The Park’s expansive scenery from grasslands surrounded by the Maluti Mountains is a photographers dream. Hiking and birdwatching are also a great reason to getaway here at the first opportunity. Many unusual species of bird can only be found here. Why did it take me 30 years to visit Clarens and Golden Gate National Park!?
Mild highveld summers with the possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon and cold winters with occasional snow transforms the park into a white wonderland. Birds are a lot more scarce in winter but it shouldn’t stop you from being vigilant, as they are there and patience is required to get sightings and photos. I went to try catch a glimpse of the bearded vultures but despite a wonderful new hide funded and built by the SAN Parks Honorary Rangers on the site of the old hide, there were no regular drops of carcasses despite Park staff insisting this happens on Thursdays.
I’ve underlined the species I saw on my trip bar one or two LBJ’s I’m still identifying.
Look for Cape Rock-Thrush, Pied Starling and Red-winged Starling, Malachite Sunbird, African Stone Chat, Yellow Bishop, Ground Woodpecker, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Cape Rock-Thrush, a number of sparrow species and Cape Weaver. Cape Grassbird and Bush Blackcap in summer have been seen at the Campsite as well as Barratt’s Warbler between the wooded bush and the sandstone cliffs. Alpine Swift and African Black Swift nest in summer and Rock Martin and Greater Striped Swallow. A pair of Verreauxs’ Eagle usually breed each year on the ‘Brandwag’ or sentinel buttress, directly opposite the hotel; other smaller raptors such as Lanner Falcon and Rock Kestrel. Behind the hotel the valley has been noted to be good for African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Grassbird and Wailing Cisticola. Grey-winged Francolin, Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture and White-necked Raven. At protea Corner look out for Gurney’s Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird, especially when they are flowering. There’s a small dam on the Western side of the park and African Black Duck, assorted warblers and Southern Bald Ibis breed in the park and surrounds.
Winter temperatures can drop to a mere -9 to -15 degrees C with snow a regular occurrence.
Golden Gate primarily falls in a summer rainfall area (September to April). Annual rainfall is approximately 760 mm per year. In very wet years this figure can rise to 1250 mm. The area is prone to sudden weather changes.
Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries etc: BandH
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!
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