For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Port Elizabeth, named after the wife of a former governor, retains its British heritage.

It is a bit like Birmingham-by-the-sea, with car manufacturing plants and heavy industry feeding the busy port.

The surf is magnificent too.
A lasting impression was the South End Museum, documenting the abuses of the Apartheid era and a visit to a township pub.
 Here I am enjoying a couple of local Castle beers with Nelson Sebezela, our guide from Calabash Tours: Born and raised in Kwazakhele Township, Port Elizabeth. Nelson is a remarkable young man who has been studying towards his law degree while working with Calabash Tours. He was brought up in this township, after his parents (who were black) were forcibly removed from the home that they owned, with no compensation and given a bare plot in the township with just an outside toilet.  His parents' home was given to "coloureds", who were allowed to live where his parents were not!  And that despite owning their home and then forced to pay rent for a bare plot.
Houses in the township have mains services and vary in their degree of affluence.

Despite their poverty the people remain happy, as you can see from the creche below, housed in a modified metal container.
Tourism to this township brings revenues to the local community, including this school, which was a delight to visit.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Some Insects from South Africa.

Click on any picture to expand it.
Stripy caterpillar.
A nasty tasting locust.
Stick insect.


Praying mantis on a door frame.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Self-lead bush walk, Kariega Game Reserve.

It was fine to walk on one's own in Kariega Game Reserve in the area of the lodges, so we were told.  But having no experience of wildebeests, what do you do when you face off a brute like this, especially when it stamps its foot at you?  This experience, on your own, on foot, is more exciting than riding in a Land cruiser any day.  We stared at each other for quite a while until we decided to avoid staring any more and walk on towards it.  Thankfully it ran away!   Was I relieved!
Here is another.  I supposed that it probably was no more dangerous than a cow in the UK.  But then a few walkers are killed by cows each year in the UK, albeit usually with dogs.  We were happy when this one turned tail and ran off!
Of course, everyone knows that a bull is no problem when it is with a load of females...
...or at least we hoped so.
Zebras are so smartly turned out, that their manners must be impeccable, aren't they?

If there are 100,000 ants in each anthill on the South Downs in England, imagine how many termites must be above.  This was quite a walk, once I got used to the idea that Wildebeests seemed to be more scared of us than I was initially terrified of them.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Some orchids of South Africa

 There are 1,400 different bulbous flowers in South Africa and Kirstenbosch is an easy place to see many.
Below is another Satyrium growing in the wild.
Satyrium membranaceum in the Kariega Game reserve.  It is pollinated by hawkmoths.

I am indebted to Elsie, the ranger who drove Gloria and me to this site, where there was a lot of these orchids in bloom.

At Knysna Featherbed nature reserve, below, several wood orchids were in flower.

It has exquisite green and white flowers.

This one was growing right by the seashore with a pig's ear plant behind it.

King of the Fynbos, Protea cynaroides, South Africa's national flower.

King of the Fynbos, Protea cynaroides, South Africa's national flower.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
The folllowing picture from Kirstenbosch Botanical garden is self-explanatory.
My pictures of butterflies and other insects, orchids and other native flowers from the UK feature in illustrated talks that I give.  Please see for information.  The same site lists the historical talks that I give, including the "Influence of invasions on the English Language", "A history of the Adur valley and seven 1,000 year old churches",   "The American revolutionary war", "The exotic flowers, nuts spices and vegetables of St Lucia" and "A history of Cuckfield."

Monday 11 October 2010

A walk up Table Mountain

This is the view of Table Mountain from the garden next to the Parliament building in Cape Town.  The route that we were to take went up one of the gorges in this picture.
From the hotel car park, above, we were bussed to the mountain.
There are two ways up; cable car or walk.
We chose to follow this route, lead by a local mountain guide.
For me, the highlights of this trip were the plants; a selection of which follow.
Insectivorous Sundew plants grew in damp patches on the rocky path up.
Oaks and other non-native trees are covering the lower slopes, crowding out the native plants.  They should be removed.
The Platteclip gorge is not a difficult walk.  It is a relentless series of steps of some 750m / 2,400 ft of ascent.
In the foreground is a wild Pelagonium or Geranium if you use the old name.  There are no frosts here.
Wild Pelagonoum sp.
Nearly at the table top.
What a view, looking towards the Cape of Good Hope.

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