Cederberg Wilderness Area, Western Cape
The Cederberg Wilderness Area lies some 200 km north of Cape Town. This vast area in the Cederberg region stretches from the Middelberg Pass at Citrusdal to north of the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam, encompassing some 71 000 ha of rugged, mountainous terrain. The Cederberg was proclaimed a wilderness area in 1973, and as such enjoys the highest possible conservation status. The Cederberg is renowned for its spectacular landscapes and rock formations, as well as its namesake, the increasingly rare Clanwilliam cedar tree.
The Cederberg mountains are part of the Cape folded mountain series and consist mainly of Table Mountain sandstone. Weathered sandstone formations, most notably the Wolfberg Arch and the Maltese Cross, are typical of the Cederberg. The mountains fall within the catchment area of the Cape fynbos region, and are managed as a source of water.
Winters in the Cederberg are cold and wet, while summers are warm and dry. The most rain falls between May and September, and it often snows in the higher parts. In the winter, night temperatures drop sharply and heavy frost may occur. In summer temperatures may reach as high as 40°C. Lightning is the most common cause of periodic veld fires. South-easterly winds predominate in the summer and also contribute to the high veld fire risk.
Vegetation is predominantly mountain fynbos. The lower slopes support laurel protea, silky conebush, sand olive and yellow daisies, with wild olives and mountain maytenus on the rocky outcrops. Waboom veld also occurs at this lower altitude. The eye-catching purply-blue ridderspoor, as well as rooibos tea and buchu grow against the lower cliffs. Higher up one finds fynbos restio veld, with red disas in abundance along streams on the plateau. The Clanwilliam cedar grows in the so-called cedar zone against cliffs and overhangs at altitudes of more than 1 000 m above sea level. In the wetter ravines red and white els, yellowwood, hard-pear and Cape beech occur, while wild olive, silky bark and spoonwood prefer dryer kloofs. The endemic snow protea is perhaps the most attractive plant on the highest peaks. It is very scarce, and is only found at a few sites in the wilderness area.
More than 100 bird species occur here, with black eagle, rock kestrel and jackal buzzard the most common raptors. The armadillo lizard is one of the endemic reptiles occurring in the Cederberg. About 16 snake species are found here, the most common being berg adder, puff adder and black spitting cobra. The Clanwilliam yellow fish, Clanwilliam red fin minnow and fiery red fin minnow are but some of the threatened fish species endemic to the Olifants River, which may be found in the larger rivers and streams of the wilderness area.
Cedar trees are becoming scarcer despite the protection offered by the wilderness area. A cedar reserve of about 5 250 ha was created in 1987, in an attempt to prevent the extinction of these trees. Extremely hot fires which are disastrous for adult trees are limited, and instead cooler more frequent burning is practised. Cedar trees are also being cultivated and each year about 8 000 year-old trees are planted in suitable places within the reserve.
The Cederberg Wilderness Area offers unsurpassed opportunities for recreation. In the primitive wilderness, away from city bustle, one finds space and peace. Activities which are compatible with the wilderness atmosphere, such as hiking and rock climbing, are encouraged. Various hiking routes crisscross the wilderness area. These routes provide access to the wilderness, and hikers may explore the area at will. Rock climbing is popular and is permitted throughout the area, provided that rock surfaces do not become damaged. The cliffs of the Krakadouw and Table Mountain peaks are the most popular climbing sites.
There are hundreds of rocky overhangs and caves with fine examples of rock art. These paintings may be anything from 300 to 6 000 years old, and are very sensitive to damage. They are an integral part of the wilderness area's fascination and visitors should discover them for themselves. Rock art is protected by the National Monuments Act, and vandals who deface rock paintings face fines of up to R10 000 or two years imprisonment, or both.
game and nature reserves in the western cape
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