Tag Archives: fynbos

Hunting for Proteas at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West (2019-07-27) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 08 APR 2020

Sometimes it just doesn’t work. I can’t convince, bribe or coerce my wife or either of my girls to head out for a walk with me. Mind you, not that it bothers me in the slightest – it is their loss after all and in any event, it just gives me an even greater opportunity to randomly stop and take a picture or three!

Residents of Somerset West are really fortunate to have a very nice, accessible and well run City of Cape Town managed and operated (with support from the local Friends of Helderberg Nature Reserve NPO) nature reserve right on their doorstep in the form of the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

Situated on the southern slopes of the Helderberg mountains (the peaks of which remain under the protection of Cape Nature), the Helderberg Nature Reserve originally came to be as a wildflower garden (and to protect the water resources in Somerset West) in 1960, following a period of lobbying by the local Rotary Club of Somerset West. Since then the area has morphed into a proper nature reserve with the now 402-hectare reserve protecting a swathe of Swartland shale renosterveld, Kogelberg sandstone fynbos, Cape Winelands shale fynbos and Southern afro-temperate forest pockets.

The lower reaches of the park is home to large tree shaded lawns, popular with families and perfect for the hosting of picnics, birthday parties and the occasional music concert, as well a small coffee shop and the Maskew Miller Educational/Visitors Centre. As you would expect, there are walking and hiking paths scattered around the reserve, catering to nature lovers of all fitness levels (and particularly popular with those who like jogging up mountains for exercise).

Surrounded by all manner protea species and birds galore, there is tranquility, majestic mountain landscapes and a sweeping view over False Bay below – what more could one looking for a break from suburban living possibly still need?

Traipsing about Rooi-Els Nature Reserve (2019-01-19) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 04 APR 2020

At the start of last year I managed the unusual in that on a rare weekend morning without Helderberg Cake Company orders to fulfill, I got Chantelle to agree to come out for a nature walk with me and the girls – my destination of choice being the quiet little settlement of Rooi-Els. Of course getting there means tackling all 77 potentially nausea inducing twists and turns of the extremely scenic Clarence Drive as well, something Chantelle is not overly fond of on the best of days either!

Known for its fishing and diving opportunities, not to mention the fact that it is constantly being bashed by the sea winds and raided by the local Chacma baboon troop, the mostly holiday home littered little settlement of Rooi-Els is pretty quiet, has only a handful of tarred roads, and thus very little in terms of commercial ventures. (Mind you, they do have a popular bikers’ pub and two rather nice restaurants all of a sudden).

One of its claims to fame is that Rooi-Els falls within the vaunted Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated area whose landscape is home to one of the most complex biodiversity regions on our planet – featuring more than 1,880 different plant species, 77 of which occur nowhere else on earth. This sweeping sea of fynbos and mountains is home to a variety of animal species like leopard, caracal, baboon and antelope, as well a particularly rich selection of bird life.

As a conservancy, there are no fences around Rooi-Els to keep people out or nature in – instead it is the commitment of the local communities, farmers, conservation agencies and local government to protect and nurture the land and its biodiversity.

(For reference, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, which interestingly enough was South Africa’s first ever registered biosphere reserve, encompasses the entire area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Statuary and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain.)

As for our little excursion, we found ourselves first picking our way through the fynbos over the small picturesque area marked as the Rooi-Els Nature Reserve, before extending our trip with a drive out to Betty’s Bay in order to take in the devastation of the recent fires that had ripped through the town, devouring anything and everything in its path, after which we turned back and stopped for some coffee and a light lunch at Pringle Bay’s always pleasant Bistro 365 & Simple Coffee eatery.

So a proper mix of an excursion then. The tranquil quiet beauty of nature in the fynbos rich area of Rooi-Els, the sobering reality of the fire risk that comes from living so close to the mountain in Betty’s Bay, and then the mad vibe of people enjoying the weeked at a bustling Pringle Bay town center.

