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An oasis of fynbos in Cape Town
Silvermine Nature Reserve
It's a cool misty morning when we visit the reserve and the clouds roll in over Silvermine as rapidly as the tablecloth covers the Mother City’s iconic landmark.
The reserve is popular during the warmer months for its beautiful hikes and picnic spots next to the dam, but the wild nature of the surroundings are equally highlighted in winter when the mist lies low above the fynbos and the rain turns everything green.
In 1675 it was thought that these mountains contained silver and so shafts were sunk to try and find it. There was, in fact, no silver to be found but the name has stuck and today we can enjoy the fynbos unspoilt by the mining.
In 1898 the reservoir was built to be used as a water supply, but since 1912 this beautifully still body of water, surrounded by picnic spots and trees, is home to a couple of Egyptian geese, schools of fish and happy human swimmers.
The reserve is divided by Ou Kaapse Weg into two sections, I’m visiting in the west area today where the reservoir is. This plateau sits above Tokai and Muizenberg, offering a spectacular panoramic view of the city.
In 1998 Silvermine was declared part of Table Mountain National Park which ensures that its natural beauty will be preserved. There are over 900 species of fynbos to be found in the reserve, made up mainly of proteas, ericas and restios. Stop by the main gate on the west side to see their display of the flowers currently in bloom.
On the boardwalk
It’s a weekday today and the reserve is wonderfully quiet, we’re taking the boardwalk which leads around the reservoir and the only people in sight are an elderly couple that are clearly regulars. She is taking their dog for a walk as he gingerly wades into the cold water. I am not quite as brave so I won’t be joining the schools of kurper fish in the dam today, but as soon as the weather is a bit warmer you’ll find me back here swimming in the rooibos-hued water.
One of the Hoerikwaggo tented camps is in the reserve so you can spend a night there – it’s the perfect place to go recharge when you need a break from the city, but don’t want to drive for hours. There’s a fully equipped kitchen and a communal braai area (plus hot showers for those of you who don’t like the roughing it aspect of camping). SANParks has also just built a new set of bathrooms next to the reservoir for those of you just there for the day.
Things to do
- Bring a picnic, there are designated spots all around the reservoir
- Braai during the colder months when it won’t be a fire risk – make use of the built in braais
- Twitchers can spot swallows,orange-breasted and malachite sunbirds, rock kestrels, kites, buzzards and peregrine falcons. One may also be lucky enough to spot one of the resident black eagles.
- Cool off in the reservoir; it’s a lovely place to swim
- You can bring your dogs along but you’ll need My Activity Permit, and they’re only allowed on the far side of the reservoir.
- Try out one of the many hiking and mountain bike trails (you’ll need a My Activity Permit to ride too), see below for the routes.
Walk and ride
Both the east and the west side of the reserve offer lovely walks while the mountain bike trails are only on the west side. The walks all start out with clear maps and are well-marked. There’s everything from a short stroll around the reservoir to longer treks that will take you through the plethora of fynbos and past panoramic viewing spots. Pick up a map at the entrance, the various routes are clearly illustrated to keep you on track.
Circle the reservoir
Drive through the first gate to the west section on the right of Ou Kaapse Weg, if you’re coming from the Tokai side. Carry on up the road to the parking lot at the end of the reservoir, from here you can follow the wooden boardwalk.
Look out for: The pair of Egyptian geese that call this area home.
Duration: This picturesque route will only take about 20 minutes and is perfect for young children.
The hike starts from the parking lot at the reservoir, look out for the sign that has a detailed map of the route. You’ll start out on a path which will take you to a dirt road. The ‘eye’ of the elephant is a wide cave which is a good place to enjoy a break and snack while you enjoy the view.
Look out for: The stream that turns into a mini waterfall as it falls off the edge of the mountain.
Duration: It’ll take about 2.5 hours to get there and back.
Silvermine River Walk
Turn right after you go through the pay point on the west side and park here. The path sets off down the gravel road, past Hennie’s Pool/ Uthango picnic area and up the stream to the reservoir.
Look out for: The various creatures that live in and around the stream.
Duration: It’ll take about an hour-and-a-half both ways.
Park at the reservoir and follow the track below the dam wall to get to the gravel road that will take you past a lookout, here you’ll have fantastic views of Noordhoek Valley and Long Beach. Continue along the gravel road and take the path to the left, marked by stone cairns, that leads up to the beacon with views of Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay and the Sentinel.
Look out for: The highly photogenic landscapes and fynbos.
Duration: It’ll take you about three hours.
Silvermine mountain bike trail
Drive up the road from the main gate on the west side and look out for the turn off to the right, there is a parking lot with a bathroom where the trail starts. The route passes the reservoir and goes up to Noordhoek Peak before circling back.
Duration: The circular route is about 7.5km long.
This is just one of the walks on the east side, above Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, the turn off to the gate is on the left of Ou Kaapse Weg around the corner from the first entrance if you’re coming from Tokai. Park here and follow the gravel road up to Steenberg Peak. The path then descends to Wolfkop and circles back to the parking lot.
Look out for: Junction Poolbefore you reach the peak.
Duration: This round trip will take about three hours.
By Lindsay Callaghan
Off Ou Kaapse Weg | +27 (0)21 780 9002
October – March (summer) 7am – 6pm, exit at 7pm
April – September (winter) 8am – 5pm, exit at 6pm
Conservation fee: Adults, R40; children R20; free entrance for WILD Card holders
Read about the My Green Card: it entitles you to discounted entries to all Table Mountain National Park pay points. Check out our Facebook album of Silvermine.
Support Cape Town’s biodiversity at the 7th Annual False Bay Birdathon.
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