Category Archives: Western Cape Province

Merry Christmas!

We’re wishing all our friends here at de Wets Wild a Blessed Christmas!

Here’s just a few of the festive decorations we found in the past few days adorning the trees (and bushes and shrubs and grasses and all other manner of plants) in the national parks of the Western Cape. I can’t pretend to know even most of their names, but I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re all stunningly beautiful!

 

Summertide Rambles 23 December 2020

I think it’s more the inclement weather than the government-imposed restriction on beach-going in the Garden Route (an attempt at limiting crowds to curb the spread of COVID-19) that caused the beach at Nature’s Valley to be this deserted today.

We’ll be spending the next few days with close family in Jeffreys Bay but we’ll resume our summertide rambles through two of the Eastern Cape national parks on the 27th.

Summertide Rambles 21 December 2020

A rainy day here on South Africa’s Garden Route today – always welcome in a dry country such as ours – so we took a short hike in the Woodville Indigenous Forest, where an 800 year old Outeniqua Yellowwood that towers above the canopy is the star attraction. There’s just something so magical about the smells in a rain-soaked forest.

Summertide Rambles 20 December 2020

It’s the fifth day of our 2020 Summertide Ramble, and we’ve moved again – this time about 200km due east to the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park, where our cosy log cottage in the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp has a lovely (if overcast and rather chilly at the moment) view over the wetlands of the Serpentine River just before its confluence with the Touw River.

Summertide Rambles 19 December 2020

A focal point of the Bontebok National Park is the Breede River, serenely flowing along the park’s southern border. Visitors can kayak, fish and swim in the river or picnic and camp on its banks.

 

Summertide Rambles 18 December 2020

After spending two nights in the Great Karoo, today we traversed four scenic mountain passes to move to the next destination on our 2020 summertide ramble. This is the view we enjoyed at sunset this evening from the verandah of our cosy little chalet in the Bontebok National Park.

Summertide Rambles 17 December 2020

The open landscapes of the Karoo National Park really shows off the wildlife that inhabit this arid environment to great effect – in this case a beautiful gemsbok that we saw this morning just after sunrise.

Summertide Rambles 16 December 2020

Our long awaited summer holidays have finally arrived, and we kick it off in the wide open spaces of the beautiful Karoo National Park – a little over 1,000km southwest of home.

 

Diepwalle (Garden Route National Park)

Originally, most of South Africa’s Garden Route between the mountains and the sea was covered by dense forests. Unfortunately these forests have been exploited on an industrial scale for wood and ivory since the 1760’s and the town of Knysna owns its existence to the lucrative trade that required access to a harbour for exporting. At various times attempts were made to protect pockets of forest from harvesting, but it is not until the 1880s, when a professional forester was appointed as superintendent by the colonial government, that any real effort went into the protection and sustainable use of what remained. Today only about a third of the indigenous forests remain, with a large proportion of it being protected in the Garden Route National Park, proclaimed in 2009 when several state forests were amalgamated with the Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks and the Knysna National Lake Area.

North of Knysna, the Diepwalle State Forest was one of those pockets of forest afforded protection. One of the main attractions here is the enormous King Edward VII-tree, an Outeniqua Yellowwood tree estimated to be over 600 years old, towering almost 40m above the forest floor and so named by a group of British officials who were entertained to a picnic here in 1924. Diepwalle is also known to be part of the range of the last few remaining Knysna Elephants. In the 1880s it was estimated that between 400 and 600 elephants still roamed the Garden Route, yet today, a little over 100 years later, there may be only one lone cow remaining (even elephant researchers and park staff differ on exactly how many are left). Unless they are exceptionally lucky, the only contact visitors are likely to have with a Knysna Elephant is not along the Elephant Walk trail through the forest, but rather with the skeleton of one that is on display at the Forest Legends Museum at Diepwalle.

Diepwalle is easily accessible from Knysna, a short drive along the gravel R339 (Prince Albert’s Pass) leading to Uniondale. We spent a morning in the area while on our December holidays visiting eight of South Africa’s national parks. Guests can stay a night or two here on the unique camping decks set among the trees in the deep forest shade. Apart from the fascinating museum, there’s also picnic sites and a community-run tea garden serving delicious treats.

 

Wilderness (Garden Route National Park)

South Africa’s Garden Route is a 300km stretch of diverse and exceptionally scenic coastline between Mossel Bay in the west and the Storms River in the east, sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean. The process of protecting the Garden Route from exploitation and human encroachment has been a long one, and is still ongoing. From the 1960’s various small pieces of the area east of the small holiday town of Wilderness received formal protection, culminating in these being amalgamated into the newly proclaimed Wilderness National Park in 1987 and the years thereafter. In March 2009, the erstwhile Wilderness National Park became an integral part of the expanded Garden Route National Park (covering a total of over 1,500km²), when it was joined with the Knysna National Lake Area and Tsitsikamma National Park through the proclamation of enormous tracts of state-owned land joining them.

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park is centered on South Africa’s very own “Lakes District”. The original area encompassed by the Park straddles six lakes (Groenvlei, Bo-Langvlei, Langvlei, Rondevlei, Swartvlei and Island Lake), the Wilderness Lagoon, Serpentine and Touw Rivers, indigenous forests, and both rocky and sandy beaches along the coastline.

Before the Wilderness National Park was proclaimed, the area where the Garden Route National Park’s Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp is situated today was the Ebb-and-Flow Nature Reserve (administered by the George municipality and today Ebb-and-Flow North) and the private Siesta Caravan Park (today Ebb-and-Flow South).

Birdwatchers and photographers are in for a treat when visiting any of the three hides next to the lakes in the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Parks. We had time to visit two of them in December – Malachite (on Langvlei) and Rondevlei, and could easily have spent all day at either.

Given the amazing diversity of habitats in the park, it is no surprise that the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park abounds with a wide variety of birdspecies, and while the area doesn’t support much in the way of large mammals apart from shy bushbuck, bushpigs and very seldomly seen leopards, it does give visitors the opportunity to walk around unhindered looking for the smaller fry.

Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp is the Wilderness section’s main visitor node. Here there are accommodation and two expansive camping areas for overnight guests, a newly opened picnic area for day visitors, and canoes for hire to explore the Touw and Serpentine Rivers. A network of walking trails of varying length traverse the area, many of them starting at or near Ebb-and-Flow. The Park also has several beaches for sun-seekers and bathers. Privately-run accommodation establishments and camping sites, shops, restaurants, fuel stations and more are available in the nearby towns of Wilderness and Sedgefield.

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park is easily accessible along the N2 highway running from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and is just a few minutes’ drive from the airport at George. We recently spent three nights camping in the lovely Ebb-and-Flow North camp, the fifth stop on our 2017 summer holidays in eight of South Africa’s national parks.