Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – March 2024


Is it just me or was 2024 a very long year… Oh wait, it’s only March. Summer is still around but according to the calendar it’s Autumn now so we are entering the best weather months of the year.  

Welcome to the March 2024 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer. I hope you learn at least one new thing about the province this month.

This month we look at the following:

  • Enjoy the beauty of the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve in Cape St Francis

  • Discover the South African Airforce Museum in Port Elizabeth

  • Bet you didn’t know of Oudebosch Protea Farm Tours in the Tsitsikamma

  • Marvel at the Roberts’ bird book illustrations in Graaff-Reinet

  • Learn about the history of Joubertina in the Langkloof

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly travel mailer or have any suggestions, please drop us an email at jonker@fireflyafrica.co.za

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The Irma Booysen Flora Reserve in Cape St Francis

Fynbos in the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve

The Irma Booysen Flora Reserve comprises the broad area between the main road leading into Cape St Francis (R330) and the village itself. It can be accessed from various points in Cape St Francis and has well-marked intertwining routes through the reserve. The trees are marked for easy identification, and benches are placed throughout the reserve to enjoy the view over the headland with two points, unique in the world.

Conservation of the reserve was due to the late Irma Booysen, wife of the founder of Cape St Francis Jim Booysen. Her family were the original owners of the farm Ongegunde Vryheid. During the development of the farm into a township, Irma persuaded her husband to set aside a tract of land for the preservation of the unique coastal fynbos (delicate bush) of the area. She was a great lover of nature and painted the many diverse species of plants in the Reserve.

The reserve is a mix of fynbos & thicket vegetation. Fynbos is the term given to the vegetation typical of the Southwestern Cape, where wet winter rains and hot, dry summers occur. The term ‘fyn’ denotes the fine structure of the leaves of most fynbos plants. The fynbos in this region are called dune fynbos and are particularly rich in species. Many are endemic (occur nowhere else) to the local region. Unfortunately, it is highly fragile and easily destroyed or altered by human activities.

Thicket differs fundamentally from fynbos in all respects. Thicket plants are more nutritious than fynbos shrubs to browsing animals such as bushbuck. Therefore, many thicket shrubs are armed with vicious spines that slow down the rate at which their leaves and stems are eaten.

A walk in the Reserves at springtime will convince you of the fact that the Cape Floral Kingdom has the most species.  A myriad of interesting insects, reptiles, small animals and birds also inhabit the Reserve.

Friends of St Francis Nature Areas

The SA Airforce Museum in PE / GQ

SAAF Museum in Port Elizabeth

The Port Elizabeth branch of the SAAF Museum is located on the old 42 Air School WWII site at the back of the Port Elizabeth Airport (Chief David Stuurman International Airport). It boasts several aircraft, including helicopters, a supersonic jet fighter, two of the world-famous Harvard trainers among others, and the oldest surviving jet fighter in South Africa.

There are ongoing restoration projects by a team of dedicated enthusiasts and volunteers, who are members of the Friends of the SAAF Museum. There is also a display of aircraft memorabilia, together with a fine collection of models and pictures in the main exhibition hall. Interested aviation enthusiasts will be pleased to view the aircraft restoration work being carried out in a restored World War 2 hanger.

Opening times are Mondays – Fridays from 08h00 to 15h00, Sundays from 10h00 to 16h00. Closed on Saturdays and Public holidays. Admission is by freewill donation.

SAAF Museum Port Elizabeth

Oudebosch Protea Farm Tours

Oudebosch Protea Farm tour

The Tsitsikamma may be famous for its adventure activities, but did you know that you can also go on a protea tour while in the area? Oudebosch Protea Farm Tours organise visits to one of the biggest commercial protea farms in the world located right next door to them. On the tour, visitors get to see the protea nursery where the plants are grown from seed, how the proteas grow in the fields, protea picking and the sorting process before the flowers are exported.

Located in the heart of the famous Tsitsikamma region, the protea farm tour showcases the king of the Fynbos family and South Africa’s National Flower from seed to field to packaging. An unforgettable tour following a flower that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. A tour can also include coffee and cake or lunch at the Oudebosch Country Cafe.

Tours take place Monday to Friday, group bookings only, minimum of 10 persons.

Contact: 042 011 0186 or oudeboschoffice@gmail.com

Oudebosch Country Cafe

Roberts’ bird book illustrations in Graaff-Reinet

The Robert's Birds of South Africa illustrations in Graaff-Reinet

Austin Roberts’ The Birds of South Africa was first published in 1940 and has been in print ever since. It is the second best-selling book in South Africa after the Bible. In December 1935 the South African Bird Book Fund was formed to fund a complete and up-to-date new bird book for southern Africa under the authorship of Austin Roberts, and illustrated by Norman C.K. Lighton.

The original illustrations of the Roberts Bird book by Lighton have been declared Africana and are on display in the restaurant and foyer of the Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet.

The Birds of South Africa illustrations on display

The history of Joubertina

Joubertina in the Langkloof

The town of Joubertina in the Langkloof started as a Dutch Reformed Church congregation in 1907. Having secured a portion of the farm Onzer, in between the villages of Krakeel and Twee Riviere (both founded in 1765), a property development was launched there under the initiative of the Dutch Reformed Church. The dream was to get “genuine yellow wood” from the Tsitsikamma and about 500 loads of stones on the terrain for construction to start. Suitable stone was found between the present Joubertina and Tweë rivers on a mountain slope south of the road. About 400 loads were sent by wagons to get construction going.

The church was consecrated on 18 February 1911. The galleries in the church on Twee Riviere and Krakeelrivier’s side were not yet there and were only built years later. Rev. MM du Toit was the vicar at Joubertina from 1925 to 1941 and the grave of his wife is behind the church. She died in 1939. The interesting thing about this is that they are the grandfather and grandmother of the famous singer Koos Kombuis!

The town was named after WA Joubert who was the Dutch Reformed Church minister in Uniondale from 1878 to 1893. Interestingly, when the owner of the original farm sold it to the church it was on the condition that no alcohol may be sold from any shop in the town. Thus for many years the local hotel and off-sales were found on the outskirts of town on adjacent land.

Sadly a fire in December 2023 cause widespread damage to the pulpit in the church.

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