Author Archives Vanessa

December 1, 2017

Fynbos, Renosterveld and Fire

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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 Maia

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December 1, 2017

Leucospermum cordifolium, the ants and the fire

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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.

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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.

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Text & Photographs: Raquel de Castro Maia

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October 26, 2017

Stay in Style this summer at Ulubisi House and SAVE 20%

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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

What’s Included

  • 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

Make an Enquiry Make a booking 

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October 5, 2017

Spring is Blooming at Gondwana Game Reserve

1-cyphia-volubilis

Cyphia volubilis

Cyphia volubilis is a climber and the colour of the flowers can vary from white to purple with small white purple markings at the base of the three upper petals.

Plants from the Cyphia group are generally easy to recognise as they are mostly climbers that twine around stems of other plants. During the summer months the stems, leaves and flowers of Cyphia volubilis are dormant. They have an underground tuber from which they grow rapidly in Autumn after the first rains.

The tubers of Cyphia volubilis are edible and they were once an important wild food in the Cape. People would eat the potatoe-like tuber raw or slightly roasted. It was locally named “baroe”. Its fleshy tuber was considered to not only a staple food as well as a thirst quencher because of its high-water content.

2-Lobostemon-fruticosus

Lobostemon fruticosus

Lobostemon fruticosus is also known as “Agdaegeneesbos” in Afrikaans. The vernacular name refers to the plants believed ability to heal a condition in eight days. (eight-day healing bush).

The leaves of Lobostemon fruticosus were pulped, or put into leaf decoctions and ointments and fried in sweet oil or fat. These were used to treat wounds, sores, ulcers, burns, planter’s warts and ringworm.

The crushed leaves of this plant and other species of Lobostemon are mucilaginous (produce a thick and gluey substance) and are thus emollient (having the quality of softening or soothing the skin). The leaves were chewed until a slimy mass formed which was then applied to a fresh wound like a plaster. The outer layer dried to form a soft brown layer. This “plaster” was left on the wound for more than a week.

Lobostemon is closely related to comfrey and may also contain a chemical compound known as allantoin which is well known for its wound healing properties.

3-Lobostemon-fruticosus

Tritonia securigera

Tritonia securigera, is a striking bloom with 3 characteristic prominent yellow teeth on the lower flower lobes. Honeybees grab onto these when they visit the flowers and then crawl over them to reach the nectar. The distance between the top of these teeth and the anthers is just less than the diameter of the bees. The bees squeeze into this gap and this ensures that the pollen of a flower is deposited on the back of the bee and is carried to the next flower for pollination.

4-Indigofera-heterophylla

Indigofera heterophylla

Indigofera heterophylla. The roots of many Indigofera species are recorded to have been used medicinally as a treatment for infertility. The leaves of some Indigofera species (usually the larger ones) were boiled up to extract the chemical indigo which is the main source of indigo pigment used as a dye.

5-Satyrium-muticum

Satyrium muticum

This critically endangered orchid was found growing on a rocky slope at Gondwana Game Reserve in September. It is only found in the Mossel Bay Region and is extremely rare.

6-Hermania-filifolia

Hermannia filifolia

Hermania filifolia is also known as “broodblom” it has beautiful characteristics twisted to flaring hanging flowers. Most Hermannia species are highly palatable and readily browsed by game. The flowers of Hermannia filifolia  have an unusual taste, and are a wild flower that can be enjoyed in salads.

7-Agathosma-capensis

Agathosma capensis

The Agathosma genus is restricted to South Africa and is a typical fynbos species, not easily mistaken by any other as the leaves are usually strongly scented. Traditionally the Khoi had many medicinal and cosmetic uses for different Agathosma species. Also known as “buchu” this plant makes a delicious Buchu tea. Medicinally many Agathosma species were also used to treat chest, stomach and urinary tract infections.

The leaves of Agathosma capensis above, have a strong aniseed or liquorice scent when crushed.

 8-Gladiolus-floribundus

Gladiolus floribundus

A beautiful Gladiolus with large showy flowers. Growing all over the reserve in spring – it cannot be missed.

9-Freesia-alba

Freesia alba

Freesias are delightfully fragrant and are known for their unique mixture of spicy and floral scents. Freesias have been used as a vital ingredient in many scented oils because of their captivating fragrance. Their oils are used for aromatherapy and in perfumes.