Scooting about Pinnacle Point Estate in Mossel Bay (2019-09-28) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 FEB 2020

Last year September saw me take the girls up for a weekend away at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, a slightly more out of the ordinary visit than normal given that mom and dad were restricted to home in Bellville (due to mom’s hip replacement) and Chantelle was busy frantically churning out cakes in Gordon’s Bay, meaning that it was just me, my two girls, and my younger brother Ryan inhabiting the great big house for the handful of days.

Obviously we made the most of it (despite the damp, overcast, predominantly grey conditions). Lots of sport on TV, golf cart shenanigans, animal and fynbos spotting in the estate, fish and chips at the Sea Gypsy (as is now customary for any visit to Mossel Bay), Lego building, colouring in, and the highlight of each and every day – a swim in the warm water pool at ATKV Hartenbos.

We also confirmed that scooting around on scooters in such a hilly estate is no fun at all – if you’re little.

A Stroll through Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2019-03-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 OCT 2019

I’m quite fond of the extremely accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch. Situated within the town itself, the park is compact, has well marked out paths, gives gorgeous distant views of the Stellenbosch mountains, and really is a breath of fresh air and tranquility for any nature lovers out there.

This particular trip to Jan Marais saw me riding solo, with Chantelle busy with cakes/and or relaxing on the couch, and neither of my girls wishing to abandon playing with their friends in order to join me for a healthy walk. Not that this bothered me in the slightest though – the perfect opportunity then to take my time, first stopping to do some plane spotting at the Stellenbosch Flying Club, then tracking down the sports club and Danie ‘Doc’ Craven bronze statue that I remembered from my twenties, before finally setting out to explore the little nature reserve at my own gentle pace.

There is public art to behold, renosterveld fynbos to experience, a kids play area (which for a change I didn’t have to stop at), an outdoor gym for the eager beavers, enough space for both cyclists and walkers to enjoy at the same time, and it always makes for a great photo walk.

Perfect really.

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Hiking and Picnics at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West (2017-10-21) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 MAR 2019

At the top of Somerset West, situated on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland Mountains, and overlooking False Bay, you’ll find the Helderberg Nature Reserve, a City of Cape Town owned and managed nature reserve.

Pushed by the Rotary Club of Somerset West, the Helderberg Nature Reserve was proclaimed as a wildflower garden (and to protect water resources in Somerset West) in 1960, but over time morphed into a proper nature reserve with the now 402-hectare reserve protecting a swathe of Swartland shale renosterveld, Kogelberg sandstone fynbos, Cape Winelands shale fynbos and Southern afro-temperate forest pockets.

The lower reaches of the park is home to large lawns, popular with families for the hosting of picnics, birthday parties and the occasional music concert, as well a small coffee shop and the Maskew Miller Educational/Visitors Centre.

Then there are of course all the walking and hiking paths scattered around the reserve, catering to nature lovers of all fitness levels. So as you would expect, there are plenty of beautiful examples of fynbos flowers to admire and even more superb views to take in – unless of course your children have pinned you down to the lawns and you’ve been forced to nap in the shade of one of the many massive trees overlooking the picnic space.

A terrible proposition, I know… ;)

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Exploring the Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2016-09-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 SEP 2016

The impact that the wealthy farmer, politician and later philanthropist, Jan Marais had on Stellenbosch cannot be overstated. Having made his fortune first in the diamond fields at the confluence the Vaal and Orange Rivers, he then turned his hand to farming and moved to Stellenbosch, where he quickly established himself as a leading figure of the town and in fact, became the first representative of Stellenbosch to serve in the House of Assembly when South Africa became a Union in 1910.

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In addition to being instrumental in the founding of Naspers and Die Burger (he provided a lot of the financing), Jan Marais also left a large amount of money in his will towards the establishment of the Stellenbosch University, establishing it out of the existing Victoria College. His testament also provided for the establishment of HJMNF (Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds), which currently awards some R20 million annually to a number of developmental projects in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in support of the Afrikaans language.

