Western Cape Nature Reserves Western Cape Overview
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Bartholomeus Klip Reserve is teeming with herds of eland, springbuck, black wildebeest, zebra and bontebok. Many other animals, such as baboons, bat-eared foxes, lynxes, and smaller species of antelope, live here too, and it is known that leopards still occur in the mountains.Among the birdlife at Bartholomeus Klip is the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, once farmed here in large flocks at the height of the ostrich feather boom in the 1870s and today one of the leopard’s favourite foods. The magnificent black eagle (correctly known as Verreaux’s eagle) nests in the mountains, and the enormous dam near to the farmhouse has a spectacular array of water birds, some resident like the fish eagles and the kingfishers, and others such as the pelicans and the spoonbills less regular visitors. Flamingos have also been seen in some of Bartholomeus Klip’s smaller dams and there are a host of interesting large and small birds out in the reserve and on the wheatlands, including large flocks of the blue crane, South Africa’s national bird.
Bontebok National Park
Lying 6km south of Swellendam in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains, Bontebok National Park is a species-specific SA National Park. Established in 1931 to preserve the rare bontebok, it is the smallest of SAN Parks' 20 reserves and is part of the Cape Floristic Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Deep in the Langeberg Mountains and part of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is the hiking paradise Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. As part of the Cape Floral Region, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fragrant mountain fynbos and indigenous kloof forest characterize the lovely landscape. Some incredibly rare species of Ericas can be found. The ravines are populated by stinkwood, yellowwood, Cape holly, red alder, beech, white alder and candlewood trees. If you're a tree-spotter, look out for a thicket of mountain cypress growing on a cliff edge.
Wildlife that you may encounter includes grey rhebuck, klipspringer, grysbok, baboons, leopard, mongoose and genet. The area boasts numerous birds with 184 recorded species including black, martial, crowned and booted eagles, redwinged and redneck francolins, blackrumped buttonquail, striped flufftail and Layard’s titbabbler.
Popular with hikers, the main attraction here is the lack of infrastructure and remoteness. Paths are unmarked and huts provide only basic shelter and no toilet facilities. Hikers need to be well-equipped for all weather and must carry an accurate map.
Hikers may choose their route from 64 km of paths. A circular two-day route of 27 km follows an old jeep track up Loerklip and back down Saagkuilkloof. Advance bookings are essential.
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Home to rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, eland, bontebuck and numerous antelope, Botlierskop provides visitors the opportunity to view free roaming wildlife from the safety of 4x4 vehicles in the Garden Route.
Named for one of the dramatic rock formations on the reserve, the beautiful setting is also the sanctuary for two elephants that joined the Botlierskop team, Sam and Tsotsi, rescued orphans from the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe. Guests are able to experience riding on elephant back and interacting with these remarkable creatures.
Knowledgeable guides share the wonders of Botlierskop and up close encounters with four rescued and rehabilitated lions, rhino, buffalo, giraffe and many of the 1 800 animals.
Elandsfontein Private Nature Reserve
Discover Elandsfontein’s rich fossil heritage on a guided Quad Bike Fossil Safari or 4WD Nature Drive.
The dunes on Elandsfontein are the final resting place of early humans and animals that date back to the early Stone Age. The safari includes a rest stop where light refreshments are served. All quad bikes have fully automatic gearboxes to ensure that even novice riders can enjoy this unique experience. To manage the impact on the dunes the number of quad bikes is limited to eight, but each quad bike is big enough for two passengers.
Watch wildlife in comfort during the 4WD Nature Drive. Originally the home of the largest inward migration of game in the history of the Western Cape, Elandsfontein is waiting to be discovered by nature lovers. Guests on the three hour nature drive can expect to see include eland, hartebeest, zebra, wildebeest, oryx, kudu, bontebuck, springbuck and Cape buffalo, the first of the Big Five to be reintroduced into the reserve. Unspoilt nature and rich and diverse birdlife complete the experience. The safari includes a rest stop where light refreshments are served.
