Fernkloof Nature Reserve Hermanus South Africa

Maanskynbaai from Fernkloof

Fernkloof Reserve is one of nature’s bright gems, and it’s a short 15-minute drive away! I’ve hiked the waterfall trail and am learning other routes. Fernkloof trails are gentler than Table Mountain with spectacular views of Walker Bay, Hemel en Aarde Valley, and Maanskynbaai (Moonshine Bay)!

Erica Annectens

Cliff Hanger Heath

Mountain Pride Butterfly

Fernkloof has four “routes” – green, red, blue, and orange. I’m working up to the more challenging orange route and its inner and outer circuits.

Fernkloof covers 7 sq. miles in the Kleinrivier Mountains. The reserve includes 37 miles of hiking trails, flowering fynbos, thick shrub vegetation, forests, and secluded dams where you can swim on hot days.

Sugarbird

De Bos Dam

Fernkloof’s luxurious fynbos is magnificent! The word fynbos derives from the Dutch word ‘fijn bosch‘ or fine bush.

Fernkloof is known for around 500 varieties of Erica. Colorful ericas (Cape “heath“), disas, and proteas are endemic to South Africa.

Trail3

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Fynbos is a “collective name for a myriad of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves, including woody plants with hard leathery leaves”.

_____________Trail28Uphill Trail

The climate is “Mediterranean with cold wet winters, hot dry summers, and strong south-easterly winds”. I can vouch for the extraordinarily “strong” winds!

Caterpillar Photo from Fernkloof Website

Fynbos

Fynbos

Orange Disa

Pincushion Protea

Disa

Fynbos Brush

Protea

Yellow Disa

Fynbos

Fynbos

Disa Uniflora Bergius

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“There is no other place on earth where so many distinct fynbos species grow in such proximity. More than 1250 species of plant have been collected and identified in Fernkloof.”

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During my hike yesterday, I didn’t see any large mammals but enjoyed birds, mountain pride butterflies, unusual beetles, and lizards. There are several creeks and waterfalls, and I heard, but didn’t see, frogs. Hikers are known to encounter interesting species of turtle plodding along the trails. It would be thrilling to see an elusive Cape Leopard.

Lizards and butterflies are too fast for photos, but I followed a lizard to a rock outcropping near “Adder Ladder”. Considering the name of the trail, I retreated.

Rock Hyrax – Dassies

Beetle, Locust, or Alien Creature?

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Grey rhebok, Cape grysbok, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose, and dassie are present in small numbers. Nocturnal animals in the Reserve are seldom seen but include the porcupine, genet, hare, and Cape Mountain Leopard.”

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I plan to hike Fernkloof often not only for the exercise but because the refreshing, pristine environment is uplifting and makes me feel happy and content!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Vista

Kirstenbosch Autumn Vista

I had the pleasure of spending the day at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The weather began cool with misty skies and turned into a sunny autumn day.

The “boomslang” canopy walkway is fun and it was my first time on the trail. It was built in the tree tops of the garden’s arboretum in 2013 commemorating Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden’s 100th anniversary. Views are amazing!

“Thanks to the careful use of a natural color scheme and clever curved design, the sky-high avenue is unobtrusive and blends in with the environment beautifully. Shaped like a snake’s skeleton, the ‘boomslang’ (tree snake), as it’s been nicknamed, twists and turns upwards between the gnarled trunks. Tree stems poke through the treated pine deck in some places – before it soars out of the leafy canopy in a graceful twist, yielding a view that takes the eye all the way from the sun-kissed slopes of Table Mountain to the distant misty Hottentots-Holland peaks.”

The light at Kirstenbosch is extraordinary.  Hope to return many times during my stay in Cape Town. Photos don’t do the garden justice.

 

Fire on Table Mountain

TableMT Fires

Night View of Table Mountain Fire

With hot summer weather in Cape Town vegetation on Table Mountain often catches fire. Some fires are minor, others more serious. There was a large fire last week.

The beloved mountain is carefully monitored and Capetonians take summer fires in stride as part of the weather pattern.  A friendly local shared an article from the Cape Times about the Cape’s unique vegetation (called fynbos) and seasonal fires. The article was written by Dr. Simon Pooley, author of Burning Table Mountain: An Environmental History of Fire on the Cape Peninsula.

