Encounter our Eastern Cape Info Letter – June 2022

Encounter our Eastern Cape newsletter

In the June 2022 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter our Eastern Cape Travel Letter

  • Encounter the spirit of the wolf at the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary

  • Learn more about the Kouga Dam near Patensie

  • Discover Somerset East’s Walter Battiss Art Museum

  • Did you know that Nelson Mandela Bay is called the 5 Biome City?

  • Meet Huberta the Hippo

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly “travel letter” or have any suggestions, please drop us a mail at jonker@fireflyafrica.co.za

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Encounter the spirit of the wolf in the Tsitsikamma

Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary wolves

Wolves are common throughout tales and stories, folklore, religion and mythology. There was Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf; the three little pigs had a run-in with a wolf; Romulus and Remus, the future founders of Rome, were raised by a she-wolf; Kevin Costner danced with wolves; the American Native Indians have a close relationship with wolves and when the full moon rises, the werewolves appear.

But did you know that there are wolves in the Tsitsikamma? No, not actually in the forest and mountain, but you can see them at the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary. The sanctuary is the first and oldest Wolf Sanctuary in South Africa and is a registered non-profit company. They provides a safe-haven for grey timber wolves and high-content wolf dogs that have been rescued or confiscated for their own protection and wellbeing.

Visitors can experience these majestic creatures when visiting the sanctuary and have a day of real enjoyment in the outdoors overlooking the forests and mountains of the Tsitsikamma while coming face to face with the spirt of the Wolf.

You can even sit inside a real tepee and listen to the wolves howling as you wait for your delicious gourmet Bonfire Burger being prepared, or bring your own picnic and enjoy amongst the wolf enclosures in the picnic area. Rustic accommodation is also available to bring you even closer to these animals.

Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary

The Kouga Dam

The Kouga Dam in the Gamtoos Valley

The Kouga Dam in the Gamtoos Valley was built between 1957 and 1969 and became the first double curvature (cupola) arch dam in South Africa. The dam and main canal supply water to the farmers in the Gamtoos Valley for agricultural irrigation (72% of total use), the towns of Patensie and Hankey, and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (28% of use). The water to Nelson Mandela Bay goes through the purification works at the Loerie Dam site by means of an outlet control tower and tunnel.

The dam wall stands 94 m high and the dam has a storage capacity of 125 million m³. The catchment area covers an area of 388 700h through parts of the Langkloof and Baviaanskloof with the Groot River originating near Avontuur.

It was originally called the Paul Sauer Dam but was renamed in 1995.

The Kouga Dam level currently stands at an alarming 13.8%

Read more about the Gamtoos Irrigation Board

The Walter Battiss Art Museum in Somerset East

Walter Battiss Art Museum in Somerset E ast

The building housing the Walter Battiss Art Museum was built in 1818 during the time of Somerset Farm (before the town of Somerset East was established in 1825) and used as an Officers Mess for British troops stationed on the eastern Frontier.

The cast-iron fence was transported by wagon from Cape Town. Yellowwood from the Boschberg Mountain provided wood and beams for some partitions of the first floor. Several fireplaces still in the building have the royal coat of arms built into them while the Victorian veranda was added later.

Walter Wahl Battiss was born in Somerset East in 1906. By 1814 the family rented 45 Paulet Street, and ran it as the Battiss Private Hotel. Unfortunately by 1917 when Walter was 11, the family left Somerset East.

The Walter Battiss Art Museum was officially opened on 24 October 1981. Battiss was present on the day, and donated 65 of his private collection of artworks to “the people of Somerset East. He died in 1982.

After extensive deterioration, the gallery was closed to the public at the end of 1999, and reopened on 5 November 2004, after restoration. Battiss was generally considered to be the foremost South African water colours and abstract painter and known as the creator of the quirky “Fook Island” concept. Today the museum houses a permanent exhibition on the works of Battiss, including watercolours, oils, rock art and Fook Island.

The museum is open weekdays from 10:00 to 14:00.

Learn more about the Walter Battiss Foundation

Nelson Mandela Bay – The 5 Biome City

Flightless Dung beetle

Nelson Mandela Bay represents a large percentage of South Africa’s biological diversity in that it is a meeting point for 5 of the 7 South African Biomes, namely the Thicket, Grassland, Nama-Karoo, Fynbos and Forest Biomes. The area also boast a significant amount of endemic species i.e. species that are only found here and nowhere else in the world. Such a concentration of biomes, particularly within a city, is unparalleled in the world and results in an extraordinary diversity of landscapes, plants and animals.

A biome is a broad classification of vegetation according to the kinds of plants that occur in the area, which is influenced by factors such as soil and climate. A biome is not usually found only in one part of the country. Depending on the climate and features of the landscape, a particular biome can be distributed in patches, like forest in the kloofs of mountains all over the country.

A number of municipal nature reserves have been included in the 5 Biome City brochure and a mosaic of these 5 Biomes could be experienced in these reserves.

Read more about the 5 Biome City

Huberta the Hippo

Huberta the Hippo in the Amathole Museum

The best known exhibit in the Amathole Museum in King Williams Town must surely be Huberta the Hippo. Huberta’s story starts in February 1928, when a Hippo named Hubert decided to go on a remarkable journey. He was eventually found out to be a female and her name was changed to Huberta.

Huberta's journey south

Huberta’s journey started when she left the St Lucia Estuary in northern KZN and travelled over 1600 kilometers over a period of 3 years. She traveled by night leaving nothing but the occasional spoor and managed to mostly evade the onslaught of journalists and curious bystanders. Her trek made headlines and she became quite the international celebrity. There were several failed attempts to capture her, but as her travels had garnered local and national attention the Natal Provincial Council declared her to be Royal Game and hunting her to be illegal.

Huberta the hippo after being shot

After crossing 122 rivers the roaming hippo reached a river in the Eastern Cape. A month or so later, tragically, farmers shot her dead. The public outcry was enormous. The farmers were subsequently each given a hefty fine. With many in mourning her body was sent to a taxidermist in London. When she was shipped back to South Africa around 20,000 people welcomed her home! Today her body stands proudly in the Amathole Museum in King Williams Town.

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