Only accessible by ferry, Featherbed Nature Reserve is a privately-owned unspoiled headland at the Western Head of the Knysna Lagoon. Visitors young and old will thoroughly enjoy embarking on a spectacular four-hour eco-experience to this exquisite little corner of the Garden Route. This outdoor experience includes a return ferry trip, nature drive, guided walk and a lavish buffet lunch at the Food Forest Restaurant. Access to the reserve is strictly controlled and visits are only permitted in the company of the Featherbed Nature Reserve's specialist guides.Starting with a 25-minute ferry cruise, your local guide will share intriguing tales about the Knysna Lagoon, early shipping industry and Knysna’s oyster cultivation.The cruise is followed by a 4x4 drive to the top of the Western Head where supreme views of the lagoon, mountains and Knysna can be seen. After the drive, you have the option of walking a 2.2 kilometre downhill guided nature trail. This fun family outing ends with with a blowout buffet lunch at the popular Knysna restaurant under the milkwood trees.The four-hour excursion departs daily from Knysna Waterfront. Bookings are essential.
Situated in the Kleinrivier Mountains on the northern side of Hermanus, Fernkloof Nature Reserve incorporates mountain fynbos as well as a pocket of evergreen forest. A 60 kilometre network of trails provides the opportunity for people to go out and enjoy some exercise and fresh air. These trails offer stunning panoramic views of Walker Bay, the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Maanskynbaai.The reserve is a haven of biodiversity with 1474 species of plants recorded. Parts of the coastal area including the Cliff Path Nature Area, the Mossel River valley and the area from De Mond to Kettle Point, including the mouth of the Vogelgat River and part of the Klein River lagoon have recently been incorporated. This means that the coastal area with its unique fynbos, the mountain fynbos as well as the sensitive lagoon area is now linked.Keep your eyes open to spot grey rhebok, Cape grysbok, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose and dassie. Birds that you are most likely to see are Cape sugar birds, sunbirds, rock thrush and rock jumpers. Raptors include the jackal buzzard and black eagle. You can also spot seed and insect-eating species such as Rameron pigeons, canaries, flycatchers and white-eyes in the patches of forest alongside streams.Need to know? Fernkloof Nature Reserve is open from 7am to 7pm.
Nestled between the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains in the Klein Karoo, this remote mountain reserve is definitely worth a visit.
Most folk who venture to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve come to soak up the peace and tranquillity. The best season to go is in spring although any time of the year is worthwhile.
Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom which boasts one of the richest floras on earth, Gamkaberg is a botanists paradise. Here you will find four of the South African biomes – Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Evergreen Forest.
Home to the endangered Cape mountain zebra, honey badger and leopard, the reserve is an important refuge for rare Western Cape wildlife. Other animals you can spot include eland, red hartebeest, grysbok, grey rhebuck, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, baboon, caracal, aardvark, aardwolf, black backed jackal and many small mammals. The reserve is also host to numerous birds, reptiles and insects.
Day trippers can look around the information centre, meander through the labyrinth, explore the short footpaths and use the picnic or braai spots. Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Get far away from the madding crowds and discover one of the Garden Route’s best kept secrets.
Long kept under wraps, this gentle and serene protected coastal reserve is guaranteed to nurture your soul.
Goukamma Nature Reserve incorporates a long beach, extensive high dune field, the Goukamma River and estuary as well as the self-contained Groenvlei Lake. The coastline stretches for 14 km and the adjoining marine protected area extends out to the ocean for 1.8 km. Bring your snorkelling gear and explore the lovely rock pools at Rowwehoek.
A network of hiking trails traverses a diverse range of habitats for birds, mammals and marine life. Cape clawless otter, grysbok, bushbuck, bush pig, porcupine, bushbaby, Cape dune mole rat, caracal and honey badger all live in this paradise. Most of the animals are quite timid and difficult to spot but you will see plenty of droppings and spoor on the trails.
The coastline offers excellent whale watching from July to December and dolphins are frequently spotted surfing the waves. The area is great for birdwatching with more than 220 recorded bird species.
The Goukamma River has a number of picnic sites and braai spots. Bring your own firewood.
Excellent bird watching, gorgeous indigenous Knysna forest and mountain fynbos characterize this CapeNature reserve in the Langeberg.
The 250-hectare forest is situated 22 km northwest of Heidelberg and is considered the best and largest woodland in the south-western Cape.
The Bushbuck and Grysbok Trails (2 – 15 km) and the short mountain bike trail through high forest are wonderful options to explore this stunning reserve. Permits for these trails are available from
the CapeNature office.