Oh, and just because he could, he also donated a massive 23 ha piece of land for use as a nature reserve – and in so doing, the Jan Marais Nature Reserve public park was born.

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This sprawling, municipal run park serves two main purposes, one of which is providing a safe haven for the region’s naturally occurring vegetation, with the park comprising of two primary vegetation types: Swartland Renosterveld to the north and Swartland Alluvium Fynbos towards the southern edge.

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The other purpose is of course is to be a freely available green space for the residents of Stellenbosch to make use of – thus the many picnic lawns and even small playground area to be enjoyed!

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There are a lot of rambling dirt paths to follow through a big variety of various types of vegetation, and with Spring in the air, the fynbos was certainly putting on a show for the girls and myself on our day of exploration!

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Apart from the local inhabitants that include all manner of birds, rabbits and of course tortoises, Jan Marais Nature Reserve is also dotted with public art all over the place – in fact, you can make a whole morning out of just tracking these often quite whimsical (in fairness, that’s being a kind to a lot of the displays) sculpture pieces down!

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There is also a labyrinth on show (as well as an eco-centre and outdoor gym mind you), but apart from the spectacular landscape views afforded from within the park, for me the surprise star of the show was finding renowned sculptor Dylan Lewis’ Elevated Leopard sculpture standing on display.

(It can be spotted in front of the thatch roofed restrooms, which themselves can be found towards the front, central area of the park.)

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As you might imagine, the girls and I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the park, tracking tortoises, flowers, sculptures and termite mounds, but given the size of the park (not to mention the girls’ short legs), there is still plenty of it left to be seen.

So I guess a return trip is inevitable then?

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I went a bit overboard in terms of taking photos on the day, but I have now trimmed the masses – even so, the gallery on today’s post is a bit on the large side.

Sorry, not sorry, about that.

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Note: By this stage, the girls were hot, tired and hungry (we had already spent the morning exploring Somerset West’s Vredenhof Organic Estate, as well as pop in to view some planes and flowers at the Stellenbosch Flying Club mind you), and after much pleading and wailing, I relented and took them for some Chicken McNugget Happy Meals at the local Stellenbosch McDonald’s – a place I haven’t frequented in literally years!

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This they liked.

(And then it was off to Monty and Cheryl’s place in Bellville, seeing as we had a massive surprise birthday party for Cheryl lined up for the evening.)

Anyway, here is a map if you too want to go and wander about or enjoy a picnic in the very accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve – bonus, entry is free:

Related Link: Jan Marais Nature Reserve | Stellenbosch

Tackling Kleinmond’s Coastal Walkway (2016-08-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 AUG 2016

The Kleinmond area is literally littered with fantastic hikes and coastal walkways, giving plenty of different views of the magnificent combination of sea, fynbos and of course the Kogelberg mountains that frame the area.

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We were enjoying a nice impromptu afternoon out in the fishing/tourist village of Kleinmond, and following our lunch at the Boathouse and then stroll around the small harbour, the girls next decided to scurry over to the start of the short boardwalk (accessible from the harbour) that leads to the old ‘kerkgrot’ (‘church cave’), essentially an overhang that used to pass for a spiritual meeting place back in the day.

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The lure of the adjacent steep stone steps was more than strong enough to entice Jessica to head straight for the top, which then of course meant that Emily just had to follow – in other words, now with absolutely no choice in the matter whatsoever, mommy and daddy had to follow suite!

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Although we didn’t follow the path very far (Emily is still short of 3 after all), we were rewarded with spectacular views of both fynbos, the ocean and the mountain, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be making my way back here for a proper walk once the girls are slightly older.

(Sadly, no Southern Right Whales were spotted on the day though…)

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In other words, yet another great reason to pull into Kleinmond the next time you find yourself taking a road trip down the coastal R44!

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Related Link: Kleinmond | Kleinmond Walks