Gondwana provides the ultimate boutique corporate getaway in an awe-inspiring wilderness teaming with game. The 11 000 hectare Big five game reserve is accessibly located on the Garden Route only 4 hours drive from Cape Town or 45 minutes from George airport. Enjoy 2 exhilarating game drives daily, three gourmet meals a day, and accommodation […]Read More
Book Gondwana’s Tented Eco Camp exclusively to enjoy this special bush retreat with a group of family or friends! Situated in the heart of the reserve the camp offers “glamping” at its best. Five stylish, yet rustic double tents with en-suit bathrooms provide very comfortable accommodation. A private staff complement is ready host your group […]Read More
Enjoy a Big 5 safari with your family and friends in the comfort of Gondwana’s luxury bush villas and receive a complimentary game drive daily! Gondwana’s open plan 3 and 4 bedroom bush villas are ideal for groups and include fully stocked kitchens, spacious en-suit-bedrooms, and expansive decks. Braai in your own private lodge enjoying […]Read More
Imagine a luxuriously spacious and stylish African villa with your own Field Guide, Chef and Butler. The villa is privately situated in the reserve’s 1000 hectare walking area surrounded by grasslands teaming with game. Three luxurious guest suites with endless mountain views provide extravagant accommodation for 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 children.The ultimate […]Read More
Treat Dad this month and take the whole family on a Big 5 luxury safari ideally located in the Garden Route! Enjoy 2 exhilarating game drives daily in the 11 000 hectare private reserve, three gourmet meals a day, and family accommodation in spacious and luxurious bush villas. All for only R2250 per adult, children […]Read More
Spoil mom this month and take the whole family on a Big 5 luxury safari ideally located in the Garden Route! Enjoy 2 exhilarating game drives daily in the 11 000 hectare private reserve, three gourmet meals a day, and family accommodation in spacious and luxurious bush villas. All for only R2250 per adult, children […]Read More
We are pleased to be a part of SnapshotSafari, an international camera trap survey that looks to citizen scientists to classify wildlife caught on camera. The website (www.snapshotsafari.org) officially launched today! You can explore Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa through camera-traps spread through the first six reserves. Over the next couple weeks, more sites from other countries in eastern and southern Africa will be added to the platform for users to investigate from the comfort of their home, office, or local library!
Gondwana comprises of Fynbos and Rensoterveld areas. Both Fynbos and Rensosterveld are critically endangered biomes with, renosterveld being close to extinction. These biomes have a fascinating relationship with fire and their plant richness relies heavily on this element. In this post I will focus predominantly on Fynbos as the factors that affect Renosterveld are similar and affect Renosterveld in the same way.
There is an intricate relationship between fire and Fynbos and the cycles between burns determine the health and the sustainability of this extremely precious biome. On Gondwana Game Reserve, every time our Reserve Manager, Joe plans to burn a block my heart leaps with excitement as for months to come there will be a new landscape to explore with new plants germinating weekly – sometimes daily!
Fynbos can be described as fire-loving or pyrophylic as it is dominated by plants that have adapted to fire.
Naturally fire can occur in intervals of 10 to 30 years. Some fynbos plants survive fire by re-sprouting however many are in fact killed and survive in the form of seeds. Fynbos plants have a highly evolved way of producing fire-resistant seeds. Seeds can survive in the canopy of plants, such as non-sprouting proteaceae. Other species have fascinating ways of storing their seeds in seed stores underground. Germination of the seed is stimulated directly by heat or smoke, and indirectly by altered environmental conditions. Other plant species also called re-sprouters can germinate from woody underground root stock that is stimulated to sprout by fire.
Fire acts as a wonderful mineralizing agent for our nutrient poor soils. The ash left by fire returns valuable minerals that were previously held above ground by the plants, back to the soil. Although a burnt landscape looks barren and “dead”, it ensures that water, nutrients, and light are more available after a burn which is important to rejuvenate soil otherwise considered to be nutrient poor. We could assume that the fire stimulated germination that Fynbos is renowned for could be an evolutionary reaction to an increase in the availability of nutrients and resources and the lack of competition after fire. Fire certainly enhances the bio-diversity of fynbos. Many bulbs and shrubs cannot compete with masses of overgrown Fynbos and may remain dormant for years until a fire clears the landscape and makes space for them to grow.
