Tag Archives: kogelberg biosphere

Pizza and Baboons at Something Els in Rooi Els (2020-11-08) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 08 DEC 2020

Last month Chantelle and her The Helderberg Cake Company venture had as her last bake for the weekend a Sunday delivery out in Betty’s Bay, and so to combine wanting to get out of the house and grabbing a spot of brunch at the same time, we all piled into the car and drove off over the beautiful Clarence Drive coastal road, picking our way along the mountain slopes and the sea in what can only be described as some rather overcast weather.

Betty’s Bay and her dirt roads were of course thus a mud and puddle heaven, and not wanting to take a chance of sinking our car into a particularly deep hole, Emily was employed as official puddle depth tester (she being the only one wearing gumboots on the day), meaning any overly large puddle we weren’t sure of, she would have to jump out and go walk through the water. Genius use of child labour I tell you!

Delivery done and now on the way back, I wildly gesticulated at Chantelle that she pull over just outside of Pringle Bay, for I had spotted a magnificently gushing waterfall a little ways off the road. As luck would have it, there was in fact a small road that got us relatively close enough to admire the waterworks and well as the beautiful fynbos flowers that were so prettily framing this majestic Kogelberg Biosphere scene.

From there we rolled into Rooi Els, a perennial favourite of mine, pulling up at Something Els, an eatery and more interestingly, a botanical bar. Now I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “Botanical Bar”, but seeing as this is the Western Cape it is probably something to do with fynbos infused gin. (Seriously, you can’t move more than a few metres around Cape Town without tripping over some or other brand/style of gin these days!)

Not that it mattered though. We were there for food and to chill, and so a combination of pizzas and breakfast options were devoured, games of noughts and crosses were played, rain and grey sky atmosphere soaked up, and as if that wasn’t entertainment enough, one of the local baboons entered the restaurant much to the giddy excitement of the girls and of course, consternation of the staff. (No damage done, he didn’t get away with anything, and now Chantelle’s car has a furry baboon butt imprint on it).

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.

Nature Walk along the Kleinmond Coastal Walkway (2019-04-07) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2020

Kleinmond is another one of those easy to love little coastal towns in the Overberg district, family friendly and perfect for tourist beach getaways. It also happens to be home to a very gentle, short but very scenic coastal walkway, which takes you all the way from the small Kleinmond harbour to the main Kleinmond beach.

The sandy route is about 2.5 km in length, and winds through the granite and fynbos that are emblematic for much of the Overberg’s gorgeous coastline scene, offering up spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding peninsulas while you are at it.

For this particular stroll I somehow managed to convince Jessica to join me and so the two of us donned our hats, hopped into the car and enjoyed the scenic Clarence Drive trip, before finding a spot at the bustling Kleinmond harbour area and heading off up the rocky stairs that signal the start of the walkway.

The path is simple to follow and didn’t given us much difficulty, other than Jessica stepping into a bit of mud and then being utterly distraught over her now dirty school shoes. (They wear white takkies – i.e. trainers – at Gordon’s Bay Primary School).

Having successfully reached the beach (at the mouth of the Kleinmond lagoon), we decided to first grab a cooldrink from the popular Sandown Blues restaurant, before finally opting to head back via the streets (which takes you past the one time beach house of historic Afrikaans scholar and novelist DF Malherbe) – primarily because Jessica didn’t want to risk any more mud on her now not so white takkies!

Oh, and as if that wasn’t quite enough, she then wanted soft serve ice cream as a reward when we got back to the harbour. (Hmm, I am beginning to suspect that maybe she’s not joining my walks for the actual walking!)

In any event, a great little morning distraction that let us stretch our legs, take in some fresh sea air, and bathe in glorious warm sunlight. Not bad, not bad.

Soaking up some Sun in Rooi Els and Pringle Bay (2020-02-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 29 FEB 2020

I am doing a lot of walking these days, primarily because I enjoy it but also to try and at least somewhat counteract the insane amount of time I spend sitting in a chair behind a screen thanks to my chosen profession of software development. Of course it doesn’t help that I work from home either.

