The Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area is definitely one of the jewels in the crown of the beautiful Garden Route. The Nature Reserve, straddling the coastline between Buffel’s Baai and Groenvlei Lake near Sedgefield, is some 2500ha in extent with the Marine Reserve extending one nautical mile out to sea.
Goukamma comprises some of the finest remnants of coastal forest and fynbos remaining in the Southern Cape, including ancient milkwood forests. The almost black waters of the Goukamma (the Khoisan word for ‘dark waters’) River meander towards a beautiful estuary at the eastern end of the Reserve whilst the unique Groenvlei Lake lures visitors further west. Groenvlei, a mysterious freshwater lake, has no in-flowing river and no link to the sea! The coastal strip between these two landmarks comprises a band of vegetated fossil dunes that have turned to stone over many millennia – some of the highest vegetated dunes in the country. The rugged coastline is wild and features sizable oyster and mussel beds.
The Reserve is home to a number of mammal species, including porcupine, bush pig, grysbok, caracal, mongoose, otter, honey badger, bontebok and otter. Birdlife is varied and keen birders may spot the endangered African penguin as well as the rare African black oystercatcher. Puff adders abound and hikers should always keep an eye out for these poisonous snakes! Groenvlei is home to seven fish species – only two of these being indigenous unfortunately! Dolphins can be spotted regularly from the shore whilst southern right whales arrive in the surrounding waters from about August to December.
Cape Nature does offer accommodation facilities in the Reserve although visitors staying in Knysna or Sedgefield will find day trips to Goukamma most rewarding. Horseriders are permitted to bring their horses to the Reserve. Hiking is by far the best way to experience the wonders and beauty of Goukamma and, to this end, Cape Nature has laid out various day hiking trails for visitors:
- The Galjoen Trail comprises some 12km of beach walking along one of the most beautiful, least-spoilt stretches of coastline along the entire Garden Route. Accessible at low tide only, this trail takes hikers past the extensive oyster and mussel beds.
- The Bush Pig Trail is a shorter circular walk along a fynbos ridge with magnificent views over the Goukamma River and estuary.
- The Porcupine Trail is a 13km one way trail between Goukamma and Groenvlei over the vegetated dunes. The scenery is spectacular and the trail takes one through coastal fynbos and milkwood forests.
- The Cape Clawless Otter Trail is a shorter trail along the southern shore of Groenvlei.
- The Blombos Trail offers trails of varying lengths to hikers, particularly those keen on bird watching.
- The Buffalo Bay Trail takes hikers through the forests and coastal vegetation of the coastal resort of Buffalo Bay.
The Goukamma Nature Reserve offers Bamboo, the Guest House Knysna visitors a great option to get out and enjoy the splendours of an unspoilt coastal strip on our spectacular Garden Route.
For further details visit Cape Nature.