A friend of mine recently contacted me asking if I would want to go camping for the long weekend, as we had both taken leave for the Friday. After weighing up the options, we decided that we would spend a couple nights at Kogelbaai (Koeel Bay / Cool Bay). Since Cool Bay is only 20 minutes drive from Somerset West, it sounded like a good place to go to, we would be able to get away from every day life without spending too much on petrol. We would also be in close proximity of Betty’s Bay and Rooi Els should we want to venture out.
We arrived at Kogelbaai on Thursday afternoon at around 15:00 and set up tents, well I did… As we stopped and began to unload the car, Jamy came to the realization that he had forgotten his tent back in Vredehoek! He decided he would head back to Somerset West and buy a new one, just for the trip. He got back about 2 hours later with a R199 tent from Checkers. A budget tent that proved to be far better than either of us had expected.
The sky had been looking good all day, lots of cirrus clouds around ahead of a cold front that was expected on Sunday. I knew that the sunset was going to be good, though didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it got. Jamy had bought a new camera just the day before and I was going to help him with getting used to it, and giving some photographic tips.
We headed down to the beach, which was about 20 meters from our camp site. We navigated down the beach swiftly as we chased the descending sun. I tried to find some compositions while the sun set. The nice thing about shooting Kogelbaai is that there are two areas of coast that you can compose for. The one is towards Rooi Els, while the other is towards Gordon’s Bay. I was hopping around between spots trying to work the light and the landscapes, and was trying to keep the ND filter off as much as possible, going for a natural look.
The sky really gave us an amazing display, with purples, reds and oranges ruling the sky.
After sunset we headed back to the tents and started a fire. Shortly after sunset we were drawn the the slither of a moon on the horizon, bright orange. We were wondering why it was this colour, and then it became clear why. We had assumed the moon was rising, but the truth was that the moon was setting – and we watched as it slipped behind Table Mountain in the far distance.
Day 2 – Hunting for the Red-Backed Shrike and more
After dinner we decided we would call it a night, as we would likely be up early the next morning. The night was far from comfortable, it definitely gets colder in Koeel Bay than it does in Somerset West, and the night was a cold one everywhere. After sleeping a few hours, between trying to hide myself inside my sleeping bag – we woke up to a beautiful day. The morning was still quite crisp, but the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Earlier the previous night a rare bird report had been sent out that mentioned a Red-Backed Shrike being seen at Rooi Els the day before. Rooi Els was only a few kilometers away and I definitely wanted to add the bird to my list.
We headed out shortly after 08:00, but after arriving at the location, Jamy noticed that he had forgotten his camera at the camp site. He went back to fetch it, while I walked down the path looking for signs of the Shrike. I got my hopes up when I saw a silhouetted Shrike in the distance, only to get close and see it was in fact merely a Common Fiscal (Fiscal Shrike).
Things were fairly quiet, with no signs of the Rock Jumpers or Ground Woodpeckers. There were however numerous Orange Breasted Sunbirds – with the Cape Rock Thrushes also putting in an appearance. We walked quite far down the path, looking for signs of anything interesting – but mostly it was just empty rocks.
On the way back towards the car we got some good views of a Cape Grassbird, and saw a Familiar Chat on the rocks.
On the way back to the camp site I noticed something in the water and asked Jamy to pull over. A Humpback Whale was just breaching the water, with his small fin poking through. I was really hoping for some acrobatics to get on camera, but instead we just got short glimpses of parts of the creature. Still, it was a nice sighting just off of the coastal road.
We arrived back at the camp and had a Seal floating in the waves. The water was rather still, and he was just relaxing in the shallows.
We hadn’t yet gone to Caves, and I wanted to get some more surfing/bodyboarding photos, so that was our next destination. We made the walk from the campsite, and eventually arrived to some fairly small waves (for Caves). Every time I’ve gone to Caves before it’s been pumping with 6’+ swell forecasts and it’s always been a bit scary for me bodyboarding there. But on this day I was really wishing I had my board with me, solid, hollow 4 footers. Not huge, but not completely flat either. The kind you can just sort of throw everything at it on.
There weren’t many people in the water, but then again sets were few and far between, with glassy lulls of nothing. While standing taking photographs, we had a Cormorant jump off of the rocks next to us, had not even seen it there. And started swimming just in front of us.
After watching the surfers for a while we headed back to the tents and made ourselves some lunch. We also decided that we would not be staying another night as originally planned. We would have to be out of the camp site by 12:00, and to be honest, I was craving my soft warm bed. I’m a terrible creature of habit and while I love being outside, and the financial aspect of camping – I can’t say I enjoy the cold, the sore back and the mosquitoes.
We decided we would stay for sunset, and then head back. The sky at this point was showing promising signs, a large area of altocumulus was pushing through and they can often produce very dramatic sunsets. Come sunset we positioned ourselves along the southern side of the beach. The sky was amazing once again, and offered us some great opportunities. The conditions weren’t easy though, as the contrast between foreground and sky was very high and shooting it without a GND was a challenge, but I did what I could under the conditions.
It was an excellent 30 hours, and it’s unbelievable how much you can accomplish in such a short period of time if you dedicate yourself to what you’re doing and make an effort to capture everything you can.