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The arrival of South Africa's southernspring is marked by a carpet of wildflowers which blanket the westernpart of the country from the Cape to themountains and plains of Namaqualand tothe north. This spectacular show attractsbotanists from far and wide but few realisethat, a few months later, 1,600 kilometresfurther to the east, another remarkablefloral display erupts which, althoughlacking Namaqualand's feast of colour,contains a wealth of beautiful floweringplants set amongst some of thecontinent's most spectacular scenery. Thistour has been timed to appreciate thesewonderful alpine flowers at their best,taking in the lower slopes of thespectacular Drakensberg escarpment tothe highland region of Lesotho. From therewe descend to the grasslands and bush ofthe midlands for the region's summerflowers, concluding with a few days on the coast. We start our holiday with an overnightflight from London to Johannesburg. Onarrival we will meet our local guide anddrive a short distance to the SuikerbosrandNature Reserve in the highveld grasslandsjust outside the city. Here we will look forour first flowering herbs, as well as variousgrasses such as Sporobolusspecies andThemeda triandra. Next we travel to theRoyal Natal National Park and explore themagnificent natural amphitheatre formedby 1,000-metre high basalt cliffs whichtower over the softly appealing rocky spursof the Little Berg. Here we will explore thegrassland and forest patches of the TugelaRiver Valley in search of its abundantplant-life including the blues of Agapanthuscampanulatus, the whites and greens ofZantedeschia albomaculataand thestriking pinks of Hesperanthus grandiflora.We also expect to see Gurney's Sugarbirdfeeding on the nectar in the proteapatches. This is an exceptional area in allrespects. It is now time for us to depart on thescenic drive to Lesotho. Our route will takeus through the Golden Gate National Parkwhere we hope to find orchids such asDisa stachyoidesand Disa versicolor.Crossing into Lesotho itself we will startascending a spectacular pass to arrive atthe small town of Oxbow - altitude 2,600metres - and our base for the next twonights. We are now well into the alpinezone and with virtually no one else in sight,we spend our time searching for suchfloral gems as Moraea alticola,Gazaniakrebsiana,Erica cooperiand Phygeliusaequalis. The Red-hot Poker (Kniphofiacaulescens) patches will be alive withbirds, in particular the flashing green of theMalachite Sunbirds visiting the massdisplay of red and yellow flowers, whilstoverhead soaring Jackal Buzzards areoften seen. From Oxbow we will continue ourexploration of Lesotho. At Mokhotlong wewill visit a colony of Southern Bald Ibis andonce on the Sani Pass we will stop to lookat pincushion plants such as Helichrysummarginatum. Boggy areas provide theirown special plants and for thebirdwatchers in the group, localspecialities include Orange-breastedRockjumper and Drakensberg Siskin. Thedescent down Sani Pass must rank as oneof the most spectacular roads in thecontinent and we plan to walk most of the12 kilometres down to the border post, asthere are many fine flowers to be seen.Cyrtanthus stenanthus,Kniphofia laxiflora,several pineapple plants (Eucomisspp.)and pink Watsonia confusawill be some ofthe species to look for. Ground Woodpeckeroccurs here too, although a sighting of thiselusive bird will be a real treat!We now leave the mountains behind anddescend to the midlands town of Howick.Here we will spend a day at Umgeni ValleyNature Reserve, where the Brunsvigiaonthe grassland slopes form pinktumbleweed inflorescences and are wellworth seeing. There are numerous othergrassland species here and below thecliffs, Cycads and Dracaenasare alsopresent. Several species of antelope occurhere and Black Eagles nest nearby too. The final part of our holiday takes us downto the coastal dune forests around PortEdward. Here we will search for the FlameLily (Gloriosa superba) and visit theUmtamvuna Nature Reserve, which holdsmany endemic species and is part of thePondoland Complex - a centre of highbiodiversity. Species such as Tridactylebicordata, an orchid epiphytic on rocks,Bulbine natalensis,Sopubia simplexandGnidia cuneatashould all be found, whilston a nearby estuary birds such as Piedand Malachite Kingfishers, Water Dikkopand various waders can be seen. After acouple of restful nights at a hoteloverlooking this estuary we will take aleisurely drive back to Durban for ourreturn flight home. Flowers of South Africa'sDrakensberg MountainsA 14-day tour in search of the plants and animal-life of South Africa's spectacular DrakensbergMountains, the Royal Natal National Park and coasts around Port Edward.Tuesday 15th January - Monday 28th January Cost: £3,995Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Johannesburg.Day 3/4Drakensberg.Day 5/6Oxbow/Lesotho.Day 7Sani Top.Day 8Sani Bottom.Day 9/10Howick.Day 11/12Port Edward.Day 13Depart Durban.Day 14Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable guesthouses,mountain chalets and hotels, allwith private facilities.FoodAll meals are included except forlunches. Allow £150. GradingB. Day walks only. FocusPlants (primarily), though birds andmammals will be seen.LeadersMaureen Ponting and JeremyExelby.Single room supplement£295.Web quick search: ZAF02168Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryBOTSWANANAMIBIAZIMBABWENAMAQUALANDLANGEBAANWEST COASTNATIONALPARKCAPE TOWNSANI PASSDURBANOXBOW LODGEHOWICKNATAL NATIONAL PARKDRAKENSBERGMOUNTAINSMAPUTALANDCOASTAL FORESTRESERVESWAZILANDKRUGERNATIONALPARKJOHANNESBURGHÉIDELBERGINDIAN OCEANATLANTIC OCEANSOUTH AFRICAPORT EDWARDLESOTHOWatsonia confusaDrakensberg MountainsMusician above Sani Pass

