Montane fynbos along the lonely road over Swartberg Pass, where many butterflies fly – including the Table Mountain Beauty, Aeropetes tulbaghia. Aeropetes tulbaghia male pow Sehonghong 28 Jan 07Table Mountain Beauty, Aeropetes tulbaghia male

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.

 

 

Chrysoritis swanepoeli male ups 1 Hekkiesdraai 14 Dec 13Swanepoel's Opal Chrysoritis swanepoeli male

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lepidochrysops swartbergensis male ups 2 Skelmsdraai Swartberg Pass 12 Dec 13Swartberg Blue, Lepidochrysops swartbergensis maleHigher 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 alpheusCapys alpheus alpheus male ups 3 Vanstadensberg 28 Oct 12Protea Scarlet, Capys alpheus alpheus male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Durbaniella clarki clarki male uns 1 below Summit Swartberg Pass 12 Dec 13Clark's Rocksitter, Durbaniella clarki clarki maleAmongst 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. Chrysoritis plutus male ups Teeberg Swartberg Pass 11 Dec 13Plutus Opal, Chrysoritis plutus male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tylopaedia sardonyx female uns 2 Gregs Honey farm Gamka Eco Estate 16 Dec 13King Copper Tylopaedia sardonyx sardonyx female

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.

Steve Woodhall

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