Unfortunately, I seem to be the only person in our house that loves heading out for random strolls, so pretty much the only way that I can get any of my girls to join me is by means of a treat bribe – which then is exactly how I got Emily and Jessica to join me for a morning walkabout in Rooi-Els at the start of February.

So off we headed on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, leisurely winding our way along the jaw-droppingly scenic Clarence Drive until we dropped down into Rooi-Els, grabbed a parking in front of the newly built (beautiful interior, but terribly named) Gossip Corner restaurant and strolled off down the road.

The dirt roads of Rooi-Els, its diminutive stature, and its proximity to mountains, fynbos and sea, all combine to make for the perfect morning walk location, and so the girls and I happily trudged around, discussing all the houses hiding among the bushes, taking in the fynbos, and enjoying all that fresh sea air.

Disappointingly we didn’t run into the local baboon troop (like we did last time), but secretly I suspect that Jessica was RATHER pleased about that. I did however quite enjoy taking the photo directly above this text, which very much looks like a lizard about to catch a fly. Thank you random passing by bird for making this image possible!

Rooi-Els done and dusted, it was now time for aforementioned reward, and so off we drove to Pringle Bay, where after a quick spot of lizard watching and yet more photos of rock and sea (before being shouted at to hurry on up), I treated the girls to Belgian waffles, ice cream, milkshakes and tea at our new small town favourite, La Galerie. (As expected, it was delicious!)

From there it was the drive home back along stunning old Clarence Drive, though I did make sure to stop at the Shark Spotters hut above Kogel Bay to show the girls what this excellent initiative does, as well as to take the opportunity to watch the surfers and bodyboarders having a ball in the waves down below.

So a perfect morning/afternoon out and about in yet another one of South Africa’s seemingly endless spots of natural beauty. (And yes, the girls made us take selfies!)

Penguins and a Beach in Betty’s Bay (2019-03-16) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 FEB 2020

Who doesn’t love watching pengweenis waddle around, cool off with a dip in the sea, and occasionally bray like donkeys? In terms of African penguin colonies in the world, there aren’t exactly many of them, but as luck would have it, the Western Cape is home to two, the first being the world famous Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and the second, equally as enjoyable site, being Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.

The girls and I tend to visit the penguins at Stony Point at least once a year, primarily because I really do love the exquisitely scenic drive along Clarence Drive to get there. On this particular visit we first paid a visit to the white sands of the Betty’s Bay main beach, before wandering over to the penguin rich boardwalk of Stony Point, and then finally off for a leisurely trundle along the nearby coastal pathway.

Stony Point has a great set up of this well maintained wooden boardwalk that allows you to walk right through the penguin colony (by this point the penguins are quite used to the hordes of silly humans who keep stopping to take photos of them and the dassies), and come breeding season you can actually look right into the nests, see the eggs, and watch the young ones slowly make their appearance.

When you do eventually get bored of the frolicking dassies, blue lizards, cormorant colony, and sea-diving penguins of the little nature reserve itself, then there is the small restaurant (On the Edge) and edu-centre near the reserve entrance, and of course the spectacular Kogelberg views that comes bundled with a visit to Betty’s Bay.

So definitely yet another scenic feather in the Western Cape’s cap.

Sand and Tea at La Galerie in Pringle Bay (2019-07-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 31 DEC 2019

So when I took possession of my replacement car, I immediately took it for a spin out along Clarence Drive, dragging Jessica along with me for the ride. One scenic drive followed by a trundle alongside the baboons in Rooi Els later, we popped over to Pringle Bay for a stroll on the beach.

Of course, dragging my eldest daughter along for all this aimless driving and strolling around didn’t come without its price, which is why then we capped off my new car run with a bout of daddy/daughter tea, flapjacks and scones at La Galerie.

With its bright red exterior drawing you in, La Galerie is a great little restaurant/cafe venue in the heart of Pringle Bay’s business center, filled with art, books and even a boardgame or two. It is run by the same couple that used to own the excellent Sage & Thyme cafe in Somerset West, and as such makes for a well run, delicious breakfast/light lunch/coffee and cake stop in this charming little coastal village.

Easy to recommend.