The smoke on Sunday evening was heavy reminding me of fires in the Oregon Cascades last year. This morning it’s clear with another beautiful day on the way.

Found an amazing pizzeria near the apartment – Col’ Cacchio – with very Italiano pasta and pizza. They use a wood-fired oven to make the thin-crust pizza – delicious. The salads are also fantastic! The pizzeria is in a beautiful old wharf building with 30 ft. + ceilings. The décor includes multi-color protea flowers and terra cotta colored walls.

Feeling less jet lagged today :)….

Newlands Forest Cape Town South Africa

Newlands Forest Cape Town – Mujahid’s Photography

The hike in Newlands Forest today was beautiful but challenging. At least 80% of the trail was on rocks and many were large boulders – making it challenging going uphill as well as coming back down. It would have been difficult without sturdy hiking boots and poles and I had to keep my eyes focused on the trail, not the spectacular scenery.

Lunch Break Newlands Forest Contour Path – Cape Town Magazine

We climbed Woodcutter’s Trail following along a rocky creek bed most of the way. Hikers can bring their dogs on the trails so we shared the hike with dogs of all sizes and shapes. Many of them took a dip in the creek along the way, so the rocks in the spots where they shook themselves dry were wet and slippery.

Newlands Forest Waterfall – Warren Williams Photography

At the top we had a divine little picnic in the thick of the lush green forest. There were several people picnicking and some of them shared Table Mountain hiking stories with me and my hiking companions – Annabel and Ann.

Devil's Peak

Devil’s Peak

I’m learning what a large mountain it is and that there are many trails of all levels. Guides lead Table Mountain hiking trips that last from a few days to weeks. You can pay others to take care of the food and camping or carry your own supplies. I’m smitten and can see spending many days exploring this incredible landscape which oddly seems comfortable and familiar.

Jeep Trail

Jeep Trail

Newlands Forest is a conservancy area on the eastern slope of Table Mountain. It’s owned and maintained by the Table Mountain National Parks Board and the Cape Town City Parks Department. The area includes a fire station, nursery, and reservoir. Fire fighting helicopters take off and land at a Newlands Forest Heliport.

Woodsy Creek Bed

Woodsy Rocky Creek Bed

Newlands Forest is a “natural transition zone” between endangered indigenous plants – Granite Fynbos and Peninsula Shale Fynbos. At one time the area supported large indigenous forests but in the late 1800s they felled most of the forest and cleared the fynbos to make way for commercial pine plantations.

Silver Tree

Silver Tree

Peninsula granite fynbos is an endangered vegetation type but it’s still found on the southern edges of Newlands Forest. The ecosystem is endemic to Cape Town and occurs nowhere else in the world. The striking silver tree with its giant protea flowers grows in this vegetation only. Other indigenous trees include stinkwood and yellowwood – both used for construction and furniture making.

fynbos

Yellow Fynbos

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Pincushion Proteas

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Fluffy White Fynbos

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Multi-Color Proteas

“The Khoi-khoi (Xhosa) Tribe originally inhabited the area. They migrated and herded their cattle over much of what is now Cape Town. Jan van Riebeeck (the first Dutch governor of the Cape Colony) discovered extensive indigenous forests on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. By the late seventeenth century there was over-exploitation of the local afrotemperate forests due to the need for timber. The colonial government issued a series of (largely ineffectual) laws to protect the forests. However, by the close of the eighteenth century there were no more forests left on Table Mountain except a few pockets on the steep upper slopes.”

Silver Tree Flowers

Silver Tree Flowers

As indigenous wood supplies declined, the authorities cleared the eastern slopes of Table Mountain for commercial plantations. The plantations imported pines from Europe and America and gums (eucalyptus) from Australia. These two species supplied wood for the growing Cape timber industry. They grew fast, had quality wood, and produced straight uniform growth which made them easy to harvest. The imported trees rapidly spread and became invasive. Today, pine and eucalyptus trees are category 2 invasive weeds and rapidly seed into the surrounding indigenous forests and fynbos.

Newlands Forest – Wikipedia

The two World Wars created a boom in the timber industry and the size of the imported forests grew. After the wars Cape Town’s logging industry declined. Removal of some of the tree plantations allowed for the return of the original natural fynbos vegetation. In Newlands Forest the last crop of imported trees stayed unharvested. The area took on a new function as a recreational area.