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The Hottentot’s Holland Mountain Range, stretching down the eastern side of Somerset West and Gordon's Bay, formed an intimidating natural barrier to early travelers in the region. Today, the N2 crosses the Hottentot's Holland Range at Sir Lowry's Pass and the range has become better known for its beauty, its high rainfall figures and its immense floral diversity. A walk along the southern slopes of the mountains from the carpark at the top of Sir Lowry's can be very rewarding and can produce many of the fynbos specials found in the western cape.

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Specials

Cape Rock-jumper, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock-Thrush, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Victorin's Warbler, Black Harrier, Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Hottentot Buttonquail, Cape Siskin, Striped Flufftail.

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Habitat

The area is covered predominantly by mountain fynbos with the higher areas being covered in rocky slopes. In the lower areas, streams become densely vegetated.

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Facilities

Park your car in the car park on the western side of the N2 and cross back over the N2. Pass thought the fence and onto the upper of the two roads leading along the eastern side of the mountain range. The path moves through a combination of mountain fynbos and rocky slopes. After about one and a half kilometers, one comes to a small overgrown stream and passes under a set of power lines. Soon after crossing the stream, follow a small path (and the power lines) up to the left. A short walk along this path leads to the Gantouw Pass, the site of cannons and wagon tracks worn into the rock.

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Birding

The first part of the upper track leads one through mountain fynbos, which holds species such as Cape Grassbird, Karoo Prinia, Neddicky, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Sugarbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. Although not always easy to see, listen for the repetitive call of the Victorin's Warbler from the thicker vegetation.

Further along the path, one passes the lower end of the boulder-strewn hillsides. Check the rocky slopes for species such as Cape Siskin, Familiar Chat, Cape Bunting, Cape Rock-Thrush, Sentinel Rock-Thrush and groups of Ground Woodpecker. The rocky hill slopes are also the favoured place of the Cape Rock-jumper, their presence often given away by their characteristic high pitched calls.

The stream leading up to the cannon becomes densely vegetated and holds Cape Sugarbird, Victorin's Warbler, Malachite Sunbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. Time spent on the slopes in the vicinity of the old cannons can produce Cape Rock-jumper, Cape Siskin, Ground Woodpecker and Cape Rock-Thrush.

The windswept ridges of this particular range offer excellent conditions for birds of prey and the skies above the rocky ridges should be continually checked for Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, White-necked Raven, Peregrine Falcon and Rock Kestrel. Black Harrier have also been recorded on the fynbos covered slopes.

Lower down on the southern slopes, streamside vegetation holds Victorin's Warbler and Yellow Bishop. Both Striped Flufftail and Red-chested Flufftail can be found on the lower slopes of Sir Lowry's Pass near the railway line. The former of the two enjoying thick undergrowth in damp areas, while the latter preferring more marshy areas.

Other birds recorded irregularly at Sir Lowry’s Pass include Protea Seedeater and Cape Eagle-Owl.

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General

The Pass is reached via the N2 from Cape Town. The Pass is a 45 minute rive from Cape Town. As one approaches the top of the pass on the N2, move into the right hand lane and turn right into the carpark situated on the western side of the N2. The area is relatively accessible, and can take between three to four hours to explore the area.

Andrew Hester 2001.



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