A Visit to Kurisa Moya, Part I
Willem is a wildlife artist based in South Africa. He says "My aim is simply to express the beauty and wonder that is in Nature, and to heighten people's appreciation of plants, animals and the wilderness. Not everything I paint is African! Though I've never been there, I'm also fascinated by Asia and I've done paintings of Asian rhinos and birds as well. I may in future do some of European, Australian and American species too. I'm fascinated by wild things from all over the world! I mainly paint in watercolours. . . but actually many media including 'digital' paintings with the computer!"
Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge lies in one of the few regions of natural forest still found in South Africa. Moist, evergreen forest is the rarest of all the types of vegetation in South Africa, this being generally a very dry country. On this map you see the patchy nature of the forest biome, and the location of Kurisa Moya shown with a red arrow. This is the region of the Magoebaskloof, Woodbush and Grootbos Forests. Much of the remaining forest has been reduced to a patchwork, with lots of commercial pine and eucalypt plantations in between. But the Grootbos region still comprises one of the largest continuous natural forests in the country. This region is exceptionally moist, since the northernmost outliers of the Drakensberg mountain range here rises high and traps moist air coming in from the subtropical Lowveld, leading to very high rainfall on the mountain crests and in the sheltered valleys and ravines. While South Africa's yearly rainfall is about 20"/500 mm on average, in places here the rain reaches an average of 100"/2500 mm per year. The region also doesn't experience extremes of temperature, being cool for most of the year and only cold in winter in the highest regions. This all leads to very lush plant growth.
The natural forest looks and feels very different from the pine and eucalypt plantations. The trees often have contorted shapes, are clothed in mats of mosses, lichens and epiphytic ferns, and often grow massively thick, all of this giving the forest an ancient atmosphere. The natural forest is also very diverse in plant species. These range from a great many different kinds of moss and fern, to the giant trees, and in between a host of understorey shrubs and epiphytes. I still don't know the majority of these species very well, since they're very different from the savannah region where I live. Trees are especially hard to identify since their leaves are high above my head and their bark is hardly visible through the mossy mats!
This trip was actually for watching birds. This being such a unique region, there are many birds here not easily seen elsewhere. Under the best of conditions, birdwatching in a native forest is a difficult affair! Down on the ground, there's little light, and there are so many hiding places all around. You could be watching a tangle of creepers for half an hour, with the little yellowstreaked greenbul inside it loudly proclaiming its presence, and yet completely fail to see it! Indeed, for forest birding (as for birding in general) it is allowable to identify a species on its call alone, not actually needing to see it in order to 'tick' it (mark it off on the list). But still, the idea is to actually see the birds!
When you do see a bird in the forest, it is usually not a very satisfying view. It is often from below, against the sky, only a small speck glimpsed moving around high above, giving you a sore neck after a while. But sometimes there's a good view, and then it's all worth it! Some of the forest birds are spectacular, like the Knysna turacos and the Narina trogons. But even the dull brown, yellowish or greenish birds are quite pretty, and nice to look at if you can see them well.
To continue reading about this nature adventure, go to Part II.