Up and down the Umkomaas Valley at Highover

Posted by Doug Morton on Thursday, 20 January 2011

About a week ago we fellows decided that a boys' day out was in order.  All in the name of art and science, of course, we resolved to take ourselves off to Highover at Hella-Hella in the Umkomaas Valley in southern Kwazulu-Natal.  The idea was to take a new look at the endangered Blue Swallow, and to photograph as many butterflies as were willing to pose.

Highover could also be called Lowunder as it stretches from the banks of the river in the valley to the top of towering cliffs nearby, providing an amazing variety of habitat types.

We took along well-known bird expert Gordon Bennett whose newfound interest in butterflies is consuming him, with the hidden agenda of learning more from him about birds.

Armed with our bags of photographic hardware, Simon Joubert, Sam Davies and I, and Gordon with his trusty binoculars, set off for this little-known spot overlooking the Umkomaas River.  As usual, the weather man got it all wrong, and the cloudless hot day he predicted boasted a cold, driving wind with some rain.  Faces got longer, and as we prepared to leave the hilltop and try our luck in the valley the weather began to clear.  We were thrilled to find a pair of Blue Swallows sitting on the edge of the road collecting mud for their nest - new ground for Simon and Sam.

As we reached lower ground the weather man began to earn his income.  We baked, sweated, roasted and dripped, but found ourselves in butterfly heaven.  The cameras worked overtime, and Gordon's binoculars were now pointed downward as he marvelled at the bugs he's been so close to for so many years yet not noticed.

It was a memorable day, as you'll see from a small selection of the shots taken.


We're thinking of doing it again.  Don't know why.


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