The relationship between fire and fynbos is a delicate cycle. There are factors such as fire frequency, location, season, and intensity will determine the positive or negative affect that fire may have on Fynbos.
Fire that occurs too frequently can destroy seedbanks and plants before they have a chance to drop their seeds. It can take up to seven years after a fire for some plants to mature enough to produce seed. Frequent fires can reduce biodiversity, cause erosion and death or migration of important pollinators and predators. In general fires should occur between 10-15 years to ensure specie richness, however it is better to determine this by examining the veld. When 50% of the population of the slowest growing species within a given area has flowered for at least 3 consecutive seasons, then this is a good time to burn.
Location plays a factor in determining when fynbos should be burnt, and this is largely dictated by aspect and the climatic and rainfall cycles of a given area. Fynbos that is situated in moist mountain and lowland areas should burn every 12 to 20 years. Fynbos in arid areas should only burn approximately every 25 years. These conditions determine the rate of growth and this directly affects when the Fynbos should be burnt.
Fynbos burnt in different seasons is affected differently. The season generally determine the intensity of the fire. Naturally most fires occur in summer. Fynbos plants seem to produce the most seedlings after late summer and early autumn fires. However extremely hot summer fires can destroy seed stores whereas cooler fires can promote germination. Seasonal fires affect the diverse species of fynbos differently. Bulbs survive fire is burnt in the right season. Burning them in winter or spring when they are pushing out their leaves or flowering can cause irreversible damage.
The presence of alien vegetation can also increase the intensity of a fire. Alien vegetation can hold highly flammable oils. This together with the concentration of it’s biomass can create more intense fires.
There is no doubt that fire is critical in the sustainability and the promotion of biodiversity in Fynbos (and Renosterveld). However, the intervals between fire need to be managed carefully and monitored as although fynbos has adapted to surviving fires, there are many species that will become extinct should fires occur too frequently.
Text: Raquel de Castro MaiaRead More
Looking at the importance of fire and the ecological Fynbos cycles that benefit from it, Leucospermum cordifolium is reliant on fire to germinate its seed and in turn produce new plants.
Leucospermum cordifolium has a fascinating ecology. The flowers produce sweet nectar that attracts insects and birds. Sugar birds and sun birds feed on the nectar and the insects that they find on the plants. To get to get to the nectar the birds must stick their heads deep into the flower and pollen brushes off onto the back of their heads. Pollination occurs as the birds travel from flower to flower transferring pollen. Baboons also love the nut-like seeds found at the centre of each flower and so the plants are a good source of protein for baboons too.
The leaves of Leucospermum cordifolium have nectar producing glands or swellings at the tip of each tooth on the leaf. These glands secret nectar which in turn feeds the ants that visit and protect the plant from pests.
Each flower produces only a few hard nut-like seeds that are covered in a sweet whitish coating which ants love. Some Leucospermum seeds release a pheromone that attract the ants. The seeds are harvested by the ants and dragged underground into their nests which become underground seed stores. As a reward for safe guarding the seeds the ants relish the whitish coating and devour it once the seeds have been stored.
This production of seed by the plant and storage of seed by the ants occurs for years between fire cycles. The seeds will not germinate until the next fire. The mature plant of Leucospermum cordifolium dies completely when fire occurs, and its nutrients are returned to the soil. The seeds survive underground thanks to their relationship with the ants. The smoke and the fire promote germination of the seeds. And the entire cycle repeats itself again.
Text & Photographs: Raquel de Castro MaiaRead More
Imagine a luxuriously spacious and stylish African villa with your own Field Guide, Chef and Butler situated in a private Big 5 game reserve. Save 20 % when you book your luxury stay at Ulubisi House. Valid 1 Nov – 15 Dec 2017
- Luxury accommodation for up to 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 children
- Pool and Jacuzzi/hot tub with extensive deck area to take in spectacular surrounds
- Private field guide for the duration of your stay with private vehicle
- Private chef for the duration of your stay
- Private butler and laundry service
- All meals and drinks including spirits, liqueurs and soft drinks. The only drinks excluded are French champagne and premium wines.
- Premium specialty coffee maker
- Guided walks including Fynbos and wildlife hikes
- Mountain biking, fishing and trail running
- Fun Junior Ranger Experience for children including custom activity book
- Wi Fi and DSTV