Travelling through the Overberg is a magical experience with breath-taking views of mountains and open spaces. The nature reserves provide great opportunities to experience the outdoors either hiking or mountain biking. All the reserves offer day hikes with only some that offer overnight hikes with accommodation.
The Overberg is known for its spectacular fynbos selection. The reserves are established to conserve the fynbos including many rare and endemic plants. The added bonus of visiting these reserves is they are often hiding an unbelievable animal and bird life.
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
Lying amidst the majestic Hottentots Holland Mountains this 70 000ha reserve stretches from Elgin to beyond Villiersdorp. The entrance is between Grabouw and Villiersdorp. With rocky mountains, bright wildflowers and natural pools the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve offers hikes, adrenalin-pumping kloofing as well as the Cape Canopy Tour zipline adventure.
Kloofing is not undertaken during the winter months and is only being offered to those thrill-seekers from November to the end of April each year. The reserve is a hikers dream with several day walks available as well as some overnight trails. The zipline is an adventure that has been added to the nature reserve offering visitors views from a great height. For more information see www.capecanopytour.co.za.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Providing scenes of both mountain and sea the Kogelberg Nature Reserve is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Cape Nature’s protected areas. The entrance is situated approximately 3km from Kleinmond. The nature reserve has exceptional diversity with a core of about 18 000ha kept completely untouched by human beings. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in the early 1990’s Kogelberg was one of South Africa’s first registered biosphere reserves. It encompasses the entire coastal area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River marsh. The Kogelberg is home to a fantastic canoe trail which covers 15kms of the Palmiet River. Only open from the beginning of June to the end of September, it should only be undertaken by competent canoeists.
Walker Bay Nature Reserve
Managed by Cape Nature, Walker Bay Nature Reserve is located just east of Hermanus on the south-western Cape coast with access via Stanford, De Kelders or Uilkraalsmond. Approximately 1 000ha in size with a 17km white sandy beach, Walker Bay Nature Reserve is extraordinary. Excellent opportunities for day hiking and fishing, Walker Bay Nature Reserve does not have overnight facilities. There are a variety of animals seen from, and found within the reserve from the Cape clawless otter and bushbuck to dolphins and of course, the grandiose Southern right whales between August and November.
Agulhas National Park
A South African National Park (SANParks), Agulhas has geographical extremes which will capture the imagination of anyone who visits. Entrance to the Park is gained just outside Bredasdorp. Some unique features to the Park include distinctive vegetation such as limestone fynbos, as well as the crystallized remains of salt pans which now form part of the Park’s cultural heritage. The salt pans and wetlands offer visitors a chance to see some amazing birdlife including the endangered African Black Oyster-catcher.
Salmonsdam Nature Reserve
The nature reserve lies at the base of the Perdeberg Mountains approximately 20kms from Stanford, and attracts avid birdwatchers throughout the year. Established in 1962 the reserve covers an area of 834ha and forms part of the catchment area of the Paardenberg River. Waterfalls, clear mountain streams, ancient caves and bountiful wildlife makes a hike through this reserve an exciting adventure.
De Mond Nature Reserve
Situated at the mouth of the Heuningnes River and under management of Cape Nature, De Mond Nature Reserve is a beautiful coastal reserve located about 26kms outside of Bredasdorp. Considered to be the smallest of the Cape Nature reserves De Mond definitely does not lack in beauty. Picnic’s, hiking and fishing are favourite pastimes giving the whole family something to enjoy. To maintain the peaceful quality of the reserve no cars are allowed through the reserve gates – there is parking at the entrance. Keep a look out for the gorgeous Flamingos found here.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of the largest reserves managed by Cape Nature. At 34 000ha there is plenty of space to experience nature at its fullest. De Hoop is famous for it being home to one of South Africa’s best hiking trails – the Whale Trail. The trail covers both a mountain and coastal route offering hikers spectacular views and ample opportunities for whale watching. This nature reserve is a World Heritage Site and is a key conservation area. There is a marine reserve where Southern Right whales come every year to breed. Home to some of the rarest shrubs and plants species, some not even classified yet, De Hoop is definitely worth a visit when touring the Overberg.
Bontebok National Park
As part of the South African National Parks (SANParks), the Bontebok National Park was proclaimed originally to save its graceful namesake antelope from extinction. With careful conservation methods, the Bontebok have increased in numbers over the years making it a successful conservation story. Located just outside the historic town of Swellendam, the National Park has plenty to offer visitors. It is not only the pretty Bontebok which roam this Park, but many other animals including the bat-eared fox and with over 200 species of birdlife, the Park is popular with birdwatchers too.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch, originally known as Melkhoutskraal, covers 250ha of indigenous forest close to Heidelberg. This has only been a reserve since 1986, with 2004 seeing it as a world heritage site. This stretch of Afromontane forest holds nearly all the distinctive forest tree species including stinkwood and yellowwood. This nature reserve is popular with day visitors and mountain bikers with bushbuck making regular appearances. It is however the startling emperor butterfly that visitors keep a lookout for as they are said to be found in here.
Article by Lauren Pywell