In De Mond Nature Reserve of South Africa tortoises are a common sight. The south-western Cape boasts of animals. Easy to overlook this ancient species.

Tortoises Knock At The Door

As we drove in direction of De Mond Nature Reserve we noticed several signs, warning to watch out for tortoises. Not long after we installed ourselves in the only self-catering bungalow of the reserve, three tortoises ‘knock’ at our door.

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

Something interesting seemed to have grabbed the attention of the threesome at our doorstep. They were quite small in stature, even cute if you don’t focus to closely on their ancient, leave-me-alone-another-millennium look.

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

Tortoises eat very specific plants. In heavily farmed areas they often struggle to find food they need. It struck me that ‘our’ tortoises preferred only the yellow flowers in our courtyard.

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

As soon as the flowers opened up to enjoy the warming morning sun - happ! they were gone in no time! Scrunched by an indifferent, determined looking reptile. 

Tortoises are common in South Africa. There are as many as thirteen different species, of which eight are found in the Western Cape of South Africa. These ones at our doorsteps are called Angulate Tortoises. A species which often landed as a titbit on the dish of the rural village people in the harsh environment of the Karoo. (I’m not sure if it’s right to use the preceding sentence in past tense though! You might have to ask the locals …).

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

You might think:

Boring! Just another tortoise crossing your road! 

But consider this: The ancestors of our little Angular tortoises already roamed South African soil approximately 5 million years ago. Fossils of these beasts have been found at Langebaan in the southwestern Cape. Only 2.7 million years later the first South African human (or immigrant 😉 )  left his dry remnants behind!

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

Now – what do you need to know about tortoises:

  • If you find a tortoise in the middle of a road, pick it up and place it safely in the direction it was moving. But – and there is a BUT! – Do it slowly and carefully – as long as you are able to elude being overrun by traffic yourself – so that the tortoise doesn’t panic. If frightened it may suddenly empty its bladder which serves as a water reservoir.  This defense can be costly in times of drought, and the tortoise could die of dehydration if it can not replace the fluids.
  • Tortoises are wild animals and should stay in the wild and not end up as living toy in domestic captivity for the entertainment of children.

Next time I’ll write more about the De Mond Nature Reserve itself. It’s a stunning place. Here is just a teaser – I hope you enjoyed this post and follow up on reading. And – if you liked it, please share it, thank you 🙂

De Mond Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa


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The owner, Gisela, is Swiss and lives in Cape Town. She is multilingual.

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