Summer Blooms in the Kogelberg: Walking the Palmiet River Trail

Tucked away 6km off the R44 between Bettys Bay and Kleinmond, the Kogelberg Nature Reserve is one of the hidden gems of Overberg region. Considered the heart of the Cape Floristic Region, it is renowned for being home to the highest fynbos plant diversity in the region.

Top: Ceratandra atrata (Orchidaceae). Above: Lanaria lanata

This stunning 18 000 ha mountain wilderness is afforded the highest level of protection. It forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve which was founded in 1999 and one of the world’s first biosphere reserves. More than 1 800 species of vascular plants are found here in the reserve’s Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos. Shy Cape leopards roam these mountains, black eagles soar and Cape clawless otters are found in the rivers and streams.

Above: A variety of beautiful post fire blooms seen in the Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos along the Palmiet River Trail in Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

But yet just 1.5 hour’s drive from Cape Town, this spectacular mountain reserve is surprisingly accessible to visitors. The longer Perdeberg and Kogelberg trails cater to more energetic hikers but the Kogelberg Nature Reserve also offers a far more gentle but no less rewarding option of the Palmiet River Trail. This gently undulating trail starts at the reserve office at Oudebosch and follows the river bank for 7 km along the valley floor, offering spectacular mountain views, summer swimming spots aplenty and a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with the Kogelberg’s extraordinary sandstone fynbos flora.

Top: Tritoniopsis parviflora. Above: Thereianthus bracteolatus. 

In January 2019 the fynbos along the Palmiet River Trail burnt during the Bettys Bay fire. Fynbos vegetation is both fire prone and fire dependent, making it a challenging neighbour to live alongside when it inevitably goes up in flames. But over the last year since this fire that proved devastating for many in these coastal communities, residents from Pringle Bay, Bettys Bay, Kleinmond and beyond have watched as an extraordinary array of post fire flowers have grown from the ashes, and Kogelberg Nature Reserve has been no exception.

Above: Watsonia in bloom against the evening light in Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

While wandering along the trail, camera and field guide in hand, the plethora of wildflowers encountered in this extraordinary fynbos encourages slow progress and much time spent on hands and knees admiring these beauties up close. The fluffy white inflorescences of Lanaria lanata, also known as the kapokblom in Afrikaans, can be seen all along the trail from November to January, looking like fluffy lambs’ tails emerging from narrow serrated leaves with small honey-scented mauve flowers. Their flowering is strongly fire-driven.

Top: Disa racemosa. Above: Moraea ramosissima. 

In the wetter areas early summer brought blooms from several relatively common but no less beautiful orchids, such as Disa racemosa with its spectacular pink flowers that arrive in fynbos throughout the CFR after fire. Along streams the cheerful yellow blooms of Moraea ramosissima could also be seen. The delicately veined purple blooms of the geophyte Therianthus bracteolatus, also known as Common Summerpipes, added to the fireworks of colour in the post fire fynbos.

Top: Tritoniopsis antholyza. Above: Disa bivalvata. 

So why not head along and see this stunning mountain nature reserve for yourself? The Kogelberg Nature Reserve, run by CapeNature, is located off the R44 between Bettys Bay and Kleinmond. There is a 6 km unsealed road to reach the reserve office at Oudebosch where hiking permits can be purchased but it is well maintained and accessible to most sedan vehicles.

Above: The Palmiet River offers some beautiful swimming spots during the summer months, but care is strongly advised. Please avoid swimming when the river is flowing strongly (such as in the above photo) as currents can be dangerous.

Hiking permits can be purchased at Oudebosch (opening hours 7h30 to 16h00) with a conservation fee of R50 payable for adults and R30 for children or free for valid Wildcard holders. Card facilities are not available at the time of writing so please bring cash for any permit payments required. It is important to keep your permit on you at all times. Don’t forget to always hike well prepared, bringing along sufficient drinking water, snacks, sunhat and sunblock as well as warm clothes as the weather can change quickly in the mountains.

Top: Pillansia templemanii. Above: Schizaea pectinata (Toothbrush Fern).

3 thoughts on “Summer Blooms in the Kogelberg: Walking the Palmiet River Trail

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