From my Hide: A jewel of the south coast

David Holt-Biddle.

THE Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve has been described as the natural jewel of the South Coast, and we tend to agree.

We recently spent a most pleasant morning in the Reserve, doing a little game viewing and bird spotting, and soaking up the constantly changing scenery of wooded or grassed hills and valleys.

The Reserve is 2,189ha in extent, covering fine examples of coastal grasslands and forest habitats, along with rocky outcrops and dams.

We saw plenty of zebra and blue wildebeest, but there is a wide range of other game.

Over 300 bird species have been recorded in the Reserve, and over the morning we managed to tick quite a few of them, although many of those species are grassland birds or LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) which are notoriously difficult to identify.

The wild flowers were a particular pleasure, especially the watsonia, which were in full bloom at the time.

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Just in case you needed to know, watsonias are named after William Watson, an 18th century botanist (please note an upcoming book review in this column).

There are 19km of tourist roads and 15km of nature trails for the hikers, as well as picnic spots and of course the Nyengelezi hutted camp.

We have stayed there on a previous visit and the rondavels are comfortable and fully self-contained with a communal ablution facility. There is also a tree house unit.

The number for reservations is 033 8451000.

One negative to all of this, at a particularly pleasing view site we saw a number of cigarette filters ground into the sand.

Now, the Americans for Non-smokers’ Rights organisation has calculated that over three-quarters of a billion kilogrammes of cigarette filters end up in the environment every year, being the biggest single item of trash thrown away by us humans.

The organisation also states that cigarette filters are definitely not biodegradable, in other words they are in that sand forever.

I don’t blame the Reserve management for this, the stompies are really only visible if you are standing on them, but I do blame the casual smokers who left them there, particularly as the view site was surrounded by tinder-dry grass.

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As a matter of interest, Vernon Crookes was a sugar baron who established the reserve in 1968 on what had been cane plantations. Good on Mr Crookes.

And finally, from England comes a warm and comforting story about a lost tortoise found.

The 90-year-old tortoise disappeared from his owner’s home in London and after a search she (the owner) came to the awful truth that her pet must have crawled into a bin bag that had already been collected and was on its way to the incinerator.

She telephoned the garbage removal people and explained the problem and the response was just so English.

She and the garbage people took several hours working their way through about 1,000 bags full of garbage, until they eventually found the errant tortoise.

All was well that ended well and a very indignant tortoise was returned home.

I’m just sorry I can’t tell you his name.*

*The Week: The Best of the British and Foreign Media.

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