Montane fynbos along the lonely road over Swartberg Pass, where many butterflies fly – including the Table Mountain Beauty, Aeropetes tulbaghia.
The Table Mountain Beauty is almost endemic to South Africa (there are populations in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe). It is the largest and most robust member of the Satyrinae found in South Africa (in fact one of the world's largest) and frequents lofty mountain slopes from Table Mountain to Inchanga. It is well known as the sole pollinator of the spectacular Red Disa orchid, Disa uniflora. The Lepidopterists' Society of Africa is lobbying government to have the Table Mountain Beauty declared our National Butterfly.
Groot Swartberg is one of the best places in the Cape Folded Mountain chain to see butterflies. Situated between the arid areas of the Great and Little Karoo, the high mountains catch the rain that protects the fynbos vegetation.
As you drive along the road, the views and vegetation change. Coming from the south, you drive through the deep incised valley of Schoemanspoort. The vegetation is arid nama karoo, and you can hope to find butterflies like Swanepoel's Opal Chrysoritis swanepoeli in the steep gullies along the road.
Higher up, the road skirts the foothills. If you climb the ridges that cross the road at Skelmsdraai you might be lucky enough to see the brilliant Swartberg Blue, Lepidochrysops swartbergensis.
On the summits above the pass, look out for one of our largest lycaenid butterflies, Protea Scarlet Capys alpheus alpheus
Amongst the rocks you might find the strange Clark's Rocksitter Durbaniella clarki, whose larvae feed on lichens.
The road then crosses a high plateau riven by gorges. It's worth parking at Teeberg and climbing the steep rocky slopes. If you are specially agile you could even photograph the elusive Plutus Opal Chrysoritis plutus as it streaks around, seemingly powered by afterburners.
Finally, the road descends through awesome folded rock formations, with gullies that have more populations of Swanepoel's Opal. Eventually it emerges on the edge of the Great Karoo at Prince Albert. Here the vegetation is far more arid – stopping at one of the many dry riverbeds might reward you with a sighting of King Copper, Tylopaedia sardonyx sardonyx.
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