Forest tree species that you will see are stinkwood, yellowwood, red alder and the ubiquitous ironwood. Wildlife that is often encountered includes bushbuck, Cape grysbok, Cachma baboons, various small mammals like mongoose and genet. Occasionally leopard can be seen.
Rich in bird diversity, the reserve boasts no less than 196 bird species. Twitchers will be gripping their binoculars to spot endemics like the Knysna woodpecker, Knysna warbler, Victorin’s warbler, forest canary and Cape Siskin. Other forest specials to look out for are the Narina Trogon and majestic Crowned Eagle.
And what else is there to brag about? Grootvadersbosch is home to a subspecies of ghost frog and a unique forest emperor butterfly.
The incredibly scenic Harold Porter Botanical Garden is situated between the coast and the mountainside. The garden is renowned for its waterfalls, amber pools, deep gorges and abundant birdlife.
Deep in the heart of the fynbos region, it is one of the best places to explore coastal fynbos. And its vast – there are 10 hectares of cultivated fynbos as well as 190 hectares of natural fynbos!
Keen hikers should lace up their boots and hit the Leopard Kloof Trail. The 3 km round trip leads through fern forests and up to a waterfall. You’ll need to get a permit and pay a key deposit.
Need to know? Opens at 08:00, closes at 16:30 on weekdays and at 17:00 on weekends and public holidays. The parking area closes at 18:00 in winter and 19:00 in summer. Keen gardeners can purchase plants from the indigenous plant nursery.
Initially a wild flower garden, the 407-hectare Helderberg Nature Reserve was proclaimed a reserve in 1960 to preserve an important enclave of Mesic Mountain Fynbos.Along with the incredible plant diversity, the reserve has a rich fauna. Visitors can experience bontebok grazing at any time of the day and some 169 species of birds have been recorded. Look out for three types of tortoise – the mountain tortoise, the angulate tortoise and the padloper.There are several lovely walking trails, of which only the Brown Route is non-circular. Facilities in the reserve include an information centre, plant herbarium, gift shop, indigenous nursery, resource centre, walking paths and benches, Oak Café restaurant, picnic area, facilities for the disabled and ablutions.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
Beautiful well-maintained and managed nature reserve approx 15km from Stellenbosch. A favourite for Stellenbosch residents and well worth the visit. Offers an amazing array of trails suitable for mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers.
The trails will suit the novice to the most experienced athlete. Stunning waterfalls and rivers are easily accessible and make an ideal picnic excursion for the family. Cash required to pay for entry permit at the gate.
A top spot for families, Jubilee Creek is probably the most beautiful picnic spot in the indigenous Knysna forest. Situated alongside a stream in two forest clearings, this site is very popular with young families. The stream is perfect for playing, exploring and walks along the river. Hidden in the forest, you might even sight a rare Knysna elephant - one of the Knysna elephants was actually seen here in March 2007!
Karoo National Park
Overshadowed by the soaring peaks of the Nuweveld Mountains, the stark landscape of the Karoo National Park is once again home to endangered black rhino, buffalo, Cape mountain zebra and riverine rabbit.
Large herds of springbok, 20 pairs of breeding black eagles, five tortoise species, small reptiles and a wide variety of endemic wildlife and succulent plants find sanctuary within the park. The stark beauty of the Great Karoo seems vast and unforgiving but sustains a fascinating diversity of life, all exclusively adapted to survive here.
Towards evening the harsh sunlight slowly softens and washes the landscape with pastel colours, eventually deepening and setting the Karoo ablaze with magnificent sunset hues.
Itchy feet? Walk the unique 400-metre Karoo Fossil Braille Trail. Specifically adapted for vision-handicapped visitors, you will discover funky fossils of mammal-like reptiles and interesting geology of the Great Karoo.
Stroll the 800-metre Bossie Trail and check out the showcase of Karoo succulents including aloes, crassula, spiny klapperbossie and boegoekaroo. More energetic folk can lace up their boots for the 11-kilometre Fonteintjieskloof Trail.
Did you know? Western Cape Nature Reserves is often misspelt. Here are some variations:
WCape Nature Reserves, WesternCape Nature Reserves, Weskaap Nature Reserves, Wes Kaap Nature Reserves, West Cape Nature Reserves, WesternCape Nature Reserves,