10-Babiana-patula

Babiana patula

There are a number of Babiana species that flower around this time of year their bright colours are a sight to behold. The name is derived from a Dutch word – baviaan, referring to the Chacma baboon that relishes the underground corms of plants in the genus. Most Babianas are adapted to Renosterveld and its shale-derived clay soils so much of their habitat has been destroyed.

11-Watsonia-Laccata 

Watsonia Laccata

A gorgeous smaller species of watsonia flowering in tones of pink to red. Their blooms are dotted all over the reserve in Spring and appear as beautiful flame like blooms that are about 30 – 40 cm tall.

12-Gerbera-crocea

Gerbera crocea

These beautiful Gerberas grow in open fynbos areas and are a wide spread species. They are most abundant in areas that have experienced fires. Gerberas form the whimsical (puffy ball-like) seed heads on which most childhood wishes are placed before being blown to the wind.

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July 25, 2017

GCF, Riding to Save Rhino

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In under a decade, 7 134 rhino have been killed in South Africa alone.

Once again, the Gondwana team will be riding the Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, presented by Biogen, to raise funds to continue the fight against rhino poaching in South Africa. Our team this year consists of Devon Naude and Tristan Sandwith from Table Mountain Bikers Club in Cape Town who will be slogging it out for 7 days, from October 15 to 21. The 7-day race stretches a grueling 572km in distance with an overall ascent of 10,650 meters in and around the Garden Route near Mossel Bay and they aim to raise R1000 per kilometer or R572 000 for the Gondwana Conservation Foundation (GCF). The first stage of the race will be traversing through Gondwana Game Reserve and has been named #GondwanaGlory by the organizers.

All donations of R1000 or more will be entered to win a luxury safari weekend for 2 at Gondwana Game Reserve inclusive of all meals and game drives worth over R16,000.

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The poaching of Rhino in Southern Africa, and in South Africa in particular, has been increasing exponentially over the past five years. In 2013 more rhino were killed than born. To combat this increase in poaching incidents, the Gondwana Conservation Foundation launched the Rainbow Rhino Initiative.

Gondwana feels this epic mountain bike race is a fantastic platform to raise awareness for the GCF’s Rainbow Rhino Initiative which has 3 tactical approaches to contribute to this epidemic. Firstly, the foundation has established a counter poaching training camp which sponsors courses focusing on tracking, crime scene investigation and drone surveillance. Second, the initiative is developing a core breeding population of rhino from which a custodianship program can be launched, distributing new founder populations of rhino throughout Africa together with trained anti-poaching units. Third, the GCF is partnering with technology companies to create interactive awareness of rhino relocations through the latest GPS and drone technology allowing international communities to follow real time movement and imagery of individual rhino. The foundation has also played an integral role facilitating all key anti-poaching role players in the region including SAPS, Cape Nature, State Vets, Game Rangers Association of Africa, and the private sector to coordinate rhino poaching crime scene roles and responsibilities.

The cyclists goal is to raise R1,000 per Km or R572,000 for the Rainbow Rhino Initiative. Last year funds raised through the Cape Pioneer Trek helped to complete the anti-poaching training facility on the 11,000 hectare, Big 5 reserve as well as purchase a rhino cow and calf to add to the core breeding population. The funds raised this year would go to securing vital training equipment needed, including night vision glasses, safety equipment, lecturing equipment as well as subsidizing multiple training courses over the next 12 months.

Follow our team’s progress on the GCF & Gondwana Facebook pages and blogs!

view our GCF Facebook page
view our Gondwana Game Reserve Facebook page

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The initiative ran its first training course in February 2017 at Camp Charleston, the foundation’s new onsite training facility. The first course trained eight local general workers in the field of counter insurgency. This course offered skills to individuals on fence maintenance teams to enable them to provide valuable input and assistance to anti-poaching units during their day-to-day patrolling of protected areas. This training is a perfect example of empowering people to contribute to the protection of our treasured natural resources. The training was made possible through the kind donation of Sportingbet.

The second course sponsored was a five-week Security Ranger Program which took place in March/April 2017 at Camp Charleston where eight candidates working in private and public parks attended. This training provided these individuals with the necessary qualifications and skills to be legal and competent security rangers in protected areas and game reserves. The foundation has funds to sponsor three more courses this year.

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HELP US FIGHT RHINO POACHING

What Can You Do?

Rhinos in the wild will be extinct by 2020 if the levels of poaching continue, experts have warned. Donate towards the Rainbow Rhino Initiative and help us make headway against the increasing poaching epidemic to protect our threatened rhino across Africa. Spread the word! Rhino poaching needs everyone’s help to stop it!

