Hidden Gems: Discover Off the Beaten Track Nature Reserves in the Western Cape

Stay over in these top nature reserves for an adventure week or long weekend. . .

Hidden amongst the mountains and rare flowers of the Fynbos biome— found only in the Cape — there are a number of unique reserves offered by CapeNature. These are places where you can hit the reset button, relax in comfort and reconnect with the wild.

With our pandemic restrictions now at Level 2, it is time to plan a spring escape or hatch ideas for a much needed outdoor summer adventure.

The tough part is deciding which area of the Cape to visit. Do you choose the Winelands or the West Coast, the Overberg and Garden Route or the endlessly fascinating Cape Karoo? Maybe it is not so much of a choice if you link them all together in one epic Cape Road Trip and meander slowly through this wonderland.

We have selected 6 incredible stays in this two part series, which are ideal for any visit to the Cape.

Here are the first three hidden gems:

Hidden Gem #1 — Kogelberg Nature Reserve

The Kogelberg nature reserve is the gem in the crown of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The reserve is a short drive outside of Cape Town and makes for an ideal weekend away. As one of 13 clusters that make up the United Nations declared World Heritage Site of the Cape Floristic Region, it is one of the world’s most unique regions in terms of plant diversity, 70% of the plant species here do not grow anywhere else in the world. Read that again — they grow nowhere else on the world!

Kogelberg was South Africa’s first registered biosphere reserve and it encompasses the entire coastal area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River estuary, and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain. Its high mountain peaks, steep kloofs, valleys and several tributaries of the pristine Palmiet River create a sense of remote wilderness, and an ideal wild escape is guaranteed.

Kogelberg Selfing-catering accommodation and visitor eco-pool

The accommodation at Kogelberg is amazing — it is focused on bringing the “outside in and taking the inside out”, with green roofs and a rustic easy flow of movement to outdoor decks and braai areas. There are six glass fronted eco-cabins to choose from, each with breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains. Note: 5 of the units sleep 4 people, and there is one unit which sleeps 2 people.

Perfect for outdoor active families

Activities are epic and range from hiking to mountain biking, bird watching to white water rafting and even whale watching is accessible nearby.

Hidden Gem #2 — Rocherpan Nature Reserve

This is a real west coast hide-away with its integrated universal access, specifically accommodating wheel chairs, making Rocherpan a destination for everyone. Some of the short hiking trails and bird hides ensure it is an ideal family destination.

Rocherpan Overnight Self-catering Stays

We love the names of the accommodation units, all reflecting the types of birds you are likely to see here, from oystercatchers to kingfishers, flamingoes and sandpipers.

Flamingos at Rocherpan Seasonal Vlei

Rocherpan reserve’s central seasonal vlei is the main attraction — a habit for birds and several other species. It is the 4.7km stretch of sandy Atlantic coastline that makes an overnight stay an additional win, offering beautiful coastal meanders and those famous west coast sunsets over crashing waves.

Hidden Gem #3 — Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

I will never forget my first trip to Gamkaberg. This reserve is literally hidden and pops up unexpectedly in a secret corner of the Klein Karoo. It is off the beaten track and this is what makes it such a great spot.

Gamkaberg with Self-catering units

The camps are simple yet offer everything you need for a getaway. The many short hikes in the area are easy and offer a perfect glimpse into why the Klein Karoo is such a great place to visit. The reserve hosts four of South Africa’s biomes, namely Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Evergreen Forest — making it a gem for all of us who are interested in the unique and always interesting plants of the region. Bring your sketch book, or challenge yourself to learning a bit more about our country’s remarkable natural heritage.

This is a reserve filled with literal nature gems — spot rare and endangered Cape mountain zebra, maybe even a Cape leopard or a honey badger. Other mammals include eland, kudu, red hartebeest, grysbok, grey rhebuck, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, baboon, caracal, aardvark, aardwolf, and at night listen out for the black-backed jackal.

Khoisan rock art is another highlight not to miss. So keep your eyes open when visiting this one.

After a good day hiking, climbing or just lazing in the sun, the red rocks at dusk and the starry skies at night will colour your dreams.

We cover 3 more nature gems in our follow up post in this series: De Hoop, Goukama and Robberg.

By: Galeo Saintz

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