The De Hoop Nature Reserve is a geographical area of vast diversity - lowland fynbos, mountain fynbos, a rugged coastline, forests and an impressive vlei. There are over 260 species of birds in the reserve, and each landscape is home to native species. There is no better place for birders wanting to tick off a wide variety of birds from their list.
The 16-kilometre vlei is famous for being home to The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) and is the only locality in South Africa where The Greater Flamingo has bred successfully (in 1960 and 1963). Not to be confused with the American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), The Greater Flamingo is the most widespread and largest flamingo family species. On average, this flamingo is 110-150cm in height and weighs up to 4kg.
American Modernist artist Charley Harper (August 4, 1922 – June 10, 2007) wrote A flock of flirting flamingos is pure, passionate, pink pandemonium-a frenetic flamingle-mangle-a discordant discotheque of delirious dancing, flamboyant feathers, and flamingo lingo. Harper was a nature lover best known for his highly stylised wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. His description of a flamingo is perfection and sums up every reason to head down to our vlei and get a closer look at The Greater Flamingo.
Riehan Groenewald (Manager & Guide) is a keen birder and has spotted 238 different types of birds on the reserve. As our resident ornithologist, he is the go-to guy for exciting information on birds. “ First up, listen for the call, which is similar to that of a goose. A loud honking. It is hard to miss! Flamingoes are famous for their colour. The Greater Flamingo’s plumage is pinkish-white, the bill is pink, and the legs are entirely pink. You can’t miss the legs.”
Flamingos are born with grey feathers, so how do they turn pink? For flamingos, the phrase “You are what you eat” holds more truth than it might for humans. The bright pink colour of flamingos comes from beta carotene, a red-orange pigment dense in the algae, larvae, and shrimp they eat in the vlei environment. The bird stirs up the mud using its feet, then sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms, and molluscs.
Like all flamingos, The Greater Flamingo lays a single chalky-white egg on a mud mound. The incubation period is up to 31 days with and co-parenting comes naturally, with both the male and female taking turns sitting on top of the nest mound. Parent flamingos produce crop milk, red in colour, in their digestive tracts and regurgitate it to feed their young. “Here in De Hoop, the average lifespan of a Greater Flamingo ranges between 30-40years. In captivity, ages up to 60 years have been recorded,” says Riehan.
In an interview, Harper told a journalist, “ When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don't see the feathers in the wings. I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, colour combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behaviour and endless possibilities…” That’s Morukuru Ocean House and Morukuru Beach Lodge, 34 000 hectares of Fynbos, beaches, dunes, vlei wetlands and the Potberg Mountains...endless possibilities.