lourie, Samango monkey and butterflies too numerous to mention.
Our only regret as we packed up and headed back to the office was that we had not booked 2 nights! Try a really local getaway – you will be pleasantly surprised at what the Dargle has to offer. Not having to fight the traffic means your holiday starts sooner too! Hold your staff party at one of our resturants, pack a picnic to enjoy beside the uMngeni River at Singisi forest or climb Inhlosane for incredible views. Support Dargle enterprise and boost our local economy.