Discovering Golden Gate

Well, it is more like discovering Golden Gate AND landscape photography…

“Storm in Gold”


My wife and I recently took our last weekend break as a childless couple, as our first born will make his appearance at the end of November. We decided to do so at a very late stage and due to the school holidays I could only get a reservation and the Golden Gate Hotel in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the north eastern part of the Free State Province, South Africa – It is not a park for wildlife photography (although there are some small jewels if you look carefully), but it is renown for its landscape photography opportunities. So I decided to make the best of the situation and make my first “serious” attempt at some landscape photography and leave the long lenses at home…

Golden Gate Hotel
The view from our room
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is nestled at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Its name originated from the awesome shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs.

The park is about 11,600 hectares of true highland habitat, where game like black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra, and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs, can be found.
They say that Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening (I still need to go there).
Thunderstorms and occasional snow also changes the landscape from time to time – We were lucky to have some awesome rain clouds, as evident from the first image in this post, which made for a great photographic opportunity!
You can choose from the following locations as far as accommodation is concerned:- The Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp, Golden Gate Hotel, Glen Reenen Rest Camp (with an awesome camp site, rondavels, longdavels and guest cottages) and the most popular of all, the new Highlands Mountain Retreat (with eight log cabins that can accommodate 4 families of 4 each (2 bedrooms each en-suite) and 4 that can accommodate 2 persons each (1 bedroom)). Staying at the latter with its breathtaking view is still on my to-do-list.
They are busy building a vulture hide as an addition to the vulture feeding project of the park and trust me, I will be one of the first to visit as soon as it is open for the public! I just hope the hide is photographer friendly!
I never thought that landscape photography could be such hard work – I got up at 04H00 on the Saturday morning, as I still had to find “a spot”, seeing that we arrived on the Friday after dark. On the Sunday morning it was 04H30 and on both occasions I ran around like crazy to get the most of that golden hour! But it was worth it and great fun!
A great feature of the park is that you can get out of your vehicle almost everywhere and scout for those unique photographic spots nobody else has discovered yet! There is in fact various hiking trails which varies in distance and can take anything from an hour to a whole day to complete.
You can read more about Golden Gate and make bookings on Sanpark’s website.
I still have a whole bunch of images from the trip to process and what a learning curve! Be sure to watch out for these images in the social media and I will of course also share some of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way on the blog.
Keep those shutter buttons down!