Contributor: Nicky Rutherfoord
Monday morning 30th August dawned fresh and sunny with the promise of a lovely day ahead. Twenty of us met at the N2 Engen garage near Mossel Bay before heading off along the Herbertsdale road on the 16 km drive to Gondwana Game Reserve in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains.
Gondwana is home to the Big Five and a wonderful diversity of wildlife but our focus that day was on hunting down the critically endangered Satyrium muticum orchid first discovered on Gondwana in 2017.
Our guides Kevin and Jolandie gave us a short slide show and introduction to Gondwana and the Gondwana Conservation Foundation with its many projects such as the conservation programmes for local school children, rhino conservation initiatives and the fynbos conservation project – including the rare-orchid research programme.
We then piled into two game viewers and set off down a beautiful valley and wetland area. The track was steep and we passed through incredible fynbos including many species of colourful Ericas.
We arrived at the site where a population of the Satyrium muticum had been discovered and were led up the hillside, on foot, to enjoy these amazing orchids scattered amongst the fynbos. We then drove out of the valley to a high-lying second site where, with the help of Kevin and Jolandie’s hawk eyes, we found the tiny, short stemmed Bartholina burmanniana ( Spider Orchid ) and the pink Disperis carpensis (Granny’s bonnet) -the most exquisite flower you could ever wish to see. This area is a rare “hotspot” for Orchids with six different orchid species having been identified in abundance there.
On the way back to the glamorous Lehele Lodge for our picnic lunch we enjoyed seeing herds of springbok, impala, zebra, eland and wildebeest, and, to top it all, a mother hippo with baby.
Thank you Gondwana for a fascinating and fun-filled day.
Photo credits: Nicky Rutherfoord