Last Saturday I guided a hike and Cape Leopard Trust outing with Anouk Pilon and her partner, Robert. We hiked a beautiful trail that starts and ends at Olive Glen farm in the Klein Drakenstein mountains.
Anouk had won a CLT outing at the Amy Biehl fundraising gala earlier in the year. She had been visiting South Africa and volunteering at the Amy Biehl Foundation. Anouk comes from Holland where "there are no mountains", so she told me. So this was a real treat for her and her partner.
Anouk and Robert were in fact preparing to leave for Holland the following Tuesday, and this was their last weekend in South Africa. What better way to spend your last Saturday than on a hike in Cape leopard territory.
This is exactly what we did. The trail we hiked starts on a lovely farm in the Wildepaardejacht kloof and continues up the neck between Klein Drakenstein and Middagberg peaks into CapeNature property. This area is actually part of an identified Boland male leopard's territory. BM28 (Boland male #28, aka Maximus) is an adult male who was first photographed in 2014, his territory includes the Groot and Klein Drakenstein, Wemmershoek and Fizantakraal mountains. The previous dominant male in this area was BM4 (aka Enzo), and it is believed by our Boland researchers that Maximus has taken over the territory from Enzo.
We hiked past arrays of different Protea's, Erica's and some Leucadendrons. I had asked Anouk and Robert to wear long-pants because this hike has some serious bush-wacking sections and one doesn't want to be caught among the not so 'fyn' fynbos species such as the Cliffortia (Climber's friend), which is super spiky and has a tendency to become your enemy rather than your friend.
There was so much to talk about, so many things that I could tell them about our beautiful mountains, the vegetation and all the different plant species that we have in the fynbos. We saw many butterflies, a rock agama and a ten-spotted beetle, but unfortunately no sign of Maximus. We stopped at the tree that has been previously scratched by leopards in the area, and I explained that this is one of the ways the leopards mark their territories. I had brought along a CLT research camera and demonstrated how this would be used in the research.
We then hiked to the viewpoint overlooking the Wemmershoek dam and the view was absolutely phenomenal. It certainly makes the long trek worth it. We managed to have a lunchtime snack right before the rain came. On our way back we got drenched but this did not dampen the spirits, it added to the experience of a day out in the mountains of the Cape. We were the only people on the mountain and it was a rather magical day. We arrived back at the cars and the sun was out again, typical of the Cape with two seasons in one day! There was no doubt it was an experience Anouk and Robert will never forget, and they are already talking about when they will be returning to SA.
Thank you to our long-standing supporters of the CLT, Bruce and Avril Powrie, for allowing us access onto your stunning property. Next time I come for a hike at Olive Glen, perhaps Maximus will decide to show his face, or tail...