A Nature Reserve (also referred to as a bio-reserve, preserve, conserve or natural reserve) is an area set aside for conservation purposes. Generally, these areas are selected due the ecological value in preserving the fauna and/or flora in the area.
These areas are managed by private parties or relevant local government. Within the Western Cape, CapeNature is the public, provincial entity responsible for biodiversity conservation. SANParks is the public, national entity responsible for conservation in South Africa.
Swartberg Nature Reserve^
(Gamkaskloof – Die Hel)
Location: between the Great Karoo and Klein Karoo, forming a narrow but long stretch of 121 000ha.
Nearest towns (to the Swartberg Pass): Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn.
The remote and isolated Gamkaskloof Valley (Die Hel) has a rich ecological, archaeological, and cultural history. The Swartberg Nature Reserve is bordered by Gamkapoort Nature Reserve to the north, and Towerkop Nature Reserve to the west. These two reserves are not open to the public but are managed in conjunction with Swartberg. The entire conservation area – a massive 180 000ha – is critical to the management of mountain catchments and water yields in the region.
Flora and fauna: This reserve conserves a diversity of vegetation: from renosterveld, to mountain fynbos and spekboom veld. It also supports a variety of wildlife, including antelope, baboons, dassies and leopard. Plants begin to flower on the lower levels of the mountain in spring. If you’re able to brave the higher peaks of the Swartberg Mountain in autumn, you could be lucky enough to spot the rare protea venusta.
What to expect: There’s accommodation available in 11 restored historical cottages. Of these, Stappies Cordier is fully equipped for people with disabilities. Gamkaskloof is only accessible from the Swartberg Pass via the Otto du Plessis road.
Anysberg Nature Reserve^
Location: between the towns of Ladismith, Laingsburg, Touwsrivier and Montagu.
Proteas and a variety of succulents provide a beautiful backdrop to the sounds of the 180 bird species that are regularly spotted in this reserve.
Flora and Fauna: This reserve was founded to conserve endemic vegetation and gradually reintroduce the game species that traditionally inhabited the region. Vegetation in the area comprises of Cape mountain fynbos and the characteristic Klein Karoo veld. Anysberg is also home to many types of antelope, black-back jackal and caracals. Leopards are said to roam the mountains but are rarely seen.
What to expect: One of the best places to go stargazing with its wide-open spaces, away from the hustle and bustle (and light pollution) of the city, this reserve also offers 4x4 tours and various other activities. Booking in advance is advised, as some activities have dependencies, including the weather.
Wolwekraal Nature Reserve
Nearest town: Prince Albert
A small protected area (113 ha) on Wolwekraal farm, this land was acquired by Sue and Richard Dean, in 2005 for conservation purposes.
Flora and Fauna: The vegetation in this reserve includes the only formally protected example of the Prince Albert Succulent Karoo, a vegetation type threatened by development of housing, orchards, gravel, and sand mining. The veld includes healthy populations of some highly localised and rare plant species, cultural artifacts, and a two kilometre stretch of the Dorpsrivier.
What to expect: The Reserve is focused on conservation and offers free environmental education to school learners. Guided tours are on offer to the public and require advanced notice. Hear Dr. Sue Milton-Dean talk about the landscape of the area in the Chasing Lines video (skip to 12:51 to listen to Sue).
Karoo National Park^
Nearest town: Beaufort West
The Karoo National Park, founded in 1979, is a wildlife reserve in the Great Karoo area of the Western Cape. The Park features a rich and diverse range of mammals and birds, which can be spotted during game drives due the nature of the vegetation in the area.
Flora and Fauna: The physical appearance of the vegetation consists of Montane Karoo grassy shrublands, Karoo grassy dwarf shrublands, Karoo succulent dwarf shrublands and riparian thickets. Thirty percent of the recognised endemic plant species of the Nama-Karoo Biome are conserved within the Karoo National Park.
What to expect: There’s 60 km of tourist roads to explore, most of which are accessible to all vehicles, which include 4x4 trails. There are a multitude of experiences available, but a highlight would be the Klipspringer Pass. The Pass offers a scenic 13km drive and features eco-friendly construction, specifically the “Andrew Bain” method of dry-masonry construction.
Nature reserves managed by public entities are indicated above with the ^ symbol.