Lizards and Baboons in Rooi Els (2019-07-13) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 NOV 2019

Having just taken possession of my new car, I immediately took it out for a run along the achingly scenic Clarence Drive (as one should), in the process dragging Jessica along to join me for the drive and a bit of a stroll around Rooi Els and Pringle Bay – in return for something sweet of course!

As I mentioned, our first stop was the charmingly rustic Rooi Els with its single shop, pub and restaurant, where we enjoyed a gentle stroll along its dirt roads, taking in the sights, breathing in the fresh air, chasing butterflies, admiring the fynbos, and of course dodging the local troop of baboons.

Highly entertaining (though to be fair, a little terrifying for Jessica), if of course you aren’t actually carrying any food on you. If I was, I probably wouldn’t be so cavalier about getting this close to these furry more often than not pests.

(The babies riding on their mom were admittedly very cute though!)

Poached Eggs and Exploring the Beach in Pringle Bay (2018-04-21) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 JAN 2019

Upgraded road surface along Clarence Drive, Kogelberg views for days, delicious poached eggs benedict for breakfast from Simply Coffee and then some exploring of the rock pools, dunes and lovely beach of Pringle Bay – now that’s the way to spend a Saturday morning.

Interestingly enough – I am reasonably sure that this was the first time that I had ever actually made the effort to locate Pringle Bay’s beach. Unfortunately for me though, this also just happened to be the end of my trusty Huawei P8’s battery.

Hence the almost complete and utter lack of photos of said beach. Sigh.

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Guess it just gives me a reason to head out back that way when I next get the chance.

Related Link: 365 Bistro and Simply Coffee | Clarence Drive | Pringle Bay

Things to See in South Africa: Clarence Drive (2015-05-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 29 MAY 2015

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful stretches of road in South Africa is Clarence Drive (also known as the R44), a 22 km long scenic coastal drive between the windswept hamlet of Rooi Els and the naval town of Gordons Bay, which nestles in the north-eastern crook of False Bay in the shadow of the Hottentots Hollands mountains.

Clarence Drive was named after Jack Clarence who was responsible for replacing the footpath between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els with a proper road in order to service the radar stations at Stony Point (Betty’s Bay) and at Hangklip. It was built with the help of Italian POWs during WW2 and stretches all the way from Gordons’s Bay into Kleinmond and the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere.

(From Cape Town’s side, the route takes you through Gordon’s Bay, Rooi Els, Pringle Bay, Hangklip, Betty’s Bay and finally Kleinmond)

There are 2 stone cairns erected on the side of the road at different points. One is in honour of Jack Clarence and the other is to commemorate the modernisation and upgrading of the road in 1998. The 1998 upgrade has created a well finished, safe road dotted with loads of viewpoints to stop to enjoy the marvelous views over the dramatic scenery of towering mountains meeting the rugged coastline.

The whole coast belongs to the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve, a part of the Cape Floral Kingdom which is the most species dense of all the world’s Plant Kingdoms. With about one thousand six hundred plant species found in barely ten square miles, the area that Clarence Drive passes through contains a floral diversity per unit area that is one of the highest on the planet.

The area is also home to a vast array of wildlife including Cape Leopards, African Weasels, African Wild Cats, Caracals (African Lynxes), Small and Large-Spotted Genets, Cape Foxes, Aardwolfs, Baboons, Cape Clawless Otters, Water Mongooses, Small and Large Grey Mongooses, Striped Polecats, Honey Badgers, Porcupines, Rock Hyraxes, Red Rock Rabbits, Cape and Scrub Hares, Klipspringers, Cape Grysboks, Common Duikers, Grey Rhebucks, and even Bushbucks.

The drive is also the beginning of ‘The Whale Coast’, which is generally regarded as one of the best places in the world to view whales from shore.

Of course, Clarence Drive does hold a particularly special place in my heart as well.

After all, this is the exact spot where I stopped, got down on one knee and asked Chantelle to marry me – in the process making the 6th of December 2008 one of the best days of my life! :)

Related Link: Gordon’s Bay | Rooi Els | Pringle Bay | Betty’s Bay