The Leopard’s Kloof trail in Betty’s Bay is a delightful hike for the whole family – and you may even spot signs of a rare Cape leopard.
Words and images by Judy Bryant.
The Harold Porter Botanical Garden, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, punches well above its weight when it comes to walks and trails. You’re not only assured of seeing abundant fynbos on this easy day trip, as it’s within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, but can also select either pushchair- and wheelchair-friendly strolls or more challenging routes that demand a fair level of fitness.
“You must try out the Leopard’s Kloof trail, I’ve discovered the most beautiful waterfall,” says my sister, who lives in the area. So we set off with our day-packs, after picking up a key from the Garden reception. Keys are provided on a first come, first served basis (you pay a refundable deposit of R50) enabling you to pass through a locked gate and head out towards the gorge.
We set off through the cultivated areas, onto the Nivenia Path (named after beautiful blue blousterretjie plants) and to the Nerine Dell where we gaze at the memorial stone of the benefactor, Harold Porter. It refers to “the wish of an ardent gardener” to develop a botanical garden and is set in a huge boulder against a stunning mountain backdrop.
We cross the arched Round Bridge over the Leopard’s Kloof Stream, unlock the gate, and set off on the dedicated trail. The vegetation grows dense as we enter the forest area with its tree canopy, and gradually the route gets steeper.
After crossing a few streams we come across the first waterfall, descending into a tannin-tinged pool circled with lush ferns. Next we ascend a series of wooden ladders and discover more waterfalls – the final one is like a cascading chandelier in nature’s cathedral. The area has a tranquil atmosphere and we linger here a while before heading back, with the valley fynbos at our feet and the sparkling blue sea in the distance.
Afterwards I meet with the chief horticulturist, Karen Wall, and Ebraime Hull, the nursery and garden foreman, to find out more about plants, trees and wildlife.
“We heard that a hiker who’d taken several photographs looked at them later, saw a leopard standing on a rock in the background,” said Ebraime. “You can also see marks on the trees where leopards have scratched.”
He says many visitors travel to see the red disas (Disa uniflora) in the cliffs above the pools from mid-December to January; the Red Disa garden restaurant is named after these floral favourites.
Karen says you could come across Nerine sarniensis (Guernsey or Jersey lily), gladiolus, agapanthus, lobelia and the brilliant red Crassula coccinea. This garden is also the birthplace of the golden-hued Erica Gengold.
“It’s a cross between the rare, low-spreading Erica nana and the tall Erica patersonii,” says Karen.
John Winter, former curator of Kirstenbosch, collected Erica nana seed and brought it to the Harold Porter garden in the early 1970s. The rest is plant history.
“Common trees are Platylophus trifoliatus (white alder), Cunonia capensis (rooiels or red alder), Rapanea melanophloeos (Cape beech), Halleria lucida (white olive) and Diospyros glabra (fynbos star-apple).”
Birdwatchers may spot the African Dusky Flycatcher, the Greenbul and African Paradise-flycatcher in the forest areas.
The walk takes about an hour and a half each way, depending on your fitness, and you may come across dassies and traces of porcupines, which enjoy the arum lily roots.
Additional information: Harold Porter National Botanical Garden – A guide for visitors, Jane A. Forrester.
Harold Porter visitor information: http://www.sanbi.org/gardens/harold-porter. Corner of Clarence Drive and Broadwith Road, Betty’s Bay. Phone 028-272 9311.
Long 18.92690 Lat -34.35176