22 - 26 October, 2019

Cost per person sharing: R6 950

4-Nights / 5-Days

 With Dr. Stephen Evans

 

 The Experience

This 4 night, 5 day birding retreat offers you complete immersion in birding bliss.   The heavenly Bitou Wetland, summer home to countless numbers of migrant waders every October is now available to birding enthusiasts and those who simply enjoy the stillness of nature and golden sunsets.  Spend two days and nights in a globally unique luxury tented camp developed completely with the application of the principles of biomimicry and situated on the banks of the gently meandering Bitou River.  From here you are within walking distance of the Bitou Bird Hide.  Dr Steven Evans, birding specialist, will be your host and guide, while the Venture Beyond staff will prepare all your meals and ensure that your creature comforts are taken care of.  Wetland, forest, fynbos and estuary walks, along with a gentle canoe through the reeded meandering serpentine of the Bitou River will ensure that your birding needs are covered here. 

Birding

On day 3, we take you on a slow drive over the mountains, enjoying the shifting habitats and new bird species en route.  The magnificent views from the Swartberg Mountains as you drive through the Little Karoo are breathtaking and, as you trundle down the pass into Gamkaskloof - or Die Hel - the scenery, birding and flora are awe inspiring.  The next two nights are spent in the original little Karoo heritage homes of the community who lived in the valley.  These have been refurbished by CapeNature and each cottage has its own story.  During the day, explore the wonders that the Valley has to offer, alongside its stream with Red finned minnow (endangered fish) and spekboom hillsides, with over 130 species of birds on offer.  The beautiful dark skies at night, untainted by light pollution, present a perfect opportunity for a bit of star gazing while you listen for the night sounds - Nightjars, Owls, bats. 

 

The final morning after breakfast, we pack up and head back up out of the valley, driving back to Plettenberg Bay and to your vehicles via the sandstone cliffs and remarkable rock formations of Meiringspoort.

 

 

The Itinerary

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22nd October

08h00 Meet at Wittedrift High School
  Bitou River and Ridge birding walk with Nigel Gysman from Green Valley.  Get an overview of the Valley, the Bitou Wetland and enjoy the species found in fynbos, a few forest species, and wetland.
11h30 From Wittedrift School, the camp crew will help you unpack and transport you to the nearby (though you'll feels tucked away and alone) unique Bitou Valley Biomimicry Bush Camp.  Here you will be shown to your luxury tented accommodation and the camp crew will explain the fascinating functioning of the camp and its design around nature.  
14h30 After lunch, you will explore the birding delights of the Bitou system from your canoes.  This meandering wetland / river / estuarine system offers so much diversity and, tucked between reeds and vegetation, you could be drifting through the Okavango Swamps -  and October is the time of migrating waders - birders bliss!
17h00 If you still have the energy to explore ….. Take a gentle stroll across the wetland to the bird hide and take in the chorus of waders as they come in to settle for the night against the magnificent sunsets that are experienced in the Valley.  A cold glass of wine or beer is a must to celebrate the day.
19h30 The camp staff will provide you with a most delicious, hearty, healthy and well deserved meal - produced from their basic bush kitchen.  Listen to sounds of the river, the frogs, watch the fireflies dance and take in the night sky.  If you're keen, a bit of night birding is available.

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23rd October

5h30 Coffee and rusks and a light breakfast will be available for the early start.  
6h30 Bird ringing in the Bitou Valley ….. get up-close-and-personal with a bird ringing demonstration with Steven and the bird experts of the Nature's Valley Trust. It's an early start but will be well worth it for this chance to learn how ringing birds is an important function of birdlife research and conservation.
11h00 Return to camp for tea and a snack.  Rest until lunch time or feel free to use the bicycles or canoes to explore the wetland.
2h30 After lunch we will head out for Nature's Valley to discover some forest species and to learn a bit about "birding by sound".  This piece of forest is the southern most Afromontane forest ….. It's beautiful and packed with interesting life.
17h00 Return to camp for sundowners in the hide or relax on the banks of the Bitou before another delicious dinner.

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24th October

06h30 Coffee and rusks will be ready and breakfast will be available at 7h00 before we pack up and head out, leaving the sea behind us.  Today we will take a slow drive through the transitioning landscape, from fynbos, thicket and forest, through grasslands, over mountains and through valleys, to succulent Karoo.  As we drive, aside from stopping to take in the magnificent views, we will obviously be noticing the different birds associated with the different habitats and altitudes as we drive.  We will be stopping to picnic en route as well.
16h00 We should arrive in Gamkaskloof - Die Hel - at around 4pm.  We will be shown to our little historic cottages, each with its own unique story, and will meet in a central cottage for dinner at 18h30.

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25th October

06h30 Each cottage will be provided with its own coffee and rusks for the morning and we will collect everyone at 07h00 to head out to explore the valley thicket and its birds on foot.
10h30 - 14h00 Return to camp and rest up, or use the time to explore on you own.   We will set up lunch under a tree and we can meet to compare notes and enjoy a meal together.
14h00  We'll head out again to explore another section of the Valley, before returning to our cottages and our last evening meal together.

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26th October

06h30 Each cottage will be provided with its own coffee and rusks for the morning and we will all meet at 07h00 for breakfast.  After breakfast, we pack up and head back, via the magnificent Meiringspoort, to Wittedrift High School and our parked vehicles.  We should arrive back at midday.