As was the case with the trip to Sigidi, it is necessary to travel far inland to avoid the deep river gorges in Pondoland before turning coastward. As the crow flies, the distance between home and the Mkhambathi NR is only 42 kilometers but the trip via Flagstaff takes about four hours and this can be considerably longer depending on the current state of reconstruction of the R61 provincial road. Arriving at the gate not long after mid day we stopped off at a site of the dwarf succulent Euphorbia flanaganii. Soon after starting to walk through the long grass towards the rock plates on which the Euphorbia grow, we unexpectedly came across a few of the unknown Brachystelma species and made a collection of the desired number of individual plants.
|Brachystelma sp. nov.|
We drove to the office, sorted out our accommodation and made arrangements for the next day's expedition, and then drove to our cottages. After unpacking and a quick lunch, we set off across a beach and started botanising in the coastal grassland just to the north of the Gwe Gwe river.
Scrambling across some big rocks we saw the Cussonia species to be named Cussonia pondoensis ined. in fruit. Growing on the rocks was a group of small orchids, which had still had a few remnants of flowers; these were clearly a species of Holothrix but some research would be required to confirm their identity. Fortunately on the way back to the beach, Anne came across a pristine flower on another specimen, which allowed decent photographs to be taken and this eventually helped us to tentatively identify the species as Holothrix burchellii - an ID which was subsequently confirmed -- and this find represents a considerable north-eastward range extension for the species. We also came across further specimens of our unknown Brachystelma in these grasslands.
Early the next morning we met with our guides and interested observers for the day and after a brief stop at the Euphorbia flanaganii site, headed into the wilderness area of the reserve. We stopped at a river crossing where we found Struthiola pondoensis and Chironia krebsii.
|The tiny undescribed Ipomoea (approximately lifesize)|
|The successful Ipomoea hunters - in front of the Mtentu River gorge |
with a waterfall in the background
|"Sylvie" crossing the Mkhambathi River with the falls to the right|
|Following the Daza River slot towards the forest|
|Manilkara nicholsonii fruits|
|The lunch spot|
|Anne, Kate, Sonwabile Jack and Nyameka Dubedube |
with Dorothy at the lunch spot
Continuing on down the river towards the sea, we eventually reached the mouth - an odd sideways cascade over rocks to eventually reach the sea.
On the way back we were lucky to find a small group of Brachystelma sandersonii in flower - it is very unlikely that this unobtrusive Vulnerable species would be spotted if not flowering.
As this part of the grassland has been burned, many of the animals in the reserve are happily grazing here. We were initially observed by a group of Red Hartebeest and then startled a small herd of Eland with a young calf - Graham was not quick enough to get a photo of the calf.
On our final morning we decided to walk inland a little and then follow the Gwe Gwe River back to the sea. From up on the hill we had a great view back over Gwe Gwe bay.
The first different species we encountered on this walk was Macrotyloma axilare, and on a rocky ridge we found Tarenna pavettoides in flower. Near the Tarenna was a Shirakiopsis elliptica in fruit and amongst the rocks in the grassland there were a few tall Senecio decurrens.
Once we reached the stream we found the first Disa tripetaloides for this trip and Hesperantha hygrophila on the stream bank. Following the stream down we found the odd fern, Psilotum nudum.
Back at the beach, we just had time for a quick swim before packing up and heading back homewards. Our thanks to Mr Lwazi Khuzwayo and his staff at Mkhambathi for all their help (once again the stalwart Mr. Jack safely shepherded us around the reserve) and in particular the interest shown in what we were doing by Nyameka Dubedube. We were able to add about 40 taxa to our species list for the reserve - a list of already nearly 1200 species, as well as being able to record accurate locations for many of the threatened species.
|The Daza River - the last cascades into the sea|
|Red Hartebeest keeping an eye on us|
Participants: Anne S, Dorothy M, Graham G, Kate G, Nombasa M, Nyameka D, Sonwabile J, Zama S.