Make the most of the last few good days of summer with CapeNature and these five great reserves that’ll take you closer to the outdoors.
Ever wanted to leisurely wander along forest paths, conceal yourself in a bird hide or simply just meander along hidden paths on your bicycle? The CapeNature reserves are where you can do just that and so much more. These protected areas have loads to offer travellers. Take a look at these five favourites to see what to expect on your next trip…
1. Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch is one of the lesser known reserves in the Western Cape, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook it. Located just 20 minutes from Heidelberg, this reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004 and is home to a large stretch of Afromontane forest that’s teeming with ancient yellowwood, stinkwood and ironwood trees.
Looking to spend the night? Make yourself at home in one of the 11 modern cottages that have all been carefully constructed with our planet top of mind. Over 85% of the building materials sourced were from previously existing structures.
Relish the opportunity to get out into the forest on day walks and mountain biking trails. Twitchers will delight in knowing that more than 196 bird species are spotted on a regular basis while hikers are likely to bump into bushbuck and spot baboons and smaller mammals when out on the trails. Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.
However, don’t just take our word for it; listen to what these visitors have to say about this very special place.
Grootvaderbosch Nature Reserve: +27 (0) 28 492 0001
2. Cederberg Wilderness Area
The Cederberg Wilderness Area lies just outside of Clanwilliam and is one of the most undisturbed and secluded places in South Africa. The reserve is located in one of the most enviable scenic mountain areas as well as in another one of the World Heritage Sites in South Africa.
Steeped in ancient history, the reserve is home to thousands of San and Khoi rock art sites. Spend the day hiking from cave to cave to take look back on these ancient artworks. The area is also full of the beautiful Clanwilliam cedars, which overhang some of the cliffs. The endemic snow protea is perhaps the most attractive plant on the peaks – scarce and only found at a few sites in the wilderness area.
CapeNature offers a range of accommodation opportunities, from secluded mountain huts, to fully equipped cottages as well as riverside campsite facilities.
Cederberg Wilderness Area:+27 (0) 27 482 2403
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3. Gamkaberg Nature Reserve
Looking to get back to nature, but simply can’t do without some of today’s modern luxuries and conveniences? Then Gamkaberg Nature Reserve is just for you. Located 35km outside of Oudtshoorn, the reserve has become known to tourists as a place to switch off and bask in the richness of unique Klein Karoo biodiversity.
Bring your 4×4 along and tackle some of the rugged trails in the reserve like the Zebra Crossing 4×4 Route which will provide you with ample opportunities to spot the rare Cape Mountain Zebra.
Indulge in a little glamping at the Tierkloof Eco Lodge where 4 safari-style tents have been set up to include all the conveniences of modern living in the heart of nature. This reserve offers the perfect balance for those looking to get in touch with nature during the day and those who prefer the comfort of a luxury tent at night.
Gamkaberg Nature Reserve: +27 (0) 44 213 3367
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4. Robberg Nature Reserve
No trip to Plettenberg Bay is complete until you’ve walked the Robberg Nature Reserve peninsula – or at least part of it. The trails along the route show just how diverse this part of the Garden Route is; from the wave-beaten prehistoric rocks at the point and the climbing-falling dune to the rugged fynbos landscape and thriving seal colony.
There are three hiking trails through the reserve and if you’ve got the time, we recommend tackling the four-hour Point Circuit which will lead you to the very edge of the peninsula. For a day at the beach, take the two-hour Witsand Circuit to the climbing-falling dune and enjoy a dip. There are also several significant Stone Age sites that shows how humans co-existed peacefully with nature.
Overnight in the self-catering Fountain Shack and allow the waves of the Indian Ocean to lull you to sleep.
Robberg Nature Reserve: +27 (0) 44 533 2125/85
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5. Swartberg Nature Reserve
There’s little that compares to the vast, stunning stillness of the Swartberg Nature Reserve. It’s unbelievable to think that the valley’s settlers spent over a hundred years living in total isolation until the first road was built in 1962. Gamkskloof Valley is is known as Die Hel, and it is easy to see how the place got its name. It is an area of stunning, sometimes brutal extremes; from the most treacherous mountain passes to the hottest days and coldest nights. The 121 000ha reserve lies in the Outsdhoorn district between the Great and Klein Karoo, and is traversed by the extraordinary Swartberg Pass, considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world.
Enjoy a guided tour by True South Travel who do sky explorations, birdwatching tours, hiking expeditions and eco-excursions on the reserve. With 130 bird species on the reserve, the twitchers can cross off some specials from their list while the anglers amongst us can try their luck in the Gamka River – just don’t forget your freshwater angling licence.
Self-catering accommodation options abound with the likes of the Willem Marais Cottage that sleeps a family of four, Stappies Cordier House for a couple and the Bush Shelter for a group of 12 looking for a dormitory for the weekend.
Swartberg Nature Reserve: +27 (0) 23 541 1736; +27 (0) 23 541 1259
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.