Curiosity must be one of the most interesting characteristics of humans, even if the curiosity can lead us to danger.
I took my first trip to West Coast National Park early in January 2016. I headed out early in order to catch the morning movements of the various animals. As soon as I got close to the entrance of the park I realised it was peak tourist season! There was a long line of cars waiting to enter the park. I kept my cool and slogged my way through the busy gate.
I wasn’t quite sure what sightings to expect in the park. The first thing that I did notice is that the swarm of visitors weren’t there to view the animals at all! They were simply interested in getting to the various braai spots as quickly as possible. This did not deter me in any way. I kept the car to a slow crawl hoping to spot any animals that may be lurking around. This can be quite tricky when the bush is dense and carries on for kilometers without end.
It was a slow start, but I managed to spot numerous birds of prey even before entering the park. I made my way down to the first bird hide situated over a small wetland. It was a great setting, but the sun was rising into the hide, so photo opportunities were difficult to come by. There was a Black Harrier flying around the area which kept me entertained for a few minutes. A pair of White Throated Swallows was building a nest inside the hide and they kept swooping in and out while I was there.
I managed to come across some Ostriches roaming the park as well as a large herd of Eland buck which was a first for me.
I drove up to the Atlantic Ocean lookout point. Behind me was a great view of the lagoon and in front of me were rolling sand dunes and the cold Atlantic Ocean. I spotted a falcon that was flying low overhead, but struggled to capture any great pictures due to the sharp sunlight.
As I was about to leave, I saw some people looking intently at the bush close to their car. My curiosity kicked in and I decided to walk over to them. I asked the guy what he was looking at and he said that there were two snakes in the bush about three metres away. I scanned the area, but I could not see anything but twigs and bushes.
The guy picked up a small stone and tossed it in the direction of the snake. I finally managed to spot it and what a beautiful sighting it was! The snake was hidden in a small bush full of bright pink flowers. It was a Spotted Skaapsteker snake. The snake was very calm and really wanted nothing to do with us.
There is nothing more thrilling than coming within a few metres from a dangerous animal. Just knowing that something could go wrong sends the adrenaline levels soaring. It was a great day out in the West Coast National Park and I’ll definitely be back.