Akkerdam Nature Reserve, Northern Cape
Akkerdam Nature Reserve lies just outside the little town of Calvinia, which is found at the foot of the Hantam Mountain (mountain of the red bulbs) that towers over the town, roughly 400 kilometres outside of Cape Town.
Akkerdam, also known as the Akkerendam Nature Reserve, is practically a requisite visit during the flower season around September, but if you get there a month earlier, there is also the Hantam Meat Festival for meat lovers, held in Calvinia.
Whilst it is literally only 2 kilometres outside of Calvinia, you might want to make sure of directions to the nature reserve, as it sometimes eludes visitors. The Akkerdam reserve, which protects the already fragile ecosystem of the Hantam Mountain, is also a Karoo scrub sanctuary (what appears to some as little more than semi-arid landscape) that includes ten floral species unique to the Hantamsberg. It is a particularly attractive reserve with beautiful scenery, magnificent sunsets and lovely hiking trails. But spring, when the entire reserve bursts into flower, gives rise to a carpet of wild flowers that is truly unequalled in beauty.
Bird watchers enjoy the Karoo lark - the scrub at the entrance to the reserve is a great place to spot this bird - whilst the rocky kloofs are good for spying the cinnamon-breasted warbler. Other birds include the fairy flycatcher, the black-headed canary and Layard’s tit-babbler. There are two hiking trails across the Hantam Mountain in the reserve that promise incredible views, and a possibility of locating the sterboom or star tree, which is unique to this region and grows needle-like leaves in a spiral star shape around the stem.