Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
Day 3 - Wine Country, Spier Wine Farm & Raptor Sanctuary & Cheetah Outreach, Backsberg Estate Cellars
This morning we set off for the Stellenbosch & Franschhoek wine country about an hour outside Cape Town. It's beautiful farm land with fields and vineyards creeping up the sides of the mountains on both sides of the roads.
Our host, Sheldon, drove our van and showed us some of the African animals - ostrich, wildebeest, gemsbok, etc. - on display within fences at one of the area ranches; but we were looking forward to seeing them in the wild next week.
Then we made a stop at the Spier Wine Farm. But our primary reason for stopping wasn't the wine ... it was the raptor sanctuary and the Cheetah outreach conservation program.
Linda & I along with Carolyn & Sheldon entered "Eagle Encounters" which is a "bird-of-prey rehabilitation, conservation, education, and eco-tourism project". We viewed and photographed several of the magnificent birds.
This is a Martial Eagle - one of the largest eagles in Africa.
The Martial Eagle along with the African Fish Eagle below are birds we will see during our trip to Kruger National Park, but we certainly won't get this good a look at them in the bush.
There were numerous other eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, and owls as you can see in the slideshow below.
At one station, we could pet the owls.
And we were shown two new orphaned owlets that had just arrived at the sanctuary. These are one-week old and two-week old Spotted Eagle Owl babies.
They will be raised by foster moms here at Spier.
Next we entered an enclosure where we were able to hold and pet adult Spotted Eagle Owls. This one didn't even wait for Linda to get a glove on. It immediately flew up on her head.
This was the more normal way to hold them.
One last close-up before we left the enclosure.
After spending about 45 minutes with the birds, the four of us moved to the Cheetah Outreach. Linda & I were hoping to get a private encounter with cubs, but we were a week early.
So, we just walked through and viewed these gorgeous, endangered cats.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animal in the world reaching speeds of 70 - 75 mph in very short bursts. They are endangered due to loss of prey, loss of habitat and poaching. They are also no match for the larger predators in the bush like lions, leopards, and hyenas, so their kills are often stolen by the more numerous and/or larger carnivores. They are probably my favorite big cat, and we can't wait to see them in the wild.
After the raptors and Cheetahs, we joined up with the others and headed to Backsberg Estates Cellars in Franschhoek where Sheldon had made reservations for lunch.
It was a lovely garden setting at the base of the mountains.
In addition to us six travelers and Sheldon & Carolyn, we were joined by other family members including Jackie and Carolyn's father, who had once been in charge of rangers in Kruger National Park. We got a table outside under the oak trees.
Several of our group went into the winery for tastings while the rest of us relaxed.
Eventually, our servers brought us "starters" of a seafood salad in a phyllo pastry basket. After that, we were invited inside the restaurant at our leisure to go through a wonderful buffet and then stop off at the grills where a carver was serving lamb from the spit.
I'm not a big lamb fan, but this was the best I've ever had. It was delicious.
We whiled away the afternoon relaxing and chatting in this wondrous setting. We've quickly learned that meals are events in South Africa. There is no rushing, the service isn't intrusive (that may be an understatement), and the restaurant staff isn't hovering over you so they can turn over tables. It's a time to savor the food and the conversation.
We were there probably three hours before our desserts arrived.
The dessert was pavlova - berries over a meringue shell with ice cream.
What a wonderful afternoon. We spent almost five hours in these splendid surroundings eating, drinking, talking, and just enjoying the ambiance of the whole thing.
Eventually, we departed and headed back to the B & B. There, we relaxed, nibbled on some homemade jerky and had more conversation as we went through the days' photos.
Later we had South African sausage rolls. The sausage is boerewors coming from the Afrikaans language - boer is "farmer" and "wors" is sausage. We've already been advised that we will be living on boerewors on the grill while we're in the bush.
Ah, the joys of travel. New experiences, new beauty, new bird and animal life, new friendships, and new cultures all combining to open up the world.