GCF is calling on all corporates and individuals with a passion for conservation and an interest in saving our rhino to please donate to this worthy cause and cheer our boys on during this exciting but strenuous event!

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EVERY CENT COUNTS!

To Make A Donation

Please see GCF bank details and use reference: Name and RideGCF2017

Banking Details:
Gondwana Conservation Foundation
FNB Bank Mossel Bay
Account number: 62457931345
Branch: Mossel Bay
Branch code: 210314
Swift code: FIRNZAJJ

All donations of R1000 or more will be entered to win a luxury safari weekend for 2 at Gondwana Game Reserve inclusive of all meals and game drives worth over R16,000.

Please also send an email notifying us of your contribution with name/organisation and sponsored KM’s to marketing@gondwanagr.co.za – all contributors will be mentioned and thanked on social media platforms and in Gondwana’s end of year newsletter.

Our team will be riding in style this year with a very generous kit sponsorship from Ciovita. Inspired by the cycling passion of Italy, Ciovita design and manufacture high quality performance cycling clothing. With full in house production at their state of the art facilities their kit is rigorously tested and constantly improved to ensure that you are always inspired to ride. We are very grateful for Ciovita’s sponsorship and coming on board to support our Rhino.
https://www.ciovita.com – info@ciovita.com – +27 21 461 3931

Follow our team’s progress on the GCF & Gondwana Facebook pages and blogs!

view our GCF Facebook page
view our Gondwana Game Reserve Facebook page

The aim is to raise R527 000 – so please get donating!

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July 7, 2017

Winter Full Board Special

WInter-July

Photo credit – Gaenor Botha

  • Only R1950 per person per night on Full Board
  • Kids Under 12 –R950 per night
  • Kids Under 6 stay Free!

* Extra premium charged for Fynbos Villas. 

Includes:

  • Fine Dining: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Morning and  late afternoon game drive
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Taxes
  • Free Internet Access (Wi-Fi) at the Lodge
  • Minimum 2 night stay
  • Junior Ranger Experience for kids
  • Terms and Conditions Apply
  • Valid 1-31 July 2017
  • Valid for new bookings only

Conservation Fees:

Please note Conservation Fees apply and are not included in online or quoted rates: R200 per adult and R100 per child per stay. 

Please note this special is not bookable online. Please email reservations@gondwanagr.co.za or call +27 (0) 21 555 0807

Make an Enquiry 

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July 4, 2017
Comments Off on Own Your Own Bush Home on Gondwana Game Reserve

Own Your Own Bush Home on Gondwana Game Reserve

bush-villa

An investment opportunity of a lifetime – own a slice of nature’s playground in Gondwana Game Reserve Those in search of the ideal holiday home need not look any further, as you will find an attractive investment opportunity in Gondwana Game Reserve, a Big Five and environmentally conscious property resort on the famous Garden Route […]

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June 20, 2017

Luxe For Less – Ulubisi House Winter Retreat

2017-06-14-news4

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 30 % when you book your luxury stay at Ulubisi House this winter! Valid until Sept 30, 2017.

What’s Included

  • 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

Make an Enquiry Make a booking

Read More
March 31, 2017

Eco Camp Exclusive Special Offer

Eco Camp

Book Gondwana’s Eco Camp exclusively to enjoy this special bush retreat with a group of family and friends!

Situated in the heart of the reserve, the camp offers “glamping” at its best – 5 stylish, yet rustic double tents with en-suite bathrooms provide very comfortable accommodation.  A private staff complement is ready to host your group including a field guide, cook and housekeeper.

Book all 5 tents sleeping 10 guests at a Special Rate of R9750 per night with a 2-night minimum stay.  This special includes all you meals, housekeeping, and private game drives and conservation activities.  Bring your own drinks if you like.

What’s Included

  • 5 Night or 3 Night Program (Thursday arrival)
  • Accommodation in remote tented bush camp in the heart of the reserve
  • All Food
  • All linen and towels
  • Daily Housekeeping Service
  • All activities and Game drives
  • All travel within the reserve

What’s not Included:

  • Beverages (alcohol and soft drinks)
  • Flights to South Africa
  • Transfers to and from the Reserve (can be arranged by Gondwana for an additional fee)
  • Personal insurance
  • Reserve conservation fee (R250 per person per stay ) The conservation of Gondwana Game Reserve and the surrounding area is a priority. Your conservation fee is ring-fenced to help us strengthen our biodiversity.

Valid from May – September 2017 – Subject to Availability

Enquire Now 

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