From the Lions that stalk thegrasslands of Kruger National Park tothe rare Taita Falcon that still patrolsthe spectacular mountains and canyonsalong the Blyde River, South Africa caters toall natural history interests. However,although it is the iconic African mammalsand abundant birdlife that attract themajority of wildlife enthusiasts to thesouthern tip of Africa, the 'Rainbow Nation'has a wealth of additional wildlife treasuresto enjoy, not least its reptiles andamphibians. These two groups of ancientcreatures are surrounded by an aura ofmystery and, admittedly, a certain elementof danger. Included amongst SouthernAfrica's 517 species are the famed BlackMamba, Africa's largest venomous snake,the Nile Crocodile, Africa's largest reptilianpredator, and the somewhat more placidFlap-necked Chameleon with itsindependently movable eyes and colour-changing abilities.The diversity and abundance of SouthAfrica's reptiles varies from region to region,with the highest number of speciesoccurring in the country's north-easternprovinces. Here the interior plateau and theDrakensberg Escarpment merge into thelow-lying savannah, creating a wide varietyof habitats within a relatively small area. Ourtour focuses on this region, in particular theLimpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces and,while the reptiles and amphibians will beour primary focus, there will be much moreto see besides, including a wonderfulvariety of colourful birds and the full rangeof African savannah mammals. Our holiday begins with a flight toJohannesburg from where we will drive east to Dullstroom, a small town in thehighlands. Here we'll visit the Veloren ValeiNature Reserve in search of reptiles suchas Drakensberg Crag Lizard, Southern RockAgama, Distant's Ground Agama, Dusky-bellied Water Snake and StripedSkaapstekers, plus birds including Gurney'sSugarbird and the beautiful Blue Crane.From Dullstroom we pass over theescarpment edge and drop down to ournext base near the town of Hoedspruit. Ourroute will take us past the spectacular BlydeRiver Canyon where colourful Flat Lizardsand Southern Rock Agamas are easy toobserve basking in the warm morning sun.For the next two nights we will be based ata lodge next to the Blyde River, where theclimate is more tropical and the diversity ofreptile and amphibian species richer. Wewill be looking for such well-known speciesas Black Mamba, Southern African RockPython (Africa's largest snake), Boomslang,(Africa's most venomous snake), Nile andWhite-throated Monitors, Leopard Tortoise,Speke's Hinged Tortoise, Tree Agama andFlap-necked Chameleon among many otherspecies. Our time here will also include afascinating introduction to Southern Africanreptiles by Donald Strydom, one of thecountry's foremost reptile experts andconservationists. Donald runs the 'KhamaiReptile Park' at Swadini, a park dedicatedto the conservation of reptiles andamphibians, and which operates a captivebreeding/release programme for some ofthe rarer and more threatened species. Our time at Khamai will allow us closeencounters with a variety of the moresecretive and uncommon herpetologicalspecies that we may struggle to see in the wild.Next we enter Kruger National Park, SouthAfrica's flagship wildlife reserve. Kruger ishome to a rich diversity of reptiles andamphibians as well as an abundance ofbirds and mammals. Here we will not onlybe looking out for the 'Big Five' mammals,but also searching for the 'Big Five' of thereptile world, namely Nile Crocodile, BlackMamba, Water Monitor, Leopard Tortoiseand Southern African Rock Python. WesternStripe-bellied Sand Snake, Twig Snake andNatal Hinged Tortoise are also possible.Much of our time in the park will be vehicle-based, but there will be plenty ofopportunities to explore on foot around therest camps, in search of a variety of speciesincluding Tree Agama, Cape Dwarf Gecko,Moreau's Tropical House Gecko,Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko, Rainbow andStriped Skinks, Giant Plated Lizard, GiantLegless Skink and Variegated Bush Snake.Our tour ends with a night at Chrissiesmeer,a region of natural wetlands and pans in the grasslands of central Mpumalanga.Although a superb area for wetland birds,our primary reason for visiting will be toenjoy the wonderful variety of amphibiansthat live here. An evening 'frogging' sessionshould yield a variety of interesting speciesincluding Mozambique Rain Frog, EasternOlive Toad, Raucous Toad, BubblingKassina and the beautiful Painted ReedFrog. We hope that the chorus of frogs, andline after line of waterbirds flying to roost,will be a fitting finale to our herpetologicalexploration of South Africa before we musthead back to Johannesburg Airport to catchour return flight home. South Africa - Reptiles,Amphibians & other WildlifeA 10-day holiday to South Africa in search of reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife.Wednesday 16th January - Friday 25th January Cost: £2,795Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBOTSWANA ZIMBABWE DURBAN DULLSTROOMCHRISSIESMEERBLYDE RIVERHOEDSPRUITCANYONSWAZILAND KRUGERNATIONALPARKJOHANNESBURGINDIAN OCEAN SOUTH AFRICALESOTHO Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Dullstroom.Day 3/4Hoedspruit.Day 5/7Kruger National Park.Day 8Chrissiesmeer.Day 9 Depart Johannesburg.Day 10Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable lodges, guesthousesand national park chalets, all withprivate facilities.FoodBreakfasts and dinners areincluded. Lunches are excluded;allow £80.GradingGrade A. Easy wildlife walks andvehicular safaris.FocusReptiles, amphibians and otherwildlife. LeaderJason Stewart.Single room supplement£250.Web quick search: ZAF12169Blyde River CanyonTree AgamaBoomslang