Explore South Africa’s amazing biodiversity without leaving home
Fernkloof Nature Reserve
Hiking in fairyland with Hi-Tec
A living classroom: there is no other place on earth where so many different species can be seen growing in such close proximity. Situated in Hermanus, a 90 minute drive from Cape Town, this reserve is just one of the many things to do in the beautiful Overberg town.
Today, it’s high summer, and while other mountainous walks have started to grow sparse with flora, this walk is all technicolour: forests of proteas, Ericas, watsonias—a dazzling display of fynbos finery. And, come springtime, it’s a virtual fairyland.
It’s said that 1474 species have been uncovered in Fernkloof, and there’s a helpful visitors centre at the start of the various paths that has information on the plants (you also sign in here; for your safety).
But let’s put aside the floral wealth for a moment: this unique region also interlinks an evergreen forest, coastal shrub, and a mountain dam. The scenery can change within an instant; there are worlds within worlds here.
If you’re not up to climbing there’s a beautiful garden at the entrance, it’s wheelchair friendly and the perfect spot for a picnic by a pond. There’s also a nursery, as well as a herbarium, so you can take some of Fernkloof home with you. And remember, take only photographs and leave only footprints.
What to bring
- Money, for the nursery.
- Hat and sunblock. This walk gets very, very hot. But on the plus side, once you round the mountain the fresh ocean breeze helps to cool things down.
- Hiking shoes, I wore V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe WPi Hi-Tecs, they have fast become my favourite hiking shoes—firm, but soft all at once.
- Swimming costume. Take a dip in the dam; just keep an eye out for baboons.
- Binoculars, the birdlife is rich too—over 130 bird species have been recorded.
- Camera, you will most certainly want to capture the splendour.
- Pensioners, for the garden as well as for the more gentle walks.
- Children from walking age up
- Dogs are only allowed on paths marked dog-friendly.
Moderate to difficult
There are various paths you can take, all clearly marked with signage, and all branching off from one another.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Green Route: this 90 minute walk offers beautiful views of Hermanus at the Lemoenkop lookout point.
Blue Route: a dog-friendly path that will take approximately 60 minutes.
Red Route: traipse through the evergreen forest to the waterfall, it can be more of a water-trickle in high summer though, a 90 minute walk.
Orange Route: head to the Galpin Hut, here you can spend the night and resume your flower frolicking the next day. It’s the longest of all the routes and will take 120 minutes.
Duration: There is roughly 60 kilometres of trails to tackle in this area.
What to look out for
Fauna: Keep an eye out for baboon, klipspringer, mongoose and dassie which are all daytime feeders. Others such as porcupine, genet, hare and grysbok are nocturnal and their presence is only revealed by evidence such as spoor, droppings or effect on vegetation.
Trivia: The herbarium has been given international status and houses 1600 montane and coastal species—that’s more than in the entire United Kingdom.
Donate: If you would like to contribute to the preservation of this 50-year-old national reserve, donations can be made here:
Hermanus Botanical Society
First National Bank Hermanus
Branch code: 200412
Account number: 524 7203 4711
Text and photographs by Malu Lambert
*Sponsored by Hi-Tec
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