Western Cape Game and Nature ReservesThe Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
The exquisite Groot Winterhoek Wilderness, situated about 120 kilometres outside of Cape Town, is known the world around for its natural beauty and its unique rock formations. This Western Cape reserve is nestled within the Groot Winterhoek Mountain Range, offering breathtaking views of the landscape. It is just outside the historical town of Tulbagh and east of Porterville.
The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is also acclaimed for its many hiking trails, which are a delight to explore while you enjoy the scenery, fresh air and sunshine of the South African countryside. Some are shorter trails that require little experience, while others are longer and more challenging. There are even overnight trails.
The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area covers a total area of more than 30 600 hectares. Of this, 19 200 hectares was declared a formal wilderness area in 1985. This was with the aim of protecting the wildlife in the region as well as the indigenous fynbos, which is endemic to South Africa, particularly the Western Cape. The area is also an important one in terms of outdoor recreation activities and as a source of potable water to the west coast and Cape Metropole.
The topography of the Groot Winterhoek is characterised by its mountainous, rugged landscape, which consists mainly of Table Mountain sandstone. This type of stone is known for its tendency to erode, wearing away in response to the weather conditions. This has led to a number of fantastic rock formations, which define the mountain faces. Its altitude ranges from 1 000 to 2 077 metres above sea level.
The Groot Winterhoek showcases an enormous array of fynbos species, which adorn its slopes with their colourful flowers and unique greenery. These include rare and threatened species, making this area a valuable resource in terms of local vegetation.
The Sorocephalus scabridus can be found here, notable for its being threatened. This is a member of the protea family. There are also many different types of red disas here, growing along the banks of the streams and flowering during the summer months. Ericas make their appearance all year round and bedeck the landscape with their gorgeous colours.
In addition to the flora, there is a wide array of fauna that have made the Groot Winterhoek their natural habitat. These include the klipspringer, grey rhebok, grysbok, leopard, caracal, African wild cat, mongoose, and genet amongst others. The predators are more elusive than the herbivorous grazers, and are a real treat to see.
Birdwatchers are guaranteed of seeing some fabulous avian species at Groot Winterhoek, and are advised to bring their binoculars. There are around 100 bird species, including the endemic Cape rockjumper, black eagle, goshawk, and jackal buzzard. While snakes are rare, the boomslang and sandsnakes are sometimes spotted.
This area was once occupied by the indigenous African tribes of the San, who left remnants of their lives and cultures in the form of rock art. This art has been estimated to be between 300 and 6 000 years old. Exploring the caves and being part of this ancient art is a very special way of enjoying the history and culture of the country.
Popular Activities in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Trail
Groot Winterhoek is the hardy hiker's dream – rare fynbos, incredible mountain vistas, babbling streams, swim holes and enough designated path to keep one hiking for about five days. But the emphasis is definitely on the rock formations...
More info and contact details: Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Trail
Groot Winterhoek Hiking Trails
Hikes in the reserve are numerous and vary in length and difficulty. But the best part of hiking in the Groot Winterhoek area is that you do not have to stick to designated trails and can explore caves and rock formations, as well as camp out...
More info and contact details: Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area Hiking Trails