Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Garden Route
Lying in the heart of the Langeberg Mountains, roughly 22 kilometres north-west of Heidelberg in the Cape Overberg, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is exactly as its name denotes - a wonderful large section of forest - 250 hectares of the largest remaining example of indigenous forest in the Langeberg. This together with a wilderness area of 14 000 hectares makes for beautiful hiking routes, including the well known Bushbuck Trail that winds through dense vegetation, and some of the finest birding opportunities - it is a birder's paradise - particularly for its forest species. The unusual name 'groot vader' was given to a man called Roelof Oelofse to whom the land on which the forest now stands was granted in 1723. Grootvadersbosch, which adjoins Boosmansbos Wilderness area, has been under the control of Cape Nature since 1986.
From 2004 the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve gained notoriety as a World Heritage Site, its forest home to 35 forest tree species that include the stinkwood, yellowwood, red alder and the ironwood. Woods like these are precious and rarely found in the Cape as far south from the Knysna forests as Grootvadersbosch.
The edges of the forest and the nearby mountain fynbos provide some particularly good examples of endemic bird species such as the Knysna woodpecker, Knysna and Victorin's warblers, the forest canary and the Cape siskin. There are two bird hides set within the forest and amongst the 200 odd bird species you may spot are the paradise flycatcher, the crowned eagle and the narina trogon. There are a few smaller mammals too in this fertile space and it isn't unusual to see bushbuck, grey rhebuck, baboon, mongoose and genet. Mountain bikers can enjoy the Grootvadersbosch conservancy cycle trail. And be sure to take the short hike to the gorge through which runs the Duivenhoks River.
Did you know?
The new Garden Route National Park, established by SANParks and also known as GRNP, spans an impressive 121 000 hectares and includes the existing Wilderness and Tsitsikamma national parks, the Knysna Lakes area and roughly 52 000 hectares of newly proclaimed land.