Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, Western Cape
Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area, with its extraordinary rock formations and popular hiking routes, lies about 120 km north of Cape Town in the Western Cape. The Reserve is situated in the Groot Winterhoek mountain range, north of Tulbagh and east of Porterville.
The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area comprises 30 608 ha, of which 19 200 ha was declared a wilderness area in 1985. The conservation area is particularly important for the conservation of mountain fynbos and wildlife, as a source of clean water to the Cape metropole and the west coast, and for outdoor recreation. The landscape is rugged and mountainous, with altitudes of 1 000 to 2 077 m above sea-level. The rock formations consists mainly of Table Mountain sandstone. This sandstone weathers easily, and exceptional rock forms which have been shaped by the elements are a special feature of Groot Winterhoek.
Mountain fynbos is the predominant vegetation. Various rare, threatened and endemic species occur here. The threatened Sorocephalus scabridus, a member of the protea family, grows at Kliphuisvlakte. A large variety of red disas flower in abundance along the streams near the reserve office in January and February. Many erica species occur and flower virtually throughout the year. The ericas are particularly beautiful in the summer and the veld resembles a colourful patchwork.
Klipspringer, grey rhebok and grysbok are abundant and easily seen. Leopard, Caracal, African wild cat, mongoose, genet and other predators are found here, but are seldom seen. About 100 species of birdlife, including the endemic Cape rockjumper and numerous raptors like black eagle, goshawk and jackal buzzard, occur here. Tortoises are absent and snakes scarce, because of the high altitudes and cold winters, although sandsnakes and boomslang are occasionally spotted. A few rare lizard species occur, most notably the southern rock lizard, Australolacerta australis.
Various examples of rock art, believed to be between 300 and 6,000 years old, can be found in the area. Rock paintings illustrate the religious and social life of the Bushman or San, whose ancestors have lived in southern Africa for more than 100 000 years. Groot Winterhoek offers unsurpassed opportunities for outdoor recreation. Various day and overnight hikes of differing lengths and with wonderful swimming pools traverse the area. Parts of the greater conservation area like Sneeugatrivier and the mountain peaks are a true wilderness.
Contact Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area on Telephone +27 (0)22 931-2900